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Intratec Report #IME002A
Use of Propylene Splitter to Improve Polypropylene Business2012
Propylene is a major industrial chemical intermediate that serves as one of the building blocks for an array of chemical and plasticproducts, and was also the first petrochemical employed on an industrial scale. Globally, the largest volume of propylene isgenerated as by-product in steam crackers and through the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) process in petroleum refineries. FCCunits are by far the largest source of this material.Low purity propylene streams containing large amounts of propane – commonly called refinery grade (RG) propylene – are usedinternally in refineries to manufacture gasoline or as fuel. These streams may also be sold as a chemical feedstock to plantsdedicated to the enhancement of their propylene content, so as to generate a more valuable product. The most pure gradeavailable, polymer grade (PG) propylene, is used as feedstock to various chemicals, including polypropylene, its greatest output. There are several large, centralized facilities on the US Gulf Coast that process propylene/propane streams gathered fromsurrounding refineries and petrochemical plants into high-purity propylene. Some refineries chose to conduct this separation on-site.In addition to refineries, PG propylene consumers are also constructing propylene/propane separation units to become morecompetitive and to diversify their raw material supplier base and production cost structure. As an example, in July 2012, Braskem,a major petrochemical player, acquired the propylene/propane splitter assets at the Marcus Hook refinery, Pennsylvania, togenerate PG propylene for its polypropylene plant. This report is a review of the purification of RG propylene into PG propylene. Also, a comparison of constructing this unit inside arefinery and inside a polypropylene plant is included. Both capital investment and operating costs for a propylene purificationunit operating in the US Gulf Coast, China, and Germany are presented. The economic analysis presented in this report is based ona purification unit installed in a 400 kta polypropylene plant. The estimated CAPEX for such unit is USD 67 million on the US Gulf Coast. China presented the lowest CAPEX and OPEX, followed by the USA and Germany, respectively.Although the internal rate of return (IRR) in building a propylene purification unit inside a polypropylene plant is more than 30%on US Gulf Coast, the best results are obtained in constructing this unit inside a refinery. This is based on the fact that refinerieshave excess low-level heat sources available, as well as a supply of cooling water, which minimizes additional utilities supply unitsinstallation. Polypropylene manufacturing plants, however, do not usually have this advantage. The improvement installation inrefineries leads to IRR of more than 35%.