Davy Process Technology first used the vapour phase hydrogenation process for the hydrogenation of aldehydes to produce oxo alcohols and then decided to extend the application of this technology into the hydrogenation of esters as well as aldehydes. In total, the vapour phase hydrogenation process has been used for the conversion of four different esters to alcohols or diols in ten plants with a total installed capacity of 400,000 tons per year. The main application has been for the conversion of butane derived maleic acid anhydride via the intermediate methyl ester to butanediol (BDO). Davy Process Technology has licensed eight BDO projects ranging in capacity from 11,000 to 100,000 tons per annum.
Davy Process Technology's butanediol process technology converts maleic anhydride (MAH) to 1,4-butanediol (BDO), tetrahydrofuran (THF) and gamma butyrolactone (GBL) in three process stages. First, molten MAH is mixed with methanol and reacts exothermically to form mono methyl maleate and using a proprietary acidic resin catalyst, this is converted from mono to dimethyl maleate (DMM). This is hydrogenated to dimethyl succinate (DMS), and then a series of reactions converts DMS to gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and then to BDO and THF. Finally crude product is refined to market quality BDO and THF by distillation; methanol is recovered for recycle to the MAH esterification stage, with DMS and GBL recovered for recycle to hydrogenation.
This BDO/THF technology is a simple low cost esterification process with vapour phase hydrogenation that yields few by-products giving high process efficiency and product quality. MAH conversion to BDO/THF of about 97% has been demonstrated at commercial scale.
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