Issue Date: October 19, 2009
In the wake of an acetonitrile shortage during the past year, chemical maker Ineos says it has rolled out a new technology that will allow it to produce more of the polar solvent.
Acetonitrile is used as a solvent in high-performance liquid chromatography and in pharmaceutical synthesis. Made as a coproduct in acrylonitrile plants, the solvent represents about 3% of the yield at such facilities. But acrylonitrile, a raw material for acrylic fibers and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene resins, has been hit hard by the economy. Toward the end of last year, acrylonitrile makers, such as Ineos, reduced production to less than 60% of capacity. As a result, acetonitrile output couldn’t match demand.
Amin Dhalla, business director for Ineos Nitriles, says that with the new technology, his company can produce 50% more coproduct acetonitrile when it is needed by adjusting the reaction conditions in the acrylonitrile process. Over the past six months, the company has employed the technology at its acrylonitrile plants in Lima, Ohio; Green Lake, Texas; and Seal Sands, England.
Because of the improvement in the economy, acrylonitrile operating rates have climbed back up to nearly 90%, Dhalla adds, and thus acetonitrile output has climbed. “The shortage has abated,” he says. “So there is less of an issue.”
Jerry Richard of Purification Technologies, a Chester, Conn., firm that buys acetonitrile in bulk and purifies it, agrees that there has been a recovery. “Acetonitrile is now readily available,” he says.
Dhalla says the technology isn’t about the shortage but was meant to secure a long-term supply.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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