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Process Chemistry

Evonik, Dow join to develop propylene glycol from hydrogen peroxide, propylene

New technology will complement successful peroxide-based route to propylene oxide

by Michael McCoy
October 31, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 43


A photo of an airplane being de-iced.
Credit: Evonik
Aircraft de-icing fluids are a large market for propylene glycol.

Evonik Industries and Dow are joining forces to develop what they say is a better way of making propylene glycol: starting with propylene and hydrogen peroxide.

Propylene glycol is a major industrial chemical produced to the tune of 1.9 million metric tons last year. It’s used to make polyester resins and aircraft deicing fluids. It also has applications in home and personal care products.

Currently, most propylene glycol is made by reacting propylene oxide with water. Propylene oxide, in turn, is made via one of three processes that use propylene, according to the market research firm IHS Markit. In the newest of the three routes, propylene oxide is obtained by reacting propylene and H2O2.

Evonik says 100 of its researchers have spent the past few years developing a “novel catalytic system” that similarly gets propylene glycol from propylene and H2O2. The firm, one of the world’s largest H2O2 producers, claims the process saves energy and can be retrofitted on existing propylene glycol plants. Dow says it expects the technology to be more competitive and offer an improved environmental profile.

Dow calls itself the world’s largest producer of propylene glycol, with five facilities on four continents. It’s also a major producer of propylene oxide via the chlorohydrin and H2O2 processes. When Dow practices the latter technology, its partner for H2O2 production is Solvay, an Evonik competitor.

Evonik says that it will build a propylene glycol pilot plant in Hanau, Germany, by the end of 2020 and that large-scale implementation will follow “a few years later.”



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