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Celanese to commercialize technology that produces industrial-use ethanol from hydrocarbons; coal-to-ethanol in China, methane-to-ethanol in US

Celanese Corporation, a global technology and specialty materials company, intends to construct manufacturing facilities in China and the US to utilize recently-developed advanced technology for the production of ethanol for chemical applications and other industrial uses. Celanese’s process technology builds on the company’s acetyl platform and integrates new technologies to produce ethanol using basic hydrocarbon feedstocks.

Ethanol’s uses in chemical and industrial applications include the manufacture of paints, coatings, inks and pharmaceuticals.

The company has successfully integrated newly developed technologies with elements of our proprietary advanced acetyl platform to provide an economically-advantaged solution for global ethanol needs.

—Dave Weidman, chairman and CEO

Following necessary approvals, Celanese intends to construct one, and possibly two, industrial ethanol complexes in China to serve the fast-growing Asia region. Initial annual production capacity of each complex is expected to be approximately 400,000 tons. The company could begin industrial ethanol production within 30 months after project approvals. Current chemical application demand for ethanol in China is approximately 3 million tons annually and is expected to grow between 8% and 10% per year.

Celanese’s technology allows capacity to be more than doubled at significantly less than the original investment to meet future demand. The China units would utilize coal as the primary raw material.

Celanese also intends to build an approximately 40,000 ton industrial ethanol production unit at its Clear Lake, Texas, facility for either internal use or merchant demand. The unit will also support continuing technology development efforts over the next several years. Following approvals, construction of the unit is anticipated to begin in mid-2011 and to be completed by the end of 2012. The Clear Lake facility would utilize natural gas as its primary raw material.

While we are focusing on industrial uses at this time, we are also exploring opportunities to apply this technology to fuel ethanol applications in regions where the commercial environment is supportive.

—Dave Weidman

Comments

SJC

Ethanol has been synthesized for a long time. It is not difficult to make it from natural gas and can be done locally reducing transport.

Engineer-Poet

That's what gets me about Range Fuels. I understand that ethylene can be made from syngas with high specificity. Ethylene hydrates to ethanol with a catalyst. Yet they're making methanol.

SJC

I don't know that much about it, but I am guessing that it is an energy return consideration. If I put 1 therm of natural gas into making one gallon of methanol, that is 100,000 BTUs in and 57,000 BTUs out. I am guessing that ratio is not as good for natural gas to ethanol.

SJC

There seems to be a more efficient way of turning methane into ethanol than before. The thermo chemical process of gasifying into synthesis gas may no longer be the way to go. There is a similar effort for go right from methane to methanol as well on the horizon.

Henry Gibson

This ethanol is just as good for cars as corn ethanol which is a food, and it might even release fewer green house gases in its manufacture and use than corn ethanol, since it is made from high hydrogen methane. A nobel prize winning achievement would be to convert Methane directly into methanol without converting it into carbon monoxide and hydrogen first in an economic way. ..HG..

SJC

Dr. George Olah, the Nobel prize winning chemist is optimistic that they will find a way from methane to methanol directly. He has found novel ways to do things over the years, so it may just be a matter of time and research.

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