SK innovation, one of the world’s leading energy and petrochemical companies, and LanzaTech, a producer of low-carbon fuels and chemicals from waste gases, are working together to develop a new process technology for the production of 1,3 butadiene, a platform chemical used in many high growth industries globally. The collaboration will accelerate the commercialization of an alternative route to butadiene, a chemical increasing in scarcity because of the shale gas boom in the United States.
An estimated $20-billion market, butadiene is a building block in a range of materials including synthetic rubber used in tires, belts, hoses, seals, carpet backing and medical latex; molded plastics used in consumer appliances such as vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances and electronic gadgets; nylon 6,6 used in textiles and engineering resins used in automotive engine components; and as a chemical intermediate for adhesives and speciality chemicals.
The move to shale gas in the United States is driving butadiene scarcity and businesses are looking for alternative sources. Butadiene (C4H6) conventionally is produced as a byproduct of the steam cracking process used to produce ethylene and other olefins. However, the the percentage of C4 hydrocarbons required for the production of butadiene is very low in natural gas compared to crude oil or naphtha. Thus, the continued substitution of crude oil by shale gas as a petrochemical feedstock is crimping production of butadiene.
At the same time, rising incomes in emerging markets are increasing demand for automotive purchases, tires, engine components and other consumer goods.
SK innovation will work with LanzaTech to develop and integrate this new technology with LanzaTech’s gas fermentation process, which converts industrial waste gases and on-purpose syngas derived from the gasification of wastes into low-carbon fuels and chemicals.
The development work will be carried out at SK innovation’s research center in Dae Jon, Korea.
LanzaTech is the first company to scale gas fermentation technology to a pre-commercial level, developing and successfully operating two facilities that convert waste flue gas from Baosteel and Shougang steel plants into ethanol. Both facilities in China operated at annualized production capacity of 100,000 gallons. Site location and engineering plans for commercial facilities are under way and commercial production is expected to begin in 2014.