Cost-effective, environmentally friendly process for propane/propylene separation

Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Summary
Light Hydrocarbon Separation Using ITE-type Zeolites

Description
Background of the invention The separation of propylene from propane is an important and large-scale commercial process in the petrochemical industry. Traditionally, the separation is performed in distillation columns containing about 125 plates, making it the most cost- and energy-intensive separation process in this industry. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created an adsorption-based propane/propylene separation method that results in the creation of a much more energy- and cost-effective industrial-scale separation process. Technology description The technology uses the difference in the adsorption rates of propane and propylene with particular classes of zeolites. The ratio of diffusion coefficients for propylene over propane ranges between 1,500 and 44,000, depending on temperature. The adsorption capacity of our zeolites is about 12% by weight (12 g of propylene/100 g of zeolite). Such a high difference in the adsorption rates can afford complete separation of propane from propylene using only a few beds. Zeolites are very stable materials and are ideal for this type of separation because they withstand an infinite number of adsorption/desorption cycles. Another advantage of this process is that it can be easily scaled up or down, depending on the size of the beds used, and is particularly suitable for incremental capacity increases in the existing propane/propylene separation plants. The technology is protected by a US patent #6,488,741 and pending US and foreign patent applications. The University of Pennsylvania is seeking industrial partners with the goal of near term commercialization of this technology.

Advantage
More environmentally friendly than a distillation-based process Less energy-intensive process High degree of separation for pure products Reduced capital investments associated with the implementation of the process Greatly reduced cost of propane/propyle

Category
Physical Sciences

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