Axens, Total and IFPEN launch ethanol-to-ethylene technology

By Axens | March 31, 2014

Axens, Total and IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) have launched Atol, an innovative technology for bioethylene production through dehydration of bioethanol. Atol is a technology for the profitable production of polymer grade bio-ethylene by dehydration of 1G and 2G-renewable ethanol. The bioethylene produced can be integrated in existing downstream polymerization installations such as polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polyethyleneteraphthalate (PET), polyvinylchloride (PVC) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) without need for modifications.

Atol is the result of a partnership between Total, IFPEN and its affiliate Axens that started in 2011. Within this cooperation, Total developed a high performance catalyst formulation at its research Center in Feluy, Belgium, IFPEN scaled up catalyst performance within a heat recovery innovative process while Axens industrialized the catalyst formulation and finalized the process scheme with particular focus on energy-efficiency. Total and IFPEN are the co-owners of the technology and Axens is now in charge of commercializing Atol by providing all process licensing related services and catalyst manufacturing.

Atol is believed to be the most advanced dehydration technology and features the highest profitability as a result of:

- Lower Capex by simplified product purification brought on by the outstanding performances of the ATO 201 catalyst which exhibits a high activity and selectivity towards ethylene;

- The robustness of its catalyst which copes with any variation in feedstock quality; The highly integrated process scheme which greatly reduces operating costs;

- Significant potential to be integrated with both upstream ethanol production and downstream ethylene conversion.

Atol is the first of a series of technologies, for the production of other olefinic monomers by processing bio-derived higher alcohols, to be developed in parallel based on Atol’s technology platform.

“We are very excited about this efficient and competitive technology that will be able to meet a growing demand for plastics based on renewable raw-materials. This offer is in line with our strategy to become a leading company in the field of technology for bio-based production of motor fuels and chemicals,” said Christian Dupraz, senior executive vice president of process licensing at Axens.

“For Total, such collaboration with a reputable research team (IFPEN) and a licensor (Axens), presents a significant lever to bring innovative technologies, driven by a fast-moving bio-market, to commercial readiness. This achievement can now open opportunities for industrial projects,” said François- Xavier Cormerais, vice president of research and development (refining and petrochemicals) at Total.

“IFPEN is delighted that this exemplary partnership project has opened the way to a bio-ethylene competitive technology that is now ready for industrial implementation,” said Pascal Barthélemy, executive vice president of IFP Energies nouvelles.