Honeywell UOP introduces ionic liquids to refining industry

Honeywell UOP announced has introduced to the refining industry a new alkylation technology developed by Chevron U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of Chevron Corp., which employs ionic liquids as a catalyst to produce high-octane motor fuels. Chevron licensed the technology to Honeywell UOP, which will offer the technology under the ISOALKY brand name, as an alternative to traditional technologies that use hydrofluoric or sulfuric acids as a liquid alkylation catalyst. “Ionic liquids alkylation offers a compelling economic solution compared to conventional liquid acid technologies while delivering the same yields and high levels of octane,” said Mike Millard, vice president and general manager of Honeywell UOP's Process Technology and Equipment business. “This is a revolutionary new technology for refiners to produce alkylate and improve the quality of their gasoline pool,” he added. The ISOALKY technology is the first successful liquid alkylation technology to be introduced in 75 years. Chevron proved the technology in a small demonstration unit at its Salt Lake City refinery, where it has operated successfully for five years. Chevron has committed to convert its hydrofluoric acid (HF) alkylation unit in Salt Lake City to ISOALKY technology. Construction is expected to commence in 2017, pending permit approvals, with the ISOALKY technology becoming fully operational in 2020. As part of this project, the refinery's HF-specific equipment and its inventory of hydrofluoric acid will be permanently removed. This new technology uses a non-aqueous liquid salt, or ionic liquid, at temperatures below 100 degrees C. to convert a typical stream from a fluid catalytic cracker into a valuable high-octane blending component that lowers the environmental impact of motor gasoline. Among the other benefits of this technology, the ionic liquids process can be used in new refineries, as well as existing facilities undergoing capital expansion. It can produce alkylate from a wider range of feedstocks using a lower volume of catalyst. This liquid catalyst has a negligible vapor pressure and can be regenerated on-site, giving it a lower environmental footprint than other technologies. Alkylation technologies are commonly used in the refining industry to produce high-octane gasoline blending components to make clean-burning fuels. Currently, the majority of alkylation processes use hydrofluoric or sulfuric acid processes that were developed by or in concert with UOP, and introduced between 1938 and 1942. Today, more than half of the world's approximately 700 refineries currently have alkylation units that use hydrofluoric or sulfuric acid. Ionic liquids have strong acid properties, enabling them to perform acid catalysis, but without the volatility of conventional acids. They represent the first new class of liquid alkylation technology since World War II. They are technically a salt in liquid state, comprised largely of ions that convert C4 paraffins and other olefins into an excellent gasoline-range blending product. Due to its low vapor pressure, ionic liquid requires simpler handling procedures than either sulfuric or hydrofluoric acids.

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