Well upholstered:

Plastic from the
HPPO process

Floating on foam: If you’re spending your evening sitting in an armchair in the living room, you’re probably resting on polyurethane foam. Propylene oxide is a central precursor product for this plastic. The problem is that conventional production processes for this chemical produce large quantities of byproducts. Evonik has therefore come up with an alternative process that is more efficient and more environmentally friendly. It’s known as HPPO.

Polyurethane foams are an irreplaceable part of our daily lives. They can be found in everyday objects such as…

Wand Room ohne Wand Sessel Sofa Bett
Kühlschrank TV Nachttisch Koch
Girl Sofa Cushions Mattresses Wall Refrigerators

Polyurethane can also be found in products as varied as coatings, adhesives, sports shoe soles, and soccer balls. Propylene oxide is an important intermediate in the production of this versatile material. However, the dominant processes for producing propylene oxide still suffer from one significant disadvantage: They produce heavily polluted wastewater that requires expensive disposal or treatment and large quantities of byproducts for which purchasers have to be found on the market.

A new catalyst, an environmentally friendly technology

It was a problem in need of a solution—which was provided with the help of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Hydrogen peroxide is an extremely versatile substance that’s not only good for bleaching laundry, blond hair, and cellulose for paper but is also used in the electronics industry and modern rocket technology, for example. Scientists first discussed the extent to which H2O2 could be used for more sustainable production of propylene oxide in the 1980s. Evonik started work on putting this idea into practice in the 1990s. Together with thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions (tkIS), the Group worked on a new process that could produce propylene oxide from propylene and hydrogen peroxide.

The powder catalyst that had been used until then presented a central problem, because it was difficult to filter. The solution consisted of a newly developed flatbed catalyst that could be used more efficiently and enabled an increased yield of propylene oxide. That paved the way for the hydrogen peroxide to propylene oxide process. In short, HPPO.

HPPO process

Tomorrow’s technology HPPO meets rising demand

The central advantage of the HPPO process is that the hydrogen peroxide is converted to water by the reaction. Unlike in the conventional processes, large quantities of byproducts are not produced and the wastewater is easy to purify—making the process much more environmentally friendly than the traditional production technologies. The investment costs required for the HPPO technology are also lower.

At present, the conventional chlorohydrin process is still the most widespread process for propylene oxide production. But stricter environmental regulations, among other factors, are ensuring that the producers are paying increased attention to the HPPO technology. Current forecasts assume that the proportion of propylene oxide produced using the HPPO process will continue to increase in the future.

  • 2015
  • 2018
  • 2022
  • 2025
  • 2028
  • CUPO
  • PO/SM
  • CHPO
  • HPPO

To make this possible, HPPO production facilities will be required. Evonik and thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions are not only supplying know-how and licenses but are also working together with producers on site on the planning, construction, and commissioning of the plants. The world’s first HPPO production facility was commissioned in Ulsan, South Korea in 2008. It is based on the Evonik/tkIS process. The second facility of this type followed in Jilin, China in 2014. The producers also profit from the cooperation in the long term, after the completion of construction work. Evonik provides them with long-term supplies of the starting material hydrogen peroxide and the catalyst.

The latest HPPO facility is being constructed in northern Hungary at the moment. It will be part of a wide-ranging investment program by the MOL Group and is scheduled to go into operation in 2021. In addition to the license issued jointly with thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions for the propylene oxide facility, Evonik also provides the license for the corresponding hydrogen peroxide plant.

Overview: HPPO plants around the globe

In order to continually improve the market position of the HPPO process, the researchers are continuing to work on innovations for the technology and the catalyst. In the process, they are also ensuring that tomorrow’s couch cushions will be produced using even more environmentally friendly processes.

Absolutely tops:
Evonik has taken a giant leap into a more sustainable future with the HPPO process.