Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Solvay builds an environment friendly plant in France

Solvay announces today that it will build a new epichlorohydrin plant on its industrial site of Tavaux, France, implementing a novel process with greatly enhanced environmental performance. The process, called Epicerol, was successfully developed by Solvay’s R&D and is based on the transformation of glycerine, a by-product of the biodiesel industry. The new plant, which is scheduled to be operational by the first half of 2007, will be fed with glycerine derived from rapeseed oil and fits perfectly with the development of the Biodiesel industry actively supported by the French government.

The development of the glycerine-based process for the production of epichlorohydrin is covered by eleven patent applications issued by Solvay.

The steadily increasing demand for epichlorohydrin – whose main applications include the production of epoxy resins, paper reinforcement and water purification – is expected to exceed the existing global production capacity by 2010. Solvay has secured a long-term contract for the supply of glycerine with French company Diester Industrie, capitalizing on the fast growth of the biofuels industry and the large quantities of glycerine available at an appropriate price. The new plant will have an initial production capacity of 10 kilotons per annum and could be quickly duplicated to respond to the rapid market growth.

In the Epicerol process, glycerine – a renewable material – is substituted for propylene, a hydrocarbon. Other environmental benefits include reduction of chlorinated by-products and sharp reduction of water consumption.

“The industrialization of the Epicerol process illustrates the implementation of Solvay’s strategy to ensure sustainable, profitable growth through innovation,” commented Freddy Gielen, managing director of the strategic business unit Electrochemistry and Derived Specialties. “The combination of our R&D with the new opportunities arising from the ‘green’ chemical and fuel industry gives us the opportunity to optimize the process, making it eventually both economical and environmentally friendly,” he added.

SOLVAY is an international chemicals and pharmaceuticals group with headquarters in Brussels. It is present in more than 50 countries and employs some 33,000 people in its Chemicals, Plastics and Pharmaceuticals activities. Including the recently acquired Fournier Pharma, its 2004 sales amounted to EUR 8.5 billion. Solvay is listed on the Euronext 100 index of top European companies. Details are available at www.solvay.com.

Epichlorohydrin is one of the most useful members of the epoxide family of compounds, its major use being the manufacture of epoxy resins, which have a large number of applications in the car, housing, boating and leisure industries. Other applications include the reinforcement of paper (used for instance in the food industry to manufacture tea bags) and water purification. Epichlorohydrin is traditionally derived indirectly by reacting propylene with chlorine.

The Epicerol process developed by Solvay allows the direct synthesis of dichloropropanol, an intermediate product, from glycerine and hydrochloric acid. A second step – dehydrochlorination – generates the final product, epichlorohydrin. The entire process is marked by a lower specific consumption of chlorine and water, consequently reducing chlorinated effluents. Solvay developed the glycerine-based process described in earlier scientific literature and made its industrialization possible thanks to the creation of an entirely new class of catalysts, among other innovations.

Glycerine is the main by-product of biodiesel production, with the generation of approximately 100 kg of glycerine for every 1000 kg of biodiesel.


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