Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Development of new pervaporation membranes and processes to separate alcohols, ethers and hydrocarbon mixtures

Oxygenated compounds like ethers are produced during refining operations by reacting alcohols (methanol, ethanol) with isoolefins. These compounds are used as octane enhancers in unleaded gasolines. Their production involves complicated and expensive separation processes, based on multi-step distillations.

A new pervaporation technique which can be used in such etherification processes has been developed based on:
a newly developed proprietary pervaporation membrane which enables the selective removal of alcohols like methanol or ethanol from organic mixtures;
new proprietary process schemes for ether production, combining distillation with pervaporation steps.

This new separation technique affords significant savings on both investment and operating costs (mainly because of energy savings) compared to known existing techniques. It appears especially attractive in the case of ETBE production when high ETBE conversion rates and/or fairly high ETBE purities (less than a few % by weight of residual ethanol in the ETBE) are needed.

At this stage, the new membrane has been tested long-term in an industrial pilot plant operated with the actual industrial effluents of etherification processes. A first industrial pervaporation plant has been already built with the new membrane. This plant is being used in the chemical industry, but for a type of application other than synthesis. Therefore, the industrial demonstration of the new etherification process using pervaporation remains to be done in the refining industry.

Reported by

Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP)
1 and 4 avenue de Bois-Préau
92506 Rueil-Malmaison
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