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Methanol-to-Olefins (MTO)

MTO was developed as a 2-step process, which 1st converts natural gas via syn-gas to methanol, followed by its transformation to light olefins.

Methanol-to-Olefins (MTO)

The Methanol to Hydrocarbons process was discovered at Mobil Oil in 1977. This process is used to convert methanol to products such as olefins and gasoline.

The methanol can 1st be obtained from coal or natural gas. In the Methanol to Olefins (MTO) process, the methanol is then converted to olefins such as ethylene and propylene. The olefins can be reacted to produce polyolefins, which are used to make many plastic materials.

Worldwide, there are 3 main methanol-to-olefin technologies. All 3 are being used widely:
  • MTO by UOP2
  • D-MTO
  • S-MTO
UOP is the 1st one to invent this technology and complete small methanol to olefins test devices. D-MTO and S-MTO are technologies developed in China by Chinese companies/institutes. The D-MTO technology has the largest market share in China because of the government’s localization policy.

The successful development of a commercially applicable MTO technology needs to solve many scientific and technical problems:
  • to establish a selectivity control principle for this complex reaction system through a deep understanding of the mechanisms of reaction and deactivation
  • to develop an efficient catalyst through the application of new zeolitic materials and the study of interplay between synthesis method, catalyst property, and reaction performance
  • to scale up the synthetic process of the catalyst with commercially available raw materials and establish standards to ensure the reliability and repeatability for large scale catalyst production
  • to find out a suitable reactor type with optimal reaction conditions and explore the commercial availability
  • to make a complete process flow diagram and set up a reliable reactor scale-up approach
  • to integrate the knowledge obtained from reactor scale-up with existing industrial experiences to make basic design package for commercial unit
Critical to the successful application of the MTO process are acidic zeolite catalysts. Without these catalysts, the chemical reactions involved in the MTO process would be too slow for the process to be economically feasible.