Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical has begun construction of a pilot facility to trial production of propylene directly from ethanol, which is attracting attention as a sustainable chemical raw material if derived from biomass. The project is supported by the government-linked NEDO Green Innovation (GI) Fund.
The Company plans to complete construction of the pilot facility at its Sodegaura site in Chiba Prefecture by the first half of 2025 and accelerate efforts aimed at commercial deployment.
Ethanol can be produced from biomass such as sugarcane and corn, and it is also anticipated that technology for manufacturing ethanol at scale from combustible waste, waste plastics or CO2 will be developed in the near future. Expectations are thereby rising for ethanol as a sustainable essential chemical raw material.
Sumitomo’s process to produce propylene directly from ethanol has the advantage of being compact and low-cost compared to existing processes that involve multiple intermediates. Additionally, hydrogen is generated simultaneously as a by-product.
Image courtesy of Sumitomo Chemical
Sumitomo Chemical will acquire the necessary data for scaling the process for commercial production from the pilot facility, while also providing samples of polypropylene using the propylene produced in the pilot facility for customer evaluation. The Company aims to start commercial production with the new process, as well as licensing of the technology to other companies, by the early 2030s.