Olefins are in a class of hydrocarbons with a single double bond and a chemical formula of CnH2n. The two most important olefins are ethylene and propylene, as they form the backbone of the petrochemicals market. The highly reactive double bond makes the olefin molecule ideal for conversion to many useful end products. The majority of olefins capacity is consumed in the production of polymers used for plastics (i.e. polyethylene and polypropylene). Ethylene dichloride, ethylene oxide, propylene oxide, oxo alcohol, polystyrene, and acrylonitrile are other important olefins-based petrochemicals.
Worldwide olefins demand is primarily driven by economic growth and the associated increased demand for consumer goods.
Today, the majority of ethylene is produced by thermal cracking of hydrocarbon feedstocks ranging from ethane to heavy vacuum gas oils. Over 60% of the world's propylene is produced as a byproduct of thermal cracking, with the balance being supplied from refinery sources and others. The amount of propylene produced from thermal cracking is highly feedstock dependent. With future propylene demand expected to outpace ethylene demand and continued growth in Middle East thermal crackers utilizing cost advantaged ethane feedstock, "on purpose" propylene production via catalytic cracking technologies will become more important.
Olefins economics are driven by petrochemicals prices, product yields, and consumer demand. KBR's suite of olefins production technologies coupled with our experienced group of olefins technology specialists provides our clients the selectivity to valuable olefins for a given feedstock that are produced in reliable, safe, environmentally sound, and cost effective plant designs.
As an ethylene and propylene licensor, KBR has been a leader in olefin plant design and construction and technology development for over 50 years. We provide cost-effective plants for the production of ethylene, propylene, butadiene and other by products from feedstocks ranging from ethane to vacuum gas oils. Since 1990, over 20 new ethylene plants with a combined capacity of 13 million metric tons per year have been brought on-stream using KBR technology.
KBR's Olefins Technology portfolio currently contains three technology options for Olefins production, with the optimum selection dependent on available feedstocks and desired olefin product mix.
KBR's extensive olefins experience, combined with an exclusive license agreement to utilize ExxonMobil Chemicals ethylene technology developments, is the basis for our olefins plant designs under the trademark SCORE™, Selective Cracking Optimum REcovery. SCORE technology uses cracking furnaces that can provide the highest olefins yields available in the industry and a low-capital, high-efficiency product recovery system based on low-pressure distillation tower designs.
KBR's SUPERFLEX™ olefins production technology provides propylene and ethylene producers a unique method for converting low-value olefins streams, such as mixed butenes, pentenes, FCC light gasoline and coker gasoline, to valuable propylene and ethylene products. This technology can be used for stand-alone production units or integrated into existing olefins plants. Superflex was originally developed by ARCO. KBR was awarded the world's first SUPERFLEX license for Sasol's Secunda site in South Africa. This unit was commissioned in the fourth quarter of 2006.
KBR's Advanced Catalytic Olefins (ACO™) technology is an alternative to the thermal cracking olefins process and provides a unique method for converting straight run paraffinic streams (e.g. naphtha) to high value propylene and ethylene products. The ACO process combines the KBR Orthoflow™ fluidized catalytic cracking reactor system with a proprietary catalyst, developed by SKenergy, an international leader in petrochemicals production based in Korea.
For more information on Score™, Superflex™, and Advanced Catalytic Olefins (ACO™), please visit our KBR Petrochemicals publications.