Another mixed year

Another mixed year

FOCUS ON C A T A L Y S T S A MONTHLY REPORT FROM ALAN E COMYNS DECEMBER 2007 In this issue MARKETS AND BUSINESS ANOTHER MIXED YEAR 1-2 Refinery mar...

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FOCUS ON C A T A L Y S T S A MONTHLY REPORT FROM ALAN E COMYNS DECEMBER 2007 In this issue

MARKETS AND BUSINESS

ANOTHER MIXED YEAR 1-2

Refinery markets for catalysts losing share Germany still leading in white biotech

COMPANY NEWS

2-5

DSM and Genencor offering ethanol from cellulose Ineos silicas and PQ to merge Süd-Chemie now controlled by private equity

NEW PLANTS

5-6

Evonic to make alkoxides in USA, Brazil

NEW TECHNOLOGY

6-7

Mazda reduces pmg usage in autocatysts Novozymes and DSM can reduce acrylamide in food DuPont launches new superacid

ENVIRONMENT

7

SCR for Beijing buses

PATENTS

AN INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER MONITORING TECHNICAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE MANUFACTURE AND USE OF CATALYSTS ISSN 1351–4180

7-8

BOOKSHELF

8

EVENTS

8

I characterised 2005 as ‘A Biological Year’ and 2006 as ‘Another Biological Year’, so I hesitate to say that 2007 was yet another biological year, although that is what it was. Enzymic processes are being developed for making fuels from agricultural wastes (notably cellulose), wood, and nonfood crops, and the concept of the ‘bio-refinery’ is becoming accepted. White biotechnology is becoming the ‘flavour of the month’. The surplus of glycerol from the manufacture of biodiesel is at last being regarded as an opportunity rather than a problem. There have been evolutionary developments in polymerisation catalysts, yielding polymers having better combinations of properties. In heavy organic chemicals we are starting to see the replacement of hazardous liquid acidic alkylation catalysts by solid acid catalysts. In catalysts for reducing air pollution we have seen developments in titania photocatalysts which use visible light, and the consolidation of SCR systems for removing NOx from combustion gases. The status of fuel cells is enigmatic. The long-heralded and much-needed alcohol-fuelled cells for portable devices have not yet been commercialised. The compact mixedreactant fuel cell (a great opportunity for catalytic chemists) is still only a concept but has backing from several industrial companies and the DTI. The fuel cell for the home (once promised by GEC and then shelved) is still a dream. Perhaps, now that crude oil has broken the $100 barrier, some formerly uneconomic devices will

become economic by comparison with oil-fuelled combustion processes. Several long-term collaborations between universities and manufacturers of catalysts and catalyst test equipment have been announced. BASF has signed agreements with Columbia University and the Universities of Heidelberg and Manchester. Bayer has signed one with RWTH Aachen. Xethanol has established a laboratory at Virginia Tech, and Symyx has established a research centre at the University of Naples. The Indian Oil Company is collaborating with the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras. A disturbing development in 2007 was the acquisition of three longestablished catalyst manufacturers (Crosfield (formerly a Unilever subsidiary, then Ineos Silicas), PQ, Süd-Chemie) by private venture capital companies. Such companies usually maximise short-term profits and minimise new developments; let us hope that wiser councils will prevail in this industry. Alan E. Comyns

MARKETS AND BUSINESS Clean fuels requirements increase catalyst demand Demand for refining catalysts continues to soar due to the clamour for greener fuels, increasing demand

CATALYSTS CATALYSTS CATALYSTS CATALYSTS CATALYSTS CATALYSTS