Published: December 1978
Formaldehyde is a basic chemical commodity that finds its largest volume of application in the manufacture of thermosetting resins. A large number of smaller, miscellaneous uses has also developed, and slow, steady growth in formaldehyde consumption is expected.
Nearly all of the world's formaldehyde is made from methanol. The two competing processes are based respectively on a silver catalyst and a metal oxide catalyst. Both processes are reevaluated in the present report.
Improvements in the metal oxide catalyst process have aimed at process simplification, more extensive use of carbon steel equipment to reduce capital investment, and modifications of the catalyst to in- crease catalyst life. The FormoxÒ process, developed and licensed by Reichhold Chemicals, is evaluated in this report.
The most radical improvements in the silver catalyst process have been made by BASF and are now used commercially. A different form of the catalyst, a higher reaction temperature, and changes in reactor feed composition have made possible a high methanol conversion; thus, it is no longer necessary to recover unreacted methanol. Maximum size of a production unit has also been increased by these changes.
In this report, attention is concentrated on methanol-based processes, because the direct synthesis of formaldehyde from methane or synthesis gas has not yet proved commercially attractive.