PEP Review 99-3
Linear Alkylbenzene By Heterogeneous Catalysis (Update)
Published: April 2003
In a changing, competitive global market for surfactant raw materials, the catalyst of choice for production of linear alkylation (LAB) historically has been HF acid since the first improved benzene alkylation unit came on stream in 1968. Its high efficiency, superior product, and ease of use relative to the older AlCl3 catalyzed process were the reasons for its success. However, for both the HF and AlCl3 catalyzed processes, the handling of corrosive catalysts has led to implications in terms of increased capital cost of the plant as well as in the disposal of neutralization products generated in these processes.
The original heterogeneously catalyzed benzene alkylation process was developed jointly by UOP and PETRESA, a wholly owned subsidiary of CEPSA in Spain. This process was evaluated in 1991 in PEP Review 90-2-4 on a conceptual process design derived from information provided in patent and trade literature. The alkylation catalyst and process was successfully demonstrated in 1992 at Petresa's pilot unit in Spain, where the produced product met or exceeded all detergent grade LAB specifications (Petressa is a wholly owned subsidiary of CEPSA). The first large scale homogeneously catalyzed plant was commissioned in 1995 at a site in Quebec Canada, near Montreal. In addition to the Canadian plant, there are now 2 additional commercial plants operating in India and China.