Metal Oxide Catalyst for Methyl Ethyl Ketone Production via One-Step Oxidation of n-Butane      

Dr. Manhua Mandy Lin, Principal Investigator
DOE Grant No. DE-FG02-03ER83652

Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) is a commodity chemical in high demand with an annual production of about 675 million pounds in the U.S., of which 87 % is produced via the energy consuming three-step sec-butyl alcohol route from the relatively expensive starting material, 1-butene, while generating corrosive and toxic wastes.  To simultaneously address the cost, energy, and environmental issues, this project aims at exploring and developing a one-step catalytic process for the manufacturing of MEK from n-butane, a cheap and abundant component of natural gas.  This n-butane process is a gas-phase selective oxidation using air as the oxidant.  The Phase I is to demonstrate the feasibility of this n-butane process by achieving a reasonable n-butane conversation and MEK selectivity.  The Phase II objective will be to achieve industrial-significant n-butane conversion and MEK selectivity, which would warrant further commercial development.

Commercial Applications and Other Benefits:  If the n-butane-to-MEK process is successfully developed and implemented to replace the current commercial sec-butyl alcohol process, the cost saving on the feedstock could be as high as 60 %.  A significant energy saving as well as waste reduction are also anticipated.