Linear Alpha Olefins (LAO) are unsaturated hydrocarbons that are used to manufacture products like synthetic lubricants, synthetic acids, polymers (LLDPE, HPDE), detergent intermediates, oilfield chemicals, and additives. LAO’s are industrially imperative alkenes with the chemical formula CXH2X. In these unbranched alkenes, the first carbon atom of the chain has a double bond. This bond present between the first and second carbon makes it useful for a number of applications by determining the alkene’s chemical properties. The applications of all reactions of an olefin include addition metathesis, polymerization, etc.
The Joint Venture for α-SABLIN Technology
Linear Alpha Olefins are used in several applications in chemical industry. In particular, 1-Hexene and 1-Butene are highly valued co-monomers for polyolefins. Higher LAOs are processed within the production of Poly-Linear-Alpha-Olefins (PAOs), lubricants, and detergent alcohols.
One of the excellent examples of successful technology development is α-SABLIN technology. The technology partners, Saudi based SABIC and German-based The Linde Group jointly developed the α-SABLIN technology. From the first lab experiments in 1990s, the α-SABLIN technology has grown form pilot plant size up to the commercial plant. The Linde Group had specially constructed and designed the pilot plant on the basis of an initial conceptual design for a large-scale commercial process. Later, in 2000, it was put into operation at the Development Centre of SABIC in Riyadh. Finally, after a successful performance test run, UNITED declared the commercial plant in Al Jubail as fully commercial plant. This UNITED plant has the capacity to produce 150.000 t/a of LAO, which is also the first commercial plant to use the α-SABLIN technology for the production of LAO.
Successful Development Phase of α-SABLIN
The development process of α-SABLIN technology was based on laboratory experiments, which was primarily transformed into a pilot device and later the plant was successfully declared as commercialized plant. At the time of piloting process, it was essential that all relevant new process steps for the later commercial process such as the reaction section, and corresponding loops i.e. for toluene or ethylene were already implemented. With this it was possible in the pilot plant to detect any possible effects such as formation of byproducts or accumulation of trace components under realistic conditions. But, the task of separation was not fully implemented in the pilot plant as this is a well-known state of the art technology for The Linde Group. Despite all these factors, a batch distillation process was installed to obtain the pure individual fractions as well as to recover the solvent toluene. A lot of knowledge and experience from the commercial operation and development of α-SABLIN was gained. Today, α-SABLIN is the only LAO technology with a commercial reference that is free for licensing.
The final commercialization and successful development activities of α-SABLIN in 2009 has proven that wisely following up on this approach is reducing the costs and time, and minimizing the risks for the commercialization of a new technology.
The Market Scenario
As per the Research Dive analyst, a high demand for linear alpha olefins is witnessed from the automobile sector owing to its wide range of usage for maintaining and managing the spare parts of the motor vehicles. The prominent players of the market are increasing their focus on the anal extraction of raw material from the ecofriendly product where the cost of production and raw material will decrease. This will reduce the supply demand gap and will further create growth opportunities in the coming years.
At present, the linear alpha olefins market is progressing at a fast pace and is all set to rise in the future. As per the report published, the global linear alpha olefins market is estimated to garner a revenue of $11,747.8 million, and will grow at 4.9% CAGR from 2019 to 2026. This is majorly due to the increasing demand for polyethylene in end-use industries such as industrial manufacturing, packaging, and consumer goods. However, high manufacturing costs, and volatility in the raw material prices will hinder the market growth.