Lucite International launches new plant
Lucite's Alpha 1 plant heralds the dawn of a new era for MMA
Technology developed and piloted at The Wilton Centre has been used to start up a new world-scale plant in Singapore.
The plant uses Lucite International's alpha process, a new technology for the manufacture of methyl methacrylate, or MMA.
Test tube experiments on what was to become the alpha process began in the early 1990s, when the Acrylics business was still part of ICI.
Scale-up via batch-type reactors and distillation units took place, and this led to the design and construction of the first continuous pilot plants in 2001.
The pilot plants were used to develop the technology further, and to validate process engineering models of the new system, before moving to the design of Alpha Plant 1 for Singapore.
The existing route for manufacture of MMA, still practised widely by producers all around the world, uses HCN and acetone as feed-stocks, and 100% sulphuric acid as a solvent, whereas the alpha route converts ethylene, carbon monoxide and methanol to MMA in two process steps, via an intermediate C3 ester.
The significantly lower cost-base of the alpha technology has put Lucite in an excellent position to move forward as a leader of the worldwide acrylics industry.