As part of a programme to expand phenol production capacities at its plant in Płock, PKN ORLEN has purchased a licence and basic engineering design package for an isopropanol unit. If the project receives a go-ahead, PKN ORLEN will be the world’s fifth company to implement this innovative technology.

‘Petrochemicals have huge potential we want to harness to deliver maximum value. Expanding this business line is of strategic importance to PKN ORLEN and Poland’s economy, with our Petrochemicals Development Programme set to turn the country from petrochemical importer to petrochemical exporter. Our capital projects will also benefit shareholders in the long run. Once complete, the Programme is estimated to add an impressive PLN 1.5bn to annual operating profit. The programme to expand the phenol and acetone value chain is one of the four projects comprising PKN ORLEN’s strategic Petrochemicals Development Programme. The planned isopropanol unit would have an additional advantage – it would make Poland more secure in the event of an epidemic,’ said Daniel Obajtek, President of the PKN ORLEN Management Board.

Isopropyl alcohol is a less expensive substitute for ethanol or methanol, has antiviral properties and is used in the production of antiseptic fluids, in the printing industry, and as a fuel additive, to name just a few applications.

Acetone, a by-product in phenol production, would be used as the primary feedstock to make the isopropanol. Isopropanol is prepared through hydrogenation of acetone with hydrogen. Raw isopropanol is subsequently distilled several times to obtain a high-purity final product. The planned project would consist of an isopropanol unit with auxiliary systems and ancillary infrastructure and would be sited at the Płock production plant. Basic engineering design work and the launch of general contractor selection are planned in the coming months.

Isopropanol has a wide range of applications. 70% IPA water solution is used for medical applications as an antiseptic fluid. It is a mild organic solvent and a chemical reagent. At concentrations of up to 12%, it is used in offset printing as a dampening solution. Being safe to most commonly used plastics, IPA is a component of various cleaning and degreasing products, including optical device and magnetic head cleaning agents.

‘Pursuing its strategic goal of extending the value chain and maximising the return on investment in expanding its phenol production capacity, PKN ORLEN is considering the construction of an IPA unit, which would help to convert part of by-product acetone into a high-margin solvent, that is isopropanol. The project is an example of our well thought-out strategy of shifting our portfolio from commodity to specialty products in response to growing customer expectations,’ noted Zbigniew Leszczyński, Member of the PKN ORLEN Management Board, Development.

Badger Licensing LLC’s proprietary technology for making isopropanol from acetone is a novel, innovative process developed through research conducted over the past few years. The licensor declares the technology ensures optimal operating and investment costs and expected reliability.