A new approach to the design of ethylene plants has resulted in the elimination of up to 23% of the equipment in an ethylene plant, a 15% reduction of investment, a 12% reduction in energy and improved operating margins by up to 30%, according to officials of ABB Lummus Global, Bloomfield, N.J. The company recently unveiled several innovations in plant design that represent fundamental change in ethylene production and recovery technologies.

These innovations, now fully developed, change the process chemistry by removing pyrolysis hydrogen by chemical reaction instead of cryogenic separation using ABB's proprietary CDHydro process, which combines catalytic distillation and hydrogenation. The process chemistry is further modified by providing a catalytic route to ethylene and propylene from steam cracker or fluid catalytic cracker C4s. This route can also be used to produce the co-monomers, butene-1 and hexene-1. The compression train is also fundamentally modified, leading to a 40% reduction in the number of compressor/turbine casings.