The Minamata Convention on Mercury declared that after 2017 vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants will need to switch to a mercury-free catalyst, providing there is an economically available alternative. Combining our chemistry skills and applications knowledge, in collaboration with Cardiff University we successfully developed a new, economically viable catalyst that will enable a more sustainable route to poly vinyl chloride (PVC) production.
The manufacture of a chemical called VCM, from either coal or natural gas, is an important intermediate step in the production of poly vinyl chloride (PVC). We have successfully developed a mercury-free catalyst for the manufacture of VCM, following on from a joint project with Cardiff University in the UK. Instead, our catalyst uses gold as the active component, which is carefully positioned on the surface of a carbon support material. We call this an eggshell catalyst as the gold sits only on the surface. It has been specifically designed in this way to minimise the amount of gold used and to make it readily available for reaction.
We also faced the challenge of producing the gold in a stable form. Through applying our expertise, we were able to stabilise the gold and produce the catalyst using an environmentally friendly manufacturing process.
This manufacturing process will allow us to help VCM plants around the world adhere to legislation. In China alone, a huge 80% of PVC production comes from the coal-based route and employs a mercury containing catalyst. Coal based VCM production using these catalysts is used outside China too.
Making a difference to lives
Given the increased emphasis on environmental responsibility which is prompting legislation to control and reduce emissions in some chemical manufacturing processes, our mercury-free catalyst is another step towards creating a healthier world. We're confident that our continued work in this field will lead to more ways to help create a sustainable future.