Johnson Matthey, a global leader in sustainable technologies, scooped the Industry Project Award at this year’s IChemE Global Awards for its high-pressure formaldehyde technology, FORMOXTM2.0. This is one of three awards earned by Johnson Matthey (JM) at this year’s IChemE awards competition, which sees more than 100 finalists competing across multiple categories. The IChemE Awards celebrate excellence in chemical, process and biochemical engineering and are widely considered to be the world’s most prestigious annual chemical engineering awards.
Since the first JM commercial formaldehyde plant was inaugurated in Perstorp, Sweden in 1959, JM has been focused on continuous process improvement, improved CAPEX and OPEX, enhanced capacity and customer experience.
Over recent years demand to both reduce capital and operating cost of formaldehyde production and to deliver plants of larger capacity has been increasing. To meet this need, JM’s multi-disciplined technical team has developed its FORMOX 2.0 technology, which contains a new catalyst at the heart of the process along with new technical solutions in reactor feed and cooling and emission control system. The new FORMOX 2.0 high pressure formaldehyde process is designed to be able to operate at 33% higher capacity with only minor changes in equipment, resulting in low capital expenditure and minimal compromise on feedstock or utility consumption. This ground-breaking improvement is possible through JM’s unique turbocharger technology allowing a step change in performance to increase the system pressure considerably, from 1.5 bar a to 2.0 bar a.
Using extensive knowledge of formaldehyde catalyst formulation and reactor loading plan design, the research team were able to investigate changes in the catalyst and loading plan properties and confirm performance in pilot scale. To avoid excessive by-product formation at higher pressure and productivity JM developed a new catalyst, HP1 INI CAT, designed to handle the plant’s enhanced pressure and provide greater flexibility.
The new plant design makes it possible to optimise plant performance and to find new combinations beneficial to meet specific parameters while improved pressure ratio means lower specific power consumption at high pressures.
Commercialisation of this novel approach to formaldehyde production has been achieved in a short time scale via catalyst and process technology development with the first commercial reference operating successfully since the end of last year.
Mark Danks, Commercial Director at JM, said: "Formaldehyde is a strongly growing market and we continue to maintain our leadership position through a proven ability to innovate, improve efficiency, and massively increase productivity. That's a significant challenge in a mature technology space, so this recognition from IChemE for FORMOX 2.0 is an outstanding achievement for everybody involved in the project."