Hydrogenolysis technology

Hydrogenolysis is a reaction where hydrogen is added to a compound and breaks that compound’s bonds, forming two molecules as a result.

Johnson Matthey's DAVY™ hydrogenolysis technology reacts hydrogen gas (H2) with a vapour-phase carbonyl compound.

We employ DAVY hydrogenolysis in various flowsheets, including our natural detergent alcohols (NDA) process, which converts fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) to fatty alcohols:

Hydrogenolysis reaction

In addition, our DAVY butanediol (BDO) process employs hydrogenolysis to convert dimethyl maleate or dimethyl succinate to BDO and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) products:

Hydrogenolysis reaction

Also, our DAVY n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) process employs the route to GBL shown above.

In the examples above, an esterification step precedes hydrogenolysis to convert an acidic feed to a non-acidic ester.

An ester feed greatly simplifies the process, as DAVY ester hydrogenolysis can proceed in the vapour phase over a fixed catalyst bed. This is in contrast to acid hydrogenolysis, which usually requires a more complex, slurry-based procedure.

Hydrogenolysis also drives our propylene glycol flowsheet, where a fast dehydration reaction converts glycerol feed to a carbonyl, before reaction with hydrogen completes the process.

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Licensed processes team