Chemical intermediates

Catalysts, processes and technologies for chemical intermediates such as amines, aniline, hydrogen peroxide, caprolactam and other intermediates.

Areas of expertise


Caprolactam is used primarily for the production of nylon 6 fibres and resins. Johnson Matthey offer catalysts and absorbents to improve the product quality, reliability and cost effectiveness of these essential operations in the caprolactam value chain.

Specialty chemicals

Johnson Matthey is a leading supplier of high performance process catalysts – both precious and base metal – for a diverse range of market applications. Below is a list of specialty chemicals that are produced with our catalysts. Please, contact us for further details and advice.

Hydrogenation reactions:

  • Hydrogenation of dinitrotoluene to toluenediamine (SPONGE METAL™ and Pd on carbon)
  • Hydrogenation of 1,4-butynediol to 1,4-butanediol (SPONGE METAL)
  • Hydrogenation of 4-hydroxybutyraldehyde to 1,4-butanediol (SPONGE METAL)
  • Hydrogenation of 3-hydroxypropanal to 1,3-propanediol (SPONGE METAL)
  • Hydrogenation of olefins to alkanes (e.g. Crotonaldehyde to butyraldehyde and sulfolene to sulfolane) (SPONGE METAL).

Dehydrogenation reactions:

  • Dehydrogenation of alcohols to acetone (SPONGE METAL).

Other reactions:

  • Reductive alkylation from aliphatic primary amine to tertiary dimethyl aliphatic amine (SPONGE METAL)
  • Reductive alkylation of amines with ketones to produce rubber antioxidants such as 6PPD (Pt on carbon)
  • Aldolisation and hydrogenation of acetone to MIBK (Pd on ion exchange resin).

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is typically manufactured in a multi-step auto oxidation (AO) process with the main step being the catalytic hydrogenation of anthraquinone. The leading technology is based on slurry phase batch systems, but there are an increasing number of plants running the process in fixed bed reactors. Johnson Matthey has commercialised several catalysts covering both principal technologies.

The recommended catalyst for the slurry system, is a palladium supported on silica-alumina material. This product has the required activity, product distribution and physical characteristics to carry out the AO process reliably over time. Johnson Matthey has also developed an alternative to the silica-alumina based catalysts using spray-dried silica-alumina support with defined Si:Al ratios. For slurry technologies, which utilise alumina-supported catalysts, commercial materials are available in various metal loadings and particle size distributions. The fixed bed hydrogen peroxide processes also use supported Pd catalysts and Johnson Matthey currently offers an alumina-based catalyst in spherical shape.

Specialty amines

At Johnson Matthey we offer a wide range of proprietary process technologies and catalysts for amine production and for amination and ammonolysis of aldehydes, ketones or alcohols and nitrile hydrogenation for both vapour and liquid phase technologies.

We license a comprehensive portfolio of different amine technologies covering the majority of industrial amines, including the production of methylamines, ethanolamines, alkylamines and choline chloride. Further information on our DAVY amine processes.

Catalysts used for amination and ammonolysis of aldehydes, ketones or alcohols and nitrile hydrogenation for both vapour and liquid phase technologies include PRICAT™ nickel and cobalt based products, both in tablet and powder form. The new HTC™ cobalt range has been successfully introduced to replace traditional high cobalt content catalysts. The HTC cobalt catalysts are characterised by a highly dispersed active metal phase and an open pore structure, resulting in high activity and selectivity combined with a high physical strength. For further information on these catalysts please contact us.

Further, we have successfully co-developed and manufactured custom catalysts for the production of specialty amines.


For liquid phase slurry hydrogenation of nitrobenzene to aniline, PRICAT™ NI 55/5 P is our choice of catalyst. Its unique manufacturing process and properties give this catalyst excellent activity, selectivity and a long lifetime.

Purified terephthalic acid (PTA)

Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) is a key raw material in the manufacture of polyester fibre, resin and film. Johnson Matthey and The Dow Chemical Company recently collaborated on a joint programme to significantly upgrade the COMPRESSTM PTA process to reduce investment and operating costs, improve product quality and reduce the environmental impact of the process; all essential for success in today’s polyester industry.

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Products and services

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