In FY2009-2013, we conducted a project to develop fundamental technologies of zeolite membranes for application to important chemical processes such as dehydration of isopropyl alcohol (IPA). The dehydration of IPA by distillation requires a large amount of energy because IPA forms azeotrope with water at about 14 %(wt) of water. We, 6 companies and 6 universities, concurrently carried out the development of element technologies. In particular, in FY2012-2013, we performed the bench-scale tests at the IPA production plant site in the Kawasaki Plant of JX Nippon Oil & Energy. Y-type zeolite (Hitachi-zosen) and SSZ-13 (Mitsubishi Chem.) tubular membranes have been developed, and the permselectivities of these membranes overwhelmingly exceeded targets. Process simulation suggested that in comparison with current distillation for the IPA dehydration, hybridization of distillation and membrane decreases >50% of the energy demand. The payout time would be < 1 year on a glass-roots basis. The bench-scale test performed in FY2012-2013 was performed using the real stream in a petrochemical plant. Operation exceeding 200 h was successfully done.
Fig. 1 IPA production plant at the KAWASAKI plant of JX-Nippon Oil and Energy, and the bench-scale zeolite membrane test plant set at the KAWASAKI Plant.