SaaBre's breakthrough is a process for the conversion of synthesis gas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen derived from hydrocarbons such as natural gas) directly to acetic acid in a proprietary, integrated three-step process that avoids the need to purify carbon monoxide (CO) or purchase methanol, according to the company.
SaaBre is expected to deliver a significant reduction in variable manufacturing costs, and lead to capital efficiencies, compared to the carbonylation of methanol route which has been the leading technology for several decades.
Acetic acid is a versatile intermediate chemical, used in a variety of products, such as paints, adhesives and solvents, as well as in the production of PTA, used extensively in polyester manufacture.
Hummingbird is a newly developed proprietary process by which ethanol is dehydrated to produce ethylene, a fundamental building block for the plastics and other petrochemical industries. The new technology is lower cost and simpler compared to existing ethanol to ethylene technologies.
Both SaaBre and Hummingbird were developed over a number of years at BP's advanced laboratories at the Hull Research and Technology Centre (HRTC), alongside its acetic acid manufacturing site, Europe's largest, at Saltend, Hull in the UK. BP is actively exploring options for commercializing both technologies. SaaBre is planned for deployment in future acetic acid investments whilst Hummingbird is a licensing play for BP.