Sustainability, the Talk of the Petrochemical World
Petrochemicals and the need for them are all around. They are used to produce phones, clothing, housewares, paints, rubber toys, beverage bottles, computers and even the plastic bags we carry our grocery in. Petrochemicals have long enriched countless lives but are now also considered the main culprit behind the CO2 emissions that affect the global climate changes that in turn causes floods, droughts, extreme temperatures, and other abnormal climate changes around the globe. And as the global petrochemical industry in response, strives to shift towards more stable and sustainable next-generation products, Hanwha also seeks solutions. Hanwha is developing its next generation of technologies that will push the boundaries of the chemical industry.
Seeking Sustainability in Next-Generation Original Technologies
Hanwha has been interested addressing global environmental issues and that interest has led the company to develop environmentally friendly chemical products, materials, and processes. In line with its effort, Hanwha partnered with Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), a distinguished research-oriented science and technology institution in Korea. Together, they established the KAIST-Hanwha Chemical Future Technology Research Center dedicated to finding sustainable energy sources. The center’s projects include the development of original technologies for next-generation chemicals and high-purity process technologies that can contribute to dramatic energy savings.
The collaboration between Hanwha and KAIST advances academic research while taking new technologies to market. These state-of-the-art original technologies will be crucial to building a sustainable chemical industry capable of responding to the uncertainties of the future.
01 Biotechnology ResearchUsing renewable inedible biomass to develop an ecofriendly bio process
02 Material & Surface Modification Research Optimization of crosslinking process for super absorbent polymer surfaces
03 Catalyst Research Development of efficient high-activity catalyst
04 Process ResearchDevelopment of efficient processes, products, and manufacturing systems
The KAIST-Hanwha Chemical Future Technology Research Center is currently involved in four research projects in the fields of biotechnology, material and surface modification, catalyst, process design and engineering.
These are key research projects that focus on developing technologies to enable production via ecofriendly and efficient processes that could soon be put to application. They will help Hanwha lead the chemical industry and move further away from oil dependency while enabling producers to reach greater efficiency and reduce more waste.
Where will the petrochemical industry be in a century? Will we be able to eliminate the Great Pacific Garbage patch in the North Pacific Ocean? The answer to the future of the petrochemical industry lies in sustainable chemical solutions. And the answer that Hanwha seeks will come from cutting-edge research and development of alternative sustainable solutions that will serve as the foundation for green chemistry.
The Hidden Dangers of Phthalate
Phthalates, mainly used as plasticizers, contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can change the hormone levels in people. Years of extensive studies reveal that they are toxic and extremely dangerous. So understandably, regulations on the use of phthalates worldwide are gradually being tightened, with production, sales and imports being banned across Europe since 2015.
Nevertheless, phthalates remain a vital component in many everyday products such as plastic bottles, cosmetics, toothpaste and hair sprays, making our exposure to them very difficult to avoid. However, Hanwha Total Petrochemical’s R&D is taking steps to eliminate our reliance on phthalates with new eco-friendly catalysts.
Protecting People with “Phthalate-free” with Eco-friendly Polypropylene Catalyst
Roughly 50 million tons of Polypropylene (PP) are produced worldwide each year in the form of food containers, medical equipment, household appliances, and automobiles. Between 80-90% of the PP production process employs Ziegler-Natta catalysts, where phthalates are used as internal donors, the core component of the performance controller. This means that approximately 80 to 90% of the products we use every day can contain trace amounts of phthalate and thus the need for phthalate-free products are commensurately high.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, since 2009, the catalyst research team at Hanwha Total Petrochemical has been cultivating the next generation of eco-friendly PP catalysts. And in 2015, they made a breakthrough, successfully developing environmentally friendly PP catalysts by replacing phthalate with eco-friendly chemical compounds as internal electron donors.
The next-generation eco-friendly PP catalyst created by Hanwha’s R&D team is completely phthalate-free and applies proprietary micropore carrier that boosts the activity and stereoregularity of the catalyst process. Moreover, PP products applied with the eco-friendly catalyst achieve the same levels of material property machinability as those that use standard catalysts and thus, make them versatile enough to be used in almost any product.
Characteristics of Hanwha Total Petrochemical’s Eco-friendly PP Catalyst
The research by the Hanwha Total Petrochemical R&D team has been certified by world-renowned organizations. In 2014, Fraunhofer¹ , Europe’s largest applied science and technology research organization, officially certified that PPs produced using this new eco-friendly catalyst do not contain phthalate. The team’s PP catalyst earned the Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)² certification adopted by both the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And the European Union (EU), after having reviewed the results of the toxicity analyses including oral toxicity and mutability, also officially confirmed that the new eco-friendly catalysts were not harmful to humans.
¹ Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: A leading government-funded research organization is the largest in Europe in applied research with 69 institutes and research facilities in Germany along (7 in the US). The organization focuses on applied research to commercialize technologies developed by universities and institutes.
² Good Laboratory Practice (GLP): Regulation on systemic control of research personnel, laboratory facilities and equipment, and test methods to ensure the reliability of safety evaluations and toxicity tests of medicines and cosmetics
Protecting the Environment with Eco-friendly Technologies
Hanwha is discovering solutions for many problems besides the endocrine-disrupting chemical like the phthalate that can harm the human body. It is also taking the lead in developing eco-friendly technologies that are environmentally-safe. Hanwha has succeeded in developing eco-friendly plasticizers, halogen-free compounds and solid hydrogen storage materials.
The research teams operating under Hanwha’s petrochemical businesses are vigorously trying to solve environmental problems and developing eco-friendly technologies that can become the next generation of products for the petrochemical industry. In so doing, Hanwha stands at the forefront of petrochemical R&D and will continue to build on this position as an eco-friendly petrochemical industry leader.
Hanwha Chemical has developed a non-phthalate-based eco-friendly plasticizer³ and is now preparing it for commercial production. However, the company’s R&D continues its research on functional plasticizers that do not harm the environment and to develop new processes, improve stability, and machinability.
³ Plasticizer: Organic substances added to plastics and paints in order to make processing of materials easier at high temperatures
Demand for eco-friendly electronic, automobile and construction products that do not contain halogen is increasing in all areas of the compound market. Hanwha Chemical produces an environmentally friendly, nonflammable⁴compound which does not contain harmful substances like halogen? elements, RoHS?, toxic metals, phthalates or VOCs?. They do, however, offer superb material property and economic feasibility.
⁴ Nonflammable: Characteristics of resistance to fire even when exposed to flammable situation
? Halogen: A substance that is likely to cause human toxicity and endocrine problems due to elements such as fluorine, chlorine, and bromine.
? RoHS (Restriction of the use of Hazardous Substances): Restriction on the use of hazardous substances like Hg, Pb, Cd, Cr6+, PBB, PBDE.
? VOCs: Volatile Organic Compounds.
The global chemical industry is shifting from general purpose products to high value-added products using technological innovations. Amidst this wave of change, Hanwha stands out for successfully developing two new technologies. Each technology has earned the New Excellent Technology (NET) certificate in December of 2016. The NET certification is a prestigious title given by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) to newly developed technologies. The recognitions effectively put Hanwha on the map as a technology powerhouse.
The research teams of Hanwha Chemical R&D Center have played a pivotal role in obtaining these certificates. They serve as the backbone of Hanwha’s efforts in laying the foundation for becoming a global leader in the chemicals market through the proprietary development of original technologies.
Increasing Value through the Latest in CPVC
The NET-certified CPVC manufacturing technology using PVC modification and high-efficiency neutralization drastically improves the productivity and workability of CPVC. An extensive range of plastic goods that we use daily are made of PVC. CPVC is PVC polymer infused with 10% more chlorine to make it highly resistant to heat, pressure, and corrosion. CPVC is widely used for their heat and chemical-resistant characteristics and is the best material for sprinkler piping, hot water pipes, and specialized pipes for industrial liquid handling.
CPVC manufacturing technology using PVC modification and high-efficiency neutralization
Increasing chlorine infusion by 10%Improve CPVC’sProductivityMachinability
The Hanwha Chemical R&D Center’s principal research engineer Seon Jeong Jin is the leader of the CPVC project and he said, “The key to the successful development of the proprietary technology was our ability to apply chemical materials to extremely diverse applications. Our goal was to discover the base PVC resin suited for the CPVC development process. Based on our technical capability and the knowhow we accumulated over the past 20 years on PVC, we were able to develop a resin that accelerates chlorination and neutralization of by-products while maximizing the amount of extrusion. This discovery led to our breakthrough in CPVC manufacturing technology.”
Projected Growth in CPVC Demand (unit: tons)
* Source: Hanwha Chemical
The global demand for CPVC is increasing. Hanwha Chemical’s effective CPVC manufacturing technology will help the company meet the increasing global demand for CPVC. CPVC has 15% higher productivity compared to traditional methods.
Hanwha Chemical completed a CPVC production plant in Ulsan, Korea. This plant began production in March of this year and has the capacity to produce up to 30,000 tons of CPVC per year. And by adding the CPVC production line at the Ningbo plant in China, Hanwha Chemical plans to double this number to 60,000 tons per year by 2020.
The Hanwha Chemical research team has also launched a project to improve the quality of standard PVC by applying new CPVC technology to the PVC lines it currently operates. The team’s extensive research and development efforts are expected to be recognized as a model case-study to show the rest of the petrochemical industry on how to add value to general purpose products.
Why Some Experts Call Hybrid Metallocene the “Dream Catalyst”
Another new technology developed by Hanwha Chemical is MDPE/HDPE¹ gas-phase polymerization using high-activity metallocene hybrid catalyst. This is a gas-phase polyethylene (PE) production technology that takes advantage of the outstanding operational stability of MDPE/HDPE and is aimed at drastically improving the mechanical properties, chemical resistance, and machinability of the material relative to the existing PE manufacturing technology. The new technology enables the production of high value-added PE products which can remain in service for more than 50 years under high temperatures and pressures under different applications.
¹ MDPE (Midium Density Polyethylene) and HDPE(High Density Polyethylene) have outstanding properties in terms of strength, mechanical property, and machinability. The are used in the production of packing films, containers, pipes, and crates.
MDPE/HDPE gas-phase polymerization using high-activity metallocene improves the properties of polyethylene :
Metallocene Properties by Type
First-generation metallocene has high mechanical strength but poor machinability, whereas the second-generation of the substance has better machinability but lower strength.
The new high-activity metallocene represents a breakthrough, overcoming the shortcomings of both metallocene generations by being stronger mechanically and having great machinability. It is for this reason that the new metallocene is dubbed the “dream catalyst” or the “catalyst of the future.”
The Hanwha Chemical research team made a strategic move to focus on the development of metallocene for MDPE/HDPE in order to secure a competitive edge in the global market. Currently, 95 percent of metallocene is being used for making films that are widely adopted in food packaging and containers, and this innovative push resulted in the successful development of a totally new material demonstrating optimal strength and machinability.
“While most petrochemical companies focus on developing technology and expanding their market shares of metallocene for film production, we have been dedicating our efforts to the development of a technology targeting MDPE/HDPE, an unexplored area in the field of metallocene. Moreover, we leveraged the gas-phase PE production system already under operation by Hanwha’s petrochemicals division to secure a more cost-competitive and ecofriendly technology than the existing slurry production system of our competitors. We expect the hybrid metallocene method to boost the productivity of the plastics industry at large.”
And while continuing their work on these projects, research teams at the Hanwha Chemical R&D Center are increasing their efforts to advance Hanwha Chemical’s core competency by developing more cutting-edge technologies. In so doing, the company will not only join the global petrochemical industry shift to the manufacture of high value-added products, but also lead it.
The World’s Most Widely Used EVA Sheet for Solar Batteries is Made by
Solar power is becoming more a promising environmentally-friendly source of energy, as cutting greenhouse gas has become the talk of the world. In 2016, the installed solar photovoltaics(PV) capacity reached 302 GW globally, a 32.7 percent growth year over year.
Solar PV panels collect sunlight and convert it into electricity or heat. The technology behind it involves the solar module whose structure is comprised of 5 layers. The first layer on the top is the glass layer and below it is the first of two encapsulant layers. The next and 3rd layer is the cell (battery) layer and then again an encapsulant layer. The last and 5th layer at the bottom is the backsheet. All combined the layers make up the solar module that can absorb sunlight. The encapsulant is the module’s core material ? it is a sheet that is only 0.5mm thin and it wraps around the cell. While deceptively thin, the encapsulant it is, however, critically needed to insulate the cells and protect them from moisture and external shock. One of the main components of encapsulants that has been widely used for the last 30 years has been ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA).
Hanwha Total Petrochemical has been leading the efforts to develop EVA and even adding value to it so that its products can be differentiated from competitive offerings. Hanwha’s relentless R&D to innovate and raise the bar for quality has been met with great success. Hanwha Petrochemical is producing 240 thousand tons of EVA whose quality is unrivaled in the industry. The company’s EVA has captured 35 percent of the lucrative global market ? the largest share in the world.
Succeeds in the Commercial Production of EVA with 28% VAM Content Using the World’s First Tubular Process
To understand the success of Hanwha’s EVA, we must first understand the product classifications and then the processes.
There are two different types of EVA cells, those classified as general purpose that use low Vinyl Acetate Monomer (VAM) content and those classified as premium that use high VAM cells. Solar cell encapsulants used in solar PV panels contain high VAM counts and the higher the count, the better. Hanwha Total Petrochemical’s high-value-added EVA registers approximately 28 percent VAM.
There are also two types of EVA production processes. One is the tubular reactor process and the other is the container-shaped autoclave process. Production of EVA requires an ultra-high temperature that is at least 446 degrees Fahrenheit and a reactor pressure of at least 2,500 bars. Small-scale pilot plants that can support these extreme operating conditions for the tubular process are very expensive to build. As a result, large-scale commercial plants struggle to get reliable data needed for pilot productions. This is why many EVA manufacturers opt for the autoclave process, which makes high-value EVA manufacturing easier, even though it is much less efficient than the tubular reactor process.
To develop EVA with higher VAM content, the R&D team at Hanwha Total Petrochemical took the unconventional approach by using the tubular process.
The R&D team of Hanwha Total Petrochemical applied its experience in fabricating high-quality low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polymerization with the tubular process, they discovered a new formulation for polymerization. And as an alternative to building an actual pilot plant, the team created a program that could simulate and test the tubular process in a pilot plant.
Ji Yong Park, Manager of Hanwha Total Petrochemical
The tubular process hardly allows any product development because the technology does not allow for pre-evaluating the product through pilot plants nor prepare small samples for testing. To solve for this limitation, our research team has identified the optimal polymerization conditions and developed a production technology that allows for small-scale pilot production and a simulator built in-house that can be used for process analysis and product design.
After completing phased test productions, for the first time in the industry, Hanwha Total Petrochemical's R&D team succeeded in commercializing EVA for solar cells using the tubular process. Hanwha’s EVA product has far denser molecular weight distribution and this means it has better transmittance than EVA’s fabricated through the autoclave process. Hanwha’s EVA boasts higher transparency, improved purity, and less shrinkage but at the same time, its productivity is 30 to 40 percent greater than the autoclave process. The breakthrough EVA with superior quality from the Hanwha R&D team has helped Hanwha secure a clear competitive advantage in the market.
Recently, in 2016, Hanwha Total Petrochemical's EVA won the title of World Class Product of Korea¹ and also awarded the IR52 Jang Yeong-sil Award². The product stood out amongst the other EVAs in the global market for its high-quality. The EVA from Hanwha represents the company’s endless drive to innovate in the global petrochemical industry and its commitment to never stop improving quality to differentiate itself from competitors.
¹ World Class Product of Korea (selected by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy) The award is given to companies whose product(s) rank at least 5th or hold a minimum share of 5% of the global market and meet at least one of the following requirements: 1) global market exceeds $50 million in size 2) annual revenue from exports exceeds $5 million
² IR52 Jang Yeong-sil Award (sponsored by Korea Industrial Technology Association)
Award for products that are successfully developed and commercialized through the application of new technology. The Award is also given to organizations that lead innovation in industrial technology.