May 16, 2005

Quantiam heads development group for emission-reducing olefin production process

A Canadian consortium led by Quantiam Technologies, in Edmonton, is launching a $9.8-million project to develop and demonstrate a technology for more efficient manufacturing of olefins-the single largest group of industrial petrochemicals worldwide. The leading-edge technology is expected not only to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the industrial sector, it could lower the energy costs associated with manufacturing olefins by up to 20%.

The project is being supported by a $1.45 million contribution from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). In addition to the SDTC funding, the project is leveraged by an investment of $8.3 million from other private and public sources, including consortium partner Nova Chemicals, a leading olefins producer. Other consortium partners include Nova Research and Technology Corporation and Technology Partnerships Canada.

The process to be developed and demonstrated by Quantiam and its consortium partners to uses less heat energy than conventional methods used in the production of olefins, which are ultimately used to make common products such as plastics, lubricants and antifreeze. Conventional hydrocarbon steam cracking used to produce these compounds is the most energy-intensive process in the chemical industry: energy costs can exceed $10 billion a year, and the process generates high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide.

Quantiam has developed a new generation of catalytic surface coatings for furnace coils inside olefin cracking units. These coatings will minimize residue buildup, permitting lower operating temperatures. In addition to reducing energy consumption, emissions and maintenance downtime, the technology could significantly improve plant efficiencies and profitability. The overall economic and environmental impacts are significant for an industry producing more than 110 million tonnes annually of ethylene alone (the single most important olefin), valued at $80 billion.

Other competitors, mainly in the U.S., Europe and Asia, are also developing olefin manufacturing processes capable of lowering temperatures by 200-300*C, but these will require brand new facilities. While Quantiam's technology would lower temperatures by only 50-100*C, it offers the advantage of being retrofittable to existing furnaces. As a result, the technology would provide a viable near-term means of reducing emissions with a much smaller capital investment.

SDTC president and CEO Vicky Sharpe said, "SDTC invested in Quantiam because we see the potential for the consortium's technology to succeed in a number of ways, in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the increased productivity and competitiveness of Canadian companies in the energy, materials manufacturing, and petrochemical sectors."

The development of the consortium's olefins manufacturing technology has been accelerated with nanotechnology. Quantiam operates one of Canada's most advanced private-sector nanomaterials development and characterization facilities and is now building a pilot manufacturing plant for the new olefins technology as a stepping stone to full commercialization.

"Quantiam and our consortium partners are committed to the successful development and demonstration of this new nanomaterials technology to the benefit of Canada, our environment and all of our stakeholders," said Quantiam president Dr Steve Petrone. "SDTC funding is helping our consortium bring this technology to market faster by addressing the most critical, under-funded links in the innovation chain-the piloting and demonstration stages," he added.

More information is available on the SDTC Web site,

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