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Companies to distribute butadiene technology

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Jim Rekoske, Miguel Desdin
From left, Jim Rekoske, UOP; Miguel Desdin, TPC Group

HOUSTON—Two well-known companies have teamed up in an effort to address the expected supply shortage of butadiene in the coming years.

TPC Group Inc. and UOP L.L.C., a Honeywell company, announced in mid-June that the firms have entered into an agreement for UOP to be the exclusive licensor of the TPC Group's proprietary OXO-D technology used to produce on-purpose butadiene, a key ingredient for making synthetic rubber.

UOP had been evaluating design technologies for awhile in attempting to find a partner to license the production of butadiene. It was nearly a year-long process to find the right partner in TPC Group, said Jim Rekoske, global business director for UOP.

“There is a coming supply gap that everyone in this industry knows is coming,” he said. “TPC Group had the most robust and cost-effective technologies from the research that we did.

“As a company, we did our due diligence. We looked at many different companies. There was just one other company worldwide that compared, and no other company was shovel-ready with product that was available to be licensed today.”

The companies have begun working together to license TPC Group's proprietary OXO-D technology, which has been successfully administered for more than 40 years. The technology has allowed TPC Group to convert butene to butadiene commercially for the production of synthetic rubber.

A wide range of rubber manufacturers and producers use butadiene in such products as nylon and various other projects. And experts say demand will continue to grow with elastomer producers as well.

The current OXO-D technology is the basis for TPC's on-purpose butadiene project in commercial development.

UOP and TPC Group will develop further enhancements jointly to OXO-D, which TPC calls the most efficient and low-cost method to make on-purpose butadiene, leveraging UOP's expertise in licensing and technology.

Both companies will continue to be managed autonomously. There will be no immediate impact on employee counts.

In addition investments have and will be made to ensure the OXO-D technology stays modernized and advanced, said Miguel Desdin, TPC Group's senior vice president and CFO.

“We have recently filed a number of new patent applications based on enhancements that have been made on this technology,” Desdin said. “These patents and improvements have taken the OXO-D technology to a whole other level, and we will continue to invest in improving this process even further in the future. The key is the product is ready to be used immediately by a licensee.”

Ensuring that UOP was partnering with a company that had a truly industry-leading proprietary technology was paramount for Rekoske and his team.

“Obviously we had to make sure that any company we partnered with had technology that truly had legs and could be commercialized,” Rekoske said. “We wanted to invest in a long-term trend and not just fads. And we needed a solution that we knew would be economically viable.”

The key element to the partnership is the expected supply shortage in the coming years. Changes in refining and petrochemical production recently have caused butadiene production to fail to keep pace with demand, Pete Piotrowski, senior vice president and general manager of UOP's Process Technology and Equipment business unit, said in a statement.

Manufacturers hope the butadiene gap can be closed with new technologies to produce on-purpose butadiene.

Headquartered in Houston, TPC Group produces highly specialized lines of chemical products to major chemical and petroleum-based companies worldwide.

UOP, headquartered in Des Plaines, Iowa, provides technology to the petroleum refining, gas processing, petrochemical production and major manufacturing industries.