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ICIS Innovation Awards – The Winners
Posted on October 20th, 2016 by John Baker in Chemical R&D
Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes in the chemical industry, as today’s winners of the ICIS Innovation Awards 2016 clearly show. The overall winner, US-based Compact Membrane Systems is a small start-up but one with a big idea – a cheaper and more energy efficient way of separating lower olefins for paraffins.
This is an essential process in today’s refineries and petrochemical facilities and one that is currently performed in capital-intensive, energy-consuming distillation columns. As its name suggests, Compact Membrane Systems instead uses membrane technology to effect the separation, and has developed a system in which silver ions transport the olefins selectively across an amorphous fluoropolymer membrane.
The innovation demonstrates that there is still room for significant developments even at the heart of the chemicals value chain. And it’s not the only example to be found among this year’s winners.
Siluria Technologies’ oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) technology to convert natural gas directly into ethylene also has huge potential to effect change at the commodity end of the petrochemicals chain. OCM, which won the Best Process Innovation category, not only opens up a huge raw material supply for ethylene and derivatives production, and enables local, small-scale production of ethylene.
Siluria also offers a technology to convert the ethylene into liquid fuels – thus creating a new opportunity for natural gas to be used in the global transportation system.
The potential opportunity for both these innovations is huge, given the scale of the industry sector in which they are applicable. The task that lies ahead is a large one – to convince operators to trial the technologies given that existing systems have so much capital invested in them and many years of experience and optimisation behind them.
The good news is that both technology start-ups are in the demonstration phase of the innovation – the process of turning ideas into revenues – with plants co-located on refinery or petrochemical sites. ICIS looks forward to covering news of their progress in future.
Other winners in the company innovation categories are Covestro/RWTH Aachen University, for their joint development of a zinc catalyst to allow greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to be used as a raw material in polyurethane production; and Dow Chemical, for its innovation that enables the production of aqueous suspensions of polyethylene particles that can be used to coat the inside of food and beverage cans, directly replacing conventional epoxy-based coatings technology on existing coating lines.
In both these cases, leading industry concerns have focused on specific problems in environmental terms and come up with commercially viable solutions that create a more sustainable future for themselves and the chemical industry and its customers. No small deal there then!
In the individual Alpha Innovator of the Year categories, introduced this year in partnership with the ICIS Innovation Awards new overall sponsor, Elsevier R&D Solutions, we recognised three innovators: Sudip Majumdar, chief technology officer with Compact Membrane Systems, for the way he lead the development of the novel separation project; and Marc Swan and Professor Jan Czernuszka, for their individual development of a special medical and veterinary implant to encourage tissue growth for use in reconstructive surgery, which has led to the creation of Oxtex in the UK to commercialise this technology.
All the innovations are described more fully through interviews with the winners in a special publication from ICIS – see http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=bd9e9778-7797-4578-baa3-91c27f8a64a9. See here too what the judges thought of the innovations and why they chose the ones they did from the full range of entries this year – which came in all shapes and sizes!
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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