Recent headlines about Honeywell’s new one-step conversion process from natural gas (methane) to the monomer ethylene (also known as ethene) may not grab your attention right away; but, don't be too quick to dismiss this recent innovation. This little, symmetrical molecule is more integral to your professional and personal supply chain than you may think.
- Styrene which is most often used as polystyrene in packaging foam and insulation;
- Ethylene oxide, a precursor for Ethylene Glycol (i.e. antifreeze); and
- Ethylene Glycol, a precursor for polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) which is used extensively in beverage bottles and as "polyester" in fibers.
Current ethylene processing is an energy-intensive and indirect method, requiring repeated heating and quenching steps that produce many chemical compounds. The new Honeywell process appears to use a more direct route from methane to ethylene using less energy. With the cost of natural gas at an all-time low and the U.S.’s abundant supply of this raw material, this is good news! The Honeywell process could hold the line on price increases related to packaging for many products that we make (and buy) every day.
Honeywell’s Gautam said, "The new technology would be cost effective even if natural gas prices rise much higher. It could become a polymer supply-and-value-chain-reaction."
So, not only does ethylene keep us clothed and fed, but it has the potential to significantly impact today's supply chains. Pretty amazing for one simple molecule, huh? What implications do you think this breakthrough process will have in your supply chain?