MTBE: Fundamentals, Manufacturing Process, Safety, and Environmental Concerns

ICTD International Centre for Training and Development

ICTD International Centre for Training and Development


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Who should attend

The course is designed for engineers, technicians and operators working in the MTBE & fuel industry, particularly those who have recently assumed new responsibilities, to increase their technical knowledge in MTBE and for experienced engineers to become better acquainted with new technologies in the industry. The course will help to improve the participants’ skills and broaden their vision and understanding of the entire industry, including technology, economics, energy, use, safety, and environmental stewardship. Further, the course is very important for HSE professionals, mainly environmental personnel in order to update themselves with the latest developments and regulations related to the MTBE environmental concerns, mainly the phase-out of MTBE in California in 2004 and the latest Remediation technologies.

About the course

Since the phase-out of Lead from Gasoline in 1979, Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE) has been used worldwide as an octane enhancer or anti-knocking agent. The use of MTBE at higher levels resulted from two fuel programs required by the USA Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990, the Wintertime Oxygenated, and Reformulated Gasoline Programs. Most oil companies chose to use MTBE as the main fuel oxygenate and since 1997 it has become the second most heavily produced chemical in the United States and the world. Since it has a relatively low heat of vaporization, MTBE improves fuel mixing and atomization during cold operation and consequently reduces emissions. MTBE has been blended into gasoline primarily because it has an extremely high octane value which has enabled it to take the place of Lead compounds gradually being phased out. Adding oxygen to gasoline allows more complete combustion of the fuel, and this reduces exhaust emissions of CO (Carbon Monoxide). Furthermore, when used as part of the gasoline formulation, MTBE leads to a reduction in emissions of exhaust pollutants such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) and PM (Particulates). Reducing these pollutants improves air quality. By reducing the Ozone Forming Potential (OFP) of volatile organic compounds, MTBE performs significantly better than other octane blending components. It generates about half of the ozone when compared to Iso/Alkylates and one-tenth that of Aromatics. For all these reasons MTBE has been widely used all over the world for the last 20 years.

MTBE is manufactured by reacting Methanol, made from Natural Gas, with Isobutylene (2-Methyl-1-Propene) in the liquid state, using an Acidic Catalyst at 100oC. The physical properties of MTBE resemble most of those of hydrocarbon components of gasoline. MTBE is highly soluble in water and more soluble than other gasoline constituents. In almost all cases, MTBE is transported and stored much the same as gasoline. Some of the MTBE is made in the petroleum refineries, but most is manufactured at chemical facilities and then transported to the refineries where it is blended into gasoline. The MTBE-containing gasoline is then transported to the distribution terminals (via pipelines or other methods), distributed to the underground storage tanks (USTs) at gasoline service stations, and sold to consumers. While MTBE may be good for air quality, it now appears to be harmful for other parts of the environment, especially ground water. Over the past few years, monitoring has detected MTBE in lakes, streams, and ground water.

This course is designed to provide an up-to-date overview of MTBE manufacturing process and environmental impact. The course covers the history of MTBE and other fuel oxygenates, MTBE Chemical & Physical Properties, MTBE in Gasoline & Blending Properties, Synthesis & Production of Ethers, Kinetics & Thermodynamic of MTBE Reaction, Hüls Ethers Processes, UOP Ethermax Process for MTBE, ETBE, and TAME Production, UOP Olefin Isomerization, Oxypro Process, MTBE & Safety, MTBE and the Environment, and the Impact of MTBE Phase-out on the Refining and Petrochemical Industries.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course participants will be able to:

  • Gain a comprehensive background about the manufacturing processes, safety and environmental concerns pertaining to MTBE
  • Discuss the fuel oxygenates and MTBE including the origin of gasoline additives and be familiar with their product description
  • Describe the chemical & physical properties of MTBE
  • Be aware of the components and benefits of MTBE in gasoline and list their blending properties and extent of use
  • Identify the different catalysts for synthesis and know the commercial production of ethers
  • Explain the kinetics and thermodynamics of MTBE Reaction
  • Identify Hüls Ethers Processes for MTBE, ETBE and TAME and explain the proper process flow as well as their economics and operating costs
  • Describe the process of UOP Ethermax for MTBE, ETBE and TAME production and understand their operating cost and economics
  • Discuss UOP Olefin Isomerization and illustrate the Pentesom and Butesom Process
  • Describe the Oxypro Process and understand the process flow scheme, their operating costs and economics
  • Recognize the safety use of MTBE and aware of the hazardous effects of MTBE to people as well as the environment
  • Evaluate the impact of MTBE phase-out on the refining and petrochemical industries

Course Methodology

A variety of methodologies will be used during the course that includes:

  • (30%) Based on Case Studies
  • (30%) Techniques
  • (30%) Role Play
  • (10%) Concepts
  • Pre-test and Post-test
  • Variety of Learning Methods
  • Lectures
  • Case Studies and Self Questionaires
  • Group Work
  • Discussion
  • Presentation

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MTBE: Fundamentals, Manufacturing Process, Safety, and Environmental Concerns at ICTD International Centre for Training and Development

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