The Story of On-Purpose Production of Alpha-Olefins


Mar 28 2017

Written by Axens

A growing number of everyday products, such as plastic bottles and plastic films, are made of various polyethylene grades. The properties of the various polyethylene grades can be enhanced with the addition of comonomers such as 1-Butene and 1-Hexene olefins. The mechanical resistance of the polyethylene is improved when incorporating 1-Butene or 1-Hexene, as illustrated in the figure below.


Mechanical resistance improvements of polyethylene with alpha-olefins addition

Axens Offers World Leading Technologies to Produce On-Purpose High Purity 1-Butene and 1-Hexene


Alphabutol® and Alphahexol® Technologies Process Principles


Axens offers world leading technologies to produce on-purpose high purity 1-Butene and 1-Hexene.

These technologies are based on homogenous catalysis for which extensive research and development has been performed since the mid-60’s and for which Yves Chauvin (from IFP Energies nouvelles) received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005.

The advanced technical solution that represents AlphaButol is the result of a well-controlled isomer specific chemistry that leads to the selective formation of 1-Butene. The given mechanism and operating conditions provide AlphaButol with the great advantage of avoiding the formation of either isobutene or 2-Butene.



Selective ethylene dimerization mechanism



The technology employs a homogeneous catalysis system, which provides a steady operation at all times even when the feed quality fluctuates. It also exhibits a low CAPEX without the need for any compressors or superfractionation column. Lastly, 1-Butene’s high selectivity has been repeatedly demonstrated in commercial units.

These features are among the pillars that have built the technology’s success.


Main Benefits

  • Simple, reliable and low CAPEX Process
  • Highly efficient use of ethylene with excellent yield from ethylene to 1-Butene and 1-Hexene
  • High quality comonomer produced
  • Industrial recognition: AlphaButol is the benchmarck technology for dimerization of ethylene with over 800 kta of cumulated production capacities and above 30 references


Latest Achievements


Over the last 5 years, several AlphaButol units have been successfully started-up. In addition, several projects have recently received awards and are at different stages, from design to currently starting-up. SOCAR joined the list of those who have chosen AlphaButol at the very end of 2016.

The AlphaButol units can be implemented via a modularized or stick-built approach.
An intermediate size skid mounted unit has already been started-up. This approach could advantageously fit other business cases where for instance secluded location or time to market considerations are among the key project decision-making elements.

AlphaHexol, a trimerization process based on the same principles and used to produce high quality 1-Hexene comonomer has also been marketed. Axens recently licensed a unit for a future large petrochemical complex.

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