Maleic anhydride was first commercially produced in the early 1930s by the vapor-phase oxidation of benzene. The use of benzene as a feedstock for the production of maleic anhydride was dominant in the world until the 1980s. Several processes to produce maleic anhydride from benzene were developed, the most common of them was Scientific Design
In the 60s, Petro-Tex Chemical Corporation
(USA), and Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd
. (UK), developed an industrial process for the production of maleic anhydride from butylene fraction, but selectivity and stability of the catalyst were quiet low thus making the process unprofitable at that time. Soon, these units started working with benzene.
Fixed and fluid bed processes for production of maleic anhydride from butenes present in mixed C4 streams had been practiced commercially. None of these processes are running nowadays.
The first commercial production of MA from n-butane was started in 1974 at Monsanto's J.F. Queeny (USA) plant. Further, in 1983, Monsanto started up the world's largest n-Butane to maleic anhydride production facility at 59 000 t/yr capacity, incorporating an energy efficient product collection and refining system.
The obvious cost and environmental advantages of butane over benzene have led to a rapid conversion of benzene- to butane-based plants by the mid-1980s in the United States. By that time, 100% of maleic anhydride production have used butane as the feedstock. Over the years, production of MA has been gradually decreasing the share of the benzene as the reactant of choice.
In the second half of the 1980s. Mitsubishi Kasei Corporation
(USA), Du Pont
(USA) and Alusuisse
(Italy) introduced the technology of vapor-phase oxidation of n-butane over a fluidized bed oxide vanadium-phosphorus catalyst in their plants.
However, due to such limitations as high loss of catalyst in the gas phase, difficulties in determining the optimal fluidized bed catalyst composition, the technology using a fixed-bed catalyst remains predominant.
Today three companies offer license for fixed-bed processes: Huntsman
, Pantochim (acquired by BASF
), Scientific Design (a joint venture of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC
) and Sud-Chemie AG (now part of Clariant
)). BP Chemicals
and ABB Lummus Global (now CB&I Lummus
), in turn, are licensors of fluidized-bed processes, while Lonza
(Switzerland) licenses for both types of technological processes.