1-hexene is an important linear alpha olefin (LAO). It plays a key role in the copolymerisation of ethylene and is a vital compound for the polyethylene industry. Demand for 1-hexene is set to rise rapidly over the coming years. Most LAOs are produced in full-range processes via the oligomerisation of ethylene. However, these conventional processes also produce heavy, long-chain LAOs, which in the long-term will lead to market imbalances and limit overall process economics.
In response to this situation, Linde researchers teamed up with Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis in Rostock (LIKAT) to develop a solution beyond a-SABLIN® technology. The result is a new process for the production of 1-hexene, which is based on a selective synthetic route.
During the course of their work, the researchers developed a novel homogeneous catalyst system, which is a key ingredient for this selective process. The new catalyst system increases productivity and product selectivity, and, most importantly, improves robustness and stability in technical environments. It replaces the chain mechanism in conventional full-range processes with a ‘metallacycle (ring) mechanism’ and gives the new on-purpose 1-hexene route its remarkable 1-hexene selectivity.