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Did you know that Shell is a leader in ethylene oxide/glycols technology?

When we apply the brake or clutch in our car, wash our clothes, paint our homes or run our central heating systems we are dependent on ethylene oxide and its derivatives.

Shell is the world’s leading licenser of ethylene oxide/glycol technology. Shell is also one of the world’s largest ethylene oxide (EO) producers and a significant global ethylene glycol (EG) manufacturer.

Ethylene oxide is used to produce surfactants for laundry detergents, shampoo and other cleaning products.

A significant proportion of global EO production is converted into ethylene glycol (EG). Ethylene glycols are used to produce polyester films and fibres, engine coolants and antifreeze, and a wide range of industrial and consumer products.

Shell and its wholly-owned subsidiary CRI Catalysts have been industry leaders in ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol (EO/G) process and catalyst technology for 50 years.

Shell has issued licences for 73 EO/G plants worldwide, 43 of which are still operating. Nearly 40 per cent of the world’s EO is produced in Shell-licensed and designed plants. Around 50 per cent of the world’s EO is made using CRI’s catalysts.

There has been a continuous drive to maximise the EG yield from EO conversion.

OMEGA pilot plant

OMEGA pilot plant at the Amsterdam Technology Centre

Shell’s OMEGA process for producing mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) from EO achieves a conversion efficiency of over 99% compared to around 90% for conventional processes. 

OMEGA stands for “Only MEG Advantage” and was developed by Shell Global Solutions, Shell’s technology arm,. Unlike conventional processes, OMEGA produces virtually no by-products (diethylene glycol and triethylene glycol) which removes the need for handling and storage facilities.

OMEGA is the world’s first entirely catalytic process for production of EO/EG. OMEGA combines a CRI high selectivity catalyst for the conversion of ethylene to ethylene oxide (EO) with a catalytic process to convert EO to ethylene glycol.

Shell’s new 750,000 tonnes per annum MEG plant in Singapore is one of the world’s largest, and the third facility worldwide, to use OMEGA technology. Other plants using OMEGA are operating in South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

OMEGA delivers by far the lowest consumption of ethylene per tonne of MEG achieved so far in the industry. For every tonne of ethylene, OMEGA can produce up to 1.95 tonnes of MEG compared with conventional processes which produce between 1.53 tonnes to 1.70 tonnes.

OMEGA uses about 20% less steam and about 30% less wastewater than a traditional thermal conversion MEG plant with the same capacity. OMEGA produces significantly less carbon dioxide per tonne of MEG than conventional processes.

An OMEGA plant also costs less to build for the same MEG yield than a traditional plant, so it stands out on economic grounds as well.

In 2008, OMEGA won an Institute of Chemical Engineers engineering excellence prize. OMEGA was a finalist for “Commercial Technology of the Year” in the Platts Global Energy Awards 2009.

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