Pretium Ventures 5,7 M savings

Fast Facts:

The Challenge

Develop a technology to reduce the cost of producing acetic acid

The Solution

A team of three experienced scientists used the system of Guided Brainstorming TRIZ Inventive Principles and found ways to eliminate essential contradiction.

The Results

  • Technology offers the opportunity to significantly reduce operating and capital cost.
  • For a world scale acetic acid plant an energy savings of $3.7 million is possible.
  • Savings of raw materials is about $2 million.
  • The capital cost for a new world scale plant can be reduced by up to $16 million.
  • The total worldwide licensing potential for the technology is $200 million.

The Challenge

Pretium Ventures wanted to develop a technology to reduce the cost of producing acetic acid. The acetic acid process uses rhodium, a very expensive catalyst. However, the rhodium is unstable at the reactor conditions and precipitates, increasing the cost of the process. Water is added to stabilize the rhodium but high energy costs are incurred to remove the water. In addition, the water reacts with one of the feed components to produce CO2, an undesired byproduct. Finally, the water makes the reactor liquid very corrosive, so much of the equipment must be made of a very expensive and exotic metal such a zirconium.

The Solution

A team of three experienced scientists used the system of Inventive Principles to find ways to address the following contradiction: water should be present to stabilize the rhodium but water should not be present to lower energy costs, reduce corrosion and reduce byproducts. The team was able to identify functional alternatives to water that resolved the contradiction. A patent application was filed and has been granted in one jurisdiction. The three scientists participating have over 120 years of combined experience and over 50 patents to their credit in the field or organic chemistry. One of the scientists said, “I have been working in the specialized field of rhodium catalysis for over 35 years and in all that time, I never thought of this idea.”

The Results

Pretium Ventures acetic acid technology offers the opportunity to significantly reduce operating and capital cost. For a world scale acetic acid plant an energy savings of $3.7 million is possible and savings of raw materials is about $2 million. The capital cost for a new world scale plant can be reduced by up to $16 million. The total worldwide licensing potential for the technology is $200 million.

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