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ButamerTM Process


Background High–activity, chlorided-alumina catalysts, such as
The petroleum industry has witnessed a significant I-12TM catalyst and I-120TM catalyst, are used in the
shift to environmentally superior gasoline blending Butamer process. These catalysts are capable of
components. Motor fuel alkylate is one blending converting normal butane to isobutane with a close
component that has seen a substantial increase in approach to equilibrium. Volumetric selectivity to
demand because of its paraffinic, high octane, low iC4 exceeds 99%.
vapor pressure blending properties. Isobutane is a In almost all applications, unconverted normal
primary feedstock for producing motor fuel alkylate. butane is recycled to extinction through the use of
The widely used Butamer process is a high-efficiency, a deisobutanizer column (DIB) or an isostripper
cost effective means of meeting the demands for the column associated with an alkylation unit.
production of isobutane by isomerizing normal UOP’s innovative hydrogen-once-through (HOT)
butane (nC4) to isobutane (iC4). Butamer process flow scheme (Figure 2) results in
The Butamer process has reliably served as the substantial savings in capital equipment and utility
primary technology for isobutane production since costs by eliminating the need for a product separa-
1959. A continuous development program aimed at tor or recycle gas compressor.
design, operating, and catalyst improvements has
kept this process a state-of-the-art technology. Figure 2 Isobutane Equilibrium
Process description Charge Heater

The Butamer process is a fixed-bed catalytic process

that uses high-activity chloride-promoted catalysts
to isomerize normal butane to isobutane. The reac- Reactor
Gas to Scrubbing
tion is equilibrium limited, and the production of and Fuel
isobutane is favored by lower temperature (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Isobutane Equilibrium

Isobutane/ΣButanes, mol-%

80 Isomerate
iC4/Total C4, mol-%

60 Hydrogen


20 Typically, two reactors in series flow are used to

achieve high on-stream efficiency. The catalyst can
200 300 400 500 600 be replaced in one reactor while operation continues
(93) (149) (204) (260) (316)
in the other. The stabilizer separates the light gas
Temperature, °F(°C) from the reactor effluent.

Because of the dry operating environment, Butamer

units use carbon steel construction, even though HCl
is present.
Butamer Process 2

A Butamer unit can be integrated with an alkylation Feed stocks

unit (Figure 3). In this application, the Butamer unit The best feeds for a Butamer unit contain the highest
feed is a side-cut from an isostripper column, and practical normal butane content, and only small
the stabilized isomerate is returned to the isostripper amounts of isobutane, pentanes, and heavier material.
column. Unconverted normal butane is recycled to Natural gas liquids (NGL) from a UOP NGL recovery
the Butamer unit, along with normal butane from unit can be processed in a Butamer unit. To provide
the fresh feed. Virtually complete conversion of a feed that is rich in normal butane, streams with
normal butane to isobutane can be achieved. large amounts of isobutane or pentanes should be
processed first through an isostripper or DIB column.
Figure 3 Alkylation process-Butamer Process performance
Process Integration
The stabilized isomerate is a near-equilibrium mixture
LPG of isobutane and normal butane with small amounts
of heavier material. The light-ends yield from cracking
Isostripper is less than 1 wt-% of the butane feed.
iC 4
Light Ends Experience
Olefin Alkylation
Feed Reactor More than 70 Butamer units have been commis-
Section Butamer
Unit sioned, and additional units are in design or
nC 4
construction. Butamer unit feed capacities range
Saturated Butanes H2 from 800 to more than 35,000 BPSD (74 to 3,250 T/D).

Alkylate For more information

Butamer technological services are available on
request. For more information, contact your local
UOP representative or our Des Plaines sales office:

e-mail: info@uop.com
fax: +1-847-391-2253
phone: +1-847-391-2000

25 East Algonquin Road
© 2007 UOP LLC. All rights reserved.
Des Plaines, IL 60017-5017 The information in this document should not be construed as a representation for
which UOP assumes legal responsibility, or an authorization or recommendation
U.S.A. to practice a patented invention without a license.
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