The OMEGA process ("Only MEG Advantage") is a process by Shell Global Solutions that is used to produce ethylene glycol from ethylene. This process comprises two steps, the controlled oxidation of ethylene to ethylene oxide, and the net hydrolysis of ethylene oxide to monoethylene glycol (MEG). The first chemical plant using the OMEGA process was started in South Korea. Subsequent OMEGA plants have been started in Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Shell claims that this process, compared to conventional ones, does not produce higher glycols, uses less steam and water, and generates less waste.
To produce ethylene oxide, ethylene is oxidized with dioxygen in the presence of a silver catalyst. Some ethylene is over-oxidized to carbon dioxide and water, which is wasteful; early processes only gave ~ 65% selectivity for ethylene oxide as a result. In the OMEGA process, over-oxidation is reduced by including ethyl chloride as a moderator.
Ethylene oxide hydrolysis
Conventionally, monoethylene glycol (HOC2H4OH) is produced by the controlled hydrolysis of ethylene oxide (C2H4O). The monoethylene glycol product is also able to react with ethylene oxide to give diethylene glycol, and so on; sequential reaction with ethylene oxide is how poly(ethylene glycol) is produced. Due to monoethylene glycol's high boiling point, purification by distillation is energy intensive.
- C2H4O + H2O → HOC2H4OH
In the OMEGA process, the ethylene oxide reacts with carbon dioxide (CO2) to yield ethylene carbonate (C3H4O3). Ethylene carbonate is subsequently hydrolyzed to monoethylene glycol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is released in this step again and can be fed back into the process circuit. This process is 99.5% selective for monoethylene glycol.
- C2H4O + CO2 → C3H4O3
- C3H4O3 + H2O → HOC2H4OH + CO2
- "OMEGA delivers for ethylene glycol makers". Shell Chemicals. 2008-10. Retrieved 2012-12-22. Check date values in:
- Peter Taffe (2008-08-12). "Shell's Omega MEG process kicks off in South Korea". ICIS.com.
- "First start-up of Shell OMEGA process plant" (Press release). Shell Chemicals. 2008-06-16.
- "Second Shell OMEGA process plant starts up in Saudi Arabia" (Press release). Shell Chemicals. 2009-06-02.
- "Shell starts-up world-scale monoethylene glycol plant in Singapore" (Press release). Shell Chemicals. 2009-11-17.