The Sohio Acrylonitrile Process

Sohio's Warrensville Research Center in 1984.
Acrylonitrile
Early History
The Sohio Process
The People
Further Reading

At this site in 1957, Sohio researchers developed the "Sohio Acrylonitrile Process," an innovative single-step method of production that made acrylonitrile available as a key raw material for chemical manufacturing worldwide.  Sohioås groundbreaking experimentation and bold engineering brought plentiful, inexpensive, high-purity acrylonitrile to the market, a principal factor in the evolution and dramatic growth of the acrylic plastics and fibers industries.  Today, nearly all acrylonitrile is produced by the Sohio process, and catalysts developed at the Warrensville Laboratory are used in acrylonitrile plants around the world.  Sohio became part of The British Petroleum Company p.l.c. in 1987.


Acrylonitrile
Workers in front of Sohio's first acrylonitrile plant, Lima, Ohio.Chances are that acrylonitrile touches everyone in some way every day. Acrylonitrile is the key ingredient in the acrylic fiber used to make clothing and carpeting; in acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), a durable material used in automobile components, telephone and computer casings, and sports equipment; and in nitrile rubber, which is used in the manufacture of hoses for pumping fuel.

Acrylonitrile is used to produce plastics that are impermeable to gases and are ideal for shatterproof bottles that hold chemicals and cosmetics, clear "blister packs" that keep meats fresh and medical supplies sterile, and packaging for many other products. It is also a component in plastic resins, paints, adhesives, and coatings.

The acrylonitrile in those products was made by a process discovered and developed in the 1950s by scientists and engineers at The Standard Oil Company, or Sohio, which became part of British Petroleum (BP) in 1987. The process is a single-step direct method for manufacturing acrylonitrile from propylene, ammonia, and air over a fluidized bed catalyst.

The discovery and commercialization of this process were the result of the talent, imagination, teamwork, and risk-taking by Sohio's employees. Sohio's discovery led to the production of plentiful and inexpensive acrylonitrile of high purity as a raw material and to dramatic growth in the thermoplastics, synthetic fiber, and food packaging industries. Today more than 95% of the world's acrylonitrile is produced by BP or made under its license.

 

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