Look, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional xylene loop.

Stay with us now. Because a new technology will mean using less energy and lowering CO2 emissions.

For newcomers, paraxylene is the building block needed to produce the fundamental ingredients that make up the water bottles you buy at the store. And for more than 40 years, the xylene loop has been the go-to technology to create those molecules.

But the newly developed liquid phase isomerization (or LPI) process has proven to be a much more energy-efficient way to do the same thing.

The traditional xylene loop is energy-intensive because of the heating steps required. Imagine a coffee maker set on an endless cycle to heat, mix, then cool and separate the coffee and water throughout the loop.

LPI is literally a cooler way to go, because the reactions occur in a liquid state, thanks to a high-activity catalyst that makes the impossible possible. These crystal zeolite catalysts can operate in low-kinetic energy environments – meaning lower temperatures, less energy and lower CO2 emissions.

That’s the real payoff, because the paraxylene molecules created in this process – and the ones that make up those water bottles – are no different than the ones created in the traditional way.

Today’s LPI process reduces 10 percent of the energy within the xylene loop, which translates to the energy equivalent of electricity consumed by about 11,000 average American homes. It also reduces annual CO2 emissions equivalent to the benefit of replacing about 15,000 conventional cars with hybrids on American roads.

The technology (explained here by the ExxonMobil scientists who developed it) secured the Edison Patent Award in September. It’s quite literally the next cool thing.

From L to R: ExxonMobil scientists Doron Levin, April D. Ross, Wenyih Frank Lai and Mohan Kalyanaraman

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