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Reliance Industries’ R&D attracts British, US universities

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on March 23, 2013 Published on March 23, 2013

Though the UK is still the fifth-largest manufacturer of chemicals in Europe, generating a sales of £70 billion, Europe’s overall position in the world ranking has fallen from 36% to 20%.

American and British educational powerhouses are have been showing interest in Reliance Industries’ research and development work. The corporate, which is engaged in cutting-edge R&D work, plans to set up a gas cracker plant at Jamnagar, Gujarat; it also aims to double the capacity of purified terephthalic acid, a raw material for polyester fibre, to 4.3 million tonne.

Research on fuel cells, carbon fibres, bio-fuels, and gasification of several types of feedstocks, is ongoing at Reliance Industries (RIL). In the refining area, the corporate is maximising light olefins yields from the fluidised catalytic cracker (FCC), improving propylene recovery in FCC, advanced characterisation of crude and evaluation of chemicals for desalting.

As Mike Green, Head of Chemistry Department from Newcastle University, notes, RIL’s naphtha cracker at Hazira is one of the largest multi-feed cracker in the world. Its refinery off-gas cracker has (ROGC) project captured the world’s attention. The ROGC project, at RIL’s Jamnagar (Gujarat) refining and petrochemical complex, is set to be among the largest ethylene crackers in the world, and will use refinery off-gas as feedstock. Products from the plant are to be utilised for the new downstream petrochemical plants being built at Jamnagar.

In the petrochemicals area, the Reliance Technology Group is researching polymers, fibre intermediates, linear alkyl benzene and polyester. It is also looking at the development of novel homogeneous catalysts and process for ethylene polymerisation.

R&D work is also on for propylene maximisation in refinery; conversion of low value hydrocarbon streams to higher value light olefins; development of a process to maintain product quality and optimise gasoline/diesel blending based on intermediates and technology to process cheaper and heavier crudes to widen crude blend window in the refinery, among others.

Plastic processing hub

With an aim to make India a global plastic processing hub, RIL is also conducting R&D on new grade introductions of polypropylene targeted at specialty applications, and is enhancing the quality consistency and productivity of Repol grades. The latter has applications across household and consumer appliances, electronics to automotives, and high-end aircraft interiors.

Moreover, RIL’s crackers at Hazira, Nagothane, Dahej and Vadodara are touted as the most integrated petrochemical complexes with upstream refining and downstream chemical facilities. Professor Green, who visited the Dahej SEZ facility, which houses RIL’s plastics, polymers and fibres division, said the University is seeking active participation from Indian companies to fuel its global pipeline of research.

“We are seeking tie-ups, collaborations and research agreements to derive the full benefit of open innovation networks,” he added. Though the UK is still the fifth-largest manufacturer of chemicals in Europe, generating a sales of £70 billion, Europe’s overall position in the world ranking has fallenfrom 36 per cent to 20 per cent. The huge expansion in the manufacture and consumption of chemicals by India and Chinaare seen as reasons .

> amritanair.ghaswalla@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 23, 2013
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