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LLE technology closes the loop on phenol removal

By Mary Page Bailey |

Many industrial processes involve phenol, but its toxic nature means that it must be effectively removed from waste streams prior to any subsequent biological treatment steps. Phenol can be removed via evaporation, but this method is quite energy-intensive. Alternatively, the phenol content may be transformed into phenolates for removal, but this process requires a number of intermediate steps that increase costs. Sulzer Chemtech Ltd. (Winterthur, Switzerland; www.sulzer.com) recently unveiled a solvent-based liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) process for treating phenol-laden wastewater from sebacic acid production (diagram). In the manufacture of sebacic acid, castor oil is hydrolyzed to form ricinoleic acid, which undergoes an alkali fusion-cracking step in the presence of phenol and sodium hydroxide, resulting in a phenol-rich wastewater stream. Employing Sulzer’s ECR agitated column in the LLE scheme, the process removes phenol using ricinoleic acid, which is already used as a reagent to form sebacic acid, thus eliminating the need for additional solvents, as well as solvent-recovery systems. Furthermore, the phenol extracted from the wastewater is reutilized in the alkali fusion-cracking stages of the process, reducing the demand…
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