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Production of Ethanoic Acid - The Monsanto Process





In 1966 Monsanto established that a rhodium based catalyst, with an iodide co-catalyst could give 99% selectivity based on methanol, and at milder conditions of 180oC and 30 atm. Greater selectivity means easier purification.
The process was commercialised as the Monsanto Process in 1970, and until 1996 was the basis of most new ethanoic acid production. The mechanism has been carefully studied.
60% of the ethanoic acid currently produced is made by reacting methanol with carbon monoxide over a catalyst.


This reaction has a big advantage over earlier processes in that it has a theoretical atom economy of 100%, if a suitable catalyst can be found



BASF introduced the first commercial process in 1960 using a cobalt catalyst and iodide co-catalyst operating at 200oC and 700 atm. About 90% of the methanol is converted into ethanoic acid.









The Monsanto process was a big improvement on the previous method which for every 100 tonnes of ethanoic acid gave 65 tonnes of by-products.

Which other metal might make a good catalyst?

What further improvements would you look for with a new catalyst?

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