Sodium methylate is a versatile intermediate used in a variety of organic syntheses. The compound can be made by reacting elemental sodium with methyl alcohol, and it is also commercially produced from sodium chloride and methanol in an electrolytic process under inert gas. This reaction is quite exothermic and also releases the hydroxyl hydrogen off-gas according to the reaction:
The catalyst contains no water and is shipped in a methanol solution. DuPont provides sodium methylate in 25 percent and 30 percent solutions.
DuPont is the primary producer in North America of non-mercury sodium methylate for the biodiesel industry and we are working closely with biodiesel producers to help meet their sodium methylate needs. With its combination of high yield and low cost, sodium methylate is the preferred catalyst in the production of biodiesel fuels. The catalyst is shipped in a methanol solution, allowing biodiesel producers to reduce their overall consumption of methanol while providing a water-free catalyst. The sodium metal used to make sodium methylate is produced using hydropower from the Niagara Falls at our Niagara Reactive Metals plant.
In May 2007, DuPont reached an agreement with InChem Corporation in Rock Hill, SC in which InChem will produce sodium methylate for DuPont using DuPont sodium. This increase in capacity is part of the DuPont initiative to meet growing sodium methylate demand.
DuPont continues to add capacity for sodium methylate production, strategically located to reduce freight costs to our customers. In addition, we are working to optimize output from existing assets to meet industry needs.
Conventional sodium methylate manufacturing processes typically employ mercury-sodium amalgam in the electrolysis process, which could potentially contaminate suppliers’ grades with trace quantities of mercury. In contrast, the unique manufacturing process for DuPont™ Sodium Methylate in the U.S. incorporates innovative technology that virtually eliminates traces of mercury and enhances product purity.
DuPont is a leader in the biofuels industry in several categories, and our sodium methylate catalyst fits well with our overall effort in this industry. We believe biology will help reduce the global reliance on fossil fuels and that our unique scientific capability will provide solutions that are sustainable, renewable and matched to real-world needs. Integration of modern biological tools into our world-renowned chemistry and engineering capabilities has allowed us to become a technology leader in the development of renewably sourced chemicals, and now fuels. To learn more about DuPont Biofuels, click here.