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Production of Polyethylene Using Gas Fluidized Bed Reactor

Tham Chee Mun


Polyethylene is the most common thermoplastic and used in a wide range of applications. There are various commercial technologies available to produce polyethylene. Gas fluidized bed polymerization is one of the later technology developed and is commonly employed in the production of linear-low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE). This paper reviews the historical development of fluidized bed polymerization technology as well as the development of catalyst from Ziegler-Natta catalyst to metallocene-based catalyst. A critical review of the challenges and opportunities from an operations view-point is presented.

Keywords: Fluidized bed reactor, metallocene, polyethylene, polymerization, Ziegler-Natta.


Polyethylene is the most common thermoplastic and used in a wide range of applications. Polyethylene can be processed into various consumer products using processing techniques such as profile extrusion, film extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, rotomolding and etc. The wide application has continuously driven the demand for this thermoplastic. Scientists and engineers also continuously improved the polymerization techniques to improve polymer properties, increase production capacity and reduce the cost of material.

Polyethylene is produced using ethylene as a monomer. Ethylene is generally produced via steam cracking of crude oil derivatives. It is common to find a petrochemical complex where the refinery, cracker and polymer plant are located on a single site. This illustrates the high capital investment required to produce polyethylene although the final consumer product may be something very cheap and disposable. Hence, improving polymer production techniques with the objective to reduce manufacturing cost continues to be an area of research, development and process improvement.

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