ethylene oxide production, UPR, ecoinvent 3.6, Undefined

ISIC4 categories:
C:Manufacturing/20:Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products/201:Manufacture of basic chemicals, fertilizers and nitrogen compounds, plastics and synthetic rubber in primary forms/2011:Manufacture of basic chemicals
RER - Europe
Reference year: 1997 - 2000

Location: RER - Europe
This data represents the production of 1 kg of ethylene oxide. Raw materials, auxilliaries, energy consumptions and emissions are estimated with available literature values. Infrastructure is included with a default value.
[The full documentation of this dataset was originally provided in the corresponding ecoinvent report from the Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, which is accessible for free to guests and users of ecoinvent version 2 ( The dataset may subsequently have been subjected to central changes to the database, as described in the respective change report for each new release.]
Undefined unit processes (UPRs) are the unlinked, multi-product activity datasets that form the basis for all of the system models available in the ecoinvent database. This is the way the datasets are obtained and entered into the database by the data providers. These activity datasets are useful for investigating the environmental impacts of a specific activity (gate-to-gate), without regard to its upstream or downstream impacts.


Ethylene is directly oxidized with air or oxygen in the presence of a catalyst to ethylene oxide (EO). About 40% of all European EO production is converted into glycols, globally the figure is about 70%. Usually, EO and MEG are produced together at integrated plants.
Industrial production started in 1937 with a union Carbide process based on ethylene and air. In 1958 oxygen rather than air was instroduced by Shell Development Company, and today most processes are based on oxygen.
Total European production was 3.4 million tons per year in 1997, while the US produced 5.2 million tons per year. Further production capacity of at least 1.2 million tons is reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan and South Korea giving a total of at least 9.8 million tons of ethylene oxide production worldwide.

Ethylene oxide is a hydrocarbon compound made from ethylene and oxygen. Major manufacturers include Hoechst Celanese, Shell Chemical, and Union Carbide, among many others.
EO is produced by passing a mixture of ethylene and oxygen over a solid silver-containing catalyst. Selectivity is improved by the addition of chlorine compounds such as chloroethane. Reaction conditions are temperatures of about 200 - 300 °C and a pressure of 10 – 30 bar. The main by-products are carbon dioxide and water, formed when ethylene is fully oxidised or some of the EO is further oxidised. Ethylene glycols are formed when the reactor gases are absorbed into chilled water.
C2H4 + 1/2 O2  C2H4O (1)
C2H4 O + H2O  HO-C2H4-OH (2)
C2H4 + 3 O2  2 CO2 + 2 H2O (3)
(1) production of ethylene oxide
(2) production of MEG from EO and water
(3) production of carbon dioxide and water from oxidation of ethylene

The carbon dioxide is removed from the scrubber by absorption with hot aqueous potassium carbonate, the resulting solution is steam stripped to remove the carbon dioxide, which is vented to air. The potassium carbonate is regenerated. The carbon dioxide can be reused for inerting, or is sold, or is vented to atmosphere.

IPPC Chemicals, 2002. European Commission, Directorate General, Joint Research Center, “Reference Document on Best Available Techniques in the Large Volume Organic Chemical Industry”, February 2002.
Wells, 1999. G. Margaret Wells, “Handbook of Petrochemicals and Processes”, 2nd edition, Ashgate, 1999

Process type
Supported nomenclature
ecoinvent 3.6
LCI modeling approach
Before modeling
Multifunctional modeling
Aggregation type
Data provider
Review status
For sale

ecoinvent EULA