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Ethylenediamine (EDA) is the lowest molecular weight ethyleneamine and contains two primary amine groups. It has diversified end uses, being used as a building block for fuel additives, bleach activators and chelating agents and in the production of ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid, which in turn goes into textile, pulp and paper and agrochemical applications. It is also used as an agrochemical intermediate and in oil additives, polyamide resins and surfactants.
EDA is primarily produced by two major routes. In the EDC route (Figure 1a) ethylenedichloride (EDC) is reacted with an excess of aqueous ammonia at high temperature and pressure, leading to the formation of EDA and higher molecular weight ethyleneamines. Caustic soda is then added after to neutralise the crude product mixture. Low temperature and pressure reduce the yield of the reaction but the percentage of EDA is high. With increasing temperature and pressure, the yield of the reaction increases but selectivity for lower molecular weight ethyleneamines decreases
In the monoethanolamine (MEA) route (Figure 1b), which was developed by BASF, MEA is reacted with ammonia and hydrogen in presence of a nickel catalyst and cobalt and iron promoters. This reaction is highly selective and the selectivity is determined by the amount of ammonia being used. The key advantage of this process over the EDC route is the absence of waste chloride by products.