Application Summary

Analysis Point Analyte Suitable Analyzer
Reactor and Catalyst Formaldehyde OMA-300 UV-Vis Analyzer
Methanol Stabilizer Methanol OMA-300-InGaAs Analyzer
Combustion H2S OMA-300 UV-Vis Analyzer


Formaldehyde is the simplest aldehyde in existence with just two hydrogen atoms attached to a carbonyl group. It is a gas at room temperature and will readily react with itself or other compounds. Applications where the product is used include: the production of resins, as a chemical intermediate in the manufacture of synthetic fibers, and directly as both a preservative and disinfectant.

In the FORMOX process, formaldehyde is produced industrially by reacting methanol vapor with excess air in the presence of a metal oxide catalyst mixture such as iron, vanadium, or molybdenum. The reaction is typically held at temperatures between 270 and 400 degrees Celsius. Careful attention must be given to moisture levels inside the reactor as moisture inhibits the oxidation of methanol to formaldehyde. After passing through a heat exchanger, formaldehyde is separated from unreacted compounds and inert gases in an absorption column. The tail gas from the absorption column typically needs to be mixed with low sulfur hydrocarbons before being incinerated. The formaldehyde solution is typically mixed with methanol to prevent formaldehyde from self-polymerizing.

Formaldehyde Plant

Figure 1: Formaldehyde Plant

Applied Analytics is able to help producers ensure their operation is running at peak efficiency by helping them to monitor their process at key points. For example, the OMA-300 can aid plants by allowing them to monitor their reactor’s efficiency by measuring formaldehyde levels leaving the reactor. Plant staff can make interventions in real-time to ensure levels are within specification. Another location where analysis is crucial is prior to the incineration of the tail gas. As the tail gas is not rich enough to be incinerated it requires the addition of hydrocarbons to the stream to ensure combustion. Environmental laws require facilities to limit their sulfur emissions. An OMA-300 H2S analyzer can monitor H2S levels in the hydrocarbon stream to ensure they are within limits. Lastly, our OMA-300-InGaAs can even help ensure that the required amount of methanol stabilizer is added to ensure that the formaldehyde product solution does not polymerize. Whether it’s at the start, middle, or end of your process, AAI can help you stay on track.

Further Reading