Environmental analysis of the life cycle emissions of 2-methyl tetrahydrofuran solvent manufactured from renewable resources

C. Stewart Slater, Mariano J. Savelski, David Hitchcock, Eduardo J. Cavanagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


An environmental analysis has been conducted to determine the cradle to gate life cycle emissions to manufacture the green solvent, 2-methyl tetrahydrofuran. The solvent is considered a greener chemical since it can be manufactured from renewable resources with a lower life cycle footprint. Analyses have been performed using different methods to show greenness in both its production and industrial use. This solvent can potentially be substituted for other ether and chlorinated solvents commonly used in organometallic and biphasic reactions steps in pharmaceutical and fine chemical syntheses. The 2-methyl tetrahydrofuran made from renewable agricultural by-products is marketed by Penn A Kem under the name ecoMeTHF™. The starting material, 2-furfuraldehyde (furfural), is produced from corn cob waste by converting the available pentosans by acid hydrolysis. An evaluation of each step in the process was necessary to determine the overall life cycle and specific CO2 emissions for each raw material/intermediate produced. Allocation of credits for CO2 from the incineration of solvents made from renewable feedstocks significantly reduced the overall carbon footprint. Using this approach, the overall life cycle emissions for production of 1 kg of ecoMeTHF™ were determined to be 0.191 kg, including 0.150 kg of CO2. Life cycle emissions generated from raw material manufacture represents the majority of the overall environmental impact. Our evaluation shows that using 2-methyl tetrahydrofuran in an industrial scenario results in a 97% reduction in emissions, when compared to typically used solvents such as tetrahydrofuran, made through a conventional chemical route.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-494
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 11 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering


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