Core Competency

Enhanced Performance with Value-Added
Delivering Superior Results through Core Competencies

Throughout our 75 year history in fine chemical manufacturing, Pennakem has developed a unique set of integrated core competencies. These core competencies, listed below, have been applied to the conversion of both bio- and petro-based feedstocks into value-added fine chemicals.

We would be pleased to discuss how these competencies can be applied to meet your needs for innovative products and processes.


Pennakem has decades of experienced in executing a wide variety of hydrogenation and hydrogenolysis processes.  These processes can occur in the liquid or vapor phase and in either a continuous or batch mode.  Typical pressures range from atmospheric to 400 psi.  Our trickle bed reactor can perform at pressures up to 2000 psi.  Pennakem has a knowledgeable technical staff that understands the fundamental principles of hydrogenation and hydrogenolysis technology.  At the center of this knowledge is the understanding of the influence of optimized agitation, hydrogenation introduction, reaction pressure on the process as well as catalyst selection, preparation, reactivation, and recovery.  This understanding provides process conditions that lead to high assay products in maximum yield with minimal impurities.  This core competency leads to a high-value product at as low a cost as possible.

  • In order to achieve high purity products, a comprehensive understanding of fractional distillation is required.  Pennakem possesses the core competency required to model, pilot, and execute difficult fractional distillations.  The challenge of difficult separations is met and accomplished on a daily basis by Pennakem’s technical team. 
  • Pennakem distillation capabilities include:
    • Batch distillations at pressures ranging from full vacuum to 200 psi
    • Single and multi-column continuous distillations at pressures ranging from full vacuum to 100 psi
    • Thin film and Wiped Film Evaporators from pilot scale through full commercial scale. 
Reductive Amination

Pennakem’s capabilities extend beyond traditional hydrogenation and hydrogenolysis.  Pennakem has demonstrated the capability to safely use either anhydrous or aqueous ammonia in reductive amination processes.  Hydrogenation of aldehydes or ketones in the presence of ammonia results in the formation of primary amines. 

reductive amination


The challenges required to use hydrogen – catalyst selection, pressure reactions, and flammability – are similar to the challenges faced when using oxygen as an oxidant.  Pennakem has safely and technically met these challenges of operating oxidation processes.  In addition to oxygen, eco-friendly oxidants such as air and hydrogen peroxide have been employed in various processes.  Oxidation is another unique core competency that Pennakem has safely mastered and is eager to apply to your challenging oxidation needs.


Rearrangement Reactions

Furan-based materials are unique in a number of ways.  While possessing aromaticity, the furans are readily chemically-reduced to a number of valuable intermediates.  Furan-based materials can also be viewed as cyclic vinyl ethers.  Pennakem has developed process expertise to manipulate the unique properties of cyclic vinyl ethers through chemically-induced and thermolytic rearrangement conditions leading to important intermediates such as lactones, lactams, cyclopentanes, and cyclopropanes.  If your process requires a four to six-carbon starting material, contact Pennakem to discuss the possibility of a rearrangement reaction based on furan or furfural.

rearrangement reactions

Process Work-Up Expertise

In addition to having a long history in high-pressure, catalytic processes such as hydrogenation, reductive amination, oxidation, and hydroformylation, Pennakem has developed experience in traditional batch and continuous chemistry unit operations.  These unit operations include, but are not limited to, neutralizations, water washing with phase splits, azeotropic drying, and carbon treatment and removal.  These unit operations have been applied to processes involving condensations, esterification, etherification, alkylation, acylation, hydroxymethylation, and Diels-Alder reactions.  Reach out to Pennakem to discuss coupling a high-pressure catalytic process need with subsequent batch and continuous chemistry unit operations.

process workup Expertise