The present invention relates to an integrated process for producing unsaturated carboxylic acids from the corresponding C.sub.2-C.sub.4 alkane. The process begins with performance of thermally integrated dehydrogenation reactions which convert a C.sub.2-C.sub.4 alkane to its corresponding C.sub.2-C.sub.4 alkene, and which involve exothermically converting a portion of an alkane to its corresponding alkene by oxidative dehydrogenation in an exothermic reaction zone, in the presence of oxygen and a suitable catalyst, and then feeding the products of the exothermic reaction zone to an endothermic reaction zone wherein at least a portion of the remaining unconverted alkane is endothermically dehydrogenated to form an additional quantity of the same corresponding alkene, in the presence of carbon dioxide and an other suitable catalyst. The alkene products of the thermally integrated dehydrogenation reactions are then provided to a catalytic vapor phase partial oxidation process for conversion of the alkene to the corresponding unsaturated carboxylic acid or nitrile. Unreacted alkene and carbon dioxide are recovered from the oxidation product stream and recycled back to the thermally integrated dehydrogenation reactions.
This invention was made with Government support under Instrument No. DE-FC36-O4GO14272 awarded by the United States Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in this invention.