In order to evaluate the developed model and to its limitations, laboratory experiments and accompanying simulations were carried out. The laboratory runs were performed using a pressure column having a diameter of 80 mm and up to 25 bubble cap trays. The reactive zone was equipped with Sulzer Katapak-S in heights of 20-40 cm. The column set-up is shown in Fig. 3.8. The catalyst pockets of the packing were filled with the ion-exchange resin described above. The column was operated at a pressure of 500 kPa. Feed rates were set between 2 and 5 kg/h and the reflux ratio was varied in the range 5-10. The feed was introduced above the reactive section. Further experiments were performed with the feed position below the reactive section.
In a set of various experiments stable operation was observed. The bottom product was free of isobutene. Besides the expected mixture of isobutene and methanol, the distillate contained also small amounts of MTBE. This is due to the insufficient separation performance in the rectifying section. However, this can be alleviated easily by placing more trays or conventional packing in this section. The maximum conversion achieved by using this laboratory column set-up was 78 %.
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