Pilot Plant Objectives

A reactive distillation pilot plant was constructed to synthesise ETBE from a hydrocarbon stream containing isobutene and ethanol in order to support the simulation studies presented in Chapters 3-10. The motivation and long-term objectives for the experimental investigation are as follows:

• confirm the applicability of reactive distillation technology for ETBE production;

• validate steady state and dynamic simulation results obtained from Pro/II (Simulation Sciences, 1994) and SpeedUp™ (Aspen Technology, 1993);

• demonstrate that ETBE can be produced in the industrially significant range of isobutene conversions and product purities from a locally sourced hydrocarbon feed;

• implement a range of novel advanced control schemes designed specifically for reactive distillation columns;

• demonstrate the phenomena of multiplicity and hysteresis for reactive distillation columns synthesising ETBE;

• test a range of novel packings for conventional fractionation and reactive distillation in pilot scale columns;

The pilot plant equipment will also provide a means to:

• assess the economic viability of the reactive distillation process based on future demand for local ether production;

• assess the effectiveness of the reactive distillation design techniques which were proposed in Chapter 5;

• investigate operability issues associated with start-up and steady state operation of a reactive distillation column;

• determine the maximum isobutene conversion and ether product purity which can be obtained from the experimental equipment and, therefore, to develop relationships between design parameters and performance.

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