A consortium consisting of EU and applicant country
partners is developing a novel design methodology for application-tailored
column internals. This approach will maximise the efficiency of a wide
range of reactive separation systems and help revolutionise integrated
chemical plant design. The FP5 INTINT project is building on valuable
work done in an earlier Brite-Euram project on reactive distillation that
made important strides in facilitating the design of cost-saving integrated
process plant for the chemicals and petrochemicals industries.
The chemicals, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals
industries are showing growing interest in hybrid processes that combine
reaction and separation mechanisms into single, integrated operations
known as 'reactive separation'. The combination of the two stages into
a single unit brings important advantages, such as energy and capital
cost reductions, increased yield and removal of some thermodynamic restrictions.
Reactive separations include reactive distillation,
reactive absorption, reactive extraction or reactive membrane separation.
So far, such processes have had industrial application mainly in areas
like the homogeneously catalysed synthesis of acetates and the heterogeneously
catalysed production of fuel additives. The potential is much wider. Nevertheless,
optimal functioning depends on careful process design, with appropriately
selected column internals, feed locations and catalyst placement. Greater
understanding of the general and particular features of the process behaviour
is equally essential.
While these factors are generally interrelated and
have to be considered simultaneously, the correct choice of column internals
is often regarded as dictating the feasibility and efficiency of an integrated
process. The internals must provide specific properties related to both
the reaction and separation steps. To date, however, users have been obliged
to rely on the limited choice of standard internals on offer, and to adapt
their processes accordingly for maximum performance. Moreover, there have
been no known generic methods for extrapolating the modelling of internals
up to full industrial scale so far.
||EU and applicant
In the GROWTH INTINT (1)
project, a 15-strong consortium led by the University of Dortmund
is seeking to develop new, 'intelligent' internals that can be tailored
precisely to the requirements of specific reactive separation processes.
Notably, mass transfer products provider Sulzer Chemtech Ltd is
working together with innovative SME (small and medium-sized enterprise)
Julius Montz GmbH in progressing catalyst support technology. Alongside
EU chemical industry majors and universities, the team includes
both industrial and academic members from Poland and Romania. As
well as benefiting from participation in a broad co-operative research
network, the Eastern European partners are making a valuable contribution
by providing access to types of pilot plant that were not available
elsewhere in the group.
The aim of the three-year initiative, which
began in March 2000, is to identify methods that will permit the
creation of a new relationship between users and suppliers - whereby
the chemicals producers themselves can adopt an active approach
in specifying internals to meet their own individual needs.
With design and modelling based directly on
process analysis, rather than on consideration of component availability,
the end result can be expected to approach perfection from both
architectural and operational viewpoints. The new methods will also
allow for rapid prototyping and a shortening of the time to market.
INTINT: INTelligent column INTernals for reactive separations (GRD1
The INTINT consortium is split into two interactive
groups: one is addressing the modelling and simulation aspects,
while the other deals with the generation of an experimental database
for model development and validation.
Three levels of software support for engineers
designing reactive separation columns will be developed within the
ADVISER is a decision-supporting system that
assembles data on column packings from various literature and industrial
sources as a basis for feasibility studies into possible internals
applications. PROFILER is a tool for simulating concentration profiles
in the column, thus providing detailed information for overall plant
design. This software package has already been improved significantly
during the first half of the project by adding features as models
for hydrodynamics and mass transfer, physical properties and chemical
FLOWMASTER is a software tool based on Computational
Fluid Dynamics (CFD), which allows the detailed simulation of single
components inside the internals. It is based on the CFD package
CFX, and has successfully been enhanced to simulate the single-phase
flow inside structured packings.
Over the same period, the experimental group
defined the chemical test systems, catalysts, column internals and
equipment necessary for the accomplishment of the project. An initial
version of a physicochemical properties database based only partly
on literature data has been created. Missing data was experimentally
determined within the project.
Known column internals have been produced and
shipped to the partners. Experimental facilities were set-up, enabling
experiments for the determination of hydraulic and mass-transfer
characteristics, as well as reactive separation trials with known
internals, to be carried out. First experiments for the verification
and validation of the CFD simulation were also performed. The next
crucial stage will be to commence the verification of PROFILER by
manufacturing and testing new internals based on its simulations.
The period of the first 18 months of the experimental
programme comprised the definition of hardware/software facilities;
definition of chemical test systems, catalysts, internals and equipment;
determination of the interfaces between the modelling and the experimental
parts of the programme; exact definition of the experimental tasks
and their distribution among partners. Apart from the acceptance
and confirmation of the test systems to be used, effort was also
taken to define clear responsibility for individual chemical test
systems, so that additional co-ordination and communication would
The co-ordinator, Prof. Andrzej Górak from the
University of Dortmund, predicts that INTINT will put Europe well
ahead of the rest of the world in reactive separation technology.
He maintains: "Its application will dramatically improve chemical
processes by reducing equipment costs and total size by up to 50%.
(...) We also expect environmental benefits from increased reaction
selectivity, an average saving of 10% in energy consumption and
elimination of solvents used in conventional processes."
According to Prof. Górak: "The project's findings
will help EU industry to gain a reasonable market share and to increase
employment opportunities" and "the proposed, flexible design concept
will contribute to the creation and growth of SMEs able to perform
highly specialised CFD calculations and to undertake the manufacture
of short-run customised internals."
Prof. Andrzej Górak
Lehrstuhl fuer Thermische Verfahrenstechnik
Fachbereich Chemietechnik (Department of Chemical Engineering)
D-44221 Dortmund, Germany
Tel: +49 231 755-2323
Fax: +49 231 755-3035
- AEA Technology, UK
- BASF, Germany
- DSM Research, The Netherlands
- Institute of Chemical Engineering - Polish
Academy of Sciences, Poland
- Institute of Heavy Organic Synthesis 'Blachownia',
- Julius Montz, Germany
- Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
- Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Romania
- Research and Development Center for Refining
- Societatea Nationala a Petrolului 'PETROM',
- Sulzer Chemtech Ltd, Switzerland
- Technische Universiteit Delft, The Netherlands
- Universität Stuttgart, Germany
- University of Manchester Institute of Science
and Technology, UK