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Influence of the reactive distillation column configuration on its performance: A computational study

Zuzana Švandová, Jozef Markoš, and Ľudovít Jelemenský

Institute of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology, Slovak University of Technology, Radlinského 9, 812 37 Bratislava, Slovak Republic



Received: 10 April 2007  Revised: 6 August 2007  Accepted: 9 August 2007

Abstract: Comparison of the performance of a reactive distillation column with three different hardware configurations is presented. As a reaction system the methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) synthesis has been chosen. The sieve tray columns with catalyst (encased inside wire gauze envelopes) placed along the liquid flow path differ in the number of reactive trays. The column simulations have been performed using the nonequilibrium model. The steady state behaviour of the three different hardware configurations was studied regarding the three input parameters; feed flow rate of methanol, feed flow rate of butenes, and reflux ratio. It has been shown that by varying the location of the methanol feed stage, the columns exhibit significantly different solution diagrams using the butenes feed flow rate as a continuation parameter. Using dynamic simulations, different perturbations of the manipulated variables were found to cause transitions between multiple steady states and these were also investigated. The major objective of this paper is to demonstrate the importance of the hardware choice in the performance of a reactive distillation column e.g. during the start-up or if occasional variations of the operating parameters occur.

Keywords: reactive distillation - nonequilibrium model - multiple steady states - dynamic simulation - start-up strategy - column configuration

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.2478/s11696-007-0079-3


Chemical Papers 62 (1) 58–64 (2008)

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