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Generalized Modeling and Simulation of Reactive Distillation: Esterification

Kuldeep Bhatt and Narendra M. Patel

There is an increasing trend of chemical industries toward new processes that should meet requirements such as generation of nearly zero waste chemicals, less energy, and sufficient uses of product chemicals in various applications. The reactive distillation provides an attractive alternative for reaction/separation processes with reversible reactions, especially for etherification and esterification. Esterification is the general name for a chemical reaction in which two reactants ethylene glycol and acetic acid form an ester as a product. Since the reaction was occurred in equilibrium and reversible manner, the reaction was become slowly without catalyst. Production of esters in a reactive distillation column is a promising alternative to the conventional sequential process. In the present work, the modeling and simulation of the reactive distillation column for the production of butyl acetate using acetic acid and n-butanol or i-butanol is shown. Thermodynamic aspects of considered system are discussed and UNIQUAC interaction parameters are given. The reaction was catalyzed heterogeneously by a strongly acidic ion-exchange resin (Amberlyst-15). The model incorporated reaction kinetics and vapor-liquid nonidealities into the MESH (Material balance, Equilibrium relationship, Summation equation and Heat balance) equations. The model was solved with the numerical method coupled with the relaxation method. To ensure the applicability and reliability of the proposed model, it was validated by comparing simulated results of esterification reaction (acetic acid and n-butanol) in a reactive distillation column with the pilot plant data i.e. published in literature. The model was capable of predicting the performance of a reactive distillation column for esterification reactions.

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