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Polystyrene Pilot plant

Introduction
Polystyrene was first produced commercially in the 1930s and the ready availability of styrene
feedstock has helped it to grow. Styrene will polymerise spontaneously on heating in an
oxygen-free atmosphere but catalysts are added to ensure complete polymerisation at lower
temperatures. Processes have been designed to aid heat transfer from the exothermic
reaction, which can lead to low molecular weight polymers being formed if not controlled.
Two main types of polymers are produced: crystal which is a clear, amorphous resin with good
stiffness and electrical properties; and impact which contains varying levels of polybutadiene to
improve toughness and impact resistance.
There are three types of processes generally used - suspension, solution and mass (bulk)
polymerisation. The advantages of the solution route, which can be continuous or batch
operation, are low residual monomer content and high purity polymers. The suspension route
produces polymers of different molecular weights and can make specialist crystal and high
impact grades of polystyrene. The main advantages of the mass process are the clarity and
excellent colour of the resins produced.
Vinci Technologies Proposal
In order to answer client request for a suspension process polymerisation, we can propose a
pilot plant based on one of our reference as described bellow. This PS pilot plant is in service in
Belgium since 2000. According to the request done by client, an according to our experience,
Vinci-Technologies proposes a pilot composed by a feed section, a reacting section and a
heating loop. Mass balances for feed, flowmeters, temperature regulators, and pressure
regulators will allow controlling the process trough a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) with
an user-friendly HMI (Human Machine Interface) on an unattended basis (24/24 hours, 7/7
days). Unit is designed to be position in a general purpose area (non explosion proof).
As an example and to show the Process Flow Diagram, a screen of the HMI is presented bellow

Scope of supply
- Demineralised water feed line (check valve, filter, isolation valve, MFC, automatic valve )
- Nitrogen blanketing lines for styrene premix tank, pentane feed tank, reactor (isolation valve,
pressure reducers, pressure gauge, check valves )
- Styrene feed line (valves, filters, styrene pump, check valves, styrene premix tank, premix
tank agitator, balances, pressure safety valves, automatic transfer valve)
- Pentane feed line (pentane feed tank with manual isolation valves, pressure gauge, pressure
safety valves, mass balance), pentane feed pump, automatic transfer valve
- Reaction section (reactor, reactor agitator, all safety devices on reactor as bursting disks,
jacket circulation pump, jacket water heater based on steam introduction
If required, additional feed lines can be added to the system for additives feeding operation.
Operating conditions

Reactor

Reactor Jacket
Reactor Agitator
Heat transfer fluid pump
Styrene feed tank

Styrene tank Agitator


Styrene transfer pump
Pentane feed tank

Pentane transfer pump

Operating volume
Maximum volume
Pressure
Temperature
Pressure
Temperature
Rotation speed
Power
Flowrate
Power
Operating volume
Maximum volume
Pressure
Temperature
Rotation speed
Power
Flowrate
Power
Operating volume
Maximum volume
Pressure
Temperature
Flowrate
Power

Operation
50 l
80 l
13 bar
120C
3.5 bar
150C
30-250 rpm
0.75 kW
2200l/h
0.75 kW
35 l
40 l
1 bar
20C
1450 rpm
0.25 kW
400l/h
0.21 kW
2l
3l
1 bar
20C
2-7l/h
0.21 kW

Design

21 bar
170C
21 bar
170C

8 bar
38C

12 bar
38C

Required utilities
Electricity
Gas
Utilities

Power
Instrumentation
Nitrogen
Air
Demineralised water
Cooling water
Steam

500l/h @ 15 barg
400l/h @ 6 barg
1000l/h @5 barg
2200l/h @ 5 barg
20kg/h @ 5 barg

Exclusions
The heating/cooling system is based on a double jacket with cold water circulation and steam
heating. This configuration insures more reactivity to control the temperature inside the
reactor.