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Advanced Process Design

Academic Year: 2018-2019

Module leader: Dr. Gonzalo Guillén-Gosálbez

1. Production of iso-butane from n-butane is carried out using a feed stream

that contains 20 mol% iso-butane and 80 mol% of n-butane. The
isomerization of n-butane is an equilibrium reaction. Enumerate and discuss
alternative configurations for the production of iso-butane, specifying which
one you would choose and justifying clearly your choice.

n-C4H10 ↔ i-C4H10

2. It is desired to build a plant to produce methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) in

a refinery located in the Gulf Coast of Texas. The MTBE is intended to be
used in the refinery to ensure that gasoline has a minimum content of oxygen
of 2.0 mol% (in order to comply with the Clean Air Act of 1990). MTBE is
produced by reacting iso-butene with methanol as follows:

CH3OH + iso-butene ↔ MTBE

Nearly pure methanol can be purchased from an external supplier, while iso-
butene is available in a mixed-C4 stream that contains 27 wt% of 1-butene,
26 wt% of iso-butene and 47 wt% of 1,3- butadiene. One of the technical
challenges during the process synthesis is what to do with the 1-butene and
1,3-butadiene, as they are inert species in the reaction producing MTBE.

(a) Which separation techniques would you attempt to use?

(b) Which sequence of operations would you use?

The relative volatilities of each compound with respect to MTBE at 200 ºF are
given below:
Compound volatility
1-butene 5.13
1,3-butadiene 4.96
iso-butene 4.04

3. The following reaction system, entailing two reactions in parallel, is given by:

A →B Reaction 1.
A →C Reaction 2.

Where B is the main product and C is an unwanted by-product. For this

reaction system, the following kinetic data are provided (r1 and r2 are
expressed in [mol·s-1·m-3], k1 and k2 in [s-1] and T in [K]):

𝑟1 = 𝑘1 · 𝐶𝐴
𝑟2 = 𝑘2 · 𝐶𝐴
𝑘1 = 3000000 · 𝑒 8.314·𝑇
𝑘2 = 7000000 · 𝑒 8.314·𝑇

a) Choose an operating temperature for the reaction system among the
following possible values: 300 K, 600 K or 900 K. Justify your choice.

b) A feed with reactant A and inert I is fed to a reactor in which Reaction 1

and Reaction 2 occur. Sketch two possible alternatives to handle the inert
species (I) in the system. For each alternative, draw the corresponding
diagram clearly indicating (qualitatively) the components in each stream.
Considering that the two reactions (Reaction 1 and Reaction 2) are slightly
endothermic (very low positive enthalpies of reaction), which
configuration would you implement in practice? Justify your answer.

4. Methanol can be produced by reacting carbon monoxide and hydrogen as


CO + 2H2 → CH3OH

The standard heat of reaction is found to be ΔHr=-38,881 BTU/lbmol of CO.

The adiabatic reaction temperature at 1 atm is set to 1158 ºC. The Cu-based
catalyst can withstand up to 300 ºC and 50–250 atm. What are the possible
ways to remove heat from this system?

5. To generate steam at 60 atm, two processes are proposed:

(a) vaporize water at 1 am and then compress the steam to 60 atm.

(b) pump water to 60 atm followed by vaporization.

Which process is preferred? Why? Justify you choice.

6. Enumerate all possible alternatives for separating a mixture of 5 components

(A,B,C,D and E, sorted in ascendant order of boiling points, i.e.,
TbA<TbB<TbC<TbD<TbE) into relatively pure products. For each such
alternative, draw a diagram clearly indicating the components in each
stream. Identify the direct sequence and the indirect sequence.

7. Each component for the mixture of alkanes in Table 1 is to be separated into

relatively pure products. Table 1 shows normal boiling points and relative
volatilities to indicate the order of volatility and the relative difficulty of the
separations. The relative volatilities have been calculated on the basis of the
feed composition to the sequence assuming a pressure of 6 barg. Different
pressures can, in practice, be used for different columns in the sequence. The
volatilities provided in the table are assumed to be accurate enough for the
overall system.

a. Use the appropriate heuristics covered in the lectures to identify

potentially good designs ONLY for the FIRST column of the sequence of
distillation units (i.e., of the sequence of distillation columns required
to perform the complete separation of the feed stream into its
individual components). Draw the diagram corresponding to each
design (i.e., each configuration of the first column of the sequence)
identified by each heuristic, clearly indicating the components in each

b. For the COMPLETE sequence, draw two diagrams: one diagram
corresponding to the direct distillation sequence and another diagram
corresponding to the indirect sequence, clearly indicating the
components in each stream.

Table 1. Stream composition, boiling points and relative volatilities.

Compound Flow rate Normal Relative Component Relative
(kmol/hr) boiling volatility pair volatility
point between
(K) adjacent
Propane 30 231 5.78 C3/iC4 1.94

i-Butane 200 261 2.98 iC4/nC4 1.26


n-Butane 100 273 2.36 nC4/iC5 1.95


i-Pentane 125 301 1.21