(85a) Batch-to-Continuous Transition in the Specialty Chemicals Industry:  A Case Study for Intensification of Dispersants Production | AIChE

(85a) Batch-to-Continuous Transition in the Specialty Chemicals Industry:  A Case Study for Intensification of Dispersants Production


Veser, G. - Presenter, University of Pittsburgh
Enick, R. - Presenter, University of Pittsburgh
Patel, R., University of Pittsburgh
Mantripragada, H., University of Pittsburgh
Kowall, C., The Lubrizol Corporation
Production of specialty chemicals to-date is conducted almost exclusively in batch or semi-batch reactors. Yet, transition to continuous processing promises strong improvements over the century-old batch processing technology—demonstrated widely in the pharmaceutical industry but barely explored for the much larger scale production of specialty chemicals. Among the anticipated improvements are lower unit energy consumption, less waste generation, reduced exposure hazards, smaller process footprint, lower capital investment and more consistent product quality. Continuous processing thus offers the prospect of truly revolutionizing the manufacture of specialty chemicals via “process intensification” (PI).

However, several key factors hamper adoption of this technology. Among those are: (i) The deep historic roots of this industry in batch processing with decades of industrial experience make a transition to “unproven” process technology risky in an overall risk-averse industry. A first-of-its-kind demonstration of such a transition by an industry leader could have a transformative impact on this industry. (ii) While batch reactors are highly tolerant to incomplete knowledge (in particular regarding kinetics), the design and operation of continuous processes requires availability of robust kinetics. However, the detailed chemistry and kinetics underlying current processes are often poorly understood (if not completely unknown). Transition to continuous processing hence requires collection of robust and accurate kinetics as a key prerequisite, including impact of impurities and contaminants which play a significant role in many specialty chemicals processes.

In this presentation, we will present the application of process intensification via batch-to-continuous transition for dispersant production, a large class of specialty chemicals that constitute a ~$20B global market and are well-suited for demonstration of PI principles due to their relatively simple chemistry and broad range of production volumes. The (on-going) project is a close collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and Lubrizol Corporation , a global leader in dispersant technology, and aims to develop a methodology for the batch-to-continuous transition for the specialty chemicals industry and demonstrate the drastic advances in efficiency that are attainable during that transition. This collaboration was able to move a first continuous process for dispersant production within ~2 years from initial laboratory studies to deployment of a first fully operational commercial skid. We will highlight new insights into the reaction mechanisms and kinetics for the underlying chemistry, efficiency advances enabled by this transition, as well a first insights gained from operating the commercial scale unit.