(381e) Permeation, a Process Intensification Tool in Methyl Acetate Synthesis
The major goal of process intensification is to overcome limitations of product yield and selectivity of chemical reactions, mass transfer and heat transfer through new or different combination of technologies and/or process steps. Speeding up reaction kinetics of equilibrium reactions and elimination of azeotropes by adaptive configuration of reaction and separation steps has been basic strategy of this process intensification project. The synthesis of methyl acetate via esterification of acetic acid with methanol served as a welcome model process. The equilibrium reaction is heterogeneously catalyzed. Methyl acetate forms low boiling azeotropes with methanol and with water. And the bulk product methyl acetate is produced in large quantities based on the established Eastmann Kodak process. In this research project alternative process routes for synthesis and isolation of methyl acetate were investigated. Selective permeation may contribute to azeotrope breaking. When esterification is run under acid limiting conditions and methanol is removed by permeation a maximum yield of product without azeotrope formation is achieved. After investigating several membranes for separation selectivity and flux the process concept with acid limited reaction was designed and validated.