(751f) Evaluation of Low-Energy Recovery of N-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidone Solvent from Waste Streams in Specialty Resin Manufacture | AIChE

(751f) Evaluation of Low-Energy Recovery of N-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidone Solvent from Waste Streams in Specialty Resin Manufacture


Slater, C. S. - Presenter, Rowan University
Savelski, M. J., Rowan University
Tozzi, P., Rowan University
Wisniewski, C., Rowan University
Zalewski, N., Rowan University
Richetti, F., Dupont
N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) is a common solvent used as a reaction medium in the manufacture of specialty polymeric resins and their precursors. NMP is used primarily because of its thermal stability, dipolar aprotic properties, and ability to produce a high molecular weight resin precursor. Since NMP is not consumed by the reaction, an aqueous hazardous waste stream is generated. A previous case study at a DuPont specialty chemical plant by the authors, shows that a distillation recovery system that can effectively purify NMP from the waste stream. The distillation recovery process reduces operating cost by 83%, but only reduces the life cycle carbon footprint by 40%. This is due to the high energy demand of the distillation column. Additionally, high NMP purity levels in the resin manufacture process and the complex multicomponent nature of the waste stream, required a more extensive design for the recovery operation.

Alternative distillation designs were explored, but none reduced energy consumption and life cycle carbon emissions as significantly as the economic life cycle impact. More sustainable low energy separations were investigated. Various membrane, adsorption, and extraction separation strategies have the potential to reduce energy demand, but each has its own limitations. An extraction operation was selected as the best candidate for separation, and the proposed process considers alternative uses for the recovered NMP waste in other manufacturing scenarios.

Results with a chloroform extraction operation to produce NMP of suitable quality for alternative use, provides the best option for solvent recovery. The new process can not only yield environmental life cycle improvements, based on various impact factors, but provide economic benefits as well. Yearly projections of waste reductions, life cycle improvements, energy utilization, and cost savings are presented. Life cycle carbon emissions are reduced by over 60% compared to the base case. Since NMP is a prominent solvent for several commercial sectors, methods aimed at reducing waste help promote broader sustainability goals. This study shows how sustainability metrics can be used to guide decision making when evaluating other processing alternatives and uses of the final product. (This work is partially supported by a grant from the EPA Pollution Prevention program).