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Theoretical study on transesterification in a combined process consisting of a reactive distillation column and a pervaporation unit

Zuzana Švandová and Jozef Markoš

Institute of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology, Slovak University of Technology, Radlinského 9, 812 37 Bratislava, Slovakia



Abstract: Steady state analysis of a combined hybrid process consisting of a reactive distillation column, pervaporation unit, and a distillation column is presented. This process configuration was first presented by Steinigeweg and Gmehling (2004) for the transesterification of methyl acetate and butanol to butyl acetate and methanol. This system is characteristic for its low reaction rate and complex phase equilibrium. Steinigeweg and Gmehling (2004) have shown that the combination of reactive distillation and pervaporation is favourable since conversions close to 100 % can be reached with a reasonable size of the reactive section in the reactive distillation column. The aim of this paper is to show that although high conversion can be achieved, very complicated steady state behaviour must be expected. The presented analysis is based on mathematical modelling of a process unit, where the steady-state analysis, including continuation and bifurcation analyses, was used. Multiple steady states were predicted for the studied system; three steady states with conversions higher than 98 %. However, not all predicted steady states met the maximal allowed temperature condition in the reactive section (catalyst maximal operation temperature of 393 K). The presence of multiple steady states reduces the operability and controllability of the reactive distillation column during its start-up and during the occurrence of any variation of operating parameters because the system can be shifted from one steady state to another one (concurrent exceeding the maximal allowed temperature) with unwanted consequences, e.g. production loss. Therefore, design and subsequent operation of such a complicated system is an ambitious task requiring knowledge of any possible system behaviour.

Keywords: butyl acetate production – transesterification – pervaporation – reactive distillation – steady state simulation – multiple steady states

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.2478/s11696-010-0098-3


Chemical Papers 65 (2) 167–176 (2011)

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