Process intensification (PI) has the potential to improve existing processes or create new process options, which are needed in order to produce products using more sustainable methods. A variety of intensified equipment has been developed which potentially creates a large number of options to improve a process. However, to date only a limited number have achieved implementation in industry, such as reactive distillation, dividing wall columns and reverse flow reactors. A reason for this is that the identification of the best PI option is neither simple nor systematic. That is to decide where and how the process should be intensified for the biggest improvement. Until now, most PI has been selected based on case‐based trial‐and‐error procedures, not comparing different PI options on a quantitative basis. Therefore, the objective of this PhD project is to develop a systematic synthesis/design methodology to achieve PI. It allows the quick identification of the best PI option on a quantitative basis and will push the implementation and acceptance of PI in industry. Such a methodology should be able to handle a large number of options. The method of solution should be efficient, robust and reliable using a welldefined screening procedure. It should be able to use already existing PI equipment as well as to generate novel PI equipment. This PhD‐project succeeded in developing such a synthesis/design methodology. In order to manage the complexities involved, the methodology employs a decomposition‐based solution approach. Starting from an analysis of existing processes, the methodology generates a set of PI process options. Subsequently, the initial search space is reduced through an ordered sequence of steps. As the search space decreases, more process details are added, increasing the complexity of the mathematical problem but decreasing its size. The best PI options are ordered in terms of a performance index and a related set are verified through detailed process simulation. Two building blocks can be used for the synthesis/design which is PI unit‐operations as well as phenomena. The use of PI unit‐operations as building block aims to allow a quicker implementation/retrofit of processes while phenomena as building blocks enable the ability to develop novel process solutions beyond those currently in existence. Implementation of this methodology requires the use of a number of methods/algorithms, models, databases, etc., in the different steps which have been developed. PI unit‐operations are stored and retrieved from a knowledge‐base tool. Phenomena are stored and retrieved from a phenomena library. The PI synthesis/design methodology has been tested for both building blocks on a number of case studies from different areas such as conventional and bio‐based bulk chemicals as well as pharmaceuticals.
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Woodley, John, Gani, Rafiqul
Technical University of Denmark, Department of Chemical Engineering, 2011