Absorption of light gases in polyethylene (PE) is studied using two versions of the Statistical Associating Fluid Theory (SAFT): SAFT for chain molecules with attractive potentials of variable range (VR) and simplified perturbed-chain (PC) SAFT. Emphasis is placed on the light gases typically present during ethylene polymerisation in the gas-phase reactor (GPR) process. The two approaches are validated using experimental binary-mixture data for gas absorbed in PE, and predictions are made for mixtures of more components. For most cases studied both SAFT versions perform equally well. For the case of ternary mixtures of two gases with PE, it is predicted that the less-volatile of the two gases acts to enhance the absorption of the more-volatile gas, while the more-volatile gas inhibits the absorption of the less-volatile gas. This general behaviour is also predicted in mixtures containing more gases, such as typical reactor mixtures. The magnitude of the effect may vary considerably, depending on the relative proximity of the gas-mixture saturation pressure to the reactor pressure; for example it is predicted that the absorption of ethylene may be approximately doubled if diluent gases, propane or nitrogen, are partially or completely replaced by less-volatile butane or pentane for a reactor pressure similar to 2 MPa. In the case of a co-polymerisation reaction, it is predicted that increases in absorption of both co-monomers may be obtained in roughly equal proportion. Our findings cast light on the so-called co-monomer effect, in which substantial increases in the rate of ethylene polymerisation are observed in the presence of hexene co-monomer, while suggesting that the effect is more general and not restricted to co-monomer. For example, similar rate increases may be expected in the presence of, e.g., pentane instead of hexene, but without the change in the branch structure of the produced polymer that is inevitable when the amount of co-monomer is increased. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Fluid Phase Equilibria, 2006, Vol 243, Issue 1-2, p. 74-91