Integrated Process Design, Control and Analysis of Intensified Chemical Processes

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Process design and process control have been considered as independent problems for many years. In this context, a sequential approach is used where the process is designed first, followed by the control design. However, this sequential approach has its limitations related to dynamic constraint violations, for example, infeasible operating points, process overdesign or under-performance. Therefore, by using this approach, a robust performance is not always guaranteed. Furthermore, process design decisions can influence process control and operation. To overcome these limitations, an alternative approach is to tackle process design and controllability issues simultaneously, in the early stages of process design. This simultaneous synthesis approach provides optimal/near optimal operation and more efficient control of conventional (non-reactive binary distillation columns) as well as complex chemical processes; for example, intensified processes such as reactive distillation. Most importantly, it identifies and eliminates potentially promising design alternatives that may have controllability problems later. To date, a number of methodologies have been proposed and applied on various problems to address the interactions between process design and control, and they range from optimization-based approaches to model-based methods.
In this work, integrated process design and control of reactive distillation processes is considered through a computer-aided framework. To assure that design decisions give the optimum operational and economic performance, operability and controllability issues are considered simultaneously with the process design issues. Operability issues are addressed to ensure a stable and reliable process design at pre-defined operational conditions whereas controllability is considered to maintain desired operating points of the process at imposed disturbances in the feed under normal operating conditions. First, a set design methods, similar in concept to design of non-reactive distillations, such as McCabe-Thiele and driving force approach are selected to design the reactive distillation column. Next, these design methods are extended using element concept to also include ternary as well as multicomponent reactive distillation processes. The element concept is used to translate a ternary system of compounds (A + B ↔ C) to a binary system of elements (WA and WB). When only two elements are needed to represent the reacting system of more than two compounds, a binary element system is identified. In the case of multi-element reactive distillation processes (where more than two elements are encountered) the equivalent element concept is used to translate a multicomponent (multi-element) system of compounds (A + B ↔ C + D) to a binary system of key elements (elements WHK and WLK). For an energy-efficient design, non-reactive driving force (for binary non-reactive distillation), reactive driving force (for binary element systems) and binary-equivalent driving force (for multicomponent reactive distillation) were employed. For both the McCabe-Thiele and driving force method, vapor-liquid equilibrium data are based on elements. It has been is demonstrated that designing a reactive distillation column at the maximum driving force will result in the minimum energy consumption. Note, that the same principles that apply to a binary non-reactive compound system are valid also for a binary-element or a multi-element system. Therefore, it is advantageous to employ the element based method for multicomponent reaction-separation systems.
It is shown that the same design-control principles that apply to a non-reacting binary system of compounds are also valid for a reactive binary system of elements or multi-elements for distillation columns. Application of this framework shows that designing the reactive distillation process at the maximum driving force results in a feasible and reliable design of the process as well as the controller structure. Through analytical, steady-state and closed-loop dynamic analysis it is verified that the control structure, disturbance rejection and energy requirement of the reactive distillation column is better than any other operation point that is not at the maximum driving force. Furthermore, it is shown that the design at the maximum driving force can be both controlled using simple controllers such as PI as well as advanced controllers such as MPC.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
Number of pages142
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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