Project Synopsis

Perform a feasibility study, process alternatives evaluation, and preliminary process design for converting an existing batch operation to a continuous process for a manufacturer of oxyalkylate resins.

Project Summary


Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was contracted by the client, a major U.S. chemicals manufacturing entity, to evaluate the feasibility of a continuous oxyalkylates production process at one of their numerous plants using data provided from the client’s established batch reaction technology.  The oxyalkylates production process is primarily accomplished in two sequential reactions.  The first reaction creates a phenol resin.  The second reaction adds chains of ethylene oxide to the resin.  The primary purpose of the feasibility study is to identify the technology options for the continuous production process and to evaluate the operating economics for such production.

PROCESS performed the following project tasks:

  • A preliminary process design basis was prepared for the continuous oxyalklates production process.  Parameters for the continuous process were primarily derived from the client’s documentation for its existing batch processes.
  • An alternatives evaluation was performed to identify the best candidate reactor technology options for the continuous process.  The task involved researching information in the public domain such as textbook literature and patents.  For the phenol resin reaction, traditional reactor design development concepts associated with continuous-stirred tank reactors (CSTRs) and/or plug-flow reactors (PFRs) were found to be most appropriate.  For the ethoxylation reaction, a design utilizing a BUSS loop reactor, or similar type reactor, was consistently discussed in literature as the best technology for this reaction due to safety concerns and operability advantages.
  • Heat and material balance (HMB) calculations and a process flow diagram (PFD) was prepared for the continuous oxyalkylates production process.  PROCESS used its licensed commercial computer process simulation software (Chemstations’ CHEMCAD) to generate the HMB calculations.  The simulation and resulting HMB included major, minor, and utilities streams flow rates, compositions, temperatures, pressures, and physical/chemical properties. The chemical properties for some of the reaction products in this process were derived from components in the DIPPR database and estimated by the UNIFAC group contribution method.
  • An equipment list and capital cost estimate (+40% / -20%) was prepared using preliminary equipment sizing data.  Installed costs were estimated utilizing the Lang factored methodology.
  • An operating cost estimate was prepared for continuous oxyalkylates production that included raw materials, utilities, and labor costs.

A complete package that included the above-mentioned documentation was issued to the client. The package provides information that can be used by the client to produce an informed cost-benefit analysis for the design and construction of the continuous oxyalkylates production process.


Industry Type

  • Resins Manufacturing

Utilized Skills

  • Batch to continuous process conversion

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