Tuesday, 16 July 2013

F3 Factory Case Study: Continuous Production of Chemical Intermediates

For its F3 Factory industrial case study Evonik Industries AG focused on demonstration of the flexible, continuous production of intermediate chemicals. Working with academic partners TU Dortmund, TU Eindhoven and Newcastle University the project looked at the development and validation of a generic methodology for modularised production plants of medium scale for example for fence-to-fence applications in emerging markets.

As a global leader in specialty chemicals production Evonik Industries AG’s products are used in a wide variety of high end application areas including pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, paints and coatings, paper, plastics, personal care and hygiene, adhesives and sealants. Innovative production strategies in these fields are a key focus of Evonik’s research and development projects.

Typical intermediates include those produced in highly exothermic reactions which suffer from limited heat and mass transfer capabilities. Present reactor technologies are complex and unique for each product and plant and are mainly economic only in world-scale capacities: in production facilities producing more than 100 000 tonnes per annum.

The F³ Factory approach can help Evonik become more flexible in production capacities, enable the use of different feed qualities and allow faster scale-up procedures to reduce time-to-market. Depending on the specific reactions investigated, step changes in production are expected including increased production effectiveness, energy savings and lower investment costs amongst many others.

Modular production technology 
Achieving the challenging goals of the F³ Factory project can only be reached through innovative process intensification technologies. For the Evonik case study, two different technologies were investigated:
  • structured catalyst packing
  • jet-loop reactor with integrated “cold” membrane separation
Both technologies focused on the intensification of mass and heat transfer as well as simplification of the specific chemical reactor design.

The first reactor technology required new catalyst structures which could be implemented as “plug-in” technology in existing plants. In the near future these could also be used in modularised new reactor concepts.

Simpler reactor construction will reduce investment costs and enable greater standardisation of reactor technology. Parallelization of this technique offers high potential for more flexibility in production capacity to support future market growth.

The second reactor technology is designed for highly exothermic liquid-gas reactions. Innovation in catalyst development requires an improved reactor concept to enable the heat management and mixing requirements necessary to maximise catalyst efficiency.

For the F3 Factory modular approach a parallel jet-loop set-up was envisioned, which combines high mass transfer performance and efficient heat management through the jet-loop principle with an integrated membrane separation for catalyst retention. The basic set-up is shown below.

This modular approach can easily be adapted to varying production scenarios by adding additional reactors or membrane Process Equipment Assemblies.

The benefits of this approach are:
  • reduced investment costs through standardised and easily scaleable reactor equipment
  • reduced operating costs due to maximised space-time yield and integrated heat management
  • high selectivities due to low heat gradients and ideal mixing
  • improved catalyst lifespan due to separation under process conditions

Following process development the production unit was transferred to the modular, container-based concept developed within the F3 Factory project.  This hydroformylation process in a jet-loop, with an integrated membrane separation, was then successfully demonstrated in the F3 Factory backbone facility at the INVITE Research Centre in Leverkusen, Germany.

With successful demonstration of the intensified technologies in a modular production environment, the basis of a possible new production concept has been realised.  The concept will now be further developed and optimised.

Validation and demonstration
Partial oxidation, epoxidation and hydroformylation were selected as example reaction classes for the case studies.

In cooperation with the University of Newcastle and TU Dortmund, software tools have been developed to evaluate the economic and technological aspects of applying this F3 Factory approach. With the help of the universities, models have been set-up to optimise operation conditions and operation control aspects.

The applied process intensification technologies have been proven to operate successfully at both lab and pilot scale levels. Design and engineering of modularised process equipment assemblies and process equipment containers for the hydroformylation reaction was completed successfully and the modularised hydroformylation process was successfully demonstrated at INVITE.

Project contact information:
For more information visit the F3 FactoryProject website or contact Dr. Frank Stenger at Evonik.


  1. science is the best thing to understand we can learn more thing from it.... chemical reactor manufacturers is the topic i m working

  2. This is a great article. I love learning about chemical interactions like this in my Chemistry class, it is so interesting. We have learned a lot of great things this year but I really enjoyed learning about Monomer Custom Synthesis because Monomer and Polymer chemicals are so strong.


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