Model-based optimization of simulated moving bed reactor operations in isolation and within an overall process
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Simulated moving bed reactors (SMBR) is a process intensification solution that can offer advantages in productivity, conversion, purity, and solvent consumption over the conventional sequential integration of reactor and separator operations. A significant barrier for SMBR implementation has been difficulty in simultaneously optimizing reaction and separation. This work will demonstrate there is a practical and deterministic model-based approach to optimize SMBR operation. By conducting only a few SMBR experiments, a reliable and accurate model can be defined that can be optimized to satisfy specific product and production specifications. This approach is applied to an industrially relevant case study for the production of DOWANOLTM PMA. This model-based approach is demonstrated to be generalizable to both the esterification and transesterification reaction routes. Finally, an overall process model is developed that integrates the SMBR model with two downstream separation units. This work evaluates the operation of an overall process by exploring the operating space determined by some key performance indicators and different configurations. Productivity and operating cost are evaluated against changes in conversion and solvent consumption. This work offers a more realistic overall process understanding that is representative of industrial SMBR operations.