Determining the Design Parameters of Reactive Distillation Processes by a Quick Mapping Method

Rahma Muthia, Megan Jobson, Anton A. Kiss

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The application of reactive distillation in the chemical process industry promises significant benefits, such as boosting energy efficiency and reducing the overall cost. However, assessing and designing a reactive distillation process is still challenging as these tasks usually demand time-consuming procedures. To overcome this problem, the present work proposes a quick approach to determine the design parameters for a kinetically-controlled reactive distillation process according to the ratio between the Damköhler (Da) number and the chemical equilibrium constant (Keq) – thus relating reaction kinetics and chemical equilibrium. This study employs a mapping method featuring an applicability graph that conveniently plots the reflux ratio vs. the number of theoretical stages and extends it to account for kinetically-controlled reactions. The method is demonstrated using the map for a generic quaternary reaction system, described as A + B ⇌ C + D, considering constant relative volatilities (αAB = 2 and αCD = 6) and various reaction equilibrium constants (Keq = 0.01, 0.1, 1). For validation purposes, the applicability of reactive distillation is examined in two case studies -hydrolysis of methyl lactate and synthesis of methyl acetate. Modelling of both the generic and real systems suggests that, with a ratio Da/Keq of 5 or more, the generic map can provide initial values for the design parameters of a reactive distillation column. Ultimately, the insights gained save time in effectively assessing the feasibility of reactive distillation at the conceptual design stage.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputer Aided Chemical Engineering
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Publication series

NameComputer Aided Chemical Engineering
ISSN (Print)1570-7946


  • conceptual process design
  • Damköhler number
  • equilibrium constant
  • mapping method
  • reactive distillation


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