Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, Vol.57, No.46, 15773-15784, 2018
Process for 2-Ethylhexyl Acrylate Production Using Reactive Distillation: Design, Control, and Economic Evaluation
2-Ethylhexyl acrylate is industrially produced from acrylic acid and 2-ethylhexanol. The reaction, catalyzed by sulfuric acid, is performed in batch reactors followed by a continuous distillation section. Drawbacks such as corrosion, difficult product separation, and disposal of the spent acid can be avoided by using solid catalysts and process intensification technologies. In this paper, the design, control, and economics of a 20 kt/a reactive distillation process are presented. The column has a catalytic section (structured packing), containing 1600 kg catalyst Amberlyst 70, which converts the reactants. A stripping section of 4.1 m recovers high-purity acrylate, while a rectification section of 0.7 m achieves low acid concentration in the top vapors. After condensation, high-purity wastewater is obtained in the overhead decanter. The proposed control system shows robustness when capacity changes are required, or when the fresh reactants are contaminated. The economic analysis shows attractive economic potential and other key economic indicators.