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Dimethyl Ether Production

Material Balances
Dimethyl ether (DME) is used primarily as a propellant. It is miscible with most organic
solvents and has high solubility with water. Recently, the use of DME as a fuel additive for
diesel engines has been investigated due to its high volatility (desirable for cold starting) and
high cetane number.
DME is produced by the catalytic dehydration of methanol over eolite catalyst. !he reaction
is as follows"
# $ $ $
# + =
In the temperature range of normal operations, there are no side reactions. % simplified process
flow diagram for a DME process is shown in &igure '.
Process Description
&resh methanol, (tream ', is combined with recycled reactant, (tream ), and vaporied prior
to being sent to a fi*ed bed reactor, operating between #+,-. and /,,-.. !he single pass
conversion in the reactor must be limited to ),0 due to e1uipment constraints. !he reactor
effluent, (tream /, is then cooled prior to being sent to the first of two distillation columns.
DME product is ta2en overhead from the first column. !he second column separates water from
the unreacted methanol. !he methanol is recycled bac2 to the front end of the process, while the
water is sent to waste treatment to remove trace amounts of organic compounds.
Reaction Information
!he reaction ta2ing place is mildly e*othermic with a standard heat of reaction of 3
'',44, 56mol. !he e1uilibrium constant for this reaction at three different temperatures is given
! (7) 7p
/4$ (#,,-.) $/.'
+4$ ($,,-.) '#./
84$ (/,,-.) 8.#'
!he e1uilibrium conversions for pure methanol feed over the #,,-.9to9/,,-. range are all
greater than )$0. :y limiting conversions to ),0, the reaction will not be e1uilibrium limited.
Catalyst Information
!he process uses a crystalline silicon9aluminum o*ide catalyst, called a eolite. !his
particular catalyst performs well in the #,,-.9to9/,,-. range, but deactivates rapidly if heated
1 2
4 5
U n i t 2 0 0 - D i m e t h y l E t h e r P r o c e s s
above /,,-.. !he design given in &igure ' uses a single, pac2ed bed reactor. !he reactor is
insulated, with the result that heat produced by the e*othermic reaction raises the catalyst
temperature. %t ),0 conversion with fresh catalyst, the reaction temperature goes from #//-.
at the inlet of the catalytic reactor to $8/-. at the outlet.
Fractional Conversion of Methanol
%n operating e1uation has been developed for this specific reactor relating fractional
conversion of methanol to the outlet temperature of the reactor and the time that the catalyst has
been on stream. !his relationship is
;$4, . ) ) +#, )( ', , . $ (
+ =

t T
T f
when the flowrate of (tream $ < /,, 2mol6h and
fm < fractional conversion of methanol,
T < reactor outlet temperature in 7, and
t < catalyst time on stream in days.
Operating Costs
Information on operating costs will be provided in a subse1uent memo.
=ou, the engineering team, are to plan the operation of the DME process in order to produce
+,,,,, metric9tons6y (+,,,,,,,,, 2g6y) to meet a contract with another company. =our goal is to
minimie operating costs and ma*imie profit. =ou are constrained by the reactor feed rate
((tream $ < /,, 2mo6h), ),0 fractional conversion of methanol, /,,-. ma*imum outlet
temperature, and operating costs. Details on operating costs and the anticipated costs for the
feedstoc2 and product will be provided in a subse1uent memo.
=ou may not use .%D software but are encouraged to use spreadsheet calculations. =ou may
write your own program if you prefer. If you write a program, any programming language is
acceptable. >hether you use a spreadsheet or program, you must turn in hand calculations for
one case to demonstrate that the program or spreadsheet is written correctly.
roup Formation
% design group is to consist of at least three but no more than four members. ?o other
combinations are acceptable. =ou are free to ma2e groups by yourselves. >hen you have
formed a group, please write the names of group members on the chart posted on Dr. 7ugler@s
door. Individuals not in groups by ?ovember '$ will be assigned to groups.
Each group will be e*pected to prepare a written report recommending the best operating
procedures for the DME process. !his report is due at $",, AM, >ednesday, December 8. !he
report should follow the Department@s design9report guidelines. Data should be in the form of
graphs and tables since this serves both to condense results and ma2e them easily
understandable. !he appendi* should include your spreadsheet or computer program and a hand
calculation of a representative case.
Report !uthors
%lthough wor2 on a group report can never be divided e1ually, only those members ma2ing
substantial contributions to the final report should be listed as authors.
E. B. 7ugler
?ovember 8, #,,,
"upplemental Information for Dimethyl Ether Material Balance Pro#ect
Feed and Product Prices
methanol C ,.8, per gallon
dimethyl ether C ,./$ per pound
Other Costs
!he operating costs for dimethyl ether production are related to temperature. Digh
temperature operation re1uires that the feedstoc2 be heated to high temperature, then cooled
from high temperature to an unspecified low temperature where the dimethyl ether, methanol,
and water condense. Ether costs include operation of the distillation columns, labor costs, etc.
&or this proFect, all operating costs are described by the following function related to
operating costs(C6lb of .D$ED in (tream #) < ,.,+# G ,.,,,#,(T9+#$)
where T is the temperature in 7.
Catalyst Deactivation Function
!he e1uation relating temperature and fractional conversion includes a catalyst aging
function. !his function remembers catalyst history. !he function has the form
catalyst aging function < 9($.,',
where T is temperature in 7 and t is time in days. Boo2 at the following e*amples to see how the
function wor2s.
.ase ' If the catalyst has been run for the first 8, days at 8#, 7,
catalyst aging function (.ase ') < 9 ($.,',
.ase # Dowever, if the catalyst was run /, days at 8,, 7 followed by #, days at 8#, 7,
catalyst aging function (.ase #) < 9 ($.,',
)(8,,9+#,)(/,) 3 ($.,',
Catalyst Replacement
!he catalyst may be replaced with fresh catalyst. ?ew catalyst costs C',,,,,, and re1uires +
days of operating time for installation and startup.