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Lecture 2


Scenario of Chemical Process Design




The synthesis step

Abstract description


Problem specification Approaches for design Design Alternatives Performance Cost, Safety etc

Concept Generation Alternative Generation Analysis Evaluation Comparison and optimization

Refined Description

FlowSheet Synthesis
We will study various technical issues involved in discovering better process flow sheets from among the enormous number of alternatives possible. we will examine some basic steps involved in the synthesis of process flow sheets including: Gathering information, Representation of alternatives, Assessment of preliminary designs, and Search among alternatives.

Preliminary process design is a synthesis activity. A design team carries out a preliminary design to discover better process configurations for the stated design goals. If it is carried out poorly, the company may decide against what could have been a profitable activity, or it may find itself saddled with a marginally profitable process that requires constant revamping to keep up with the competition.

Preliminary design
involves generating alternatives and, for each, carrying out analyses to determine how it performs, with a value placed on that performance. we consider the creation of an entirely new process (termed grass roots design) or improve an existing process (a retrofit design). In retrofit design the number of possible alternatives is many times larger than for grassroots design, although many of the ideas for grassroots design carry over to the retrofit problem. In fact, one option in retrofit design is to tear down the existing structure and design the entire process from scratch.

Gathering Information
The obvious places to look are in the technical journals and encyclopedias, handbooks, textbooks, and so forth, The search for information also includes the patent literature. companies use consultants who know the real value of the literature. They also join organizations that carry out studies for their member companies. Heat Transfer Research Institute (HTRI) and Fluid Flow Service (HTFS), while the Fractionation Research Institute (FRI) provides information on distillation. Other organizations, such as SRI International, carry out detailed design studies for most of the conventional petrochemical and refinery processes

Representing Alternatives
In creating a representation, the goal is to provide a relevant but concise depiction of the design space that allows an easier recognition and evaluation of available alternatives. To simplify this representation we might aggregate equipment to represent a higher level function such as "feed preparation , "reaction" and "recovery We may even aggregate the entire flow sheet into a single object. In addition to thinking of the unit operations in a process, we can base our representation of alternatives on the "tasks" that occur in the process, such as heating, reacting, and separation.

A simple representation of a chemical process

A more refined representation of a chemical process


More specialized representations are in common use. For the synthesis of heat exchanger networks, for instance, we represent the flow of heat in a process using a plot of temperature versus the amount of heat transferred (HEN diagram)


Another way to represent a process is to show its transitions in the space of chemical compositions. Representing changes in composition space is useful for the synthesis of reactor networks and non-ideal separation processes (a ternary composition diagram) In this space we can describe transitions from raw material compositions to product compositions through reaction, separation, mixing, and heating.

Criteria for Assessing Preliminary Designs

To respond we need to assess the performance of a design alternative and a value for that performance. We use the equations of physics to establish how a process performs, including mass and energy balances to establish stream flows, temperatures, and pressures. We assess the value of a design when we ask if it will be profitable. Here performance evaluation determines how economic, safe, environmentally benign, safe, flexible, controllable, and so on a process is.

Economic evaluation
Preliminary design requires us to establish the cost of equipment and the costs associated with purchasing utilities. These methods assume we have completed the mass and energy balances. Then how to convert these numbers into cash flows which a company can use to assess the worth of the project when comparing it to its competing projects.

These concerns involve satisfying the very large number of regulations the government imposes on the operation of a process. Where the plant is built determines which government has jurisdiction and, therefore, which regulations the plant will have to meet. One set of regulations may limit pollution a process can pass into the air, a different set limits pollution into the waterways, and a third limits solids into landfill. Moreover, additional difficulties occur at the design stage in handling small (trace) amounts of hazardous components.

Safety analysis
This attempts to determine whether any reasonable combination of events leads to unsafe situations: fires, explosions, or releases of toxic chemicals. A team of process experts looks at every unit, every pipe, every valve, every controller-in other words, at every identifiable part of the process and asks what would happen if that part were to fail. The team then asks what would happen if two parts were to fail in either order or together. They then repeat for three events at a time, each time considering a larger space of possibilities.

In process design requires the manufacture of specified products in spite of variations in the feeds it handles, in the temperature of cooling water from summer to winter, the heat transfer coefficients as heat exchangers become fouled with use One example of a flexible process is a petroleum refinery, which must tolerate differences in the crude oils it processes. Most refineries receive their feed crudes from pipelines or ocean tankers from oil fields around the world.

It deals with the ability to operate the process satisfactorily while undergoing dynamic changes from one operating condition to another, or while recovering from disturbances.


The onion model of process design.

A reactor is needed before the separation and recycle system can be designed and so on.

Generating and Searching among Alternatives

Total enumeration of an explicit space is the most obvious. Here we generate and evaluate every alternative design. We locate the better alternatives by directly comparing the evaluations. This option is feasible only if the total number is small enough, based on the computer or human resources required to conduct the evaluation.

Tree search in the space of design decisions

At every node point on the tree we record the assessment and decisions prior to branching further. At some point a completed design is created; to examine further alternatives, we can backtrack to any earlier node and make an alternate decision. A partial evaluation of a choice along a new branch may prove that choice inferior to one already made. In this way, we can prune the search space and, based on a partial evaluation, decide against exploring further along the branch. This strategy leads to the systematic branch and bound algorithm.

Evolutionary methods follow from the generation of a good base case design. Designers can then make many small changes, a few at a time, to improve the design incrementally. Another approach to searching large spaces is to postulate a superstructure of decisions that contains all the alternatives to be considered for a design. For example if we have a superstructure for a heat exchanger network where a hot stream, H[1], exchanges heat with three cold streams, C[1] to C[3]. By removing different connections we can have H[1] exchange with none, one, two, or three of the cold streams. It can pass through the exchangers in series and/or in parallel.

Establish targets for the design These have been especially useful in designing heat recovery and reactor networks. In the synthesis of heat exchanger networks it is possible to compute the minimum amount of utility heating and cooling for this design problem before one invents any network that solves this problem. These utility requirements become the targets for our design, and we can reject any design requiring more than these.



last related to the creation of design representations, one of the most powerful ways to reduce the size of the space is through problem abstraction. Here the search for better design alternatives begins by formulating a less detailed problem statement and, tempting to solve this more abstract problem first. In this more abstract space we make decisions that affect whole families of alternatives. Moreover, a suitable abstraction will group parts of the problem together which behave similarly.


These are several decision hierarchy in generating and exploring alternatives for process synthesis. First consider the reactions in the process, which greatly influence all subsequent design decisions we will make, because they limit which of the available raw materials we can use effectively. In addition, the reactor conditions determine the necessity for recycle or raw materials and product recovery. Next, we consider a set of decisions to connect the various sources of chemical species with the various targets. Our target streams are the products, by-products, waste streams, and the feed to the reactor. Our sources are the raw materials and the effluent from the reactor, and we need to decide to which targets these sources go. The final step is the design of the energy network, and here we consider options such as cooling the reactor effluent to preheat its feed or using the condenser of a distillation column to preheat another column's feed.

Bounding Strategies for Process Synthesis

To assess the impact of decisions, we apply a search strategy that uses bounds on our evaluation criteria (for example, profit). These bounds eliminate unfavorable process alternatives and are especially effective with early decisions that make big differences in our evaluations. a) we look first at the reactions we use, b) then the separation processes we use, and so forth. c) We also use abstraction to partition the separation problem

Our original space might be that of all designs that are subject only to the stoichiometry of the reaction. The value of the products less the cost of the raw materials needed to produce them would give us a bound on the maximum profit. From the literature we can discover next some % of one(or more) of the reactants will form waste because of reactor selectivity. We eliminate all designs not subject to this loss. Also a calculation of loss of reactant reduces the maximum profit possible say Y$, which represents a new, lower estimate for the maximum profit possible for any design. As a separation process we see the streams that use distillation to purify the feed and those that do not.