Chemical Engineering Volume 3, Third Edition
In chemical engineering physical operations such as fluid flow, heat transfer, mass transfer and separation processes play a very large part; these have been discussed in Volumes 1 and 2. In any manufacturing process where there is a chemical change taking place, however, the chemical reactor is at the heart of the plant.
In size and appearance it may often seem to be one of the least impressive items of equipment, but its demands and performance are usually the most important factors in the design of the whole plant.
When a new chemical process is being developed, at least some indication of the performance of the reactor is needed before any economic assessment of the project as a whole can be made. As the project develops and its economic viability becomes established, so further work is carried out on the various chemical engineering operations involved. Thus, when the stage of actually designing the reactor in detail has been reached, the project as a whole will already have acquired a fairly definite form. Among the major decisions which will have been taken is the rate of production of the desired product. This will have been determined from a market forecast of the demand for the product in relation to its estimated selling price. The reactants to be used to make the product and their chemical purity will have been established. The basic chemistry of the process will almost certainly have been investigated, and information about the composition of the products from the reaction, including any byproducts, should be available.
On the other hand, a reactor may have to be designed as part of a modification to an existing process. Because the new reactor has then to tie in with existing units, its duties can be even more clearly specified than when the whole process is new. Naturally, in practice, detailed knowledge about the performance of the existing reactor would be incorporated in the design of the new one.
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