This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Methodology for Integrating Process Design Elements with Laboratory Experiments




Seay, Jeffrey

Type of Degree



Chemical Engineering


This dissertation is the result of a joint project between industry and academia. The research was originally conceived as an industrial process development project based on the manufacture of industrial products from the catalytic dehydration of glycerol. However, as it has developed from an industrial research project into an academic dissertation, it has become a study in the development of a methodology for integrating the elements of conceptual process design and performance optimization with laboratory experimentation, minimization of potential environmental impacts and inherently safe process design. Therefore, the original research goal of developing an industrial glycerol dehydration process is presented as a detailed case study to illustrate this proposed integration methodology. By taking a wider angle view, the benefits of this type of approach become clear. A key element of the development of a truly integrated conceptual process design methodology is the laboratory data describing the system chemistry and operating conditions. This element is critical because the work of the process design engineer rests on a foundation of good data; however this data is often conceived and collected independently from the process design activities. This disconnect can often constrain the creativity of the design engineer. Indeed, the resulting process may in fact be driven not by the design engineer but rather by the conditions originally studied in the laboratory. Therefore the primary purpose of this dissertation is to describe a methodology that integrates the simulation, modeling and process integration tools available to the design engineer with laboratory experimentation. Using the conceptual process design of the glycerol dehydration process as a detailed case study example, this proposed methodology will be illustrated. Although previous work on the glycerol dehydration process has so far failed to result in a commercially viable process, by the application of this methodology, this research shows that an industrially feasible process is possible. Due to the proprietary nature of the data gathered as part of this research, this dissertation consists of two volumes. Volume one will be public and contain non-proprietary data and results. Volume two contains all proprietary data, and will be available only to the dissertation committee and industrial sponsor.