Chemical process synthesis is an open ended step of process design as it deals with the problem of how to develop and integrate the chemical process flowsheet. Over the past four decades, very few systematic procedures have been proposed for the rigorous synthesis of complete chemical process flowsheets. Mathematical design and heuristics from experience of past processes are the two main methods usually employed in process synthesis. Most approaches for new designs use heuristics based on studying reaction and separation systems in isolation. This thesis discusses the development of a new process synthesis systematic procedure and software that integrates a knowledge based system with Aspen HYSYS process simulator, HYSYS optimizer, Aspen Icarus economic evaluator, and databases, utilising knowledge from existing industrial processes to obtain design rules. The proposed generic superstructure for the synthesis and optimization of reaction-separation-recycle systems has been validated. To account for the non-ideal behaviour of reactors, modular simulation is used and an example of the approach is illustrated for a fluidized bed reactor. Preliminary work in customizing Aspen HYSYS to simulate new unit operation has been illustrated. A Visual Basic for Application (VBA) programming code has been developed to link the integrated knowledge based system (IKBS) to Aspen HYSYS.
The prototype IKBS has been applied for the selection of reactor-separator-recycle systems for ethylene oxide, ethylene glycol, acetic acid and cumene manufacturing processes as case studies. A wide range of chemical reactors and separators were considered during the selection process and then elimination occurs at different levels leading to the best alternatives being selected for simulation, optimization and economic evaluation in the second phase of the IKBS for future development. The suggested alternative reactor-separator-recycle systems by the IKBS include currently used processes in addition to novel and recommended reactors/separators in industrial research. The proposed integrated knowledge based approach to chemical process flowsheet synthesis is expected to yield a cost effective design methodology for the petrochemical industry.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.