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2015 Kirkpatrick finalists

By Chemical Engineering |

Five innovative technologies that were commercialized in the past two years have been selected as finalists for the 2015 Kirkpatrick Award for Chemical Engineering Achievement. The winner will be announced on November 18 at the Chem Show in the Jacob Javits Center in New York. Here is a brief summary of the finalists:

AM Technology — Coflore reactor. Flow, or continuous reactors have a number of advantages over batch reactors for certain applications, including a reduced size. For mass-transfer-limited reactions, however, good mixing is essential and relying on passive mixing, such as static mixers, can be insufficient. AM Technology has developed a flow reactor based on the same principle used to mix paint in aerosol cans. The mixer element in the Coflore reactor is loose, and mixing is generated by lateral vibration of the reactor body. This eliminates the need for rotating shafts and seals, and delivers better mixing than passively mixed systems.

CB&I — CDAlky alkylation technology. This sulfuric acid alkylation process is for the production of motor fuel alkylate. The novelty of the technology is the design of the reactor system, where proprietary static internals create the contact needed between the hydrocarbon and the acid phases at lower temperatures (below 0C) than conventional technologies. Rotating mixers in conventional technologies typically cannot go lower than 7–8C because of the acid phase’s high viscosity. The lower reaction temperatures favor the formation of high-octane trimethylpentane and minimize unwanted side reactions.

Clariant — HGM technology for propylene dehydrogenation. Clariant has introduced an innovation to the Catofin process, used for producing isobutylene and propylene. The innovation is the addition of Heat Generating Material (HGM), which is a metal oxide on a proprietary carrier that is loaded into the catalyst bed. HGM is not a catalyst, and is inert to the feedstock. It undergoes oxidation and reduction, both of which generate heat inside the catalyst bed to drive the endothermic dehydrogenation reaction. The heat generated improves the catalyst-bed temperature profile to increase olefin selectivity and limit byproduct formation. The lifetime of the catalyst is also increased.

DOW Performance Plastics — Intune olefin block copolymers. Intune is a family of olefin block copolymers (OBCs) that incorporates both crystalline polyethylene and crystalline isotactic polypropylene — the two largest-volume thermoplastic polymers in production. Typically, blends of these two polymers exhibit poor physical properties because the polymers are immiscible, and multi-layer structures fail due to poor interlayer adhesion. Intune OBCs are produced through developments in catalyst design, the nature of the chain-shuttling agent and reactor control. The interplay of selective catalyst and chain-shuttling agents make the unique polymer structure possible.

Newlight Technologies — AirCarbon Process. Newlight has developed a new biocatalyst that allows thermoplastic polymers to be manufactured from methane more cost effectively than from oil-based raw materials. The new biocatalyst can produce nine times more product for the same amount of catalyst input as compared to earlier biocatalysts. In the AirCarbon process, air and methane are mixed with the biocatalyst to produce polymer at ambient operating conditions. ■

1   Dorothy Lozowski, Editor in Chief

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