Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Exploitation of the use of a combination of a cooling belt with a hydraulic wash column

The general objective of the project was to develop a new, energy efficient and widely applicable methodology, the so-called GRANUPURE process, for the separation of organic bulk chemicals. The cooling belt technology for solidifying a melt into granules was combined with wash columns in which granule purification and solid-liquid separation are carried out. The cooling belt can be coupled directly to a (gravity) wash column or to a so-called pre-purification unit, like a stirred tank reactor.

The energy consumption for the Granupure process is significantly lower than that of a conventional separation technique applied in industry for the production of organic bulk chemicals (especially distillation). Furthermore, the Granupure process combines the advantages of the well-known layer-based and suspension-based melt crystallisation techniques. Due to this, a noticeable saving of energy compared to the existing melt crystallisation processes should be possible for equal or even improved product quality. The Granupure fulfils two important demands, namely the (social and technical) demand for reducing the consumption of energy by the chemical industry and the production of high purity products required by industry.

Two well-known and technically proven unit operations, namely cooling belts for granulation and wash columns for purification, are combined for the first time in a separation process. Due to the modular design, the scaling-up strategy for both unit operations is rather straight-forward. In principle, the Granupure process will be applicable to the typical production rates required for organic bulk chemicals (around 100 ktons/year). Lower production rates, which are typical for e.g. fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, are also covered by the Granupure process.

The final aim of the project was to deliver the proof of principle of the Granupure process using an integrated pilot plant which was tested for caprolactam, an industrially important chemical. The maximum production capacity of the integrated pilot plant was about 50 kg/hour. Operation of the integrated pilot plant for caprolactam was difficult but feasible. The measured purification for the option cooling-belt-stirred tank reactor-hydraulic wash column was very good (removal model impurity > 99%), thus delivering the proof of principle for the Granupure process. The logical next stage in the development trajectory is a demonstration of the integrated technology on a scale that is relevant for the potential users of the technology. Typically, such a demonstration should be carried out at a production rate of about 1 ton per hour. The aim is to demonstrate the scale-up potential of the technology and to obtain a convincing reference for the implementation of the Granupure technology (at larger scale).

An interested end-user in the chemical industry is required for execution of a demonstration project. Financial support might be required or at least helpful. The result is an innovative separation process and a combination of equipment.

Reported by

TNO Institute MEP
7300 AH Apeldoorn
Netherlands
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