Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Adam Smith

Second Advisor

David Carroll

Third Advisor

Mike Gill

Relational Format



The objective of this project was to investigate the process of producing ethylbenzene from the liquid-phase reaction of ethylene and benzene and perform parametric and topological optimizations to increase the net present value of the production facility. To do so, the base case conditions of the process were modeled and quantified economically followed by an investigation into the existing process to determine conditions that could be altered to improve the economic viability of the project. After optimizing the parametric conditions and topology of the process, the net present value of the project was increased by 305 million dollars to 191 million dollars. In this process, ethylene and benzene are reacted in a continuous stirred-tank reactor to produce ethylbenzene, which is to be sold as a raw material to an adjacent styrene production facility. To model this process, the simulation software PRO/II was utilized so that the economic impact of changing process conditions and topology could be determined using an economic model created in Microsoft Excel. The operating conditions and equipment layout for the reactor, separations units, and utilities were investigated to determine the optimum operating conditions to maximize the net present value of the project. During this optimization portion, the PRO/II simulation was performed at various operating conditions for each area of interest in the process. The results of the economic model quantified the impact on net present value of the operating conditions for each of the simulation cases. This led to changes in the operating conditions in the reactor, phase separator, distillation columns, heat exchangers, and the compressor to identify the case that produced the maximum net present value.



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