Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Adam Smith

Relational Format



This report describes the process of optimizing an existing design for a chemical plant that produces the chemical intermediate ethylbenzene. For an engineer, economic optimization involves manipulating the design variables of a chemical process in order to improve the economic outcome of the project. In this case, the objective of the optimization was to maximize the net present value of the ethylbenzene plant. After analyzing the net present value of the existing design, the team conducted subsequent analyses on the operation of the process, adjusting variables such as temperature, pressure, and flow rate in order to minimize the costs of manufacturing. The most important tool in the analysis of this chemical process was SimSci Pro/II process simulation software, which allowed the team to determine the effects of varying many different process parameters simultaneously. The team made all decisions about the final design of the process according to what would be the most economical design and still be within the constraints of the project. The team found that the most economical design would use both a new catalyst with higher selectivity and a lower grade benzene feed. The new catalyst would suppress the production of chemical by-products, thereby reducing the extent of the purification process. Using the lower grade benzene feed would allow the plant to save a significant amount of money on raw materials. The team also made other recommendations for optimization of the process equipment. The final optimized design is estimated to have a net present value of $50.9 million, a substantial improvement from the base case net present value of -$10.7 million. However, the team recommends many more detailed analyses of this design before any action is taken.

Accessibility Status

Searchable text



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.