Process intensification and selection of the most efficient chemical process provides resources conservation and decreases the energy consumption to minimize CO2 emissions. Distillation Sequence Efficiency (DSE) method is extended to chemical processes also considering the reactors to provide a very simple and useful process design tool. A minimum amount of input data and computation power is required for a fast screening providing a basis for other more rigorous methods, i.e. including a cost assessment. The method considers, in a rough approach but at very early stages of process design, three factors related to environmental impact resources conservation and catalyst costs.
The input data required is the vapour-liquid equilibrium represented by a proper thermodynamic model and some other predictable basic thermodynamic data. As it is an early stage approach, the reactor outputs can be assumed at chemical equilibrium minimizing the free Gibbs Energy. The 8/8 analysis is used to check the feasibility and calculate the stream flow rates and compositions. The distillation column output streams are at boiling point, and therefore the input data for the DSE method is available, which quantifies the process efficiency and therefore it is related to its environmental impact. A resources conservation factor, considering reactant losses, relates the product quantity generated to the amount that could be generated. A catalyst cost factor, considering catalyst deactivation, relates the feed raw materials to the system with the total feed stream to the reactor.
ETBE (Ethyl Tert-Butyl Ether) production process is used as a case study. According to the results, the best alternative is the intensified process, i.e. reactive distillation, followed by the process proposed in the BREF. Other five alternative process schemes values are all in agreement with Recker et al. (2015) cost assessment results. However, there is disagreement between methods only in one case due to catalyst cost.