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The catalytic dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene to styrene is coupled with the catalytic hydrogenation of nitrobenzene to aniline in a simulated integrated reactor formed of two fixed beds separated by a hydrogen-selective membrane, where both hydrogen and heat are transferred across the surface of membrane tubes. A pseudo-homogeneous model of the two fixed beds predicts the performance of this novel configuration first proposed by Moustafa and Elnashaie [Simultaneous production of styrene and cyclohexane in an integrated membrane reactor. Journal of Membrane Science 178 (1), 171–184]. Both co-current and counter-current operating modes are investigated and the simulation results are compared with corresponding predictions for an industrial adiabatic fixed bed reactor operated at the same feed conditions. The conversion of ethylbenzene and the yield of styrene in the membrane reactor are predicted to exceed by a wide margin those in the industrial adiabatic fixed bed reactor. Aniline is also produced as an additional valuable product in a favorable manner, and autothermality is achieved within the reactor. The results suggest that coupling of these reactions could be feasible and beneficial. Experimental proof-of-concept is needed to establish the validity and safe operation of the novel reactor.
Journal: Chemical Engineering Science - Volume 63, Issue 7, April 2008, Pages 1817–1826