Chemical reactors: whole process based approaches to reactor design and selection


Britest Limited, The Innovation Centre, Sci-Tech Daresbury, Keckwick Lane, Daresbury, Cheshire, United Kingdom


Successfully commercialising a reactor requires wider consideration beyond the design of the reactor alone.  It is necessary to consider the whole process from reagent preparation to product separation.  A systematic approach is recommended, which will guide project teams through capturing the business and technical drivers, the acquisition of data and process understanding, to developing an outline requirements specification. This is then fed into a structured decision-making process aiding the business’s go/no-go decision before handing over to detailed design and conventional stage-gated project management.


Making an appropriate selection and design of the chemical reactor(s) is one of the critical decisions facing scientists and engineers preparing to implement a new process or product. They face increasing pressure and business drivers, covering e.g. time to market, sustainability, yield and quality. This demands a rational and systematic approach towards these selection decisions. Historically, and particularly in, sectors such as fine chemicals, specialties and pharmaceuticals, there has been, and still is a strong tendency to default to some form of batch operation and address problems at commissioning. This may still be the right outcome, particularly where the business requires implementation of the new chemistry using existing equipment, but a more systematic approach towards the selection of the reactor and ancillary equipment will still give benefits through identifying likely problems and mitigation strategies ahead of commissioning, reducing risk and streamlining the activity. 

This article suggests steps towards such a systematic approach that are accessible to all involved in reactor desig ...