Esterification

Fatty Esters are a diverse and very important chemical family of surfactants which derive a wide field of application from their outstanding emulsification properties.  They are used in the food industry, personal care and cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and as ‘functional fluids’ for industrial applications.

thyssenkrupp’s Esterification technology has to date more than 700 thousand tonnes of annual capacity installed world-wide.  This success is based on superior product yield, excellent product quality, lowest energy consumption, shorter batch times, flexibility and value.

Esterification is an example of a Condensation Reaction, in which two molecules react together to form a large molecule plus a smaller molecule (such as water or methanol).  As the reaction is governed by equilibrium, removal of the smaller molecule is essential to achieve maximum conversion to the desired product.

Our Jet Loop Reactor technology for esterification is particularly well suited to achieve maximum feed utilisation and product yield, resulting in lower feed and utility costs and high production capacity per unit reactor volume.  Our new Jet Mixer design creates a continual forced circulation of the reactor headspace through an external gas conditioning loop in which water produced from the esterification reaction is selectively condensed and eliminated from the system.  As water is removed, the reaction is ‘pulled’ towards completion, resulting in maximum possible conversion of raw materials to useful products.

The thyssenkrupp Jet Reactor system as applied to production of fatty esters offers product quality advantages including lower Acid Value and APHA Colour when compared with conventional stirred reactor designs.  A proven Short-Path Distillation option is available for use with heat-sensitive materials, which minimises thermal degradation by conducting product fractionation under vacuum at the lowest practicable temperature.  Depending on end-market quality specifications, a fully-automated product filtration option is available as a modular package.

We have designed semi-continuous ester plants which do not require steam or cooling water except for unit startup and shutdown.  This is achieved partly through an innovative heat recovery option, which is particularly advantageous for sites where utility capacity is constrained.

We also have process designs to efficiently carry out trans-esterification and fatty acid re-esterification in the Jet Reactor.

Superior performance stems from our design approach which is driven foremost by our customers’ needs, and is tailored to make best use of available utilities and services.  We can provide plant concepts including Reactor alone, Reactor plus Post-Treatment, or Reactor plus Post Treatment and Filtration, with optional Short Path Distillation and/or Heat Recovery – all available as ‘plug and play’ modules.  Just how the process is configured depends on the range of products required, end-user quality requirements, utility costs and availability, and site factors.