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CHEM 409-02

Ashley Causton 2015


Design of a Chemical Process: General & Chemical Considerations

LECTURE OBJECTIVE: Review fundamental chemistry concepts and how they apply to process
design; specifically by looking at the Haber-Bosch Process
Industrially Important Chemicals:
19 of the top 50 chemicals are inorganic
Some are manufactured from the same raw starting materials
Manufacture of Important Inorganic Compounds:
(Journal of Chemical Education 60(5) 1983 411-413):

CHEM 409-02

Ashley Causton 2015

What are some general (non-chemistry) considerations that apply to setting up a new chemical
plant for a specific manufacturing process ?
What are some chemistry concepts that should be considered when designing a process ?
E.g. for the reaction:

Reaction Equilibrium (Thermodynamics):


Application of LeChateliers principle to design industrial processes
The chemical equilibrium of a reaction ultimately dictates its efficiency
This chemical equilibrium can be altered in the desired direction by controlling
the reaction conditions
Heterogeneous Equilibrium:
Refers to equilibrium where the reactants or products are in different phases
Pure solids and liquids do NOT have variable concentrations
Gases and solutions can have variable concentrations
Reaction Kinetics:
How fast does a reaction occur ?
For a proposed reaction mechanism/sequence there can be one step that is
much slower that all the others, this is known as the rate determining step
Catalysis:
A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of reaction, but is neither created or
destroyed in the process
o Homogeneous catalysts are in the same phase as the reacting substances
o Heterogeneous catalysts are in a different phase as the reacting substances
Nitrogen-Containing Compounds:
The largest production inorganic chemicals containing nitrogen are:
Ammonia (#6 at 15 billion kg in 2002)
Nitric Acid (#14 at 8 billion kg in 2002)
Ammonium Nitrate (#15 at 8 billion kg in 2002)
Ammonium Sulfate (#31 at 3 billion kg in 2002)
Ammonia is the starting material for the production of nitric acid, ammonium nitrate
and ammonium sulfate
Nitrogen gas is the starting point for the production of ammonia, and is produced by
purification of air
Hydrogen is the other component in the production of ammonia, and produced from
natural gas
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CHEM 409-02
Ashley Causton 2015
Synthesis of Ammonia:
Suggested Reading: Section 6.1 (pp. 181-192) Chemical Technology: An Integral Textbook" by
Andreas Jess & Peter Wasserscheid
Suggested Reading: Chapter 4.1 (pp. 55-59) of Survey of Industrial Chemistry (3rd Edition, 2002)
by Philip J. Chenier [Kluwer Academic/Plenum]
Suggested Reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process
At the end of 19th century there was a concern about the ability of humankind to feed
its growing population
Developments in chemistry allowed for large-scale manufacture of ammonia for use in
the production of fertilizers
A critical milestone in the development of catalytic synthesis of ammonia was the
demonstration of Fritz Haber and coworkers in 1909 that ammonia could be produced
at significant rates (2 kg/day) using an osmium catalyst at 175 atm
Osmium is the best catalyst for the reaction but it is very expensive - iron catalyst is
more commonly used
Currently, there are around 600 large scale plants worldwide with a capacity of 500 to
1500 tons per day
85 % of ammonia is used for nitrogen fertilizers; urea is the most important accounting
for 40% of ammonia usage
Other industrial uses include the production of nitric acid, amines, nitriles, nylons and
organic nitrogen compounds
The basic reversible reaction is:
N2 + 3H2 2NH3

H = -92.4 kJ mol-1

How can Le Chateliers principle be applied (in theory) to the above reaction in order to
maximize the product side of the equilibrium ?
What are the typical reaction conditions for the Haber-Bosch Process ?
Why are these conditions a compromise ?
How is this compromise dealt with in practical terms ?
What effect does the catalyst have on the equilibrium ?
Sketch a schematic diagram of the Haber-Bosch process