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Chementator: A commercial breakthrough for microreactors

By Chemical Engineering |

Early next year, Nippoh Chemicals Co. (Tokyo; edlinks.chemengonline.com/5829-532) plans to build a 1,000-m.t./yr plant for producing the pharmaceutical precursor trimethyl orthoacetate (1,1,1-trimethoxyethane). The facility will utilize a continuous-flow, microreactor-based process that Nippoh Chemicals developed in cooperation with professor Jun-ichi Yoshida at the Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University (Japan). After the unit starts up in early 2007, the company plans to add two production lines, enabling it to replace the existing batch-production facility. In the existing batch plant, trimethyl orthoacetate is produced by the imino-etherization of acetonitrile, followed by esterification with methanol. The reaction is highly exothermic, so large heat exchangers with cryogenic cooling have been required. As a result, investment costs for a batch-production plant are high, it takes up a lot of space, and the process has a long reaction time with high utility costs. Nippoh Chemicals has demonstrated the microreactor-based process in a 100-m.t./yr prototype, which features millimeter-sized reactor tubes. Reaction times were found to be reduced to a few minutes compared to ten or more hours required in the batch reactor. The…
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