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Reaction Engineering Mini Project Stage 1 (Student 4)

Name: Muhammad Kasyfi Bin Mohd Zahir

Id Number: 55202113705

Background Study of PFR

In this study, a saponification process by using Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and Ethyl
Acetate (EtAC) will be conducted in a PFR reactor. Figure 1 below shows the schematic diagram
of a plug flow reactor.

Figure 1: Schematic diagram of a PFR.

Plug flow reactor, or else commonly known as continuous tubular reactor, PFR, or piston
flow reactors is a reactor used to perform chemical reactions in a continuous or flowing pattern
of a reaction in a cylindrical tubular instrument. This reactor is usually used in industrial sectors
which is complementary to Continuous-Stirred Tank Reactor (CSTR), usually operated at steady
state and consist of a cylindrical turning pipes. The system flow in this reactor is considered to be
turbulent and may be modeled by that of a plug flow (Schmidt and Lanny, 1998). Therefore,
there is no radial variation in concentration along the pipe. In a plug flow reactor, the feed enters
at the beginning of a stream and product is then out at the end of the exit stream, which means
Reaction Engineering Mini Project Stage 1 (Student 4)
Name: Muhammad Kasyfi Bin Mohd Zahir
Id Number: 55202113705

the process is occurs within the stream of the pipeline in the reactor itself. The reactor is
designated with a
long tube which is basically made up to prevent any mixing of product and reactant while the
reaction is in progress, as the constant concentration at certain point is needed for the reaction.
The concentration will changed naturally then in the pipe throughout the reaction. Hence making
its properties (solutions or gases) within the tube flows differently from one point to another
point ahead. Flow in PFR can be whether laminar or turbulent state. As with viscous fluids in
small-diameter tubes, and greatly deviate from ideal plug-flow behavior, or turbulent as with
gases. Commonly, turbulent state of the flow is more preferred to laminar, because there will be
some heat transfer causes from the mixing in a short range, resulting more the reaction to
enhance. Unfortunately, turbulent pattern of the flow is not preferred in a small scale of
production, any process with slow reactions, or in laboratory reactors, as it will resulting
inconveniently long reactor (to prevent backflow) and need a very high feed rates.

According to Danish et. al., 2015, a plug flow reactors are normally familiar as a part of
continuous tubular reactor that play a huge role in industries. If there is a requirement for a
company to perform a continuous operation, they may be frequently use this reactor but they
have to critically ensure there is no backflow or back-blending of the product and the reactant as
it will highly may corrupt the entire process. Due to a lower yield of undesired product, this
reactor can be said as favorable and economical to use as they offers a high volumetric reaction
out it.

There are some more advantages as well as disadvantages of the plug flow reactor. The
advantages are, the reactor is able to provide high conversion per unit mass of catalyst, low and
minimalist on the operation costing, and the process is continuous operation which is a great way
to maximize the production time as well as products. The disadvantages for this reactor are they
may exist undesired thermal gradient, as they are quite poor in handling a constant-temperature
control, channeling of the reaction may occur and lastly the reactor may be difficult to be
maintained and clean.
Detail Analysis for Saponification Process on PFR

Saponification process is mainly recognized as hydrolysis of a carboxylic acid ester in a

basic medium (base). Saponification basically a process of reacting alkali with fatty acid,
especially triglycerides in soap production process. The outcomes of this reaction will be
producing carboxylate salts, which known as soap and also glycerol as the product. The chemical
equation for this saponification reaction is as below:

NaOH + CH3COOR CH3COONa + ROH (equation


In this reaction, saponification of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) reacting with ethyl acetate
(Etac) in a plug flow reactor is used to demonstrate the saponification process. The
saponification of ethyl acetate reaction is as follows in equation 2 below.

NaOH + CH3COOC2H5 CH3COONa + C2H5OH (equation 2)

When it is revised to chemical kinetics study, this reaction can be assumed to second
order reaction (Walker J, 1996). Reactant fluids are pumped through a tubular section containing
pipes where the reaction is carried out in the end of the process. At the inlet stream of the PFR,
the rate of reaction of the solutions or gases are very high as the reactant concentration is very
high at the beginning. However when it passes through the reactor, the concentration will be
decrease as the products are formed from the consumed reactant. Therefore, rate of reaction
drops through the PFR with respect to reactor length.
Since the saponification of ethyl acetate with presence of sodium hydroxide is a second
order reaction, rate of the reaction can be expressed as follows (Smith, 1981).

r = kCNaOHCCH3COOC2H5 (equation 3)

By according to the Arrhenius equation;

k =Ae (equation


Where k is the chemical reaction rate, A is the pre-exponential factor, Ea is activation

energy, R is the gas constant and T is temperature in Kelvin.

Tubular reactors are categorized under flowing reactors whereby it is a continuous

process, assuming that the fluid is perfectly mixed not in the axial direction, but in radial pattern
to produce zero back mixing. Levenspiel (1992) said that the ideal PFR to carry out a perfect
reaction is, if the residence time is constant in value, and it is same also goes to the space time.
Next, the parameter conditions (temperature and pressure) are constant in value throughout the

1. Levenspiel, O., (1972). Chemical Reaction Engineering, 2nd edition, John Wiley and
2. Schmidt, Lanny D., (1998). The Engineering of Chemical Reactions. New York: Oxford
University Press.
3. Smith, J. M., (1981). Chemical Engineering Kinetics, 3rd edition, McGraw-Hill.
4. Walker, J. (1996). A Method for Determining Velocities of Saponification: Royal Society
of London.