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The process Oleflex in which the dehydrogenation occurs catalytically, uses four radial
flow moving-bed reactors connected in series with continuous regeneration of the
catalyst. It has furnaces located in the feed to the train of reactors and between each of
them, to provide the reaction heat needed. This arrangement minimizes the fall of
pressure along the process. The dehydrogenation is carried out in a gaseous phase on a
catalyst of platinum supported between 525 and 700C and with pressures slightly
higher than atmospheric pressure. The conversion of propane is about 40 %, with a
molar selectivity of 90 % towards the propylene. In the Oleflex process, the typical
catalyst consists of spherical alumina pellets, with a surface area of 100 m2 and
platinum (<1% w / w) and promoted with tin and alkali metals.

The process of obtaining propene through the dehydrogenation of propane has two

- Reaction and catalyst regeneration stage.

- Stage of propylene separation

Reaction and
Propane catalyst Propene

Metane Etane Etene Propane

Fig. 1 Block Diagram Process UOP Oleflex.

The raw material of the process consists of a propane stream, which is obtained in
refineries and is stored in spheres at room temperature and at a pressure of 4.4 kg/cm2.
Two streams are connected to the feed current:

A hydrogen stream at -120,2 C and 4 atm , which comes from the separation
from propane to decrease the formation of coke on the catalyst. The molar ratio
hydrogen/propane is 10: 1, which can be controlled by a ratio control.
An unreacted recirculated propane stream from the distillation column C-01.

The propane-hydrogen stream, under conditions of -40 C and 4 barg is preheated in a

stainless-steel shell and tube exchangers S.S. grade 316 (E-01 A / B) using the heat of
the effluent from the reactors at 600 C and at a pressure of 1.3 atm.
The effluent from the reactors (hot fluid) passes through the tubes and the reactors feed
(cold fluid) passes through the shell. this exchanger does not require temperature
control. The reactor exits the exchanger at a temperature of 566 C and passes to the
first furnace.


Fig 2. Reaction and regeneration stage

The reaction section (DHP-02) consists of four adiabatic radial flow moving-bed
reactors in series (R-01 , R-02 ,R-03 and R-04) of stainless steel S.A 240-234, each with
a furnace at the inlet of each reactor (H-01,H-02,H-03,H-04) and a continuous catalyst
regenerator (A-01)

The feed stream enters to the first furnace (H-01), where it is heated at the operating
temperature of 628 C, using fuel gas. The resulting stream enters into the first reactor
(R-01) in which occurs the catalytic reaction of the dehydrogenation of propane with
catalyst of platinum supported on alumina, producing propylene [1]. Since the reaction
is endothermic and the reactor is adiabatic, there is a decrease in the temperature,
causing a decrease in the conversion of propane. So, the output of the reactor is carried
out to a second furnace (H-02) in which the temperature is raised to 628 C and is
introduced into the second reactor (R-02). The same process is repeated until reaching
the fourth reactor (R-04), in which a conversion of 44.5% is finally achieved, with a
propylene selectivity of 90%. There are by-products obtained such as: ethane, ethene,
methane and hydrogen, due to the cracking reactions which occur also in the rectors.
[2 and 3 ]
3 8 3 6 + 2 ( 1)
3 8 4 + 2 4 (2)
2 4 + 2 2 6 (3)
In the reactors, the operating pressure is controlled, which cannot be greater than 1.3
atm, since a high pressure can damage the catalyst. At the exit of each reactor there is a
chromatograph to analyze samples.
The reaction temperature is controlled by the furnaces, which is necessary to achieve
the desired conversion. This is controlled by the amount of fuel gas that is introduced
into the furnace.

The first furnace (H-01) receives the stream from the exchanger (E-01), which has a
temperature of 566 C and a pressure of 1.3 atm. In this furnace, the temperature is
raised until the operating one of 628 C providing a heat of 682.3 kW using fuel gas as

The second furnace (H-02) receives the effluent from the first reactor (R-01) which is
located at a temperature of 536.7 C and a pressure of 1.3 atm. This furnace provides a
heat of 891.4 kW using fuel gas to raise the temperature to 628 C.
The third furnace (H-03) receives the effluent from the second reactor (R-02), with a
temperature of 568.1 C and a pressure of 1.3 atm. The temperature is raised to the
operating temperature using fuel gas contributing a heat of 586.9 kW.

The fourth furnace (H-04) receives the effluent from the third reactor (R-03), this
current has a temperature of 587 C and a pressure of 1.3 atm. In this furnace the
temperature rises again to 628 C contributing a heat of 402.2 kW.


The catalyst descends along the reactor by gravity and is deactivated due to the
formation of coke on its surface, so when is leaving the fourth reactor is sent to the
catalyst continuous regeneration unit (DHP-01, A-01), which is formed by four stages
before sending the catalyst back to the first reactor.
- Coke combustion
- Redistribution of platinum
-Reduction of moisture
- Reduction of catalyst
The objective of the separation stage (Plan DHP-03) is to separate the propylene (main
product) from propane, which is recirculated; from hydrogen, which is recirculated to
the feed to decrease the formation of coke and as a by-product; and other undesired
products formed by secondary reactions, such as ethane, ethylene and methane.
The separation consists of some stages, in the first one, a separation is made for a stage
compression system, in which is separating mainly ethane and ethylene. In the second
one, a separation is carried out by cryogenization, separating hydrogen, methane,
ethane and ethylene. In the third stage the propane and the propylene are separated by
a distillation column.

Fig. 3 Propylene separation stage


The compression system consists of a three-stage centrifugal compressor (CO- 01)

with intercoolers using cooling water (E-02, E-03, E-04).

To control the desired temperature in each stage there is a suction scrubber vessel (V-
01, V-02, V-03), which removes the condensed liquid to protect the compressor. At the
exit of the third stage there is a discharge scrubber (V-04). The condensers from the
scrubbers are joined in a condensate collector (V-05) and sent to the distillation column
(C-01). All compression system scrubbers have an associated level control that does not
allow the height of liquid inside them to exceed a certain level to ensure that the gas
stream that it is introduced to the compressor does not carry out liquid and damage the

The reactor effluent leaves the heat exchanger at temperature of 25 C and a pressure
of 1.3 atm and is introduced into the suction scrubber of the first stage of the
compressor (V-01 with a recycle stream from the second suction scrubber (V-02),
decreasing the stream temperature that enters to the first compressor, then propane
and propylene begin to condense.
The vapor phase gets into the first stage of the compressor and raises its pressure to 8
atm and its temperature to 79.3 C and passes to the cooler of the first stage (E-02) by
cooling a temperature of 28 C. This stream passes to the suction unit of the second
stage (V-02), which joins to a recycle stream from the third suction scrubber (V-03) and
decreases its temperature, passing to the second stage of compression and raising its
pressure to 17 atm and the temperature to 41.6 C, cooling to 17 C after passing
through the second stage cooler (E-03).

After the cooler, it enters into the third stage suction scrubber (V-03), which receives
a recycle stream from the discharge scrubber (V-04), cooling, and passes to the third
stage of compression, raising its pressure at 25 C and its temperature at 40.6 C,
cooling in the third stage cooler (E-04) to 5 C.


The gaseous stream which has not been condensed is sent to the cold box (A-02), a
cryogenic unit which consists of a carbon steel package containing two multi-step
coolers, throttle valves and repair vessels, this being considered as a package.

A cold box consists of a first exchanger in which the stream is cooled to a temperature
of 2.5 C at which it condenses all propane and propylene and is sent to a column of
distillation (C-01). The excess gas stream is passed through a second exchanger in
which condense the ethane, the ethene and the methane, leaving only hydrogen in the
gas phase at temperature of -120.2 C.

Part of the hydrogen recovered in the cold box is sent to the inlet of the preheating (E-
01) to maintain the hydrogen / propane ratio of 10: 1. The rest is a by-product of the


The condensate stream formed by propane and propylene get into C-01, a column of
plates in which propane and propylene are finally separated. The propylene is sent to
the final product storage sphere and the propane is recirculated to the feed stream to
the E-01 heat exchanger. The column operates at a top temperature of 43.3 C and a
pressure of 16.1 atm and with a bottom temperature of 54.4 C and a pressure of 20.4