BTX extraction by sulfolane in a mixer-settler cascade

  • Mohamad S.H. Fandary

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The literature relating to the extraction of the aromatics, benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX) using different commercial solvents, and to mixer-settler design and performance, has been reviewed.
Liquid-liquid equilibria of the ternary systems: hexane-benzene-sulfolane, n-heptane-toluene-sulfolane, and octane-xylene-sulfolane were determined experimentally at temperatures of 30oC, 35oC, and 40oC. The work was then extended to a multicomponent system. The data were correlated by using Hand's method and were found to be in a good agreement with theoretical predictions using the UNIFAC method.
A study was made of the performance of a 10-stage laboratory mixer-settler cascade for the extraction of BTX from a synthetic reformate utilizing sulfolane as a solvent. Murphree stage efficiency decreased with stage number but 99% extraction was achievable within 4 stages. The effects of temperature, phase ratio, and agitator speed were investigated. The efficiency increased with agitator speed but > 1050 rpm resulted in secondary haze formation. An optimum temperature of 30oC was selected from the phase equilibria; the optimum solvent: feed ratio was 3:1 for 4 stages. The experimental overall mass transfer coefficients were compared with those predicted from single drop correlations and were in all cases greater, by a factor of 1.5 to 3, due to the surface renewal associated with drop break-up and coalescence promoted by agitation.
A similar investigation was performed using real reformate from the Kuwait Oil Company. The phase ratios were in the range 0.5 to 1 to 3.25 to 1, the agitator speed 1050 rpm, and the operating temperature 30oC. A maximum recovery of 99% aromatics was achieved in 4 stages at a phase ratio of 3.25 to 1. A backflow model was extended to simulate conditions in the mixer-settler cascade with this multicomponent system. Overall mass transfer coefficients were estimated by obtaining the best fit between experimental and predicted concentration profiles. They were up to 10% greater than those with the synthetic feed but close agreement was not possible because the distribution coefficient and phase ratio varied with stage number.
Sulfolane was demonstrated to be an excellent solvent for BTX recovery and a mixer-settler cascade was concluded to be a technically viable alternative to agitated columns for this process.
Date of AwardAug 1988
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorC.J. Mumford (Supervisor)


  • BTX
  • liquid-liquid extraction
  • mixer-settler cascade
  • sulfolane

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