In a very detailed paper published today online in Progress in Energy and Combustion Science by two researchers of the Centre for Sustainable Process Engineering Research (SuPER) at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, the authors review the methanol synthesis processes in many aspects, including reactor modeling.
The most common technology to produce methanol is the Packed-Bed Reactor (PBR). The authors make the point that, even if “PBRs are particularly difficult to model because they show axial and radial gradients together with gradients along the radius of the single catalytic pellets and temporal dynamics“, most process models have been developed in commercial process simulators using a Gibbs reactor as a simplified model. The authors cite one case of using a CAPE-OPEN Unit Operation containing a detailed reactor model developed in MATLAB to simulate the process in Aspen Plus. More precisely the authors state “Only few articles mention the possibility of integrating external, more detailed, models into such commercial suites (i.e. using CAPE-OPEN directives).”
CO-LaN interprets this remark as a regret that almost none of the many researchers developing detailed models of a steady-state reactor for methanol synthesis have thought of using CAPE-OPEN to integrate such models in a process simulator. While not published, the modelling of a PBR by gPROMS Model Builder in an Aspen Plus flowsheet of the entire process has been used in the past by CO-LaN, courtesy of Process Systems Enterprise Ltd, for demonstrating the capability offered by CAPE-OPEN in that domain.