Table of Contents
Journal of Polymers
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 8245203, 10 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/8245203
Research Article

Optimal Catalyst and Cocatalyst Precontacting in Industrial Ethylene Copolymerization Processes

1Institute for Chemical Technology of Organic Materials (CTO), Johannes Kepler University, Altenbergerstrasse 69, 4040 Linz, Austria
2Borealis Polymers Oy, P.O. Box 330, 06101 Porvoo, Finland

Received 16 March 2016; Accepted 5 April 2016

Academic Editor: Yeong-Soon Gal

Copyright © 2016 Paul Aigner et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

In industrial-scale catalytic olefin copolymerization processes, catalyst and cocatalyst precontacting before being introduced in the polymerization reactor is of profound significance in terms of catalyst kinetics and morphology control. The precontacting process takes place under either well-mixing (e.g., static mixers) or plug-flow (e.g., pipes) conditions. The scope of this work is to study the influence of mixing on catalyst/cocatalyst precontacting for a heterogeneous Ziegler-Natta catalyst system under different polymerization conditions. Slurry ethylene homopolymerization and ethylene copolymerization experiments with 1-butene are performed in a 0.5 L reactor. In addition, the effect of several key parameters (e.g., precontacting time, and ethylene/hydrogen concentration) on catalyst activity is analyzed. Moreover, a comprehensive mass transfer model is employed to provide insight on the mass transfer process and support the experimental findings. The model is capable of assessing the external and internal mass transfer limitations during catalyst/cocatalyst precontacting process. It is shown that catalyst/cocatalyst precontacting is very important for the catalyst activation as well as for the overall catalyst kinetic behavior. The study reveals that there is an optimum precontacting time before and after which the catalyst activity decreases, while this optimum time depends on the precontacting mixing conditions.