The digital revolution has significant implications for catalytic reactor design and operation.

Catalytic reactors are at the heart of many processes, and their design and operation are often key to the process profitability. Given that the difference between a bad and good reactor design can mean hundreds of millions of dollars difference in profit over the lifetime of a plant, it is worth investing time and effort in optimizing the design for various anticipated operating conditions from the outset.

Digital Design – applying high-fidelity models from lab to industrial reactor

Digital design techniques deploy high-fidelity mathematical models of reactor physics and chemistry, with key empirical components such as reaction kinetic parameters validated against laboratory and pilot experimental data. The resulting validated models are highly predictive over a wide design and operational space.

The model, rather than experimentation, is then used to systematically and rapidly analyse the effect of various design decisions and uncertainties on reactor (or indeed whole-process) performance. This is done using global system analysis techniques that allow engineers to explore the design space systematically and quantify the uncertainties rapidly and effectively – in days rather than months.

Optimization techniques are then used to determine the values of key design and operating parameters that give the best overall economic performance, taking into account various modes of operation the reactor will see over its lifetime.

Apart from the economic benefits of an optimal design, and the ability to design out uncertainty and risk from the outset, the approach helps to minimize experimentation time and to reduce the need for pilot plants – thus reducing cost at every stage.

Digital Operations via online Digital Applications

The same high-fidelity model used for design can be implemented on the plant, coupled with real-time plant data, to generate daily value utilising the deep process knowledge contained in the model.

Advanced Digital Applications such as monitoring of catalyst deactivation, soft-sensing of variables (including internal reactor variables), real-time optimization of the reactor operation, and what-if-studies, help Operations to ensure that the process is running as close to optimal operation as possible every day.

Webinar series

This three-part webinar series covers the emerging best-practice digital approaches for reactor design and operation.

Webinar 2: Digital design of high-performance fixed-bed catalytic reactors

This session examines the digital design workflow for fixed bed catalytic reactors of various configurations. Consideration is given to optimization of reactor internal geometry taking into account operating conditions, and the verification of the final reactor design by coupling catalytic tube models with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models to examine the detailed interaction between the shell-side fluid hydrodynamics and tube-side reaction and heat transfer.


45 minutes plus Q&A


13 October 2021, 15:00 BST/ 10:00 EDT

Webinar 3: Online deployment of first-principles reactor models to generate daily value

This session describes how high-fidelity models containing deep process knowledge are coupled with plant data and automation systems to generate actionable insights in real-time. Digital applications in the form of performance monitors, soft sensors or RTOs (real-time optimizers) can be deployed in either advisory open-loop or a closed-loop mode with APCs, including nonlinear model predictive control (NLMPC). Applications can also predict the long-term impact of operational decisions on current operating severity / deactivation trends and provide operators with what-if analysis to test decisions before implementing them on the plant.

The webinars will be illustrated with industrial examples taken from many years’ successful application of the techniques and methodologies to different fixed-bed catalytic reaction processes.


45 minutes plus Q&A


10 November 2021, 15:00 BST/ 10:00 EDT

Webinar 1: From laboratory to industrial catalytic reactor operation

This session describes the digital design workflow, from early-stage experimentation through reactor design and operational analysis, as well as deployment of models for everyday use in operations.


45 minutes plus Q&A


15 September 2021, 15:00 BST/ 10:00 EDT