Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-31-1972

Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering - (M.S.)


Chemical Engineering and Chemistry

First Advisor

Deran Hanesian

Second Advisor

Joseph Joffe

Third Advisor

Saul I. Kreps


The pyrolysis of ethane is a complex reaction involving six individual reactions in a reactant mixture of thirteen components. It is further complicated by the deposition of carbon along the reactor walls. The carbon buildup eventually necessitates reactor shutdown, During the intermediate stages the reactor experiences a gradual increase in inlet pressure which affects the reaction conditions, Optimum temperature profiles exist because the yield goes up with increasing temperature, but, consequently, the reactor must be shut down and cleaned out with increasing frequency. The combined effect causes the yearly production of ethylene to go through an optimum.

To find this optimum a computer program was developed with the ability of handling 25 simultaneous reactions involving up to 25 components, It calculates the carbon deposition profile and the changing pressure profiles, as a function of a predetermined reaction gas temperature profile. The reactor will remain in production until the inlet pressure exceeds eight atmospheres. The average yearly production rate is calculated, assessing a reactor shut down penalty of 24 and 48 hours required for the cleaning of the clogged pyrolysis tubes.

The optimum exit temperature for the 24 hour penalty was 1127°K with a corresponding 57% one pass ethane conversion. The 48 hour penalty lowers the optimum exit temperature to 1124°K and a 50.5% ethane conversion.

The practice of increasing pressure to compensate for carbon buildup results in accelerated carbon deposition and is detrimental to overall production scheme.

The program given here is immediately applicable to any plug flow system, the only additional requirement being the physical and thermodynamic constants for the additional components. The program could, for example, be used to calculate the production of acetylene.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.