Evaluation of membrane-assisted hybrid processes for the separation of a tetrahydrofuran-methanol-water mixture
The combination of pervaporation (PV) and distillation provide considerable potential for the separation of azeotropic multicomponent mixtures. However, only a proper techno-economic evaluation of these processes compared to a reference process enables a reliable evaluation of benefits. Within this work, the potential of a PV-assisted distillation process is evaluated for the mixture of tetrahydrofuran methanol and water compared to a heat-integrated pressure-swing distillation process. Since initial evaluations reveal a significant potential of the PV-assisted processes regarding the required energy demand, experimental investigations of three polymeric and two inorganic membranes were conducted. A detailed characterization of the most promising membranes PERVAP™ 4155–40 and Hybrid Silica HybSi® AR was performed, and the latter one provided the highest permeance and selectivity. Based on the derived flux models, an economical optimization was performed. Despite the energy-benefits of the PV-assisted processes, the reference process was still evaluated more favorable under the considered framework, mainly caused by high investment and cooling costs. The current study illustrates the benefits of a tight integration of model-based process design and experimental investigations. Despite possible energy savings and promising performance metrics of the membrane, an assessment of the techno-economic performance of these processes is of major importance to identify applications.