Biphasic Model Describing Soybean Oil Epoxidation with H2O2 in Continuous Reactors
Epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO) is produced in industry by reacting soybean oil, at 60-70 degrees C, with hydrogen peroxide in the presence of formic or acetic acid. A small amount of sulphuric or phosphoric acid is necessary to catalyze the oxidation of the carboxylic acid to the corresponding per-carboxylic acid. Per-carboxylic acid, formed in situ, migrates from the aqueous phase to the oil phase where it spontaneously reacts with the double bonds to give an oxirane ring. This reaction is extremely exothermic (Delta H = -55 kcal/mol) and must be kept under thermal control. Two undesired side reactions can occur: the oxirane ring-opening and the hydrogen peroxide decomposition. In a previous work, a biphasic kinetic model for describing the epoxidation of soybean oil in fed or pulse-fed-batch reactors has been developed and the parameters of the model have been determined by mathematical regression analysis. In the present paper, the model has been adapted to simulate also kinetic runs performed in two continuous tubular reactors of different sizes, filled with spheres of stainless steel (AISI 316) used as static mixer. The agreement found, in simulating the continuous runs, validates the developed biphasic kinetic model. This model constitutes a valid base for the design of a continuous process and for promoting the process intensification.