Combined pinch and exergy analysis of an ethylene oxide production process to boost energy efficiency toward environmental sustainability

Ali Ghannadzadeh*, Majid Sadeqzadeh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


Ethylene oxide production process is one of the highest energy consumers in chemical industry, and therefore even a slight improvement in its overall efficiency can have a significant impact on the sustainability of the process. Efficiency improvement can be carried out using the exergy-aided pinch analysis outlined in this paper. The overall exergy loss distribution in different unit operations of an ethylene oxide process was first evaluated and mapped out in the form of "visualized exergetic process flowsheet". An initial analysis of the four main functional blocks of the process showed that the exothermic reaction block contained the largest exergy loss (6043 and 428 kJ/kg of internal and external losses, respectively) which can be reduced by isothermal mixing, as well as increasing reaction temperature and reduction in pressure drop. The absorption block was also estimated to have the second highest contribution with total exergy losses of 3640 kJ/kg which were mainly due to the cooling column. These losses were then recommended to be reduced by improvements in the concentration and temperature gradients along the tower. Following the block-wise analysis, exergy analysis was then carried out for individual unit operations in each block to pinpoint the main sources of thermal exergetic inefficiency. Thermal solutions to reduce losses were also proposed in accordance with the identified sources of inefficiency, leading to a comprehensive list of cold and hot process streams that could be introduced to reduce losses. Finally, pinch analysis was brought into action to estimate the minimum energy requirements, to select utilities, and to design heat exchanger network. Thus, the methodology used in this work took advantage of both exergy and pinch analyses. The combined thermal-exergy-based pinch approach helped to set energy targets so that all the thermal possible solutions supported by exergy analysis were considered, preventing exclusion of any hot or cold process stream with high potential for heat integration during pinch analysis. Results indicated that the minimum cold utility requirement could be reduced from 601.64 MW (obtained via conventional pinch analysis) to 577.82 MW through screening of streams by the combined methodology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2145-2160
Number of pages16
JournalClean Technologies and Environmental Policy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Sustainability
  • Energy efficiency
  • Exergy
  • Pinch analysis
  • Ethylene oxide

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