Understanding Hydrogenation in Industrial Processes



Chemistry features exciting topics, including chemical reactions, elements, compounds, and catalysts. If you are keen on chemistry, you probably would have heard the term hydrogenation more than once. Hydrogenation is a broad chemical reaction that goes beyond the classroom. The process facilitates industrial processes, such as hydrogenation reactor pressure control. 

What Is Hydrogenation?

Hydrogenation is a crucial chemical reaction that increases hydrogen to form saturated hydrocarbons. Usually, hydrogenation occurs between molecular hydrogen and an unsaturated compound, such as alkyne. The process will occur in the presence of a catalyst, which acts as a high energy barrier between the molecules and compounds. 

The most common catalysts for hydrogenation include metals, palladium, platinum, nickel, and similar oxides. Hydrogenation is an exothermic reaction, and it occurs in high-temperature and high-pressure hydrogenation reactor equipment.

Industrial Uses of Hydrogenation

Hydrogenation is a highly effective process, and many industries apply this reaction in various processes. For example, you can use hydrogenation in pharmaceuticals, alcohol, fuels, and saturated fats. Below is an explanation of different industries that rely on hydrogenation.

  • Food industry: Manufacturers use hydrogenation in the food industry to enhance shelf life, taste, and texture. In addition, food industries produce non-perishable foods through hydrogenation. Hydrogen is added to oils, which turns them into saturated fats and oils that remain solid at room temperature. Foods that include saturated oils include margarine, Oreos, and other processed foods.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Hydrogenation is significantly embraced in the pharmaceutical industry. The process facilitates improved productivity and safer operations by extending product shelf life and adding properties that improve efficiency. For example, hydrogenation successfully aids the production of chiral products.
  • Alcohol Production: The direct result of a catalytic hydrogenation process is alcohol. Therefore, the process works well in the alcohol production industry. Moreover, the preservation benefits of hydrogenation facilitate a longer shelf life for alcoholic products.  
  • Petroleum Industry: In the petroleum industry, hydrogenation breaks down long hydrocarbon chains to produce lighter petroleum products, such as gasoline, petrol, and diesel. Catalytic hydrogenation also works effectively for petroleum products.

Types of Hydrogenation Equipment  

Continuous Flow/Fixed Bed Reactor

The continuous fixed bed reactor is a cylindrical tube-shaped hydrogenation reactor used in large-scale chemical systems. The reactor features a fixed catalyst bed and a heating element, which facilitate the flow of materials. Once the hydrogen enters the reactor at high pressure, the system continuously feeds reactants into the reactor.

This hydrogenation reactor works well for petroleum purification and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Batch Hydrogenation Reactor

A batch hydrogenation reactor is huge pressurised equipment that features an agitator and a heating element. In this reactor, you will utilise high heat and pressure for blending the hydrogen, catalyst particles, and the specified substrate. The final substance undergoes filtration to remove the catalyst particles before moving to the next stage. This process is effective in processing edible fats.

Advantages of Hydrogenation

Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction between hydrogen molecules and a compound within the presence of a catalyst like platinum, palladium, etc. This process can preserve many products and raw materials. Hydrocarbons, ammonia, and polymers are prime examples that undergo hydergenation as a treatment process. In the context of petroleum industry, this process can break down the long hydrocarbon chains in heavy crude and give us the resulting product – diesel and jet fuel.

Disadvantages of Hydrogenation

Hydrogenation equipment is expensive to purchase and maintain. In addition, hydrogenation equipment is huge and takes up space. Nonetheless, you can contact a manufacturing company such as Godrej for quality reactors. The company manufactures reactors in different sizes.

Hydrogenation may have a few shortcomings, but the process contributes significantly to various industries. If you are in the industrial business, investing in hydrogenation equipment can take your business to the next level. 

Godrej & Boyce, a successful manufacturing company, designs several high-pressure and high-temperature reactors for all hydrogenation needs. You can check out the company website for more information.

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