Introduction

Increasing demand from recovering end markets and growing economies will require expansion of existing production capacities in specialty, fine, pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and other chemical industry segments, again attracting attention to chemical processes intensification. Production of modern

WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 154, © 2011 WIT Press

www.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

doi:10.2495/CHEM110051

chemicals uses 8% of hydrocarbons worldwide - mostly as raw material, or "feedstock," but also for energy used in the manufacturing process [1]. According to DOE data the U.S. chemical industry accounts for almost 30% of all U.S. industrial energy consumption [2]. The EU chemical industry is also rather energy-intensive. Total consumption by chemical plants in EU (160Mtoe) accounts for roughly 3% of global and about 12% of EU energy demand [3]. In the chemicals industry, energy costs account for on average 10%-15% of manufacturing costs [4]. Simultaneously, changing carbon emissions laws around the world have made many chemical plants worried about their competitiveness, since the high costs associated with greener manufacturing processes cannot be passed on to consumers. Another aspect of the chemical industry's sustainability le intensification is focus is on minimization of environmental impact. Despite currently available waste treatment technologies, the problem of waste reduction is still a significant matter for many chemical plants. Thus, any technology allowing a decrease in energy consumption and minimization of waste generation may bring significant advantage for the chemicals manufacturers and contribute to higher sustainability of the chemical industry.

Several chemical industry segments, such as petrochemicals and polymers production have been utilizing continuous or semi-continuous flow production processes for a long time, benefiting from reduced process hold-ups, good residence time control, enhanced safety, high yields and selectivity and so on [5]. Today, new technologies are appearing, allowing segments of the chemical industry, such as pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals production, which traditionally employed predominantly batch process, to start switching to continuous production and thus make a step forward in chemical process evolution.

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