Providing highly efficient chemical processes that are also sustainable has become a key requirement for customers of the chemicals sector. While this is easier to achieve in large-scale, continuous processes for portfolio products, reaching similar levels of sustainability in multi-stage syntheses of complex, custom-manufactured molecules remains a challenge.

One solution to this problem is hydrogenation. When operated properly and with the appropriate knowledge and expertise, this technology is able to deliver excellent yields at high selectivity, and the catalysts applied in the process can often be re-used or recycled.

WeylChem hydrogenation plant at Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany

Source: © WeylChem

WeylChem’s hydrogenation plant at Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany, specialises in custom projects for complex molecules, while its other sites offer solutions for large-scale chemicals production 

WeylChem operates hydrogenation processes with a high level of flexibility at two sites in Frankfurt and Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany, as well as at Trosly-Breuil in France, ranging from lab scale and pilot volumes to large industrial campaigns of over 100tons per year.

High-pressure reactions for complex syntheses

WeylChem InnoTec in Frankfurt uses high-pressure reactions in general and hydrogenation in particular as key technologies within multi-stage syntheses for realising complex customer projects. Several stainless steel and Hastelloy reactors ranging from 200ml to 1.8cbm operate at pressures of up to 200bar and temperatures of up to 220°C.

The equipment’s versatility enables the use of a broad range of homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts based on nickel, palladium, platinum, rhodium and ruthenium. This high level of flexibility puts WeylChem InnoTec in a position to develop processes specifically tailored to individual customer needs while also being able to save costs through the choice of catalyst.

The combination of expertise, technologies and assets makes WeylChem one of the leading providers of high-level hydrogenation 

When establishing such a process, possibilities for re-using and recycling catalysts are actively explored and implemented. In addition, hydrogenation technology may help simplify the syntheses or even get rid of individual steps altogether.

Large-scale custom manufacturing

While WeylChem InnoTec focuses on developing and upscaling processes for new, innovative molecules, the other German site near Leipzig is more geared towards applying hydrogenation as part of its custom manufacturing of high-value fine chemicals on an industrial scale. A 2cbm stainless steel Buss loop reactor operates at 19bar with the possibility of increasing to 39bar, typically delivering campaigns in the range from 10 to over 100 tons per year.

New customer projects involving catalytic hydrogenation are usually introduced via the site’s 2l pressurised lab reactor and a 20l loop piloting facility before being scaled up to industrial volumes. In doing so, the teams apply various technologies to ensure the safe handling of solid and liquid raw materials alike. Besides hydrogen, critical raw materials that are regularly used include, for example, hydrogen peroxide (up to 50%) and a number of alkylating agents such as dimethyl sulfate or methyl chloride.

Finally, Weylchem Lamotte, located in Trosly-Breuil near Paris, runs chemical processes involving large-scale hydrogenation in a dedicated manufacturing stream. The site’s process solutions group provides excellent capabilities in developing chemical reactions involving gases such as hydrogen, sulfur dioxide and acetaldehyde. Assets available for process development and optimisation include, among others, mini plants for optimising continuous processes, microreactor and microwave technologies, a thin film evaporator and supercritical CO2 extraction.

Learning from each other to stay ahead

The teams at all sites are in close exchange with each other to ensure mutual learning and continuous process improvements. The combination of their expertise, technologies and assets makes WeylChem one of the leading providers of high-level hydrogenation in Europe.

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