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Abstract

Fluidized-bed polyethylene reactors are prone to unstable behavior and temperature oscillations (Choi and Ray, 1985b). Their work is extended to show the effects of ethylene feed system operation, reactor cooling system design, catalyst properties, and gas composition on reactor stability and dynamics. The analysis is performed using a well-mixed model, because heat- and mass-transfer resistances between multiple phases are small and are not required to account for the observed bifurcation phenomena. The addition of a gas recycle and heat exchanger system to the model significantly affects dynamic performance, including the formation of limit cycles. The size and dynamics of the heat exchanger, however, have little effect on the overall stability. In contrast, automation of the ethylene feed system to replace the monomer in the reactor as it is consumed leads to substantially different dynamic behavior than if the ethylene feed is maintained at a constant rate. Catalyst properties (multiple sites, activation energy, and deactivation) significantly affect dynamics and stability, whereas comonomer and other gases affect them only mildly. The results confirm that without proper temperature control, gas-phase polyethylene reactors are prone to instability, limit cycles, and excursions towards unacceptable high-temperature steady states.