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Abstract

To study runaway behavior in autoclave low-density polyethylene (LDPE) reactors, a kinetic model for a perfectly stirred tank reactor is presented. The kinetic model not only includes the standard initiation, propagation, and termination reactions for polymerization, but it also has free radical reactions that describe the decomposition of ethylene ultimately leading to a runaway. Dynamic simulation of the model indicates runaway behavior for the following conditions: excess initiator in feed; feed impurity; feed temperature disturbance; controller failure; and poorly tuned controller. Operating strategies such as mixed initiator feeds and grade transitions are also explored from a dynamic view. Stability analysis indicates safe operating limits for certain variables at typical conditions. The model provides useful insights for preventing runaway reactions in LDPE autoclaves.