The Process Challenge

Alkoxylation reactions typically couple a long chain alcohol and an epoxide, ethylene or propylene oxide, in the presence of a small amount of catalyst (normally a base like KOH) to accelerate the reaction. The product is an ether alcohol or polyether alcohol, these are commonly used as non-ionic surfactants. Reactions are very fast, but process times vary from a few seconds, in microflow setups, to >90 minutes in batch/CSTR.

Alkoxylation reaction scheme

These reactions are carried out at elevated temperature and high pressure (to keep epoxide in liquid phase). The reaction is highly exothermic and, in batch, requires careful addition of the reactants to avoid a runaway reaction.

Main processing issues in conventional (batch) processing are:

  • highly exothermic reaction;
  • requires careful addition of reagents to control reaction temperature;
  • long process times leading to increased energy usage;
  • pressurised system; and
  • safety concerns due to epoxides (EO/PO) being explosive in air.

The Continuous Solution

NiTech’s patented continuous oscillatory baffled reactor has a high heat transfer surface area to process volume, which allows for high heat removal capacity. Coupled with efficient and intense mixing via the orifice baffles, heat and mass transfer rates are maximised, thus helping to avoid runaway reactions.

The continuous alkoxylation process in a COBC:

  • reduces the quantity of hazardous materials in the reactor at any given moment;
  • has a large heat transfer surface area to process volume for high heat removal capacity. Efficient, intense mixing aids heat removal;
  • offers the capability to add reagents at different points to further improve temperature control and limit side reactions; and
  • can be easily pressurised and has no headspace for explosive atmosphere to form.

Value vs Batch


  • Reduced quantities of hazardous material in process
  • Better control of exotherms / stop runaway reactions
  • Improved process control and excursion detection
  • Potential to lower site safety tier status due to lower in-process inventory
  • Lower manual exposure to operations with remote operation


  • Better resource efficiency – energy, raw materials etc
  • Reduced raw material consumption
  • Reduced waste generation
  • Lower energy consumption
  • Reduced CO2 and VOC emissions


  • High throughput rates from small reactor volumes
  • Efficient heat and mass transfer allows for faster reaction and crystallization rates
  • Eliminates batch to batch variation
  • Faster product transitions
  • Increased equipment availability


  • Improved yield, utilities, and energy consumption
  • Flexible modular/scalable units
  • Lower capital and maintenance costs
  • Enables distributed manufacturing
  • Simplifies expansion opportunities

It’s not just the equipment, it’s the process!
Contact us to find out more