The process of hydrogenation is a chemical reaction type with gaseous hydrogen as a reaction partner.

Hydrogenations are generally carried out as heterogeneously catalyzed processes. Hydrogen is dispersed into fine bubbles in order to be dissolved in a liquid. The conversion of the dissolved hydrogen will then take place on the surface of a solid catalyst particle. Commonly used catalysts are palladium on activated carbon (alternatively platinum, rhodium, ruthenium or cobalt) and Raney nickel.

The generally low solubility of hydrogen in liquids can be improved by operating the hydrogenation reactor at increased pressure levels between 6 bar and up to 150 bar. The operating temperature of a hydrogenation reactor is typically in the range of 30°C to 250°C. 

The agitation system has the task of intensifying the mass/liquid transfer as hydrogenation reactions are usually mass-transfer limited. Additionally, the agitator must enhance the heat transfer to cool the reactor system. The vessel content must also be so homogenized as to avoid uneven temperature and concentration profiles during the hydrogenation process. In continuously operated hydrogenation reactors there is an additional task of ensuring fast contact between the educt stream and the hydrogen loaded catalyst.

A modern reactor system such as the EKATO hydrogenation reactor overcomes mass-transfer limitations by applying EKATO’s unique combined gassing technology along with an efficiently designed reactor cooling system. Thus is permitting shorter batch times, better conversion rates and therefore also better space/time yields and a better product quality as well.

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