In hydrocracking and other foaming reactors, the foam rises to the top because it has a higher gas fraction than the bubbly mixture from which it comes. The high gas hold-up in foams is undesirable in chemical reactors because it strongly decreases the liquid residence time and in hydrocracking reactors also promotes the formation of coke. To study foams we built a cold slit bubble reactor which when used with aqueous anionic surfactants gives rise to foam. This reactor reproduces the foaming processes which are characteristic of the commercial system CANMET from Petrocanada. We discovered a critical condition for foaming; when the gas velocity exceeds a critical value which depends on the liquid velocity, a foam interface appears at the top of the reactor, with foam above and bubbly mixture below. The interface is very sharp and it moves down the reactor as the gas velocity is increased at a constant liquid velocity. This is the way reactors foam, with the bubbly mixture being consumed by foam.
The foam may be destroyed by increasing the liquid velocity backing up against the foaming threshold. The reactor partitions into two phase, two phase ow with bubbly mixture below and foam above. The bubbly mixture is dispersed gas in water plus surfactant; the phase above is a foam through which large gas bubbles rise. Constant state theories for the bubbly mixture, the foam and the position of the foam interface are derived and semiempirical correlations are presented.
Foaming may be strongly suppressed by fluidizing hydrophilic particles in the bubbly mixture below the foam. The suppression is achieved by increasing the liquid hold-up by bed expansion; by increasing the wetted area of solid surface (walls and particles) and by decreasing the gas hold-up by increasing the effective density of liquid-solid mixture.