Gerd Kaibel (1944 – 2017)

Gerd Kaibel (1944 – 2017)

Author: Peter Bassler, BASF SE

Dr. Gerd Kaibel passed away on December 17, 2017. He had studied process engineering in Karlsruhe, Germany, and started his professional career as a young master of engineering 1970 in the technical development department of BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany.

In his nearly 40 years long working life, Kaibel was engaged—with increasing responsibilities—in the development of new manufacturing processes for petrochemicals, for intermediates, for aroma- and for fine chemicals. The majority of the developed processes were success stories after their technical and commercial realization. Over 600 European patent applications and patents illustrate his activities.

After 1980, Kaibel started to focus systematically on energy and equipment optimization of distillation sequences in chemical production plants. His findings and conclusions on this important process allowed him to obtain a Ph.D. in 1987 under the supervision of Eckhart Blaß at the Technical University Munich, Germany. His thesis focused on “Gestaltung destillativer Trennungen unter Einbeziehung thermodynamischer Gesichtspunkte” (“Design of separations by distillation taking into account thermodynamic aspects”).

It was Kaibel’s idea to introduce the 50 years old academic Petlyuk column coupling as the so-called Divided Wall Column (DWC) to the chemical industry. The realization, thermodynamical description, and operation control of this approach were first achieved in Ludwigshafen. This provided an alternative for the separation of three-component mixtures into three pure components by distillation, besides the heuristic solution of a two-column standard configuration.

Kaibel’s rule of thumb for the economic evaluation of divided wall columns compared to conventional two-column solutions was simple: 1/3 reduced investment plus 1/3 lower energy costs. Since 1990, process intensifications by divided wall columns have been established in more than 80 cases at BASF, but also in other companies worldwide. In 1995, Gerd Kaibel, together with M. Strötzel and H. Mayer, were honored for the divided wall column with one of the first BASF Innovation Awards. In 2002, he was appointed as a BASF Research Fellow. Beside all other recognitions, it is remarkable that English engineering literature uses “Kaibel Column” as a synonym for divided wall columns.

In 2010, Gerd Kaibel started his well-earned retirement. His coworkers, his colleagues, his superiors, and his friends will always remember his open and positive behavior, his ongoing interest in new technical developments, and his vigorous manner and his stamina.

Selected Publications


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