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Synthesis of Heat Integrated Thermally Coupled Distillation Systems for Multicomponent Separations

Synthesis of Heat Integrated Thermally Coupled Distillation Systems for Multicomponent Separations

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Synthesis of Heat-Integrated Thermally Coupled DistillationSystems for Multicomponent Separations
Ben-Guang Rong,* Andrzej Kraslawski, and Ilkka Turunen
 Department of Chemical Technology, Lappeenranta University of Technology, P.O. Box 20,FIN-53851 Lappeenranta, Finland 
This paper presents the synthesis of heat-integrated thermally coupled distillation systems formulticomponent separations. The synthesized new distillation systems employ the thermalcoupling and heat-integration principles simultaneously. As a consequence, they have thepotential to significantly reduce both the energy and capital costs to a bigger magnitude thanthe traditional simple column configurations as well as the systems employing either heatintegration or thermal coupling alone. First, a subspace of the possible heat-integrated partiallycoupled (HIPC) configurations with sharp splits has been identified for a multicomponentdistillation. A formula is derived to calculate the number of possible HIPC configurations forany
n
-component mixture. A simple procedure is given to obtain the practical HIPC configurationsfor an
n
-component mixture. Then, the possible thermodynamically equivalent structures of the identified HIPC configurations are presented. The other possible heat-integrated thermallycoupled distillation systems involving sloppy splits for an
n
-component mixture are also discussed.These heat-integrated thermally coupled distillation systems constitute a specific search spaceto look for the optimal distillation systems for multicomponent separations.
1. Introduction
The classical design of a distillation system for amulticomponent separation uses only the simple col-umns. Each of the simple columns in a multicomponentdistillation configuration receives a feed and performsa sharp split between two adjacent components of thefeed mixture. Meanwhile, each of the simple columnsproduces a top product with a condenser and a bottomproduct with a reboiler. Thus, in any case of the simplecolumn configuration for an
n
-component mixture, itneeds
n
-
1 simple columns with
n
-
1 condensers and
n
-
1 reboilers.
1,2
The simple column configurations formulticomponent distillation are simple and easy todesign and operate. Because the number of separationsequences increases dramatically when the number of components in the feed mixture increases, a consider-able number of works have been conducted on optimalsynthesis of simple column configurations for an
n
-component distillation.
1
-
5
The classical designs of simple column configurationsfor a multicomponent distillation suffer from the high-energy consumption and large capital investment. There-fore, the synthesis and design of economically efficientdistillation systems for a multicomponent separation isever becoming an important research problem in processengineering. Specifically, a large number of works havebeen done for the synthesis of the optimal heat-integrated simple column configurations since the work by Rathore et al.
6
The task for the design of a heat-integrated simple column configuration consists osearching for the possible heat matches among all of the condensers and reboilers of the simple columns. Thisis usually done by increasing the pressure of a simplecolumn to make its condenser work as a heat source of a reboiler of another column. Thus, in a heat-integratedsimple column configuration, heat supplied to onecolumn can be used by other columns at a differenttemperature level. In certain cases, the total heatdemand of the whole distillation system can be signifi-cantly reduced by such heat integrations. Five or morecomponent mixtures are the typical examples in thestudies of optimal synthesis of heat-integrated distilla-tion sequences.
6
-
12
It should be indicated that, althoughit usually gives energy savings in a heat-integratedsimple column configuration, its capital cost is very oftenhigher than that of the corresponding traditional simplecolumn configuration. This is because the heat integra-tion in the traditional simple column configuration isfor the enhancement of the heat transfer. However, themass transfer of the system is usually deterioratedbecause of the decreases of the relative volatilitiesbetween the feed components by the pressure incre-ments.
12
To substantially reduce both energy and capital costsfor a multicomponent distillation, the mass and heattransfers within a distillation system must be simulta-neously enhanced. According to Petlyuk et al.,
13
theseparation inefficiency in the conventional simple con-figurations for a multicomponent distillation is due tothe thermodynamic irreversibility during the mixing of streams at both the feed locations and the ends of thecolumns. This separation inefficiency can be improvedby using thermal couplings within a multicomponentdistillation system. Such thermally coupled multicom-ponent distillation systems have the potential to sig-nificantly reduce both energy consumption and capitalcosts when compared to the conventional simple columnconfigurations. Specifically, a large number of researchworks have contributed to thermally coupled distillationsystems for ternary mixtures, among which the ther-mally coupled dividing-wall column
14,15
has been suc-cessfully used in many industrial separations for ter-
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel.:
+
3585 6216113. Fax:
+
358 5 6212199. E-mail: benguang.rong@lut.fi.
4329
 Ind. Eng. Chem. Res.
2003,
42,
4329
-
4339
10.1021/ie030302k CCC: $25.00 © 2003 American Chemical SocietyPublished on Web 08/12/2003
 
nary mixtures, where 30
-
50% savings on both energyand capital costs have been achieved.
16,17
In industrial processes, the mixtures to be separatedoften contain four or more components. Recently, re-search on the design and synthesis of thermally coupledschemes for four or more component mixtures hasreceived considerable effort. Sargent and Gaminiban-dara
18
presented a Petlyuk-type fully thermally coupled(FC) scheme for a four-component mixture. Kaibel
19
andChristiansen et al.
20
have introduced distillation col-umns with vertical partitions for multicomponent sepa-rations. Agrawal
21
presented some satellite columnarrangements of fully coupled schemes for four or morecomponent mixtures. Agrawal
22
also illustrated somethermodynamically equivalent FC schemes for a specificknown FC configuration for four and five componentmixtures. Some specific thermally coupled configura-tions of four or more component mixtures have beenparametrically studied.
23
-
28
The recent studies haveshown that the known four or more component ther-mally coupled schemes are useful in specific cases.
20,23
Recently, some new results on the systematic synthesisof thermally coupled column configurations based on theidentification of distinct separation sequences for fouror more component mixtures have been presented.
29
-
32
It can be said that the available works on the synthesisof thermally coupled distillation configurations for fouror more component mixtures have created a largeamount of feasible alternatives to look for promisingdistillation systems for a specific multicomponent distil-lation.In the previous works, we illustrated that a completesubspace of partially thermally coupled (PC) configura-tions for any
n
-component mixture can be exactlymapped from the traditional simple column configura-tions.
29,30
In terms of tradeoff between economics andoperability, the PC configurations have several advan-tages compared to the FC configurations when thenumber of components in the feed mixture increases(e.g., five or more components).
29,30
A systematic casestudy for a five-component mixture has fully demon-strated the significant advantages of the PC configura-tions over the traditional simple column configurationsfor both energy and capital costs.
29
In any PC configu-ration of a multicomponent distillation, there is elimi-nation of 
n
-
2 condensers and/or reboilers, which areassociated with submixtures of two or more componentsin its corresponding traditional simple column config-uration; the remaining
n
condensers and reboilers inthe PC configuration are associated with the
n
pureproducts. These
n
heat exchangers need external utili-ties at the corresponding condensers and reboilers.
It is observed that, among all of the PC configurations for a multicomponent distillation, the most volatile compo-nent must be captured in a rectifying section with acondenser and the least volatile component must becaptured in a stripping section with a reboiler. However,the middle component(s) are flexible to be captured either in a rectifying section with a condenser or in astripping section with a reboiler 
. It is known that all of the thermally linked columns are operated at roughlythe same nominal pressure in a thermally coupledconfiguration in order to facilitate the vapor transfersbetween the columns.
33
For ternary mixtures, Linnhofet al.
34
have concluded that the same nominal pressureof the two thermally linked columns would prohibit theheat integration of the columns with the backgroundprocess. However, for four or more component mixtures,such a nominal pressure will certainly provide theopportunities for heat integrations between the con-densers and reboilers of the middle components withinsome of the PC configurations. It will produce the heat-integrated partially coupled configurations (HIPC).These HIPC configurations take the advantages of boththermal coupling and heat integration for a multicom-ponent distillation. Therefore, they have the potentialto have bigger savings on both energy and capital coststhan either thermally coupled configurations or heat-integrated simple column configurations. It will beillustrated in the next section that, for a four-componentmixture, there is only one such HIPC scheme, while forfive or more component mixtures, a subspace of theHIPC configurations can be formulated. It will producea specific search space of the heat-integrated thermallycoupled alternatives for the optimal design of distillationsystems for multicomponent separations.The main objective of this paper is to systematicallysynthesize the heat-integrated thermally coupled sys-tems for multicomponent distillations. First, the genera-tion of the heat-integrated thermally coupled configu-rations (HITCs) with sharp splits for an
n
-componentmixture is presented. A formula is derived to calculatethe number of possible HIPC configurations for an
n
-component mixture. A simple and easy-to-use proce-dure is presented to obtain the practical HIPC configu-rations for any
n
-component mixture. Then, the ther-modynamically equivalent structures of the HIPCconfigurations are formulated. Finally, the other pos-sible HITCs involving sloppy splits for a multicompo-nent distillation are discussed.
2. Generation of the HIPC Configurations for aMulticomponent Distillation
Let us first analyze the PC configurations for aternary mixture ABC. For ternary separations, thereare two simple column sequences called direct sequence(DS) and indirect sequence (IS). The correspondingpartially coupled schemes for DS and IS are shown inparts a and b of Figure 1, respectively.
30
It is seen thatwhile the most volatile component A and the leastvolatile component C are produced from the correspond-ing rectifying section with condenser A and the strippingsection with reboiler C in both PC configurations, themiddle component B is produced from the rectifyingsection with condenser B in Figure 1a and the strippingsection with reboiler B in Figure 1b. This means thatwe have the freedom to conduct the separation of themiddle component(s) in different ways among the pos-sible configurations for a multicomponent distillation.
This observation gives us the inspiration to deal withthe middle components for four or more component mixtures that can produce the HITCs
. For four or morecomponent mixtures, there are two or more middlecomponents. Thus, one can conduct
the lighter middlecomponent(s)
(LMC) being captured in stripping sectionswith reboiler(s) in some columns and
the heavier middlecomponent(s)
(HMC) captured in rectifying sections withcondenser(s) in other columns within a PC configura-tion. It will create opportunities for heat integrationsamong the heat exchangers associated with intermedi-ate volatility products. Such an opportunity first ap-pears for a quaternary mixture PC configuration, asshown in Figure 1c.
4330
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 42, No. 19, 2003
 
For a four-component mixture ABCD, there are twomiddle components, B and C. There are five PC con-figurations corresponding to the five simple columnsequences,
29
-
32
each of them having three column units.In each PC configuration for a four-component mixtureABCD, a rectifying section with condenser A and astripping section with reboiler D must be used toproduce the lightest component product A and theheaviest component product D; the two middle compo-nent products B and C can be produced with either twocondensers or two reboilers or a condenser and areboiler, respectively. There is a unique PC configura-tion in which the LMC B is produced from the strippingsection with reboiler B of one column and the HMC Cis produced from the rectifying section with a condenserC of another column. Because the thermally linkedcolumns have the same nominal pressure, the temper-ature of condenser C is certainly higher than that of reboiler B. Thus, reboiler B can be heat integrated withcondenser C for further energy savings of the originalPC configuration, as shown in Figure 1c. Such a HIPCconfiguration for a four-component mixture had oncebeen discussed as the analogue of Kaibels
19
verticalpartition column by Christiansen et al.
35
A special caseof a thermally coupled scheme had also been mentionedby Carlberg and Westerberg
33
that was considered asan aggregate of a side stripper and a side enricher.However, research on the systematic synthesis of HIPCconfigurations for any
n
-component mixture (e.g.,
n
g
5) is not available in the published literature.For five or more component mixtures, there are threeor more middle components. Thus, more opportunitiescan be created for heat integrations among the heatexchangers associated with intermediate volatility prod-ucts.
The opportunity of heat integration appears if theresimultaneously exist LMC(s) reboiler(s) and HMC(s)condenser(s) between different columns within a PC configuration
. For five or more component mixtures,there are a certain number of such PC configurationsin which the opportunities for heat integration amongheat exchangers of intermediate volatility productsexist. In the following section, a systematic approach ispresented to synthesize these HIPC configurations forany
n
-component mixture.For an
n
-component mixture (
n
g
4), to identify allof its possible HIPC configurations, except the mostvolatile component and the least volatile component, allof the other components are called
middle components
.Thus, for an
n
-component mixture, there are
n
-
2middle components. To generate the feasible separationsequences for a multicomponent distillation, it is im-portant to determine the
first split 
for the feed mix-ture.
31,32
It was seen that there are
n
-
1 different firstsplits for an
n
-component mixture when only sharpsplits are considered.
32
Among the
n
-
1 first splits,there is always one that first separates the most volatilecomponent of the feed mixture, which is called
the direc first spli
. Similarly, there is always one that firstseparates the least volatile component of the feedmixture, which is called
the indirect first split 
. Then,there are
n
-
3 first splits left, each of them will performa split between two adjacent middle components, whichare defined as
the middle first splits
. For each of themiddle first splits, there will be two subgroups pro-duced: one is associated with the most volatile compo-nent and another with the least volatile component.Simultaneously, the middle components of the feedmixture are sharply split into these two subgroups. Themiddle components involved in the subgroup with themost volatile component are called the LMCs, and thoseinvolved in the subgroup with the least volatile compo-nent are called the HMCs.It was illustrated that each of the
n
-
1 first splitswill designate a branch for the generation of the feasibleseparation sequences for a multicomponent distilla-tion.
31,32
This means that simultaneously each of the
n
-
1 first splits will designate a branch for the generationof the feasible partially thermally coupled configura-tions.
29,30
The partially thermally coupled configurationsgenerated from the direct first split will always separatethe most volatile component first and are called
thedirect partially coupled configurations
(DPC). Similarly,the partially thermally coupled configurations generatedfrom the indirect first split will always separate theleast volatile component first and are called
the indirec partially coupled configurations
(IPC). The partiallythermally coupled configurations generated from themiddle first splits will always split the feed mixturebetween two adjacent middle components first and arecalled
the middle partially coupled configurations
(MPC).
 It is observed that, for each of the MPC configurations,there is always at least one LMC product produced froma reboiler in one column and always at least one HMC  product produced from a condenser of another column
.The reboiler with a LMC and the condenser with a HMCwill provide the opportunity for heat integration be-tween their associated columns because all of thecolumns in a partially coupled configuration have thesame nominal pressure. This means that among thoseMPC configurations there is always the opportunity forheat integration among the heat exchangers associatedwith middle component products. Thus, one can con-
Figure 1.
(a and b) Partially coupled configurations for ternary mixtures. (c) HIPC for quaternary mixtures.
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 42, No. 19, 2003
4331

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