Air Separation into Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Argon

Background The purification of various components of air, in particular oxygen, nitrogen, and argon, is an important industrial process. A feasibility study is to be performed to investigate the possibility of producing 1500 metric tons per day of 99.5% oxygen, 5000 metric tons per day of 99.5% nitrogen, and 58 metric tons of 99.9% argon from air. The major cost associated with the separation of air is the cost of electricity to compress the inlet air, which normally comprises 95% of the utility costs of a cryogenic plant. Thus, the goal of the design is to minimize the cost of compression. Process Description Figure 1 shows a BFD of the overall process. Unit 100 Figure 2 shows a PFD for the cryogenic distillation of air, Unit 100. This process was modeled after the Linde Double Column [1]. In the proposed design, a two-stage centrifugal compressor, with interstage cooling, is used to compress air to 9 atm. The air is then further cooled to 107 K in E-102 and E-103. Stream 7 is then sent to T-101 to begin the separation process. The top product, Stream 10, is throttled to 1.0 atm, and then fed to the top of the vapor column, T-102. The bottoms, Stream 8, is also throttled to 1.0 atm and fed to T-102. The overhead product of T-102, Stream 13, which is 99% nitrogen, is sent to E-101 where it is used as a coolant for the interstage cooling of the compressor. The bottom product, which is 99.5% oxygen, is cooled and sent to storage.

which is 99% nitrogen. from T-202 is recycled back to Unit 100. Stream 22 is now combined with hydrogen and allowed to heat up to near ambient temperature.2 A vapor draw stream. The oxygen-rich bottom stream. The bottoms. Stream 20. and the reboiler provides the cooling needed by the condenser. Stream 26. and vented to the atmosphere. The nitrogen-rich distillate. from Unit 100 is sent through E-205 to provide the heat sink for Stream 30. is cooled and then flashed in V-201 to remove any water that is present. is recycled back to Unit 100. Stream 17 is then sent to T-201 where nitrogen is separated from oxygen and argon. compressed and sent to a combustion chamber where hydrogen is catalytically-combusted with oxygen to form water. Stream 16 does not change appreciably in temperature. The condenser of T-101 and the reboiler of T-102 are interconnected in E-106 so that the condenser provides the heat needed by the reboiler. Stream 16. Stream 31.9% pure argon exits as the bottoms stream. Stream 23. Unit 200 A PFD of the argon separation unit is shown in Figure 3. The water is removed in Stream 27 and the argon-rich stream is sent to T-203 to separate out the remaining nitrogen that is present. Stream 23. Stream 30. Stream 15. Stream 20 from the argon purification unit. Unit 200. Stream 16. Oxygen rich Stream 15 is recycled back to the bottom of T-102. . is taken from tray 10 and sent to the argon purification system. is then sent to T-202 where the argon and oxygen are separated. 99. The nitrogen exits as the distillate. is recycled back to combine with Stream 9. Since Stream 30 has a much smaller flow rate than Stream 16. The effluent.

This process requires very complicated heat integration techniques because the only heat sink for cooling or condensation is another cryogenic stream in the process. an oxygen purity of less than 95% by volume would result. Equipment Summary C-101 C-102 C-201 E-101 E-102 Feed Compressor (Stage 1) Feed Compressor (Stage 2) Compressor Interstage Cooler Heat Exchanger . These are not shown in the PFD. argon is drawn out of T-102 of the cryogenic system and purified for sale.3 Necessary Information and Simulation Hints Argon is present in the amount of 0. This presence of argon makes it impossible to obtain pure oxygen and nitrogen streams from the air separation plants. if argon were collected with the nitrogen product. so the elimination of argon is necessary [1].9% pure to sell. Therefore. the purity of nitrogen would not exceed 98. it acts as an impurity in the product streams. Both oxygen and nitrogen must be greater than 99. If argon were collected and separated from the oxygen product. Tower profiles identify the draw location at the stage where the argon concentration is at a maximum.7% by volume. E-203 and E-206 can use liquid nitrogen from the plant or cold nitrogen from Stream 13. Since the boiling point of argon is between that of oxygen and nitrogen. On the other hand. E201 uses liquid nitrogen produced in the plant.93% by volume of air.

4 E-103 E-104 E-105 E-106 E-201 E-202 E-203 E-204 E-205 E-206 E-207 E-208 E-209 P-201A/B P-202A/B P-203A/B R-201 T-101 T-102 T-201 T-202 T-203 V-201 Heat Exchanger Reboiler Condenser-Reboiler Heat Exchanger Nitrogen Tower Condenser Nitrogen Tower Reboiler Argon Tower Condenser Argon Tower Reboiler Heat Exchanger Heat Exchanger Heat Exchanger Argon Purification Condenser Argon Purification Reboiler Reflux Pump Reflux Pump Reflux Pump Combustion Reactor Linde Lower Column Linde Upper Column Nitrogen Separation Tower Argon Separation Tower Argon Purification Tower Reflux Vessel .

. 1985. Cryogenic Systems. New York.. Oxford University Press.5 V-202 V-203 V-204 References Reflux Vessel Flash Vessel Reflux Vessel 1.199-211. 2nd ed. Barron. Randall F.. pp.

6 Stream Tables Stream Temp. (atm) Vapor Fraction Total Flow (kmol/h) Component Flows (kmol/h) Nitrogen Argon Oxygen Water Hydrogen 10 95 5 0 5368 5261 16 92 --- 11 78 1 0 5368 5261 16 92 --- 12 78 1 0 5555 5446 17 92 --- 13 78 1 1 7450 7396 12 41 --- 14 300 1 1 7450 7396 12 41 --- 15 90 1 0 548 -1 547 --- 16 17 84.0 1.0 0.7 85.0 800.0 800. (atm) Vapor Fraction Total Flow (kmol/h) Component Flows (kmol/h) Nitrogen Argon Oxygen Water Hydrogen 1 300 1 1 9468 7397 87 1985 --2 446 3 1 9468 7397 87 1985 --3 315 3 1 9468 7397 87 1985 --4 468 9 1 9468 7397 87 1985 --5 315 9 1 9468 7397 87 1985 --6 107 9 1 9468 7397 87 1985 --7 99 5 1 9468 7397 87 1985 --8 99 5 0 4100 2135 71 1893 --9 82 1 0 4100 2135 71 1893 --- Stream Temp. (K) Press.0 0.0 185 67 548 --185 67 548 --- . (K) Press.6 1.

7 24 84.7 27 298 5 1 66 0.9 0.8 9.2 0. (K) Press.81 0.2 Argon 9.2 64. (atm) 1 1 1 1 Vapor Fraction 0 1 0 0 Total Flow (kmol/h) 1953 1953 187 613 Component Flows (kmol/h) Nitrogen --185.2 1943.7 0.2 0.8 Water ----Hydrogen ----- 22 23 87.7 25 89 5 0 66 0. (K) 90 90 78 89 Press.6 -0.7 Stream Temp.0 1.7 ---0.7 ---- 33 106 5 0 64 0.2 66 0.3 300.2 0.4 Oxygen 1943.7 Stream 18 19 20 21 Temp.0 66.0 5 5.0 1 0.2 0.0 64.4 0.2 547.2 0.7 -- 28 29 250 250.2 64.6 -0.7 ---- 31 100 5 0 65 0.8 1.2 64.7 ---- 32 103 5 0 0.2 64.2 64.7 0.0 0.2 64.1 0.5 ------0. (atm) Vapor Fraction Total Flow (kmol/h) Component Flows (kmol/h) Nitrogen Argon Oxygen Water Hydrogen 26 298 5 1 66 0.1 ---- .2 64.7 -- 30 250 5 1 65 0.7 0.3 65.0 1.6 -0.0 65.7 0.7 0.7 0.2 0.3 1.2 64.7 0.0 0.0 1.