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Reactions and Separations
ISTILLATION COLUMNS ARE AMONG
the biggest energy consumers in the chemical
industries, particularly in oil reneries.
Retrot projects in reneries mostly aim at reducing en-
ergy consumption and increasing throughput to increase
prots and meet market demands. Usually, plants aim to
achieve their retrot objectives by reusing the existing
equipment efficiently, rather than installing new towers
and heat exchangers, which requires a substantial capi-
tal investment.
Retrotting schemes
A number of modications have been suggested to
the distillation column and the heat exchanger network
to meet these two goals. Sittig suggests changes to im-
prove the efficiency of distillation systems, including
the installation of new internals with higher efficiency,
the use of intermediate reboilers, etc. (1). Bannon and
Marple recommend making other column modica-
tions, such as installing pump-arounds at suitable loca-
tions in the unit and adjusting the cooling duty for each
pump-around (2). Harberts idea is to install preash
units or prefractionators before the crude oil distillation
unit. This would save energy and increase the through-
put of the column (3).
Rivero and Anaya call for installing additional trays, as
well as adding reboilers to the stripping columns (4). Fras-
er and Sloley propose increasing the capacity of crude-oil
units by adding pump-arounds, reducing the operating
pressure and increasing the preash overhead vapor (5).
In renery distillation systems, the energy-efficien-
cy of the process strongly depends on the heat-ex-
changer network design. For example, the duty and
temperature drop of each pump-around affects how
much heat can be recovered, and the connections be-
tween the heat exchangers (also known as matches)
and heat-exchanger areas determine how much heat is
actually recovered.
Within the last decade or so pinch analysis has
been applied to identify modifications to the column
and the heat exchanger network. Linnhoff and
Dholes idea is to use the columns grand composite
curve (CGCC) to identify suitable modifications that
would save energy (6). Dhole and Buckingham ex-
tended this method for energy saving and debottle-
necking of refinery distillation systems. Their method
has three stages (7). First, column modifications are
made using the CGCC, then the heat-exchanger net-
work design is changed to save energy by adding
more heat-transfer area, and, finally, design changes
are instituted to debottleneck the arrangement.
Liebmanns approach is a two-step method for
retrotting (8). The distillation column is rst modied
to reduce its energy demand, and the CGCC provides
guidelines for improving the heat-recovery potential.
Afterwards, the column is remodied, followed by a
reanalysis of the CGCC to further increase the heat re-
covery. Overall, two levels of modications are pro-
posed, those that are relatively inexpensive and those
that require larger investments. Examples of inexpen-
This method optimizes the existing distillation system
and its heat-exchanger network simultaneously,
lowering energy consumption and freeing up
capacity at a minimum capital investment.
Increase Capacity and
Decrease Energy
for Existing Refinery
Distillation Columns
D
Mamdouh Gadalla,
Megan Jobson
and Robin Smith,
UMIST
CEP April 2003 www.cepmagazine.org 45
sive modications include piping changes to avoid mixing
unlike streams together, and adjusting the stripping-steam
owrates. Capital-intensive options include replacing inter-
nals and relocating feeds and draws.
Briones et al. (9) successfully applied Liebmanns
retrofit approach to discover modifications for reducing
the energy consumption of the crude-oil distillation unit.
Bagajewicz et al. adapted Liebmanns approach by link-
ing the pinch analysis with rigorous simulation and opti-
mizing the columns operating parameters (10).
Improved method
As helpful as they are, none of these retrofit methods
assesses the existing heat-exchanger network together
with the crude distillation column. Further, they do not
offer a systematic approach to retrofitting. Rather, they
propose various modifications. These methods suffer
from two more drawbacks: Some of the proposed col-
umn modifications would require a substantial capital in-
vestment, while others sometimes violate such con-
straints such as the maximum tray capacity. This ap-
proach aims to identify the set of operating conditions in
an existing distillation column that will allow the exist-
ing heat-exchanger network (modified by adding heat-
transfer area or changing the piping arrangements be-
tween exchangers, for example) to best recover heat. The
hydraulic limits of the column constrain which design
solutions can be considered.
Thus, we offer a systematic approach for retrotting ex-
isting renery distillation columns. This method simultane-
ously considers the existing heat-exchanger network along
with reducing energy consumption and increasing the
throughput of the existing distillation unit.
Framework used
The authorss optimization framework uses models
for the column and the heat-exchanger network, as well
as pinch analysis. Optimization is carried out using a
successive quadratic programming (SQP) solver. The
solver uses an algorithm that is aimed at large, sparse
nonlinear programs. In essence, a quadratic approxima-
tion of the highly nonlinear problem is solved during
each iteration (11).
The system is represented using a column retrofit
model and a heat-exchanger network retrofit model. The
column model captures the relationships between operat-
ing conditions, product quality and column design. The
heat-exchanger model presents the results of a detailed
study of options for improving heat recovery in the net-
work by making minor changes to the heat-exchange
hardware and configuration. For example, the sequence
of heat exchangers may be changed or a new exchanger
may be installed.
The column design is optimized using these two mod-
els. That is, its operating conditions are selected for a
column with a fixed design (the given number of stages,
diameter, feed and draw locations, etc.) to minimize the
sum of the utility costs and investment in the heat-ex-
changer network. The network retrofit model is used to
calculate th cost of additional heat-exchange area during
the optimization. Thus, the optimization couples the two
independent models and accounts for interactions be-
tween the column design and the heat-exchanger-
network performance.
The column retrot model uses the existing parameters,
such as the number of stages and their distribution, loca-
tions of condenser, reboiler and pump-arounds, and prod-
uct specications. The heat-exchanger network retrot
model takes into account the networks details, such as the
heat-transfer areas and duties for each exchanger, the ex-
Nomenclature
A = total area required for heat exchangers, m
2
a, b, c= ooding parameters (based on stage spacing)
A
exist
= existing heat exchanger area, m
2
A
ret
= area added for retrotting, m
2
B = bottom product ow, kmol/h
C
sb
= capacity factor, dimensionless
D = top product ow kmol/h
D
C
= ratio of downcomer area to total area, dimensionless
D
T
= stage diameter, m
E
ret
= total energy consumed after retrot, MW
F
LV
= ow parameter, dimensionless
L = liquid mass ow, kmol/h
m, c = retrot area model parameters in Eq. 12
N = total number of stages in column
N
min
= minimum number of stages at total reux
N
R
= number of stages in rectifying section
N
S
= number of stages in stripping section
R = reux ratio
R
HK
= fractional recovery of heavy key to bottom product
R
LK
= fractional recovery of light key to top product
R
min
= minimum reux ratio, dimensionless
x
fHK
= mole fraction of heavy key in feed
x
fLK
= mole fraction of light key in feed
U
des
= design vapor velocity, m/s
U
max
= ooding velocity, m/s
V = vapor mass ow, kmol/h
V
V
= vapor volumetric ow, m
3
/s
Subscripts:
Fensk = Fenske
Gill = Gilliland
Kirk = Kirkbride
Greek letters:

LK
= relative volatility of light key

HK
= relative volatility of heavy key

L
= liquid mass density, kg/m
3

V
= vapor mass density, kg/m
3
= ratio dened in Eq. 3
= factor dened in Eqs. 4 and 5

Gill
= factor in Gilliland correlation, see Eq. 2
isting matches, and the existing energy consumption.
During optimization, the user can vary the columns op-
erating conditions, such as changing the feed preheating
temperature, steam ows to each section, reux ratio, and
temperature drop and ow of liquid recycled by pump-
arounds for minimum energy consumption. The hydraulic
constraints and capacity limitations of the existing column
are taken into account during this process.
Optimization of an existing refinery distillation unit
identifies the optimum process changes for minimum
energy consumption. Since the retrofit design does not
change the dimensions or internals of the column, these
modifications do not require a major capital invest-
ment. Rather, they are simply changes to the operating
conditions. Reducing the energy consumption of the ex-
isting crude distillation unit allows the column through-
put to increase, due to the resulting reduced vapor
flows. In determining the maximum increase in
throughput, the model identifies any column bottle-
necks that would limit this increase, and evaluates pro-
posed modifications for debottlenecking.
To run the model, a FORTRAN code was developed
that allows modeling via short-cut models, and an inter-
face was created between the code and a rigorous simu-
lation package. This allowed the users to obtain ther-
modynamic and physical data for the components and
pseudocomponents.
A rigorous simulation was first performed on the ex-
isting arrangement (the base case) to initialize the short-
cut calculations, e.g., specifying the key components
and their recoveries, plus matching the product
flowrates to those in the existing operation. This rigor-
ous simulation should yield a reasonably accurate pic-
ture of the product flows and compositions, steam
flows, pump-around duties, flowrates and temperature
drops, among others. The simulation results are useful
in checking the validity of the column retrofit model, as
well as for initializing this model. The users manual of
the simulation software that the reader employs will
provide guidance on how to rigorously model refinery
columns. Further instructions on setting up the problem
are found in Ref. 12.
Retrot model for the column
The short-cut column model is based on the Under-
wood equation for the calculation of the minimum vapor
flow in a column. The basic model equations are those of
Fenske, Gilliland and Kirkbride together with consecu-
tive flash calculations (13), and key-component material
balances. The retrofit equations for distillation columns
with reboilers are:
where:
and:
The following two terms are dened as:
The recovery of the heavy key in the top product is
given by:
While the recovery of light product in the bottoms is:
A similar retrofit model can be written for distillation
columns that employ steam stripping. In this case, con-
secutive flash calculations are used to model the stripping
section (12). The two retrofit models relate the product
compositions to the existing number of stages, the distri-
bution of the stages, and the existing operating condi-
tions. The models treat the distillation column as fixed
and calculate the product flows, temperatures, composi-
tions and duties. This provides the basis for optimizing
the existing column.
Hydraulic analysis
To evaluate the column hydraulics, the diameter re-
quired for vapor flow is calculated for those stages
where there is a significant change in the vapor and liq-
uid flows. Such stages include the top and bottom trays,
pump-around stages, and the feed stage. For sieve plates,
the diameter is calculated from the flooding limits via
R
LK
Kirk
Fenske
Kirk
Fenske
Kirk
Fenske

+ ( )
( )

_
,

+
( )

1
]
1
1
+
+ ( )
( )
1
1
1
1
2 1
(7)
1/ 2

4 1
2
R
HK
Fensk
Fensk
Kirk
Fensk
Fensk
Fensk Kirk
Kirk
Kirk Fensk

( )
+

_
,

1
]
1
1
+
+

1
2 1
1
4
1
( 1)
2 ( 1)
(6)
1/ 2


2
2
( )

Kirk
fHK
fLK
R
S
B
D
x
x
N
N

_
,

_
,

1
]
1
1

_
,

1 2
2 427
/
.
(5)

Fenske
LK
HK
N

_
,

min
(4)


+
R R
R
min
1
(3)

Gill

+
+

_
,

_
,

1
]
1
1
1
1 54 4
11 117 2
1
0 5
exp
.
.
.
(2)
N N
Gill Gill min
( ) 1 (1)
Reactions and Separations
46 www.cepmagazine.org April 2003 CEP
Eqs. 811 (14):
Fair (14) provides values for the parameters a, b and c
found in Eq. 8. Kister (15) lists ooding correlations for a
range of internals and operating conditions. The correlation
and the parameters used should be suited to the existing in-
ternals, and yield a reasonable prediction of the entrain-
ment ooding characteristics. In Eq. 11, the design velocity
U
des
is less than the ooding velocity U
max
by some safety
factor. Typically, U
des
is 7080% of U
max
.
Calculation of diameters of the distillation column al-
lows the analysis of the hydraulic performance of the col-
umn. The diameter profile along the column is obtained
by plotting the diameters for various stages vs. the stage
number. This profile allows identifying the column bot-
tlenecks that limit throughput enhancement. Column bot-
tlenecks occur on those stages in which the required di-
ameter is larger than the existing one. The diameter cal-
culations allow the existing hydraulic limitations of the
tion column to be considered in the optimization frame-
work. Therefore, during this process, the diameter is cal-
culated for the key stages. Then, the calculated diameters
D
V
U D
T
V
des
C

4
1 ( )
(11)
U C
sb
L V
V
max

(10)
F
L
V
LV
V
L

(9)
C a b
c
F
sb
LV

_
,

exp (8)
CEP April 2003 www.cepmagazine.org 47
Existing Distillation
Column
Retrofit Shortcut
Models
Heat-Exchanger Network
Retrofit Energy Demand
Column Decomposition
and Simulation
Existing
Heat-Exchanger Network
Retrofit Models
Existing Heat
Exchanger Network
H
e
a
t

E
x
c
h
a
n
g
e
r

A
r
e
a
Existing System with Maximum
Energy Recovery and Minimum
Additional Exchanger Areas
Optimizer
(SQP)
Existing Stages
(Fixed)
Existing Diameter
(Fixed)
Feed
Feed
HN
LD
HD
LN
8
6
4
2
PA3
PA2
PA1
3
5
7
Water
LN
LD
HD
RES
PA1
PA2
HN
Water
Steam 2
Steam 1
Steam 2
Steam 1
RES
8
PA3
7
Feed
Heat-Exchanger
Network
HN
LD
HD
LN
8
6
4
2
PA3
PA2
PA1
3
5
7
Water
Steam 2
Steam 1
RES
Retrofit Area
6
4
2
5
3
1
1 1
7
I Figure 1. Optimization requires decomposing the column and coupling the heat-exchanger network using the retrot models.
Key: PA = pump-around; LN = light naphtha; HN = heavy naphtha; LD = light distillate; HD = heavy distillate; and Res = residue.
are compared with the existing ones to guarantee that the
existing diameters are not exceeded; otherwise a penalty
is imposed. Hence, the optimum distillation column will
not have bottlenecks.
Retrot model for the heat-exchanger network
This model calculates the required area of the retrotted
heat-exchanger network, while considering the xed pa-
rameters of the network (e.g., heat-transfer areas, duties,
matches, stream splits). The retrofit model and the associ-
ated parameters, m and c, are obtained from an extensive
retrofit study on the existing heat exchanger network.
The model, although simple, incorporates the details of
the existing Heat-exchanger network in the process opti-
mization framework. The model allows the benefits of
energy savings to be weighed against the capital invest-
ment required to modify the heat-exchanger network.
Details on the model are found in Ref. 12, and these
should aid the reader in performing his or her own analy-
sis.he optimization considers the details of the existing
heat exchanger network simultaneously with the existing
crude distillation column and accounts for the hydraulic
constraints of the column. Figure 1 illustrates the ap-
proach. The retrofit curve is obtained from an extensive
retrofit study on the heat exchanger network. The model
relates the exchange area required for reducing energy
consumption, A
ret
, to the reduced energy consumption,
E
ret
. The model may take different forms; the power law
form has been found suitable for a number of case stud-
ies investigated.
The additional area requirement for the retrotted net-
work is related to the existing area of the network, A
exist
,
and the total area requirement, A:
The heat-exchanger retrot model mathematically de-
scribes a retrot curve of an existing heat exchanger net-
work (e.g., Figure 1). The retrot curve is a graphical rep-
resentation of the capital-energy trade-offs in an existing
heat-exchanger network; it consists of a plot of retrot area
A A A
ret exist
(13)
A m E
ret
c
( ) (12)
Reactions and Separations
48 www.cepmagazine.org April 2003 CEP
Crude
HN
LD
HD
LN
9
8
10
9
PA3
PA2
PA1
5
5
7
6
Water
Steam
Steam
Res
1
1
2
2
4
4
6
6
8
8
10
10
12
12
21 22
28
26
27 22
24
23
25
18
18
19
16
17
15
15
3
3
5
5
7
7
9
9
11
11
14 13
13
I Figure 2. The atmospheric crude unit and its heat-exchanger network before optimization was carried out.
Key: PA = pump-around; LN = light naphtha; HN = heavy naphtha; LD = light distillate; HD = heavy distillate; and Res = residue.
vs. energy demand. The model is based on the network
pinch developed by Asante and Zhu (16).
The amount of heat recovery that can be achieved is
limited by the network pinch. Network pinch analysis
suggests that topology changes (e.g.,
resequencing of exchangers, installa-
tion of new exchangers) are necessary
to overcome the limits caused by the
pinch. For no topology changes, the
network is optimized by adding area
to the existing exchanger units. The
white bar under the curve in Figure 1
indicates the additional heat-exchang-
er capacity needed for the retrofit.
The heat-exchanger network
retrofit model simply considers the
total energy demand and total area re-
quirement, which greatly simplifies
the characterization of the heat-ex-
changer network during process opti-
mization. The model allows the bene-
fits of energy savings to be weighed
against the capital investment re-
quired to modify the heat-exchanger
network. Details on the model are
found in Ref. 12 and these should aid
the reader in performing his or her
own analysis.
Note that the column configura-
tions before and after optimization
are the same.
The optimization framework
The optimization considers the
details of the existing heat-exchanger
network simultaneously with the existing
crude distillation column and accounts
for the hydraulic constraints of the column. Figure 1 illus-
trates the approach. Note that the column congurations be-
fore and after optimization are the same.
The overall strategy consists of:
1. Decomposing the crude distillation column into an
equivalent sequence of simple columns, which is simu-
lated using the retrofit model.
2. Modeling the existing heat-exchanger network using
the retrot area model.
3. Simultaneously optimizing the operating conditions
of the existing distillation operation to minimize the sum
of the utility costs and additional exchanger area costs.
4. Taking as fixed, the existing number of stages, the
column configuration and diameters.
Example
The approach was tried, using data from an actual unit
(Figure 2). The numbers inside of the column represent the
number of stages in each section; note that this notation
differs from that used in Figure 1. The grid in Figure 2 rep-
resents the process streams, the heat exchangers connect-
ing them, and any other heaters or coolers, including the
CEP April 2003 www.cepmagazine.org 49
Vapor
Liquid
1. Increase Temperature
Drop Across Pump-around
Vapor
Liquid
3. Increase Liquid Flow
Through Pump-around
Vapor
Steam
Liquid
2. Reduce Steam Flow
Vapor
Liquid
4. Adjust Feed Preheating
Cooling
I Figure 3. Column modications that can overcome bottlenecks.
Table. Base case vs. optimum case for constant feed flowrate.
Parameter Base case Optimum case
Feed preheat temperature, C 360 363
PA1 liquid ow, kmol/h 1,228 1,233
PA2 liquid ow, kmol/h 2,396 3,989
PA3 liquid ow, kmol/h 5,868 3,953
PA1 temperature difference, C 40 44.1
PA2 temperature difference, C 50 28.1
PA3 temperature difference, C 20 58.9
Main steam ow, kmol/h 1,200 1,088
HD-stripper steam ow, kmol/h 260 247
R/R
min
1.2 1.11
furnace and steam heaters. The hot streams (i.e., those that
require cooling) run from left to right, while the cold
streams run from right to left. The numbers in the circles of
the heat-exchanger grid stand for individual exchangers in
the network. The vertical lines represent the heat exchange
between process streams. This gure shows the base case,
that is, before optimization.
Two aims of the retrot design are considered: (1) to im-
prove the energy-efficiency of the process; and (2) to in-
crease the throughput by 20% over the current capacity. The
atmospheric tower is fed 100,000 bbl/d of crude oil. Before
the retrot, the scheme was consuming power at 99.5 MW,
with a total operating cost of $28.4 million/yr. The heat-ex-
changer network retrot model was found to be:
Table 1 compares the base case with the optimized ar-
rangement when the feed flowrate is unchanged. The op-
timum energy consumption of the crude unit is 77.4 MW,
a reduction of 22% and a savings of $6.3 million/yr.
Some investment is needed to improve the performance
of the heat-exchanger network; the energy savings arise
from changing process operating conditions (e.g., fur-
nace inlet temperature, pump-around duties, feed tem-
perature) such that more heat recovery is possible. The
payback for these modifications is 4 mo.
However, to increase the throughput would require
using larger diameters than exist in some sections inside
the column. Therefore, to increase its capacity, the col-
umn had to be debottlenecked. The column model and
hydraulic analysis identified the bottlenecked sections.
Proposed modifications that can eliminate the bottleneck
are shown in Figure 3. Parts 1 and 3 in the figure show
increasing the amount of heat removed during a pump-
around; Part 2 represents reducing the flow of stripping
steam and, hence, the total vapor flow; and Part 4 illus-
trates reducing the temperature and, therefore, the vapor
fraction of the column feed. The unshaded arrows that
point toward each other mean that the required diameter
would be decreased.
The optimized distillation unit has a 20% increase in
throughput and requires 94.8 MW of heating. The oper-
ating cost saving is $1.9 million/yr, relative to the base
case, with a payback of less than 1 yr.
CEP
A E
ret


6 75 10
6 1 61
.
.
(14)
Reactions and Separations
50 www.cepmagazine.org April 2003 CEP
MAMDOUH GADALLA recently completed his PhD at UMIST, Dept. of Process
Integration (P .O. Box 88, Manchester M60 1QD, U.K. He has four years of
research and teaching experience with the Atomic Energy Authority of
Egypt and the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Dept. of the United
Arab Emirates Univ. Gadalla designs equipment for the retrofitting of
crude-oil distillation units. He holds a bachelors and masters in chemical
engineering from Cairo Univ.
MEGAN JOBSON is a lecturer in the Dept. of Process Integration at UMIST
(Phone: 44 161 200 4381; Fax: 44 161 236 7439; E-mail:
m.jobson@umist.ac.uk). She carries out research, teaches and
undertakes industrial studies on the synthesis and design of distillation,
absorption and reactive separations. Previously, she worked as a
process engineer in the food industry. She did her undergraduate work
in chemical engineering at the Univ. of Cape Town, South Africa and
holds a PhD in the same field from the Univ. of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa.
ROBIN SMITH is a professor and head of the Dept. of Process Integration at
UMIST (Phone: 44 161 200 4382; Fax: 44 161 236 7439; E-mail:
r.smith@umist.ac.uk). He has extensive industrial experience with Rohm &
Haas and ICI. Smith has consulted extensively for process integration
projects. He is widely published in process integration and is the author of
Chemical Process Design, (McGraw-Hill). He is a Fellow of the Royal
Academy of Engineering and of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in
the U.K., as well as being a chartered engineer. In 1992, he was awarded
the Hanson Medal of the Institution of Chemical Engineers for his work on
waste minimization. His main research activities include the design of
reaction and separation systems, site utility systems, waste minimization
and water-system design. Smith holds BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in
chemical engineering from the Univ. of Bradford, U.K.
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sis, UMIST, Manchester, U.K. (1999).
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Petro/chem. Engr., 33 (10), pp. 4562 (1961).
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