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q Institution of Chemical Engineers

Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands


here are nasty conceptual problems in the classical way of describing distillation
columns via equilibrium stages, and ef® ciencies or HETPs. We can nowadays avoid
these problems by simulating the behaviour of a complete column in one go using a
non-equilibrium model. Such a model has phase equilibria, multi-component mass transfer,
heat transfer, and ¯ ow models built in.
Keywords: distillation; design; operation; non-equilibrium; multi-component



This is a lecture on the way that we engineers model
distillation. How we have done such modelling, how we
would like to do it, and how far we have come at this
moment. The ideas that I will be bringing forward are not
my own. I owe them mostly to R. Krishna, R. Taylor, H.
Kooijman and A. GoÂrak. These are people who have spent a
fair bit of their lives developing modern multicomponent
simulation methods of distillation. I am just using their

Of course, we engineers have found ways of coupling our
theoretical models to practical equipment. The two concepts
mostly used for this purpose are (Figure 3):

· the (Murphree vapour) `ef® ciency’ of a tray or plate and
· the `height equivalent to a theoretical plate’ (HETP) for

When using a Murphree ef® ciency, we assume that the
change in vapour composition on a real tray is a certain
fraction of that obtained in an equilibrium stage. This allows
us to approximate the behaviour of real trays. The concept
works quite well for binary separations; the two components
there have equal ef® ciencies. Also the ef® ciencies are often
fairly constant along a column, and therefore an ef® ciency is
a useful way of summarizing practical experience. It often
has a value of about 0.7.
For packings, we look at the composition of the liquid at a
certain height. We then assume that further up in the
column, we will be able to ® nd vapour with a composition
that is in equilibrium with the liquid considered. The
difference in height between these two points is the HETP.
Also here, this works fairly well for binary mixtures. The
HETPs are the same for the two components and they are
often fairly constant along a column. Experience shows that
the value of the HETP is usually a few tenths of a metre.
Although the ef® ciency and the HETP have been useful
for summarizing experience on trays and packings, these
concepts have two serious de® ciencies:

Chemical plants consist of separate pieces of equipment
(Figure 1). Some of these will probably be distillation
columns. Any description of distillation begins with the
concept of `stages’ : fairly large parts of the column that
have well de® ned boundaries. For a tray column, we can
regard a single tray as a stage. There is no natural boundary
to the stages in packed columns (unless we consider packed
sections as stages). Even so, we engineers try also to
subdivide packed columns into stages, sometimes with
ludicrous results.
There are well de® ned ¯ ows entering and leaving any
stage. These can be the main vapour and liquid ¯ ows
through the column, or feed or drawoff ¯ ows. They may
consist of mass or heat. Conceptually, the simplest kind of
stage is the `equilibrium stage’ or `theoretical plate’ . For
such a stage (which does not exist in reality), the (vapour
and liquid) streams leaving the stage are assumed to be in
equilibrium (Figure 2). This implies that the chemical
potential of any component has the same value in vapour
and liquid, and also that vapour and liquid have the same
With the equilibrium stage model we can simulate many
of the properties of real systems. To describe an equilibrium
stage, we `only’ need phase equilibrium data (thermodynamics) and mass and energy balances. The model is
beautifully consistent, and has attracted the attention of
generations of engineers and thermodynamicists. However,
it has one great weakness: it has no direct connection to real

· they are not easily related to the construction and

behaviour of equipment, and
· in multicomponent mixtures, their behaviour is extremely
I even think that these two concepts may be retarding the
development of distillation, and will argue that there are
good reasons to give them a less prominent position than
they have today.
If we do not wish to use ef® ciencies or HETPs, what

It will describe unsteady. chaotic two phase ¯ ow. We should then set up difference forms of the Navier-Stokes equations to de® ne the hydraulic ¯ ows. It will deliver beautiful and impressive multidimensional colour plots. there are still a few problems. should we do? The dream of the modern engineer is to subdivide each piece of equipment into zillions of little elements dx dy dz. Exact models: the dream of the modern engineer. Trans IChemE. So it looks as if we still have a long way to go before we can Figure 2. with many elements it will be impossible to obtain the model parameters (although.. Fourier equations for energy transfer and all required balances and boundary conditions. the breaking up and coalescence of drops. gas and liquid entrainment. ® ve. Tray ef® ciency and `Height Equivalent to a Theoretical Plate’ (HETP) lead to real equipment. or 101 8 elements per m3 of column. NON-EQUILIBRIUM MODEL Current non-equilibrium models are less ambitious. we need a thermodynamic model of the Figure 4. we assume (also in the non-equilibrium model) that equilibrium exists. the Fick or Maxwell-Stefan equations to calculate diffusion ¯ ow. we should not expect complete solutions to practical problems in the short term. Figure 1. for packings or for any piece of equipment. incomplete and irregular wetting of packings. interfacial motion and mass transfer. turbulent. · the effects of large scale ¯ ow and mixing patterns and · the effects of diffusional heat and mass transfer resistance near phase interfaces. This number is almost 109 times the number of bytes on the two Gigabyte hard disk of the multimedia computer that you are thinking of buying for educating the kids (and for using yourself in the evening to hone your communication skills).. With too few elements our model will not be realistic. with 101 8 elements. (In absorption with a chemical reaction. Such a model can be used for trays. is a balancing act. Say. To describe the equilibrium. separation equipment and stages. you do not need any model parameters).. instead of the 101 8 that we were considering. Unfortunately. Vol 75. and possibly a good topic to let our students and young engineers sharpen their teeth. September 1997 . For a realistic simulation of the important phenomena in a column. That is one million elements per metre.. each of which will contain part of one of the phases in the equipment (Figure 4). but we do not consider that here). How few elements we choose. These myriads of equations are then to be solved by our brilliant parallel supercomputer algorithms. They contain a smaller number of elements per m3 than the `exact’ models above. their moving and deforming boundaries.. with this approach. Part A. simulate the details of multiphase ¯ ow. this may not be true. my guess is that we would need elements with dimensions of about one micrometer. The equilibrium stage. and they will tell us everything we wish to know.530 WESSELINGH Figure 3. EQUILIBRIUM DISTRIBUTION At the interface between the two phases. However. We choose these elements such that they allow a simple simulation of what we think are the important characteristics of our mass transfer equipment: · the equilibrium distribution of all components between the two phases (thermodynamics). Of course this also means that the subject is a challenging one. Plant.

NRTL and UNIQUAC / UNIFAC models. there will be a range of drop sizes and the behaviour of small and large drops may differ considerably. and Figure 6. Even these models are not always adequate. mixtures considered. Modern structured packings give patterns that are fairly close to this ideal. However. as we shall see a little further on). There are many different ways to describe more complicated ¯ ow patterns (Figure 8). the vapour is often assumed to pass upwards in plug ¯ ow. causes backmixing. · in a packing: both phases in plug ¯ ow. and maldistribution of liquid or vapour at feed points do cause deviations from ideality (Figure 5). and of vapour by the liquid. The ideal ¯ ow pattern in separation equipment is usually countercurrent plug ¯ ow. such as the Wilson. We discuss these elements in the next section. Something similar applies to bubbles of different sizes in a froth. no maldistribution. Part A. · on a tray: liquid mixed. The simplest ¯ ow model is that where both phases are assumed to be ideally mixed (Figure 6). We can approximate plug ¯ ow by stacking a number of mixed elements. Trans IChemE. we will also be using ¯ ow models which are a bit more realistic (Figure 7): · multicomponent equations of state such as the SoaveRedlich-Kwong and Peng-Robinson equations and · Gibbs excess energy models. This model only contains two bulk phases with convective ¯ ows in and out. If we have a spray of drops on the tray. LARGE SCALE MOTIONS Motions of gas and liquid on the scale of a tray or packing. In multicomponent distillation and absorption two kinds of models are in common use: especially near walls and due to the contacting planes between packing elements. In addition it contains three other elements: the phase interface and two mass transfer resistances on either side of the interface. In large. Entrainment of liquid by the vapour. When a phase consists of coarse and ® ne parts (such as large and . On short tray passes the overall effect is often similar to that of complete mixing of the liquid. (I do not know whether anybody has ever been able to check how well or how poorly this holds. ¯ ow is not ideal. long column sections. These are the same equations that we use in equilibrium stage calculations. Vol 75. vapour mixed or in plug ¯ ow. even here. such as are often found in the chemical industry. The latter are useful for strongly non-ideal mixtures at not-too-high pressures. They yield both the distribution coef® cients of all components and their enthalpies. September 1997 no entrainment or backmixing. Complicated ¯ ow patterns using simple elements. Figure 7. have a large effect on equipment performance. Even in a structured packing. The simplest non-equilibrium model. Figure 8.NON-EQUILIBRIUM MODELLING OF DISTILLATION 531 Figure 5. such as those which dominate the oil industry. differences between the channels. We may expect small drops to attain equilibrium more rapidly than large drops. The former are primarily used for high pressure equilibria of simple mixtures. In nonequilibrium calculations we use the same equations to obtain the driving forces for mass transfer (which are the chemical potential gradients. On trays. More realistic ¯ ow models.) The liquid has a cross ¯ ow pattern. things like turbulence. In the examples that we discuss further on. irregularities of the ¯ ow have been found to develop. at the sides of columns there can more or less stagnant zones.

We are usually not interested in species velocities through the interface. we may split it in two pseudo phases. that equation does not consider the effect of non-ideality via the activity coef® cient. MASS TRANSFER The second important mechanism in our models is the description of mass and heat transfer between the phases (and pseudo phases). September 1997 . only three transport mechanisms remain. we will use a difference form of the resulting Trans IChemE. The second effect can be important is systems where liquid resistance dominates. The traditional description of mass transfer begins with Fick’ s law. Unfortunately. (And most mixtures do contain more than two components!) This is for two reasons: · it does not take the interactions between the different components into account and · it does not allow for the fact that the driving force for mass transfer is not the concentration gradient. the component may also be carried along by drift: dx Ni = . A good choice are the Maxwell-Stefan equations.kibinary ctotal D xi + Ntotal xi kibinary = i (2) d The parameter kibinary is a binary `® lm theory’ mass transfer coef® cient. ¯ ow of both phases is highly turbulent. Part A. a friction coef® cient f i . turbulence dies out (Figure 9). However.j (ui . If we do take all the trouble to make a non-equilibrium model of a column. (This applies both to the continuous and the dispersed phase. Mass transfer resistances: the `® lm’ near interfaces. no driving forces and no motion. The friction force between i and j (per mole of i) is proportional to the local mole fraction of j.ctotal Di i + Ntotal xi (1) dz . In addition. j (ui . The layers (or `® lms’ ) where turbulence does not dominate transport. If we have equilibrium. This states that ¯ ux of a component (in a binary mixture) is proportional to the concentration gradient of that component and a diffusivity. These equations consider each component i in turn. The ® rst effect is often important. but in their ¯ uxes: Ni =cu i i (7) Also. the problem with these more complicated models is that we do not know their parameters well enough. Eddies do not pass across interfaces.uj ) (5) When we equate the driving force with the sum of all friction forces on i. all of which are much slower than turbulence: · `drift’ : convective transport of both heat and matter due to an overall displacement of matter across an interface.532 WESSELINGH small drops).uj ) (6) These equations allow a consistent description of diffusion in mixtures with any number of components. )))))))& ( )))))))* diffusion drift For most engineering applications. Near these interfaces. The driving force on i will cause it to move with respect to the mixture. As already mentioned.j j i. This motion is counteracted by friction with the other species j. · diffusion: the transport of matter due to composition gradients and molecular motion within the ¯ uid and · conduction: the transport of energy by a temperature gradient and molecular motion. We could also have used a more realistic `surface renewal theory’ to obtain it. near phase interfaces. Vol 75. are very thin: roughly one tenth of a millimetre in gases and ten micrometres in liquids. ij Finally. The chemical potential contains contributions due to mole the fraction and the activity coef® cient of i: l i = RT ln(c i xi ) + const (4) The contribution of the mole fraction gradient is similar to that of the concentration in the Fick equation. we can best use a fundamental multicomponent model of mass transfer through the interface. Entrainment and backmixing can be simulated by allowing extra ¯ ows going in and out of each phase. we obtain the Maxwell-Stefan equations: dl i . We may expect a convective exchange between these pseudo phases. especially for the behaviour of trace components. with units of Newton per mole. but the gradient of the chemical potential.) Turbulence provides a rapid levelling of concentration and temperature differences. The driving force is the chemical potential gradient: dl i (driving force on i) = (3) dz This is a real driving force. we will also normally use multicomponent diffusion coef® cients instead of friction coef® cients: RT  ij = (8) f Figure 9. maldistribution can be simulated using parallel stages with different ¯ ow ratios. ) ) & ( ) ) * . the concentrations and temperatures in the bulk of ¯ uids can be taken as =S n j =1 xj f i. In most equipment. So on not-toolarge scales (say up to ten centimetres). the description above does not transfer well to mixtures with more than two components. we have no gradients.j and the difference in drift velocities between the two components: =xf (friction)i. Finally. a difference approximation of this equation suf® ces: D Ni = . However.

When we are designing a column. and so on. all properties that are required to describe the ¯ ow. and extensive graphic and tabular output options. It is a DOS program. the free areas. MODEL REQUIREMENTS For the equilibrium stage model. However. the best reference is the book by Taylor and Krishna1 . we only need two kinds of physical properties: · vapour / liquid equilibria and · enthalpies. interfacial area. we can leave it to the program to determine all these parameters. This input can be quite a burden. and they must incorporate heat transport through the interface due to drift.ctotal [k ](D x) + (x)Ntotal (10) You should not be misled by the simple form of these equations. which contain the multicomponent mass transfer coef® cients: kij =  i. RATEFRAC can . In the actual numerical calculations it is handier to use the inverse of our equations. we only need to give the number of stages and the location of the different feed and withdrawal points. is that the multicomponent diffusivities and mass transfer coef® cients can be estimated fairly well from binary data. the tray heights. equations. I have restricted myself to a brief (and incomplete) summary of what is required for the description of heat and mass transfer. Part A. September 1997 heat transfer and mass transfer in the equipment. The important thing to understand. You must reckon on spending quite some time however. and available commercially. j (9) d We will not write out these equations. In the equilibrium model.NON-EQUILIBRIUM MODELLING OF DISTILLATION 533 Figure 10. However. the downcomer con® gurations. The NE-model contains a `drawing’ of the column.. The nonequilibrium model. we need heat transfer equations. using the results of others is not at all that dif® cult. needs to contain a complete `drawing’ of the column (Figure 10): · · · · · · · the number of trays in the different sections. Here we need. multicomponent mass transfer is not a simple subject. diffusivities. All examples have been worked out using ChemSep version 3. in addition to the two sets above. we must provide all these data. heat and mass transfer coef® cients. The non-equilibrium model gives a much more complete description of the equipment.1 and Windows 95). A program that is similar. A simpler introduction is given in Wesselingh and Krishna2 . If you really want to understand the subject. and 4 Mbytes of memory. is RATEFRAC from Aspen Technologies. the diameters of the sections. but it also runs under Windows 3. Vol 75. These require estimates of the heat transfer coef® cients in both phases. Trans IChemE. the hole diameters.. The second point in which equilibrium and nonequilibrium models differ greatly is in how detailed the equipment must be described. We can write these in a form which reminds us of the Fick equations. We need these for the different mixtures in every element of the equipment. it does require much more data. they are not enlightening. (ChemSep requires a 386 or better. friction coef® cients. when we are simulating an existing column.03. (It also contains ¯ ash and equilibrium models). However. In this formulation. Especially the matrix of mass transfer coef® cients is a very complicated (and incomprehensible) function. the weir heights. and so on and so on. ChemSep is available for educational institutions for a small fee and it runs on IBMtype personal computers. surface tension. the mass transfer coef® cients have been corrected for the effects of thermodynamic non-ideality: (N) = . thermal conductivity. This is a non-equilibrium modelling program written by Ross Taylor and Harry Kooijman3 . This means that we need a substantial database. In addition to the mass transfer equations. such as: · · · · · · · · densities viscosities. in contrast. not only for the separate components. ChemSep has a friendly menu based input.

There are however several irregularities. I use `design mode’ . Output graphs show ¯ ow rates (Figure 12) which are almost constant in the two sections. We see that the trays above the feed stage do not provide much separation between butane and propane. 2. Component ¯ ow rates in the depropanizer. With a total condenser. The feed contains four components. RATEFRAC does take more time to learn. the current version of ChemSep only allows this to a limited extent. A DEPROPANIZER Our ® rst example is a column from an oil re® nery (Figure 11). In the greater part of the column the transfer rates of ethane and propane are negative. Similar remarks can be made on butane. the non-isothermal absorption of acetone from a nitrogen/ acetone mixture into water in a conventional packed column and 3. heat effects are important. a partial reboiler and a boiling point feed on stage 16. Trans IChemE. However. (This is not necessarily an optimal design. while butane increases. the extractive distillation of methyl cyclohexane using phenol as a solvent in an old column with bubble cap trays. showing how complicated such a system is. The transfer rates of the components on the different trays differ wildly (Figure 14). All examples can be done by our students within an hour (experienced engineers only need a fraction of these times). September 1997 . Reith regularly give to graduate students in chemical engineering. With the `Flash’ unit of ChemSep. The run converges without dif® culty on my 486 DX 66 MHz machine in 21 seconds. Part A.534 WESSELINGH be incorporated in the ¯ ow schemes of complete processes. Kooijman and T. with ethane and propane being concentrated in the top and the other components in the bottom. Figure 12.) It takes me about two minutes to get Figure 11. GoraÂk. The two minor components (ethane and pentane) have constant ¯ ow rates in the greater part of the two sections. Flow rates in the depropanizer. I will discuss three examples: 1. which means that they Figure 13. We will use the Peng Robinson equation of state to describe the phase equilibria and enthalpies. These are examples from a course that myself. The ¯ ows of the components vary strongly along the column (Figure 13). the required data into the program. (In a real column there would be more. combined with a re¯ ux ratio of 2. A depropanizer. but we may change it later. We choose the top temperature at 408 C (to allow cooling with ambient air). Vol 75. but this is enough to show most of the behaviour of the column). except for a sharp increase of the liquid ¯ ow at the feed tray. A. In the second example. we obtain the desired separation. propane and ethane. we have relatively ideal solutions and small heat effects. These are mainly because propane is displaced by the minor components in certain parts of the column. The propane ¯ ow generally decreases as we pass down the column. In the ® rst example. EXAMPLES To give you an idea of how non-equilibrium modelling works in practice. The column is to split the feed between butane and propane. The last example considers a strongly non-ideal mixture with varying ¯ ows. we ® nd that we need a pressure of 22 bar. butane. this is an indication that we should put the feed on a higher tray. In order of volatility: pentane. equipped with sieve trays. H. and I do not need to provide any other data than the type of internal used (sieve trays). so that the program sizes the column for me. a depropanizer: a high pressure column from an oil re® nery with four components. the rates only changing rapidly at the ends of the column. 28 sieve trays. and it is a little more expensive.

Part A. However in multicomponent mixtures. an ef® ciency may be a useful way of summarizing experience. Here. indeed. They know from experience that binary ef® ciencies are fairly constant and well behaved. ef® ciencies are hardly predictable. In the ® rst instance it looks much like that of a binary mixture. ef® ciencies are equal and well behaved.NON-EQUILIBRIUM MODELLING OF DISTILLATION Figure 14. we see that the ef® ciencies of the two components are equal. believing these results. that they vary wildly along the column. although the feed is at its boiling point. My experience is. are moving into the vapour. The second is. The tray layout of our depropanizer. almost ideal mixture. Figure 18 shows the McCabe-Thiele diagram of the two key components (also provided by ChemSep). Trans IChemE. ef® ciencies in multicomponent separations are thoroughly confusing. The opposite holds for butane and pentane. The mass transfer rates on each stage of the components in the depropanizer. and that they have a more or less constant value of about 85%. The ® rst thing to be noted is that all four ef® ciencies are different. from its results. They are different for all components and may vary from minus in® nity. they are typical of any multicomponent separation. However. Non-equilibrium models have made them irrelevant. . The non-equilibrium model does not use ef® ciencies. and how this changes if you modify the design. Remember that these are results for a simple. negative!) and + 200% (far larger than the 100% maximum expected for a tray with a mixed liquid). Here. through zero. In my experience. The two minor components have extreme values of .200% (yes. For a binary. There are many other aspects of binary distillation. or the free areas) by running the program again. it can calculate the ef® ciencies of each component on each tray. Figure 17. but now with a binary feed of only propane and butane (Figure 17). A closer inspection shows that the operating lines are strongly curved. September 1997 535 Figure 16. up to plus in® nity. You can immediately ® nd out what the effects are of modifying the design (for example the tray height. that many engineers have dif® culty in Figure 15. In this example they even run through a small loop near the feed stage. Even the ef® ciency of butane varies between 70% and 110%. Vol 75. This is one of the beautiful things of non-equilibrium models. Chemical engineers should abandon the use of ef® ciencies. We can get out any amount of detailed information on the column. I restrict myself to the preliminary tray layout provided (as geometrical parameters) by the program (Figure 15). From this example we see that experience with binary mixtures does not translate to multicomponent mixtures in a straightforward manner. With a binary mixture. These are shown in Figure 16 and I advise you to look at these carefully. So I have added one calculation for a similar column. that do not translate well into multicomponentmixtures. Murphree vapour ef® ciencies of the components in the depropanizer. There are other differences between this example and a proper binary. Or you can check whether all trays are operating within their hydraulic limits.

If you have a good look.536 WESSELINGH Figure 18. and the Onda equations for mass transfer in the packing. September 1997 . Vol 75. However. This means that there is a large internal water recycle in the column. you will see that the interface temperature is higher than the bulk liquid temperature in the top of the column. but evaporates with high rates in the bottom sections. The pseudo-binary McCabe-Thiele diagram of the depropanizer. I had to begin with a large solvent ¯ ow. Figure 20. the feed line is not vertical. Nitrogen has an Figure 21. A PACKED ABSORBER Our next example (Figure 19) seems to be a simple problem. and the column is ® lled with Raschig rings (as it should be in any good. Temperature pro® les in the absorber. The solvent is water. Figure 19. from its results. We are to absorb a small amount of acetone from a large stream of nitrogen. I brought the solvent ¯ ow back from 2000 to 500 mol s. This means that the direction of heat transfer changes (at just about the position of the temperature bulge). The ® rst thing to be noted is that all three HETPs are different. Nitrogen (which is hardly soluble in water) absorbs so little that this is not visible in the plot. In eight runs. this shows that the greater part of the temperature difference is in the gas phase). We see notable differences in temperature between gas and liquid. Both phases were taken to be in plug ¯ ow and the column consisted of 30 elements of one third of a metre each. we have seen that the ef® ciencies of the propane and butane are not equal. so the height of each step cannot be a direct measure of the vapour ef® ciency as it is in a binary mixture. suitable for an introductory lecture in separation processes. old fashioned exercise). but each run only took about ten seconds. This may sound a lot of work. which carries a substantial amount of heat. Trans IChemE. Then I used the results as starting values for a new run. we are dealing with a non-equilibrium model. You might think this problem could be adequately described using the Kremser equation and theoretical plates with a constant height (HETP). The acetone absorber. Mass transfer rates of the components in the absorber. All this shows up in the temperature pro® le (Figure 21). These are shown in Figure 22 and I advise you to look at these carefully. A close look at the diagram shows that the `stairs’ do not extend up to the equilibrium line. Figure 20 shows the mass transfer rates in the different sections. However. Let us have a look. The most spectacular component is water. it can calculate the HETPs of each component in each element. (We have also plotted the interface temperature. I did this exercise using the NRTL equations for the phase equilibria of the ternary mixture acetone±nitrogen±water. The solvent ¯ ow is close to the minimum value and under these conditions ChemSep will not converge in one go. but lower in the bottom. Water condenses at about the same rate as acetone in the upper part of the column. Part A. but in an irregular manner.1 . The situation is obviously far more complicated than the simple textbook problem that we had in mind! The non-equilibrium model does not use HETPs. again using ChemSep. The second is that they vary wildly along the column. This is understandable. We see that acetone absorbs throughout the column.

they only improve upon your solution. In my experience. through zero. Remember that these are results for what you thought was a simple introductory example. Otherwise convergence is not assured. Extractive distillation of MCH/toluene using phenol as solvent. Finally. including the effects of equipment geometry. It also allows us to see the effects of changing any design parameter. an HETP may be a useful way of summarizing experience. Big numerical models do not solve problems. These FINAL REMARKS In this lecture. but it can easily be improved. However. It is only there to show that the non-equilibrium model is also applicable to (what you think are) complicated non-ideal mixtures. For a binary. You might ask how the tray ef® ciencies behave. EXTRACTIV E DISTILLATION We will not spend much time on our last example. I used bubble cap columns and the AIChE design method for bubble cap trays. (You may argue that you are not interested in the HETP of nitrogen. they do differ in polarity.4 to 1 m. I had it within half an hour. I did this run using the UNIFAC model to describe the (strongly non-ideal) vapour liquid equilibria. HETPs are hardly predictable. Then I reduced the amount of solvent until I got the ¯ ow pro® les shown in Figure 24. This is not an optimal design. even worse than those of the depropanizer. Here we consider the extractive distillation of methyl-cyclohexane (MCH) and toluene (Figure 23). September 1997 1. that should be nothing new to you.6 m (yes. We have seen that it can give us quite a detailed understanding of what is going on in a distillation column. MCH being the least polar of the two. The nonequilibrium models are also applicable to multicomponent separations. Large non-idealities do not pose any exceptional problems to the non-equilibrium model. two components have close boiling points. This to honour my predecessors of forty years back. Vol 75. Flows of the components in the extractive distillation. We separate them by adding a large excess of a polar. Even the HETP of acetone varies from 0. So you must have an idea of what you are doing. HETPs of the components in the absorber. we have had a look at the background of non-equilibrium modelling. Part A. However in multicomponent mixtures. They are different for all components and may vary from minus in® nity. Does this mean that there are no problems left to be solved in distillation? Fortunately. so as to provide starting values. not! Some of the many kinds of problems we still have to live with are: Figure 23. However. Well. nonvolatile solvent (here phenol) to the liquid. HETPs in multicomponent separations are thoroughly confusing. up to plus in® nity. but the point is that an HETP can be negative). Figure 24. Trans IChemE.2. So I hope to have convinced you that there is every reason to start using them. Also here. From this example we see that experience with binary mixtures does not translate to multicomponent mixtures in a straightforward manner. they do not need ef® ciencies or HETPs which are not predictable in multicomponent mixtures. Chemical engineers should abandon the use of HETPs. The activity of MCH in phenol is larger than that of toluene. modern non-equilibrium computer models of distillation columns are quite easy to use. . so I have not even plotted them. They run all over the place.NON-EQUILIBRIUM MODELLING OF DISTILLATION 537 Figure 22. This happens a few trays below the top of the column. so it becomes the most volatile and ends up in the top of the column. extreme value of . This is an important extension of the classical analysis using equilibrium stages. Non-equilibrium models have made them irrelevant. I needed to start with an excess of solvent to get ChemSep to converge. negative!) and water of + 67 m. they cannot be separated by conventional distillation.

It is time that we engineers try to get these data in order. Taylor. Department of Chemical Engineering. The results are only as good as the important parts of the model are. (John Wiley & Sons. ChemSep. 1993. During development of the non-equilibrium model it has become clear that our knowledge of the details of what happens inside a column is still very incomplete. Even carefully written programs contain bugs. chengweb/faculty/taylor/chemsep/chemsep. No 142.html.. Wesselingh.. Ross and Kooijman. Vol 75. You can also try ADDRESS Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Professor J. R. Ross. Austin. Wesselingh.che. Taylor. and Krishna.clarkson.utexas. The Netherlands. New York). Box REFERENCES 1. 2. TX 78713-7939. 3. There are several areas where we have found that current models and correlations (at least those in open literature) are inadequate: · · · · correlations for interfacial areas correlations for gas phase transfer coef® cients minimum load correlations and descriptions of maldistribution in packed columns. Nijenborgh 4. and Krishna. USA. R. A. 3. The Netherlands. September 1997 . 8± 10 September 1997.538 WESSELINGH 2. (The program is continually being revised. This paper is a plenary presentation from the Distillation and Absorption 1997 conference. Maastricht. 9747 AG Groningen.0 or higher. (a program available for educational institutes for a small fee from CACHE Corporation. University of Groningen. Trans IChemE. A. Harry. The papers from the conference are to be published in the IChemE Symposium Series. Part A. Multicomponent Mass Transfer.) You will need version 3. (Ellis Horwood. J. P.) More information is can be found on the WWW page of Taylor and Kooijman at http:// www.O. 1990. Chichester). Mass Transfer.