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Coronado, Raniella Bianca Y.

Reyes, Noelle Ivonette Z.


Zapata, Rosette Anne Lea T.

5ChE-D

PROBLEM B1
PRESSURE DROP AND FLOODING IN A PACKED COLUMN
I.

Abstract

Pressure drop is one of the indicators of when flooding will occur in a packed column.
It is correlated with many aspects such as liquid hold up, void fractions, and the flow rates of
the gas and liquid being processed. In this experiment, the effect of liquid accumulation, the
packing factor, the gas and liquid flow rates on the pressure drop along a gas absorption
column was observed and discussed. This was done by measuring the height of fluid in a
manometer at different gas and liquid flow rates. The experimental pressure drop is then
calculated using appropriate equations discussed in section VIII of this paper. For dry packed
column, the experimental results was analyzed by comparing these data to the computed
values using the Ergun Equation and Robbins Equation. Meanwhile, experimental results for
the pressure drop in an irrigated packed column were compared with the values calculated
using the latter. Upon comparison, the results from the Ergun equation, relative to those
calculated using the Robbins Equation, deviated significantly from the experimental results.
On the other hand, for an irrigated column and constant liquid flow rate, a general trend
wherein a sudden increase in pressure drop was observed when the gas flow rate is further
increased. The packing factor and the void fraction was also computed.
II.

Objectives

Thisexperimentaimstodeterminethevoidfractionsofthepackedbeds,theeffects
ofliquidholdupsonthepressuredropofthecolumn,tofamiliarizewiththepartsofthe
equipmentandtodefinethepackingfactorexperimentallythroughtheuseoftheflooding
velocitycalculations.
III.

References

[1] McCabe, W., Smith, J. & Harriott, P. (1993). Unit Operations of Chemical
Engineering (5th ed.). Singapore: McGraw-Hill Book Co.
[2] Geankoplis, C. (2003). Transport Process and Unit Operation (4th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice Hall
[3] McCabe, W. L., Smith, J. C., & Harriott, P. (2005). Unit Operations of Chemical
Engineering (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
[4] Arachchige, U. & Melaaen, M. (2012). Selection of Packing Material for Gas
Absorption. European Journal of Scientific Research, 87: 117-126.
[5] Perfett, L. & Fisher, T. (1996). Gas Absorption Column. Retrieved from
http://chem.engr.utc.edu/Webres/435F/ABS_COL/abs_col.html
[6] Fahien, R. (1983). Fundamentals of Transport Phenomena. New York: McGraw-Hill,
Inc.
[7] Sharma, K. (2007). Principles of Mass Transfer. New Delhi, India: Asoke K. Ghosh,
Prentice Hall of India Private Limited, M-97, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001

[8] NPTEL (n.d.). Module 4: Absorption Lecture no. 1. Retrieved from


http://nptel.ac.in/courses/103103035/module4/lec1.pdf
[9]
Column
Diameter
and
Pressure
Drop
(n.d.)
Retrieved
from
http://www.separationprocesses.com/Absorption/GA_Chp04a.htm#TopPage
[10] Shulman, H. L., Ullrich, C. F. and Wells, N. (1955), Performance of packed
columns. I. Total, static, and operating holdups. AIChE J., 1: 247253.
doi:10.1002/aic.690010219
[11] Zakeri, A., Einbu, A., Oi, L. & Svendsen, H. (2009). Liquid Hold-up and Pressure
Drop
in
Mellapak
2X.
Retrieved
from
http://ena.chemeng.ntnu.no/TrondheimJointAbsorptionSeminar/Zakeri
%20_Trondheim150609.pdf
[12] Elgin, J. C. & Weiss, F. B. (1939), Liquid holdup and flooding in packed towers.
Ind. Eng. Chem, 31 (4): 435445. doi:10.1021/ie50352a010
[13] Cussler, E. L. (1984). Diffusion: Mass Transfer in Fluid Systems. New York, USA:
Cambridge University Press.
[14] Brenner, H. (1989). Gas-Liquid-Solid Fluidization Engineering. USA: Butterworth
Publishers
[15] Yuan, J., Yan, L., & Hlavka, D. (2009). Flow through packed beds. Retrieved from
http://www.me.rochester.edu/courses/ME241.gans/PackedBeds(11).pdf

IV.

Equipment/Materials
The equipment used in this experiment was the Gas-Liquid Absorption Column.

Rachig rings

V.

Theory

Materials, in chemical engineering, are transformed or separated into useful products


by means of a variety of industrial and chemical processes [1]. Gas absorption is one of the
well-known unit processes and is commonly utilized in the food industry. In this process, a
gas mixture consisting mainly of an inert gas and a soluble gas is made in contact with a
liquid acting as a solvent to separate the gas mixture [2]. Absorption technology is widely
applied in the removal of H2S and CO2 from natural or synthesis gas by absorption in amines
or alkaline salt solutions.
One common instrument used in this process is the packed tower which is shown in
Figure 1 below. This apparatus entails a cylindrical column or tower outfitted with a liquid
inlet and gas outlet at the top and a gas inlet and liquid outlet at the bottom, and a collective
mass of inert solid shapes known as tower packings [3].

Figure 1. Packed Tower


Several packing types available for gas absorption can be utilized depending on
different parameters like flow rate, temperature, pressure, etc. [4]. The shape of the packing
inhibits it from being to compact thus, enhancing the bed porosity [3].
Liquid will flow through the packed column and dispense uniformly over the packing
surface in an ideal operation. Gas will enter the tower from below the packed section and
move upward countercurrent to the flow of the liquid through the small spaces between the
packing material. Efficient mass transfer can be obtained by the large amount of intimate
contact between the liquid and gas streams [5]. Pressure drop can be described as the pressure
loss due to the frictional resistance of the components the gas touches, velocity variations,
back flows and eddy formation [2]. A linear relationship between the pressure drop and the
gas velocity can be observed in a constant diameter packed column. The pressure drop
increases as we increase the gas velocity at a constant liquid flow rate. In addition, the
pressure drop is larger when we increase the gas velocity at a higher liquid rate [6].

For this experiment, numerous equations can be used. First is the Ergun equation
formulated by a Turkish chemical engineer, Sabri Ergun. This equation is used to get the
pressure drop across a certain length of packing.
2
2
P 150 v o ( 1 ) 1.75 g v o ( 1 )
=
+
(1)
Z
2 D 2p
3 D p
Two equations coming from the first and second term of the Ergun equation were also
formulated. The Blake-Kozeny equation derived from the first term is applicable for laminar
regions and the Burke-Plummer equation which is the second term is relevant for turbulent
regions. Both equations are only valid for void fractions less than 0.5 [2]. Later on, Fahien
and Schriver adapted the Ergun equation and modified it for broader values of porosity and
Reynolds number resulting to the following equations for laminar (2), turbulent (3) and
intermediate (4) regions given below:

L=

136
0.38
(1 )

(2)

0 /75

1.87 N , p
29
T =
+
1.45 2
(1)
(1)0.26

(3)

I =q L +(1q) T

(4)

Where:
2

q=e

(1 )N , p
12.6

(5)

P DP
=
2
Z v o (1)

(6)

Z- height of packed column


A correlation of the pressure drop for wet packing was also made my Leva and later
on, Robbins developed a pressure correlation using the similar approach by Leva:
Pt = Pd + PL

Pd =C 3 G 2f 10C L
4

P d 4
0.00005 Lf 0.1
P L=0.4

0.5

0.05 F pd
G f =986 F s

62.4
)
L
Lf =0.1
L

0.05 F pd 0.5 (

(7)

The packing factor was estimated by Lobo et al (1945) to be:


F pd =
VI.

6(1 )
3 D p

(8)

Operating Conditions and Procedure

Beforerunningtheactualexperiment,preliminaryprocedureswereconductedstarting
withdeterminationofthelengthofthepackedbeds,thediameterofthegascolumnand,the
dimensionsofthepacking.Afterwhich,thesumptankwascleanedandwasfilledwithwater
ofabout75%ofitscapacity.Itwasalsomadesurethatthepartsoftheequipmentwere
properlycheckedsuchthattheonoffswitchknobs wereturnedoff,theflowmeterand
drainagevalveswereclosedand,thereturnlinevalveandpressuretapswerefullyopened.It
wasnotedthatallentrainedliquidinthetubesconnectedtothepressuretapsweredrained.
Forthestartup,thesecondmanometerintheequipmentwasfilledwithcoloredwater
tobeusedassubstituteformercury.Themainswitch,thecompressorandthepumpwere
turnedonandgaswasallowedtoflowwithinthesystematarateof140L/minfor15
minutes,totallyremovingallthewaterfromthecolumn.Thethreewayglasscockswerealso
adjustedtoensurethatthegasflowingoutofthepressuretapsweredirectedtotheleft
manometeronly.
Oncethestartupwascompleted,thegasratewasreturnedto60L/min.Differential
pressures, in mmH2O, across the upper and lower packed beds were then measured by
adjustingthethreewaycocksconnectedtothepressuretapatthemiddleofthecolumn.The
adjustments were done slowly so as to minimize the effects of surface tension on the
manometerfluid.Suchwasrepeatedwithincreasinggasflowrateswithincrementsof10
L/minuntiltheratereached140L/min.
Additionally,pressuredropreadingsduetoliquidholdupswereacquired.The
gasratewasfirstresetto60L/minandtheliquidcontrolvalvewasopenedsuchthatthe
liquidratewassetto1L/min.Periodicthrottlingwasobservedandcontrolledtolowerthe
chances of sudden increase in pressure which could result to fluid overflowing. After
obtainingthemeasuredpressuredrop,anothertrialwasperformedbysettingnewflowrates
forbothgasandliquid.Theliquidratewasincreasedbyanincrementof10L/minuntilit
reached140L/min,whereastheliquidflowratewasincreasedbyanincrementof1L/min
untilitachievedaflowrateof7L/min.
After the measurements were read and noted, the equipment was prepared for
shutdown.Thepumpwasfirstlyturnedoffandtheliquidintheflowmeterwasdrained
beforefullyclosingthecontrolvalve.Thegasratewasonceagainsetto140L/minandwas
allowedtorunfor15minutespriortotheclosingofthegascontrolvalve.Subsequently,the
compressorwasturnedoffandsowastheonoffswitchoftheequipment.

VII.

Data and Results

Presented in table 1 are the experimental data gathered from the experiment.
Table 1 Difference between the manometer fluid heights at varying gas and liquid flow rate
Liquid
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
6.5
7
Flow Rate L/mi
n
Air Flow
R (in cm)
Rate
20 L/min
0.2
0.2
2
2.2
0.4
2.6
2
2
1.2
30

0.4

0.4

2.2

0.8

2.8

2.6

2.8

2.6

40

0.6

0.6

2.4

1.4

3.4

3.8

6.4

50

0.8

0.8

1.6

2.6

4.6

6.8

11.8

60

3.2

5.4

6.2

15.6

19.8 F

70

1.2

1.2

2.4

3.6

4.8

6.6

15.6

27.4 F

80

1.4

3.2

4.4

6.4

11.6

30.0 F

90

1.6

2.2

3.4

8.4

18.4

100

1.8

2.4

4.6

5.6

15

30.6 F

110

3.2

5.4

6.2

16.2

120

2.6

3.8

7.6

21

130

2.8

4.6

7.2

8.8

24.2 F

140

5.4

10.2

150

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

160

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

170

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Note: F- indicates flooding has started


N/A flow rate cannot be attained by the system

VIII.

Treatment of Results

The pressure drop across the whole column was calculated by using the measurement of the
manometer fluid level and the formula:
P=

gR
gc

(8)

Where,
P = pressure drop across the column, Pa
= density of fluid, kg/m3
R = height of manometer fluid, m
The results obtained was then plotted against the respective Reynolds number for packed
beds at different gas flow rates by using the equation:
N, p=

D p vo
(1 )

(9)

Where,
NRe,p = Reynolds number for packed beds
Dp = particle diameter,m
vo =superficial gas velocity, m/s
= fluid density, kg/m3
= fluid viscosity, Pa-s
= void fraction of packing

350
300
250
200

-P, Pa

150
100
50
0
50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

450

500

NRe,p

Figure 2. Plot of pressure drop across the gas absorption column with dry packings vs. the
Reynolds number for packed beds
The void fraction of the column was then calculated by using the modifications of Fahien and
Schriver in the Ergun equation. Equations (2), (3), (4), (5), and (6) were used to perform
calacutions.

The void fraction of the column was calculated using three different gas flow rates and was
averaged to obtain the experimental void fraction. From the graph, the flow rates used were
30, 70, and 110 L/min.
Table 2 The calculated void fraction using the chosen flow rates
Flow rate
-P
Void Fraction
30
39.088
0.36
110
195.4402
0.4075
70
117.2641
0.3833
Average
0.3836
For operation involving liquid flow, the gas velocity was calculated using the continuity
equation:
GS=vS
(10)
To compare the behavior of the pressure drop across the column at different gas and liquid
flow rates, two graphs were plotted: log(P/Z) vs. log(G) and P vs Gf.
3.7
3.4
3.1
2.8

Dry
1 L/min
2
3

Log (P/Z) 2.5

4
5

2.2
1.9

6
6.5
7

1.6
1.3

Figure 3. The logarithmic plot of pressure drop per unit of the column (P/Z) versus the
superficial gas mass velocity (G)

Dry
1 L/min
2
3
4
5
6
6.5
7

Figure 5. The plot of the pressure drop, P, versus the gas loading factor, Gf=Utg0.5;
wherein Ut is the superficial gas velocity and g is the gas density
The packing factor was obtained by using flooding velocity calculations (Fig. 14-55
of the Handbook). The experimental pressure drop at a gas flow rate and a liquid flow rate
of 60 L/min and 2 L/min, respectively, was used for the calculation.

Figure 6. Graph for flooding velocity (Fig. 14-55 of the Handbook)


The packing factor, Fp, was then calculated using the equation
(11)
From figure 6, the obtained capacity factor, CP, was 0.46. The calculated Fp is 689.35 ft-1.
IX.

Analysis/Interpretation of Results

In this experiment, two equations namely Ergun-type equation and Robbins


equation were used to compare the results for the pressure drop across the dry packed
column.
Table 3 Comparison of pressure drop in dry packed column
Air Flow Rate
-P (mm H2O)
L/min
Experimental
Ergun Equation
20

1.9544

1.6091

Robbins
Equation
0.4469

30

3.9088

2.9521

1.0055

40

5.8632

4.6539

1.7875

50

7.8176

6.7146

2.7929

60

9.7720

9.1342

4.0218

70

11.7264

11.9127

5.4742

80

13.6808

15.0501

7.1499

90

15.6352

18.5464

9.0491

100

17.5896

22.4016

11.1718

110

19.5440

26.6158

13.5179

120

25.4072

31.1888

16.0874

130

27.3616

36.1207

18.8803

140

29.3160

41.4115

21.8967

As shown in Table 3, results obtained from all treatment depicts an increase in pressure drop
as the air flow rate increases. However, a significant difference between the experimental
values and those obtained from the Ergun Equation can be observed. This may be attributed
to the assumptions and considerations made by Ergun in establishing the equation. Erguns
equation is applicable for the range of flow rate meaning from laminar flow to turbulent
flow. He assumed that the viscous losses due to laminar flow and the kinetic losses due to
turbulent flow are additive. Upon deriving the equation, he made an assumption wherein the
friction factor during laminar flow mainly depends on the void fraction and is independent of
the Reynolds number. On the other hand, it is dependent only on the Reynolds number and
not on the void fraction when the flow is turbulent [15]. This assumption does not take into
account the nature of the packing and the gas loading factor which are both taken into
consideration in Robbins equation, explaining why the values calculated using this equation
are closer to the experimental values. Figure 7 shows the comparison between the pressure
drop among the three treatment method.

Experimental
Ergun Equation
Robbins Equation

Figure 7. The comparison between the values of pressure drop at a given flow rate obtained
by experimentation (blue), Ergun Equation (red), and Robbins Equation (green)
For irrigated or wetted packed column, the experimental pressure drop at a given flow
rate was compared with the pressure drop calculated using Robbins Equation since it takes
into account the pressure drop contributed by the liquid loading or hold-up within the
packings. Figure 3 and 8 shows the logarithmic plot of pressure drop per unit height of
packing versus the superficial gas mass velocity. Theoretically, at low liquid flow rates and
increasing gas flow rate, pressure drop increases in a similar behavior (slope) when no liquid
flow is present in the column as seen in Figure 8. During this scenario, the pressure drop in an
irrigated packed bed is higher than that of the dry column, but having similar slopes, because
the liquid consumes part of the voids along the column, hence decreasing the portion where
gas can pass through. As the liquid flow rate increases, drastic and sudden increase in
pressure drop can be observed at high gas flow rates. At this point, liquid is starting to load or
accumulate inside the voids, hence resulting to the sudden increase in pressure drop.
Generally, such trend can also be observed in the experimental results depicted in Figure 3.
Some of the overlap among lower liquid flow rates and higher liquid flow rates may be due to
the effects of surface tension inside the manometer. Also, the system is not ideal, hence it may
deviate from the theoretical or expected outcome.

Dry
1 L/min
2
3
4
5
6
6.5
7

Figure 8. The logarithmic plot of the pressure drop per unit of height packing calculated
using the Robbins Equation versus the superficial gas mass velocity
Looking back at figure 5, the loading point can for the gas absorption column can be
estimated. Loading point is the point wherein liquid starts to be trapped or accumulated inside
the voids and spaces present, resulting to the drowning of the column. For a given liquid
flow rate, drowning of the column will result to flooding when the gas flow rate is further
increased. Loading point is signified by a sudden and drastic increase in pressure drop (see
figure 9). Also, as seen in the figure, liquid flow rates below 4 L/min do not intersect the
loading line.

Dry

Loading
P, psf

1 L/min
2
3
4
5
6
6.5

1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000

Gf, lb/hr-ft2

Figure 9. The black line intersects the loading point for each given liquid flow rate.
X.

Answers to Questions

What are the characteristics that a packing should have for it to be employed in mass
transfer operation?

Packings in mass transfer unit operations are designed to increase the interfacial area
of contact between the two phases (gas and liquid) as well as enhance their flow [7]. Mass
transfer operations account for the interfacial area of contact, void volume, fouling resistance,
etc. of the packings. Thus, packing materials should have large interfacial area of contact for
a larger pressure drop and high void of volume to maintain a low pressure drop, high fouling
resistance, good mechanical strength and uniform void spaces for uniform flow of streams
[8].
Explain the mechanism of gas flow through a packed bed with liquid flowing
countercurrently.
When there is a liquid flowing countercurrently with a gas in a packed column,
irrigation of the packings occurs and the cross-sectional area available for the gas is reduced void volume in the packings is filled with liquid. During constant flow of liquid at low to
moderate gas velocity, we can observe that the pressure drop resembles that of dry packings.
More so, there is a systematic flow of the liquid in the column and no sign of liquid holdup.
However, as we increase the gas velocity, a sudden rise in the pressure drop can be seen and
liquid starts to be trapped in the packings. Increasing it further will start the build-up of the
liquid which will soon result to flooding [9].
Differentiate between static and dynamic or operating holdup. How does this affect the
pressure drop through a packed column?
Liquid holdup ensues when the gas velocity in a packed column is further increased
and is considered as a significant hydrodynamic framework for gas and liquid flow in
columns. Shulman et al. (1955) reported that total liquid holdup is composed of a dynamic
and static segment under gas-liquid flow conditions. Operating or dynamic holdup appears as
the volume of liquid per volume of packing that gushes out of the bed right after the flow of
gas and liquid in the column is stopped. Contrarily, static liquid holdup is known to be the
volume of liquid per volume of packing that is retained in the packed bed after all the flows
are stopped and the bed is drained [11]. Liquid holdup gives a sudden rise of the pressure
drop through a packed column due to the entrainment of the liquid by the gas [12].
Define loading and channeling. Give the relevance of these two factors in packed column
operation.
Loading, for mass transfer operations, is the condition when the liquid starts to
accumulate in the packed column and generates pressure drop. Loading is known to be
desirable for mass transfer. On the other hand, channeling is observed when the liquid or gas
flow at some points are greater than other points. This is not an ideal condition for packed
columns and is usually avoided by choosing the right packing material. Under normal packed
column operations, both loading and channeling can occur. In order to attain a good mass
transfer, high liquid flow rate can be used to generate loading and eliminate channeling [13].
How does the packing factor obtained from the flooding velocity differ from the one
estimated empirically with the use of the correlation of Lobo et al?
The correlation of Lobo et al for packing factor showed only a lone curve predicting
packing flooding points which is based solely from bed porosity. On the other hand, the

packing factor procured using the flooding velocity considers the flooding of the packed bed
thereby giving a more accurate result [14].
XI.

Findings, Conclusion and Recommendation

Findings and Conclusion


One of the objectives of this experiment is to determine the void fraction of the gas
absorption column. By using equations (2), (3), (4), (5), and (6), the experimental void
fraction along the column was calculated using three different gas flow rates 30, 70, and 110
L/min. It was found that the void fraction is around 0.36 to 0.4075. Getting the average, the
experimental void fraction of the packed column was calculated to be 0.3836.
Another objective of this experiment was to determine the experimental packing
factor using flooding velocity calculations. The computed packing factor, F p, using the graph
for flooding velocity and equation (11) is 689.35 ft-1.
Lastly, another objective of this experiment is to determine the effect of liquid hold up
or loading on the pressure drop in the packed column. By comparing the experimental values
for an irrigated column and the calculated values using the Robbins equation, a general trend
was observed wherein the accumulation of liquid within the voids and spaces resulted into
sudden and drastic increase in pressure drop. The loading point time when liquid starts to
hold up or accumulate inside the voids on the logarithmic plot of the pressure drop per unit
height of packing versus the superficial gas velocity is signified by the sudden change in
slope of the curve. As the gas velocity at a given liquid flow rate is further increased, the
occurrence of flooding advances which is a result of the reduction of the cross-sectional area
available for the gas.
The differences between the experimental results and the calculated pressure drop
using the Ergun equation and Robbins equation can be attributed to the assumptions and
considerations made while deriving and establishing these said equations.
Recommendation
It is necessary to double check the flow of the gas from the pressure taps. Gas flow
should always be directed to the left manometer which is the water manometer. In addition to
this, if you only want to account for the pressure drop across the whole packed column, the
three-way valve around the middle pressure tap should be closed to block the flow of the gas
from the center. This way, only the gas flow from the top and bottom of the column will be
accounted. Also, in order to minimize, if not prevent, the effect of surface tension on the
reading of the height of fluid in the manometer, throttle the gas control valve periodically.
To further understand the concept of flooding and pressure drop, the experiment can
further be extended by utilizing the separate parts of the packed column. Also, to appreciate
the concept of gas absorption, other experiments involving different process fluids, such as
carbon dioxide and water, may be performed.