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You are on page 1of 11

Problem/objective

The shortcut simulation delimits the optimum operating range of a rectification column for

almost ideally behaving mixtures. The results are to be regarded as reference values only. A

detailed column simulation and the simulation of non-ideal mixtures are performed with a

rigorous column simulation, e.g. SCDS.

The advantages of the shortcut column are the delimitation of the reflux ratio and the direct

calculation of the feed tray. It offers a quick overview of the total solution.

This tutorial focuses on a simple two-substance mixture of benzene and o-xylene. This

substance is to be separated through rectification to achieve a minimum benzene purity of 99%

at the top. A benzene concentration of 1% shall not be exceeded on the bottom. The simulation

is performed via the shortcut column to determine the optimum reflux ratio and the feed tray.

The simulation is performed with CHEMCAD Steady State. Prior to the simulation, the

components and the thermodynamic models must be set.

At "Select Components", the components benzene (CAS no. 71-43-2) and o-xylene (CAS no. 95-

47-6) are selected. The subsequent "Thermodynamics Wizard" suggests a suitable model after

specification of the pressure and the temperature. For the given example, CHEMCAD suggests

the k-value model UNIFAC. For the enthalpy model, LATE (latent heat) is suggested.

This selection is a preselection made by the program, and should always be verified by the user

or synchronized with a decision diagram ([3], figure 8/9).

First, the T-x diagram and the phase diagram are generated at [Plot] [TPXY] to examine the

focused on process simulation

Page 1 of 11

behaviour of the mixture. The T-x diagram shows the boiling points, from which the light

component and the heavy component are easy to read. The equilibrium diagram shows that

the benzene/o-xylene mixture does not form an azeotropic mixture and that it features an

almost ideal behaviour. The shortcut simulation can be used for the mixture.

The UnitOp (unit operation) for the shortcut column is entered in the flow sheet and allocated a

feed stream and two product streams. The feed stream is set with the data stated in table 1

(see figure 3).

Units Components Thermodynamics Feed streams Unit operations

o-xylene (feed) o-xylene: 50 kg/h column

T = 20C 1 Feed

p = 1.013 bar 2 Products

Page 2 of 11

The shortcut column is initialized in the next step. In the settings window (figure 3), you can

select three different design options at "Select Mode".

The first selection option, "Rating: Fenske-Underwood-Gilliland", cannot be used for the design.

It is used if the column data are already available and to get a quick overview of the separation

behaviour.

The other two options, "2 Design; FUG with Fenske feed tray location" and "3 Design; FUG with

Kirkbride feed tray location", are required for the design of the shortcut column. The difference

between these methods is summarized in table 2.

2 Design; FUG with Fenske feed 3 Design; FUG with Kirkbride

tray location feed tray location

Calculation basis for according to according to

-minimum number of stages Fenske- Underwood- Gilliland Fenske- Underwood- Gilliland

-minimum reflux ratio

-theoretical number of stages

Calculation basis for according to according to

-theoretical feed tray Fenske Kirkbride

Difference Calculation of the theoretical Calculation of the theoretical

feed tray via minimum and feed tray via the ratio of the

theoretical number of stages stages in the amplification and

output part

Page 3 of 11

For this tutorial, we will select design 2, "FUG with Fenske feed tray location". The details are

required to initialize the shortcut column: Light keysplit, heavy keysplit and the ratio .

The keysplits state the ratio between the outgoing light component and the heavy component

in the top to that supplied to the feed. This is not equivalent to the desired purity at the top.

The simplification of the shortcut method is that the mixture to be examined is reduced to a

binary system. The two components to be separated are referred to as light and heavykey.

The mass streams at the head ( ) and bottom ( ) for the desired purity ( can be

determined via a balance. w corresponds to the mass fraction.

Now it is possible to calculate the light and the

heavy keysplit.

( . o-xylene shall not exceed a maximum concentration of 1% at the head

( . For the data stated in table 1, this results in a light keysplit of LKS = 0.99 and a

heavy keysplit of HKS =0.01.

The last entry required for calculation of the shortcut column in CHEMCAD is the statement of

the ratio between the theoretical and the minimum reflux ratio .

The objective of the simulation is to determine the optimum reflux ratio. Accordingly, only an

initial value is stated to begin with, which is then optimised by means of a sensitivity study. The

rule of thumb1 usually states a ratio between (1 3). If the ratio is 1, the reflux ratio

corresponds to the minimum reflux ratio, which would result in an infinite number of stages.

For this reason, we assume an initial vale of 1.1.

____________________________

1

Lwe, Eberhard : Destillation Rektifikation, TFH Berlin, 1989

Page 4 of 11

All settings are now complete and the simulation can be started. It is to be expected that the

column converges.

The apparatus energy curve (figure 5) is generated via a sensitivity study [6]

in the next step. For this purpose, the ratio is varied from 1.01 to 3 and the theoretical

number of stages calculated for this is entered.

The apparatus energy curve shows that the number of stages reduces with increasing

ratio . However, when selecting the optimum ratio, please note that an increase in ratio

also increases the evaporator output and thus the operating costs.

is applied as optimum ratio and the simulation restarted.

Page 5 of 11

Assessment of the simulation results

The calculated column properties are displayed in the settings window of the shortcut column

(see figure 6). The theoretical number of stages calculated with the entered data is 13. The feed

tray is on the 7th stage. The results of the reflux ratio, minimum number of stages, evaporator

and condenser output are also listed.

The properties of the process streams (see figure 8) are displayed at [Format][Add Stream

Box].

Page 6 of 11

The mole fractions of the components at the top, bottom and in the feed are displayed in the

"Stream Box". We can see that the requirements stated in the problem at hand were achieved.

Benzene was obtained in nearly pure form. o-xylene is only discharged in a very low

concentration at the top.

The simulation results are reference values not suited for a real column design. A detailed

simulation must be performed with a rigorous column. However, the calculated column

properties delimit the operating range so that work and time can be saved with the simulation

of the rigorous column.

Fundamental principles

In the following, we will enhance the basic theoretic knowledge behind the shortcut function

and provide more detailed information.

The shortcut method allows an easy and fast estimation of the column properties for

separating ideal mixtures, because the system discussed herein is substantially simplified.

The simplification of the shortcut method is that the mixture to be examined is reduced to a

binary system. The two components to be separated are referred to as light and heavykey and

examined in the idealised calculation. Further components influence the relative volatility but

will not be considered further for this calculation.

Another simplification is that the relative volatility and the separation factors are assumed to

be constant within the examined temperature range. The relative volatility is defined as:

(1)

(2)

with the partial pressure pi, and for the liquid phase fraction Raoul's law

(3)

With the activity coefficient and the steam pressure , one arrives at

(4)

For the calculation of the relative volatility, CHEMCAD merely requires the activity coefficients

and the steam pressure of the light component and the heavy component.

The calculation saved in the shortcut model takes place according to the calculation methods

by Fenske, Underwood and Gilliland, which will be explained in the following.

Page 7 of 11

The Fenske equation (5) is used to calculate the minimum number of plates at total reflux with

known substance/mass fraction in the distillate and the bottom. Here, the relative volatility is

assumed to be constant. However, as the relative volatility depends on the composition of the

mixture as well as on the pressure and the temperature, an average relative volatility is used

for the calculation.

( )

(5)

with the average relative volatility

(6)

is the mole fraction of the light components at the top and the mole fraction of the heavy

fraction on the bottom.

In the next step, the minimum reflux ratio with an infinite number of plates is calculated with

the Underwood equation (7). This is an approximation calculation which depends on the phase

equilibrium and the feed properties.

[ ] (7)

is the mole fraction of the light component in the feed. As a rule of thumb, the minimum reflux

ratio is multiplied with a factor.

(8)

The Gilliland equation is an empirical approach for determining the theoretical number of

plates. This empirical approach is displayed in a diagram and can be described with the

Molokanov equation.

This diagram can be found in the literature ([5], p. 199).

The feed tray can be determined in two ways. The first possibility is that according

to Fenske. First, the number of plates at maximum reflux is determined via Fenske (9). This

number of plates corresponds to the number of plates required to achieve the desired top

concentrations of the light component and the heavy components in relation to the feed

concentration.

( )

(9)

The minimum number of plates and the number of plates according to Fenske can now be used

to calculate the theoretical feed tray .

(10)

Page 8 of 11

Alternatively, the feed tray can be determined using the Kirkbride equation. This is based on

empirical data. A ratio between the theoretical number of plates in the amplification part and

the theoretical number of plates in the output part is determined. This is subsequently used to

calculate the feed tray.

[( ) ( ) ] (11)

with

(12)

most important calculation parameters.

Specified values Values to be determined

- Top and - minimum number of plates

Fenske bottom concentrations - Feed tray at maximum

- relative volatility Reflux

- Feed and - minimum

top concentrations reflux ratio at

Underwood - relative volatility infinite number of stages

- Actual

reflux ratio

- minimum number of plates - theoretical number of plates

- minimum with

Gilliland reflux ratio calculated

reflux ratio

- theoretical feed tray

- Mole stream of top and - theoretical feed tray

Kirkbride bottom

- Feed, top and

bottom concentrations

Page 9 of 11

Are you interested in further tutorials, seminars or other solutions with CHEMCAD?

Then please visit our website.

www.chemstations.eu

Mail: support@chemstations.eu

Phone: +49 (0)30 20 200 600

Authors:

Lisa Weise

Daniel Seidl

Sources:

[2] Gmehling, Jrgen: Kolbe, Brbel: Kleiber, Micheal: Rarey, Jrgen: Chemical Thermodynamics

for Process Simulation. Wiley-VCH Verlag, 2012

[4] Schmidt, Wolfgang: Ideales Phasengleichgewicht und Shortcut Kolonne, July 2011

Verlag, p. 199-202

Page 10 of 11

List of formulas

Formula Meaning

Mass stream

Mole fraction

Mass fraction

Reflux ratio

Relative volatility

k factor

Mole fraction in the liquid phase

Pressure

Saturation pressure

Number of stages

Mole stream

List of indexes

Indexes Meaning

F Feed

D Distillate

B Bottom

L Light component

H Heavy component

min minimum:

1,2 Component 1 & 2

i i-te component

Page 11 of 11

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