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Mass Transfer Operations I

Equipment for Gas-Liquid Operations

Lecture 14
The major gas-liquid operations include absorption and stripping, distillation, humidification and
dehumidification etc. The operations involve interphase mass transfer and require intimate contact
among the phases. The main purpose of the equipment for interphase mass transfer is to provide
intimate contact of the immiscible phases.

In many applications, the mass transfer equipment operates in the continuous mode. Batch
contacting is sometimes used, particularly for low processing capacities or in small production

A high degree of turbulent mixing is created properly disperse one phase into the other. This helps
in generating a large interfacial area of contact as well as in increasing the mass transfer coefficient.

Mass transfer equipment is mostly custom built (i.e., designed and fabricated according to the
requirements of the client; these types of equipment cannot be readily purchased from the market
as on-the-self items like pumps, valves, blowers, air conditioners etc.).

A variety of gas-liquid contacting equipment is in use. These can be classified as follows:

(1) Gas Dispersed: In some equipment, the gas is dispersed in the liquid in the form of
bubbles. For example: bubble columns, agitated vessels, tray towers, etc
(2) Liquid Dispersed: In some equipment, the liquid is dispersed in the form of droplets or
discontinuous films in a continuous gas phase. For example: venturi scrubbers, wetted
wall column, spray towers, packed towers, etc.

Tray and packed columns are most widely used for gas-liquid contacting - namely for gas
absorption, stripping, distillation.

1. Gas-Liquid Operations: Gas Dispersed
Main objectives are the following:
(a) Design bubble columns

For example. For larger diameter vessels (dia>0. The gas flows upwards and vigorously bubbles through the liquid on a tray. in 'gas absorption'. the reverse occurs in stripping. Mass transfer from the gas to the liquid (or from the liquid to the gas) phase occurs depending on the direction of the driving force. For small vessel diameter. plastics or sintered metals Purpose of sparger: (i) Contacting sparged gas with the liquid or (ii) simply may be a device for agitation TRAY OR PLATE COLUMN A tray tower primarily consists of a vertical cylindrical shell and a set of 'tower internals' that include (i) trays or plates on which the gas-liquid contact occurs. the solute gets transported from the gas to the liquid phase.3 m) several orifices are generally used for better distribution of gas into the liquid. (ii) arrangements for flow of the liquid from one tray to the lower one through the down comer. In this case: Sparger dia: varies from 1. Figure 5. a single open tube located at the bottom of the vessel may be used as sparger. forming a turbulent 'gas-liquid dispersion' in which bubble breakage and coalescence occur continuously. In a gas absorption application. An average depth of the dispersion is maintained on a tray. (b) Design tray or plate columns (c) Estimate the stage efficiencies for tray columns 1. and (iii) inlet and outlet nozzles for the two phases.5 mm to 3 mm. the liquid enters the top tray through a nozzle. Sparger materials: ceramics.1 schematically shows a few essential parts of a 'sieve tray' column. . It flows across each tray and flows into the lower tray through a 'downcomer'.1 Sparged Vessels A sparger is a device by which a stream of gas can be introduced in the form of bubbles into the liquid.

Tray towers of diameter less than 1 metre are rarely used. Plastic shells are also used sometimes. it may be made of several flanged sections in order that the trays may be fitted into it and maintained.The gas then leaves the froth or dispersion and enters the next upper tray. the tower acts as a cascade. On the other extreme. Mass transfer between the phases occurs on a tray. The Tray A 'tray' has two major functions: I. Therefore. The material is selected on the basis of corrosiveness of the fluids. The stage efficiency and therefore the number of real trays is determined by mechanical design and the conditions of operation. The constructional and operational features of a tray tower and tower internals are briefly discussed below. the gas vigorously bubbles through the liquid to form a 'gas-liquid dispersion'. and hence the cost. The tray holds the dispersion on it. when necessary. IS 2825). The Shell The shell is usually made of a metal or an alloy. If the shell diameter is small. it is a common practice to use different wall thicknesses for different sections of the shell. of the shell. temperature and pressure conditions. In this way. the liquid load and the wind stress. towers as big as 10 metre in diameter are known to be in use. The downcomer is a region near the wall. The number of equilibrium stages (ideal trays) required for a given separation is determined solely from material balances and equilibrium considerations. by opening it. The seismic factor at the particular location is also needed to be considered during column and support design. and cost. A tower is generally 'skirt-supported' on concrete foundations. The trays separate the column into a number of compartments each of which constitutes a stage. separated by a 'downcomer plate'. Since the bending moment due to wind load is maximum at the tower bottom. 2. It allows the gas to flow through the holes or passages. The bottom section has the maximum thickness and the upper sections have gradually smaller thicknesses. ASME Section VllI. The liquid flows across a tray and then over a 'weir' to enter into the downcomer. Each tray acts as a stage in which the liquid flowing down from the upper tray and the gas flowing up from the lower tray come into contact. This strategy substantially reduces the weight. in which the bubbles get disengaged from the liquid. the trays as a whole . countercurrent and stage-wise gas liquid contact takes place in the tower. Shell thickness is calculated by using a standard vessel design code (for example. The support should be strong enough to take the column weight.

For clean services. A disk has guides that can slide vertically up or down along the thickness of the tray floor. The sieve tray This is the simplest type of tray in which the bubble caps are replaced by holes or perforations for entrance of the gas into the liquid. However. therefore. In fact. As the gas flow increases. but the disk is always held in the same vertical line. 8 inch hole diameter is preferred. a 1 1 hole diameter of 2 inch may have to be used. It settles down at a low vapour rate to prevent 'weeping'. A ring gasket is used below the nut. polymers or other solids because of the up and down motion of the disk and the guides. stainless steel or any other suitable material that can withstand the environment within the tower. Caps are arranged on a tray on equilateral triangular pitch with rows normal to the direction of liquid flow. The trays do not easily acquire deposits from dirty liquids. The valve tray The valve tray is a relatively new class of tray that provides variable area for the gas or vapour flow depending upon the flow rate or 'throughput'. generally circular. promote froth regime operation and exhibit better mass transfer characteristics. The caps and the risers are made of low carbon steel. constitute the heart of a column. for liquids that foul or cause deposition. Trays are also called 'plates'. each fitted with a movable disk. There are quite a few types of trays in use. A common valve tray has sufficiently large punched holes on the tray floor. self-cleaning. In vacuum services. The holes are of relatively small diameter . reduce entrainment. the disk is automatically raised. A valve tray is a proprietary tray. 3 use of a hole diameter of 16 inch is common. Different types of valve trays are made by different companies. reduce weeping. The valve . The riser is a piece of tube with a flared or expanded bottom end. This is why the name 'sieve tray' (also called 'perforated tray'). the riser acts as the vapour passage and also holds the cap. The guides or retaining legs are bent at the end so that the disk does not pop up or gets detached even at a large vapour rate. The performance of a column depends upon the performance of the trays. Valve units are. The riser is inserted through a hole on the tray floor and the bell-shaped cap is bolted to it. Small holes enhance tray capacity. The opening for the gas flow changes in this way.usually ranging 1 1 from 8 to 2 inch. The bubble-cap tray A bubble cap consists of two major components-a bell-shaped 'cap' and a 'riser' (also called a 'chimney'). This is why it is called 'valve tray'. Bubble caps generally range from 1 inch to 6 inches in diameter.

and (ii) sticking of the disk on the tray if there is sticky deposition on the tray. entry of reflux at the top and of the reboiler vapour return at the bottom (in a distillation column). The feed should be evenly distributed and mixed with internal liquid or vapour. The downcomer must provide sufficient residence time for gas-liquid disengagement. a pad made of wire mesh or a pack of suitably bent and spaced thin sheets is fitted above it. The primary criterion of a feed nozzle design is to ensure that the feed is introduced with minimum splashing or jetting (the velocity of liquid feed in the nozzle should not exceed 1 m/s). In addition.5 ft/s. Because of high flexibility. valve trays are now widely used for gas absorption and distillation.tray is a good choice for highly fouling services. high turndown ratio and relatively low cost. Such a device is called 'mist eliminator' or a 'demister' . The residence time is usually 3 to 5 seconds. The weir length may vary from 60 to 80% of the tower diameter. and for product withdrawal from the tower. The droplets are retained after they strike the surface of the pad. along with some dispersed gas or vapour bubbles. A weir height of 1 to 2 inches is generally maintained.3 and 0. Downcomers and weirs The 'downcomer' is a passage through which the liquid flows down from one tray to the next below. The lower region contains clear liquid that enters the lower tray. Disengagement of the gas as bubbles occurs in the upper region of a downcomer. The liquid. Nozzles A tower for contacting a liquid and a vapour (or a gas) should be provided with a few nozzles for feed entry (both gas and liquid). In order to prevent entrainment in the vapour leaving the top tray. the downcomer area correspondingly varies from 5 to 15% of the tray area. The 'clear liquid' velocity in the downcomer normally ranges between 0. However for a foaming liquid. considerably higher residence time and therefore a larger downcomer volume has to be provided. a little entrainment of liquid in the upflowing vapour may occur. A few problems common to all kinds of valve trays are (i) mechanical wear and corrosion because of continuous movement of the valve legs. overflows the weir and enters the 'downcomer' or the 'downspout'. 12 to 16 valves per ft2 of tray area are accommodated. In a common valve tray layout. This value may vary depending upon the liquid properties. they offer lower pressure drop than the bubble-cap type and generally they are cheaper than the latter type. The desired depth of the gas-liquid dispersion is maintained on a tray by using a 'weir' in the form of a vertical plate. Mist Eliminator Even under normal operating conditions.

Lecture 15 OPERATIONAL FEATURES OF A TRAY COLUMN The flow phenomena on a tray with the gas bubbling vigorously through the flowing liquid are pretty complex. But for a bubble-cap tray it may be significant because the bubble caps offer a larger resistance to liquid flow. liquid 'dumping' or 'back-trapping' may occur through the end where the liquid enters the tray. It remains pretty small for a sieve tray. Hydraulic gradient is a very important quantity to be checked during tray design. Depending upon the size of a droplet. the droplet may descend back into the liquid on the tray or may be carried into the tray above. droplets of liquid are formed in the vapour space by quite a few mechanisms including shearing action of the gas jet or rupture of the liquid film as a gas bubble bursts. The tray internals are selected and designed. It should preferably be kept within 2 inch. Entrainment When a gas bubbles through the liquid pool vigorously. In practice. most of the gas flows through the holes near the middle of the tray and at the outlet weir and only a small part flows through the holes at the liquid inlet side of the tray. In extreme cases. An excessive liquid gradient causes severe malfunctioning of the tray. the phenomenon is called 'weeping'. 'dumping' is an extreme case of leakage through the tray deck if the vapour velocity is low and the vapour pressure drop across the tray is not sufficient to hold the liquid. The hydraulic gradient on a tray should not exceed a fraction of 1 an inch. Weeping causes some reduction of the 'tray efficiency' because the liquid dripping down to the tray below through the perforations has not been in full contact with the gas or vapour. Hydraulic Gradient and Multipass Trays The difference between the 'clear liquid heights' at the points of inlet and outlet on a tray is called the 'hydraulic gradient' or 'liquid gradient’. It is the liquid head required for overcoming the resistance to liquid flow on a tray. keeping in view the complexity of the flow and the problems that may arise out of it. On the other hand. Weeping and Dumping If a very small fraction of the liquid flows from a tray to the lower one through perforations or openings of the tray deck. The phenomenon of carry over of the suspended droplets . its velocity of projection and the drag force acting on it due to the gas velocity. a little bit of weeping may occur intermittently through sieve trays because of the instantaneous pressure imbalance. Such maldistribution of the gas or the vapour severely reduces the 'tray efficiency'.

The effects of the phase flow rates on the performance of a sieve tray are qualitatively shown in Figure 5. If the liquid is prone to foaming on aeration. the rate of flow of the gas-liquid dispersion into the downcomer also becomes high. The Performance Diagram The performance of a particular type of tray depends upon the relative liquid and vapour throughputs. Flooding Under normal operating conditions. Depending upon the flow rates of the phases and the tray spacing. One strategy of overcoming the problem of downcomer flooding is to provide a larger tray spacing. Most of the liquid droplets suspended in the gas are then carried into the upper tray causing liquid accumulation thereon and eventual flooding of the tray. This is also called the tray stability diagram. If the downcomer cannot accommodate the dispersion load and the gas-liquid disengagement does not occur properly. if the gas velocity is large. Froth entrainment flooding Froth appears on a tray over a range of gas and liquid flow rates. flooding may occur even at lower gas velocities. the froth may almost fill the entire space between two successive trays. or if the tray spacing is small. If accumulation of liquid on a tray continues. The chances of entrainment are more if a droplet is small. 'Flooding' is an abnormal condition of excessive accumulation of liquid and simultaneous excessive pressure drop across the flooded tray. Let us assume that the tray operates at gas and liquid rates corresponding to point N located in the 'region of normal operation' in Figure 5. the spray height increases as the vapour velocity is increased. the gas rate is high enough to .10.into the upper tray is called 'entrainment'. a part or eventually the entire column may be filled with the liquid. more liquid is entrained in the gas. The spray may eventually reach the downside of the tray above. an average liquid depth is maintained on a tray. Flooding of a tray or a column may occur because of one or more of the following reasons: Spray entrainment flooding At a low liquid rate. the aerated frothy liquid fills the downcomer and finally backs up onto the tray above leading to 'downcomer flooding'. At point E. causing a substantial carry over of the liquid droplets and leading to flooding of the tray and the column.10. Downcomer flooding When the liquid flow rate is high. If we keep on increasing the gas throughput at a constant liquid rate.

most of the liquid passes through the tray holes and little. Turndown Ratio A column designed for a particular capacity may have to be operated at an enhanced or reduced capacity depending upon changes in the production rate in the plant due to various factors. It is. Such flexibility is expressed in terms of the 'turndown ratio'. Sieve trays have a low turndown ratio of about 2. At point F. desirable that the trays have some degree of flexibility to operate over a range of throughput around the design capacity. The operable limits of a tray in respect of gas and liquid flow rates depend on the tray design. flows into the downcomer. The rate of entrainment strongly depends upon the tray spacing. Tray Spacing Tray spacing is the distance or gap between two consecutive trays in a column. Also. If a larger spacing is provided. An adequate tray spacing is important for quite a few reasons. At a gas rate corresponding to point W. dumping of liquid starts. the gas pressure drop across the tray decreases to the extent that some liquid starts leaking through the tray holes. if any. Valve trays normally have a turndown ratio of 4. . therefore. which is defined as the ratio of the 'design vapour throughput' to the 'minimum operable throughput'. Hence. temperature and pressure conditions as well as the properties of the liquid and vapour phases. The tray should be operated above this point. bubble-cap trays have a still larger turndown ratio. Tray spacing varies over a pretty wide range of 8 to 36 inches. the tray does not operate satisfactorily if the gas rate is kept on decreasing. As the gas rate is further reduced to point L.cause excessive entrainment. Under such a condition. a tray spacing of 18 to 24 inches is adequate. the weeping rate increases significantly causing deterioration of performance of the tray. For a column 4ft or larger in diameter. The column can operate at a greater superficial gas velocity and a smaller column diameter can be used for a given throughput. the tray gets flooded and is inoperable. a trade-off between a smaller column diameter and a larger height has to be struck. The tray efficiency falls to an unacceptable level. This is weeping of the tray as discussed before. most of the liquid droplets descend back to the tray reducing the entrainment. But the column height increases if the same number of trays have to be accommodated. If the gas throughput is yet reduced to the point D.

the major items to be determined are the tray diameter (i. viscosity. Tray gas-pressure drop. Design of a sieve tray for gas (or vapour)-Liquid contact Once the design basis (the flow rates. In addition. This velocity corresponds to the theoretical maximum capacity of the column. the composition. the physical properties of the streams such as density.e.) of the streams is established. So far as the design of a sieve tray is concerned. we need to know the flow rates. and Tray efficiency.TRAY DESIGN While designing a process plant or a part of it. etc. the tray spacing and tower internals such as downcomers and weir. Tray (or Column) Diameter The required diameter of a tray or the column for the given flow rates of the gas and the liquid phase is determined from flooding considerations. output and generation. if any. the compositions. the temperature 'and pressure of each stream as well as the amount of heat input. Brown equation that gives the flooding velocity for 'spray entrainment flooding' is as follows: . the pressures. complete material and energy balance calculations for every piece of equipment or device are done in order to establish the design basis in terms of the flow rate. the compositions. There are a few methods of calculation of the flooding velocity. the column diameter). surface tension. etc. The next step is the selection and design of the tray. the size and layout of the holes. For example. are required to be known or estimated for use in design calculations. Of the three most common types of trays-namely. Here we give a brief outline of the procedure of design of a sieve tray (also called 'perforated tray'). the temperatures. It has been stated before that as the gas velocity in a column is gradually increased. Valve trays are 'proprietary' trays and only limited information on their design is available in the open literature. and the temperatures of all the liquid and the gas (or vapour) streams entering and leaving the tower as well as the operating pressure. diffusivity. the number of trays required for the specified degree of separation of a feed mixture is determined following the procedures described in other Chapters. a limiting velocity is attained above which entrainment is high enough to cause accumulation of liquid on the trays leading to flooding. bubble-cap. before we proceed to design a tray or a packed tower. sieve and valve trays-the design methods of the former two are pretty well-established.

01 to 0. liquid surface tension and foaming tendency.0 for nonfoaming systems. ?? − ?? 1/2 ??. at flooding. as .?? is the 'superficial velocity. The value of the empirical constant C depends on the tray design. and 5(Ah/Aa)+0. m If the value of X is in the range of 0. In reality the quantity CSB is not a constant.1 (Ah/Aa) = ratio of vapor hole area to tray active area 1 ?? =  log (?) + ? where  = 0. tray spacing. Then. and CSB is called the 'Souders-Brown flooding constant' (sometimes called 'capacity factor'). it depends upon tray spacing S. flow rates.0 for (Ah/Aa)0. This can be estimated using the following relationship: ??? = ??? ?? ??? ?? where Fst = surface tension factor = (/20)0. then use X = 0. the column diameter is based on a specific fractional approach to flooding f. dyn/cm FF = foaming factor = 1.1 in the above eqn.5 t = tray spacing. liquid load.0304t + 0.2  = surface tension.5 for (Ah/Aa) 0.0744t + 0.75 or even less FHA = 1.01173 β = 0.10. 1/2 4?? ?=( ) ?? ? ??? (1 − ⁄? )  ? It is suggested that Ad/At must be chosen based on the value of X. Typically. for many absorber may be 0. fractional hole area on a tray and the hole diameter.?? = ??? ( ) ?? Here ??.1.015 X = flow parameter = (L/G) (?? /?? )0.

The density of the liquid is 1000 kg/m3.1? 1.1 = {0. 0. . The mixture contains 10% NH3 and 90% air.0 ?? 9 0. The gas enters at the bottom of the tower at a flow rate of 150 kmol/h at 298K and 1atm. Design the tower for a 75% approach to the flooding velocity.1 ?? ? − 0.2 ??? ?1. It is desired to remove 90% NH3. Assume surface tension of liquid is 80 dyn/cm. The diameter of the sieve is 2 mm which is on an equilateral-triangular pitch of 10mm.1 + ??? 0. The recommended foaming factor is 0.75. The water is fed at the top of the tower at flow rate of 150kmol/h.0 Problem: Ammonia is absorbed by pure water from air-ammonia mixture using a sieve-tray tower.1 ??? ?0.