1 Chapter 1

Primer II for Using Aspen Plus® process simulation software
– Design Calculations
This is the second primer for using Aspen Plus® software. It focuses on using design features of the
simulation software and builds on the first Primer. It does not review startup or most other issues
discussed in the first primer.

Aspen can vary column parameters to optimize reflux ratios, mole recoveries, etc. It can also
automatically optimize the number of stages required to minimize, for example, the reboiler duty or
molar reflux ratio. This primer briefly reviews how the problem can be set up for these types of

Design Specifications
Within Aspen, design specifications that can be automatically targeted appear in Table 1

Table 1 Summary of Aspen Design specifications
Design Specification Specifies
Stream purity Purity of product, internal, or decanter stream(s)
Component recovery Recovery of component (s) in product stream(s) based on feed stream(s)
Flow rate Flow rate of product, internal, or decanter stream(s)
Component ratio Ratio of flow of component(s) of an internal stream to flow of component (s)
of internal, feed, or product stream(s)
Stage temperature Temperature on a specific stage
Stream property value Property value of a product or internal stream
Stream property difference Difference of two property values based on product or internal stream(s)
Stream property ratio Ratio of two property values based on product or internal stream(s)
Distillate flow rate Distillate flow rate
Bottoms flow rate Bottoms flow rate
Reflux flow rate Reflux flow rate from condenser
Boilup flow rate Boilup flow rate
Reflux ratio Ratio of reflux flow rate to distillate flow rate
Boilup ratio Ratio of boilup flow rate to bottoms flow rate
Condenser duty Condenser duty
Reboiler duty Reboiler duty

Notably absent from this list is the number of stages, which is discussed later. The design
specification is entered in the Design Specification node within the block that defines a distillation
column. Commonly, several design specifications provide a complete design. The specific example here
assumes a 50:50 mixture of n-butanol and isobutanol and uses UNIQUAC thermodynamics models. An
atmospheric-pressure column with a total condenser and with a distillate to feed ratio of 0.5 and a
nominal reflux ratio of 15 should be specified if you want to make quantitative comparisons with this
example. The column in this example has 25 equilibrium stages with the feed on stage 15.

A second design specification (Design Specification 2) should be similarly constructed for 97. 4. 1. respectively. mole recovery specifies the amount of a feed component recovered in the distillate and bottoms feeds. Accept the default name of 1 for this specification 3. Select the component on which to base this recovery (isobutanol) and the stream to which it corresponds (2 – or distillate) by clicking on the Components and Streams tabs respectively and selecting the appropriate information (or click on N-> to be guided to these sheets automatically). in this case the second choice in molar units.975) as the target specification.5% recovery of n-butanol in the bottoms. or Mole Recovery. Enter the target value for this recovery (0.In this example. To make such specification: Figure 1 Data entry dialog box for design specifications. 2. Select New in the Design Specifications dialog box under the Block node of the Data Browser tree section (see Figure 1). 5. Select an appropriate design specification in the next dialog box (Figure 2) from Table 1. .

Reflux ratio will vary as the program attempts to meet the design specifications of 97. The following procedure outlines how to make such specifications: . At least one and no more than two varying parameters are specified in this node.5% molar purity in each of the distillate and bottoms feeds. In this case.Figure 2 Dialog box for specifying the specifications for Design Specs 1. reflux ratio and distillate to feed ratio where chosen as the operating specifications in the Setup dialog box. Varying Parameters The parameters to vary to meet the design specifications previously entered in the program appear in the Vary node of the Block tree. These must be selected from the two operating specifications established in the column Setup dialog box.

The Results tab on this dialog box will display the actual reflux ratio used in the program to meet the design specification after the computations complete (see next section). In this example. 2. Design Calculation The program is now prepared to vary the reflux ratio to meet the design specifications. press the next button (N->). the reflux ratio may vary from 0. To initiate this calculation. Figure 3 Dialog box for specifying the parameter and its range of variation that should be varied to meet the design specifications. in this case Reflux Ratio. Select the design parameter to be varied from the Adjusted Variable drop-down box. 1. Enter the range over which the design parameter (Reflux Ratio) may be varied to meet the Design Specifications. Create a new Vary object by selecting New in the Vary dialog box under the Block node of the Data Browser.5 to 25. 3. The program will either meet the design .

the calculations consider columns ranging from 25 to 30 stages.5 to 25. it meets the specification with a reflux ratio of 19. Begin with the column specifications in the same stage as it was left after varying Reflux Ratio to meet design specifications. 2. Optimizing Stages vs.specification or come as close as it can to meeting it within the constraints of the varying parameter. Then set the lower and upper limits to 25 and 30. The resulting recoveries appear under the Results tabs of the design specifications (97. Create a new NQ Curve object by selecting New in the initial dialog box.5. The NQ Curves node of the Blocks section of the Data Browser tree for a given column enables these calculations. The primary steps in entering these data are as follows: 1.5% pure alcohol streams or it will come as close as it can by varying the reflux ratio from 0. it will either produce 97. In the dialog box (Figure 4). 3. the reboiler or condenser heat demand or the reflux ratios.5 in this case). Heat Demand Since column design often involves varying the number of stages vs. Accept the default name of 1. In this example. enter the lower and upper limits of the number of stages you wish to consider in this optimization. The upper limit may not exceed the number entered in the column Set Up dialog box when the column was first established. For this example. Figure 4 NQ Curve object specification in Aspen.5 in both cases) and the resulting reflux ratio appear under the Results tab of the Vary specification (19. increase this number to 30. . Aspen provides an automatic method to analyze this tradeoff. That is. Figure 4 illustrates the dialog box used to specify parameters for NQ Curves calculations. In this case.

with the feed at Stage 17 and a reflux ratio of 9. 4. the objective function is the reboiler duty (or occasionally the condenser duty) as a function of the number of stages. . With such data. The program is now prepared to make these calculations.1. Figure 5 illustrating typical results. a similar separation occurs with 26 stages and the feed (optimized) at Stage 15 and a reflux ratio of 15. In the classical design approach. That is. 6.5 with the indicated reboiler and condenser duties. Generally. finding an optimum feed stage location for each number of stages modeled. Enter a step size (number of stages by which the column optimization will change) in the indicated box. The summary data included here (accessed from the Basic Results tab in the Results node of the NQ Curves object) indicate that a column with 25 stages has an optimal feed location at Stage 13 and a reflux ratio of 19. The results of the calculations appear under the results node of the NQ Curves object. It selects the optimum design based on the design objective (objective function) specified in this box. 5. designers can select either taller columns or higher reflux ratios to accomplish a given separation. etc. The NQ Curves object systematically varies the number of stages and the feed stage location. the tradeoff between these two depends primarily on capital vs. conceptually similar optimizations can be performed by combinations of heat duties or by varying reflux or other parameters. higher heat/cooling demands in these towers. called the objective function (see below). Specify the stream number that represents the feed stream. select a design objective. This is normally either 1 or 2 – 1 in this case.3. The sequence continue through 30 stages. it will find the least number of stages and the optimum feed location based on minimizing the reboiler duty. Finally. Do so by pressing the next button (N->). Alternatively. However. operating costs – that is taller towers vs. Each of these calculations includes an optimal feed stage for the given number of total stages. the reflux ratio.

Figure 5 Example of optimized number of stages. feed location. . and resulting condenser and reboiler duties and reflux ratios during an NQ Curves calculation.