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Distillation is the most widely applied thermal separation process and can be carried out in a batch, continuous, or
semi-continuous manner. There are many types of distillation: fractional, vacuum, azeotropic,
extractive, or steam distillation – to name a few. The most widely used industrial applications
of continuous, steady state fractional distillation are in petroleum refineries, petro-chemical
plants and natural gas processing plants.

Industrial distillation is typically performed in large, vertical cylindrical columns known as

distillation towers or distillation columns with diameters ranging from about 65 cm to 16 m
and heights ranging from about 6 m to 90 m or more. When the process feed has a diverse
composition, as in distilling crude oil, liquid outlets at intervals along the column allow the
withdrawal of different fractions or products having different boiling points or boiling ranges.
The "lightest" products (those with the lowest boiling point) exit at the top of the columns
and the "heaviest" products (those with the highest boiling point) exit at the bottom of the
column and are often called the bottoms.

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Diagram of a typical industrial distillation tower

Large-scale industrial towers use a reflux stream to achieve a more complete separation of
products. Reflux refers to the portion of the condensed overhead liquid product from a
distillation or fractionation tower that is returned to the upper part of the tower as shown in
the schematic diagram of a typical, large-scale industrial distillation tower. Inside the tower,
the down-flowing reflux liquid provides cooling and condensation of the up-flowing vapours
thereby increasing the efficiency of the distillation tower.

The more reflux is provided for a given number of theoretical plates, the better is the tower's
separation of lower boiling materials from higher boiling materials. Alternatively, the more
reflux is provided for a given desired separation, the fewer theoretical plates are required.
Such industrial fractionating towers are also used in air separation, producing liquid oxygen,
liquid nitrogen, and high purity argon. Distillation of chlorosilanes also enables the production
of high-purity silicon for use as a semiconductor.

Section of an industrial distillation tower showing detail of trays with bubble caps

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Design and operation of a distillation tower depends on the type of feed and the quality of
the desired products. Given a simple, binary component feed, analytical methods such as the
McCabe-Thiele method or the Fenske equation can be used for the design. For a
multicomponent feed, simulation models are used both for design and operation. Moreover,
the efficiencies of the vapour-liquid contact devices (referred to as "plates" or "trays") used
in distillation towers are typically lower than that of a theoretical 100% efficient equilibrium
stage. Hence, a distillation tower needs more trays than the number of theoretical
vapourliquid equilibrium stages.

In many applications, a packing material is used in the column instead of trays, especially
when low-pressure drops across the column are required  e.g. when operating under
vacuum. This packing material can either be random dumped packing such as Raschig rings
or structured sheet metal. Liquids wet the surface of the packing and the vapours pass across
this wetted surface, where mass transfer takes place.

Unlike conventional tray distillation in which every tray represents a separate point of vapour-
liquid equilibrium, the vapour-liquid equilibrium curve in a packed column is continuous.
However, when modelling packed columns, it is useful to compute a number of "theoretical
stages" to denote the separation efficiency of the packed column with respect to more
traditional trays. Differently shaped packings have different surface areas and void space
between packings. Both of these factors affect packing performance.

The main objective of this module is to know how the simulator deals with distillation columns: How they are installed,
connected and finally, solved. Another objective is to find out how to use the simulator to
find alternative operating conditions –using the same column– to obtain improved product

The guided exercise will show how to install columns using the Input Expert simulator wizard
that guides the user through the setup of the distillation column.

The use of the Case Study tool will provide the user with objective criteria in order to take
design decisions like using or not a condenser in the stabilizer column.

Stabilizers are distillation columns that are often used in the oil & gas industry to remove light components from a
hydrocarbon mixture to avoid undesired liquid vaporization under process conditions thus
ensuring a certain vapour pressure in the resulting liquid.

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Multi-stage fractionation towers, such as crude and vacuum distillation units, reboiled
demethanizers, and extractive distillation columns, are the
most complex unit operations that a simulator can calculate.
Depending on the system being simulated, each of these
towers consists of a series of equilibrium or non-equilibrium
flash stages. The vapour leaving each stage flows to the stage
above and the liquid from the stage flows to the stage below.
A stage can have one or more feed streams flowing onto it,
liquid or vapour products withdrawn from it, and can be
heated or cooled with a side exchanger.

More complex towers can have pump-arounds, which withdraw liquid from one stage of the
tower and return it to a stage further up the column. Small auxiliary towers, called side strippers,
can be used on some towers to help purify side liquid products. With the exception of crude
distillation towers, very few columns have all of these items, but virtually any type of column can
be simulated with the appropriate combination of unit operations.

It is important to note that the Column operation by itself is capable of handling all the different
fractionation applications. The simulator has the capability to simulate cryogenic towers, high
pressure TEG absorption systems, sour water strippers, lean oil absorbers, complex crude towers,
highly non-ideal azeotropic distillation columns, etc.. There are no programmed limits for the
number of components and stages. The size of the column that you can solve depends on your
hardware configuration and the amount of computer memory you have available.

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A Column Template is a pre-constructed configuration or

"blueprint" of a common type of Column, including
Absorbers, Reboiled and Refluxed Absorbers, Distillation
Towers, and Crude Columns. A Column Template contains
the unit operations and streams that are necessary for
defining the particular column type, as well as a default set
of specifications.

The Column Input Expert guides you through the installation of a Column. The Input Exper t is
available for the following six standard column templates:

· Absorber.

· Liquid-Liquid Extractor.

· Reboiled Absorber.

· Refluxed Absorber.

· Distillation.

· Three Phase Distillation.

The Input Expert contains a series of input pages. You must supply the required information for
the page before advancing to the next one. When you have worked through all the pages, you
will have supplied the basic information required to build your column and the Column property
view appears.

It is not necessary to use the Input Experts to install a column. You can dis able the use of Input
Experts by deactivating the Use Input Experts checkbox on the Optio ns page in the Simulation
tab of the Session Preferences property view. If you do not use the Input E xpert, the Column
property view appears when you install a new column.


The liquid hydrocarbon mixture from a LTS separator in a gas processing plant needs to be stabilized by removing the
lighter components, thus ensuring a desired vapour pressure.

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The product from the multistage separation section is known to have the following
Condition Value

Temperature (C) -37

Pressure (kPa) 1800

Component Mass Flow (kg/h)

N2 25.4

CO2 546.3

C1 2465.9

C2 2242.1

C3 4806.7

iC4 1487.9

nC4 3818.7

iC5 1644.7

nC5 1735.0

C6+ 4007.3

C6+ properties Value

NBP (C) 99

API Gravity 73

From the stabilizer column it is expected to obtain a liquid product with a vapour pressure of
250 psia working at a reflux ratio of 1. The process will be simulated with a distillation column
with a condenser and a reboiler.

The stabilizer column is modelled with 11 ideal trays. It operates with a full reflux condenser
because no condensed liquid is needed to be withdrawn from the condenser.

· Condenser operates at 13.8 bar and has no pressure drop.

· Reboiler pressure is 14.15 bar, without any pressure drop.

· Feed enters the column at tray 6, if numbered from Top to Down.

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· Condenser molar reflux ratio is around 1.

1.1. Create a New Case. Add a Component List with the abovementioned components.
Select Peng-Robinson as Property Package. Move to the Simulation Environment.

1.2. Create a new stream and call it Tower Feed. Input the above conditions and

1.3. To accomplish the simulation of the mentioned tower, it is necessary to use the
Distillation Column template from the pre-built columns in the Object Palette.
There are two ways that you can add a Distillation Column to your simulation:

1. From the Flowsheet menu, select Add Operation. The UnitOps property view appears.

2. Click the Prebuilt Columns radio button.

3. From the list of available unit operations select the Distillation model.

4. Click the Add button. The Distillation Column Input Expert property view appears.

When you have worked through all the pages and have supplied the basic information required
to build your column, the Distillation property view appears. OR

1. From the Flowsheet menu, select Palette. The Object Palette appears.

2. Double-click the Distillation Column icon . The Distillation Column Input Expert
property view appears.

When you have worked through all the pages and have supplied the basic information required
to build your column, the Distillation property view appears.

Tip: Select the Ignored checkbox to tell the simulator to ignore the unit operation when solving
the simulation.


If the Update Outlets checkbox is clear then each time you solve the column the simulator will
only solve the internal streams (in other words, the values will not propagate outside the
column). This lets you work with the column without having to wait for the rest of the
downstream operations to solve.

1.4. Follow the four pages of the Input Expert in order to connect the column to newly
created streams as well as to include the operating data information provided

Connections Name

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Condenser Type Full Reflux

# of stages 11

Ovhd Vapour Outlet Ovhd

Inlet Stream Tower Feed

Inlet Stage 6

Bottoms Liquid Outlet LiquidProd

Condenser Energy Stream CondDuty

Reboiler Energy Stream RebDuty

Pressure Value

Condenser Pressure 13.80 bar

Condenser Pressure Drop 0 kPa

Reboiler Pressure 1415 kPa

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Temperature Value


Reboiler 25 oC

Specification Value

Vapour Rate 120 kgmol/h

Reflux ratio 1

Once finished with the Input Expert, the Distillation Column property view appears. The
column shows properly connected in the Connections page of the Design tab. However, the
status window shows a red Unconverged message because the column has still not run.

Move to the Monitor page, still in the Design tab. This is the standard page from where
columns are controlled to converge and where solver iterations and convergence is
monitored. The page shows as well the user-defined specifications and the default
specifications added by the simulator. Every specification can have an Active status or can be
used just as an Estimate to define the starting point of the attempt to converge the column.

Specifications are the values that the Column convergence algorithm is trying to meet. The
number of specifications you have for your Column depends on the number of degrees of freedom
the Column has. Each parameter specification reduces the degrees of freedom by one. The
number of constraints must equal the number of unknown variables. When this is the case, the
degrees of freedom equals zero, and a solution can be calculated  the current degree of
freedom is shown at the bottom of the Monitor page.

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A distillation column with a full reflux condenser has two degrees of freedom (DOF), which
means that two active design specifications are needed to satisfy the DOF and have the
possibility to start the solver calculations.

With all the information added during the installation of the column with the aid of the Input
Expert, the column has the DOF satisfied with two active and fully defined specifications.

1.5. Press the Run button to solve, “converge”, the column.

Q1: What is the calculated Condenser Temperature?

Q2: What is the Condenser duty? And the Reboiler one?

From the information provided in the problem description, it is known that the stabilizer has
to meet certain TVP spec in the reboiler liquid product (250 psia).

1.6. Still in the Monitor page, click the Add Spec… button to access the Add Specs
property view:

This property view lists all of the available Column

specifications that you can add to the column. From
the list select the Column specification(s) you want to
add. To select more than one specification at a time,
hold down the CTRL key, and then click each
specification you want to select. Clicking the Add
Spec(s) button adds all of the selected specifications
to the Column.

1.7. Select Column Vapour Pressure Spec to add the desired TVP at 100F design
specification (250 psia). Use it for the reboiler product stream.

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1.8. Switch now the second active specification from the Ovhd vapour rate to the newly
created TVP spec. If the column solver does not start by itself, press the Run button
to make it start. The column should converge after a few iterations of the solver.

Q3: What is now the Ovhd rate?

Q4: What is now the condenser duty? And the reboiler one?

Each specification, along with its specified value, current value, weighted error, and status is
shown in the Specifications group. You can change a specified value by typing directly in the
Specified Value field associated with the specification you want to modify.

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Specified values can also be viewed and changed on the Specs and Specs Summary pages. Any
changes made in one location are reflected across all locations.

The Active, Estimate and Current checkboxes enable you to specify the status of the specification.

To disregard the value of a specification entirely during convergence, deactivate both the Active
and Estimate checkboxes. By ignoring a specification rather than deleting it, you are always able
to use it later if required. The current value appears for each specification, regardless of its status.
An Inactive specification is therefore ideal when you want to monitor a key variable without
including it as an estimate or specification.

During the column calculations, a column profile appears in the Profile group. Select the Temp,
Press, or Flows radio button to display the desired variable versus tray number profile. Rightclick
anywhere within the plot area to access the plot’s object inspection menu.

The table located beneath the Optional Checks group displays the iteration number, step size,
and Equilibrium and Heat/Spec errors while the column is solving.

The Degrees of Freedom field displays the number of degrees of freedom on the Column. To help
reach the desired solution, unknown parameters can be manipulated in the attached streams.
Each parameter specification reduces the degrees of freedom by one. The number of constraints
must equal the number of unknown variables. When this is the case, the degrees of freedom
equals zero, and a solution is calculated.

1.9. Go to the Performance page and observe the results obtained for the active
specifications. Depending on the left menu selected (Summary, Column Profiles,
Feeds/Products or Plots), results can be presented in different ways:

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The simulator uses a modified Murphree stage efficiency. All values are initially set to 1.0, which
is consistent with the assumption of ideal equilibrium or theoretical stages. If this assumption is
not valid for your column, you have the option of specifying the number of actual stages and
changing the efficiencies for one or more stages.

The stage efficiency used is a modified Murphree stage efficiency, the equation is as follows:

V × y -(V ) (× y )
n = nn n+1 n+1

Vn × Kn × xn -(Vn+1) (× yn+1)

En = efficiency.

Vn = total vapor molar flow leaving stage n (if the stage has a side vapor draw then the side vapor
draw flow is included).

y = vapor mole fraction.

Kn · xn= composition of vapor in equilibrium with the tray liquid.

x = liquid mole fraction.

n = tray number (measured top down).

This equation applies to both component and overall tray efficiencies. If you specify an overall
tray efficiency, the program will assign each component the same efficiency.

If the vapor flow is constant (in other words, Vn = Vn+1, Constant molar overflow), then the
modified efficiency reduces to the standard Murphree stage efficiency.

To specify Murphree efficiencies in a simulated column:

Go to the Efficiencies page under the Parameters tab.

You are given the option of specifying efficiencies for the overall stage or for each component in
the stage.

To specify the efficiency of the overall stage:

1. Click the Overall radio button in the Efficiency Type group.

2. For each stage in the Stage Efficiencies table specify the efficiency of the stage in the
appropriate field. Values must be between 0 and 1, with 1 corresponding to 100% efficiency.

To specify the component specific efficiencies:

1. Click the Component radio button in the Efficiency Type group.

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2. Specify tray-by-tray component efficiencies in the Component Efficiencies table. Values must
be between 0 and 1, with 1 corresponding to 100% efficiency.

You can specify multiple stage efficiencies at one time by holding down the CTRL key, and then
clicking each stage you want to select. In the Eff. Multi-Spec field specify the value you want to
apply to the stages and then click the Specify button.

Activate the Transpose checkbox to transpose the values in the Component Efficiencies table.
This checkbox is only available when the Component radio button is selected.

Optional question: These types of columns (stabilizers) are known to often

operate at 55% tray efficiency. How should this information be incorporated into
your column model? Report again the results in Q3, and Q4.

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The stabilizer column that has been simulated uses a condenser that generates some liquid that is sent back to the
column trays. For a column whose objective is to separate from the heavy, liquid phase of
some lighter components might be not necessary.

2.1. Reduce the value of the reflux ratio spec to 0.8 and converge the column. Monitor
the value of the Condenser Duty and the one of the Reboiler Duty.

2.2. Try now with 0.5 reflux ratio. Keep on monitoring the two performance indicators.

2.3. Give it a last chance with 0.2 reflux ratio.

Q6: Does the performance indicators tendency confirm anything?

Reflux Ratio Cond Duty Reb Duty




A better way to observe the tendency of some of the case key variables as a function of the
variability of some others is by applying a Sensitivity Analysis using the Case Study
functionality contained in the simulator Databook.

To access the Databook users can either press the hot-key combination CTRL+D or access it
through the Tools menu.

The first tab in the Databook is the Variables selection window. In here the users select what
variables will take part in the sensitivity analysis of the Case Study, either as independent
variable or as dependent variable.

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For the analysis we want to set up, we will need the column reflux ratio specification as
independent variable and the condenser duty and the reboiler duty as dependent variables.

To add them to the Variables window, we need to access first the Variable Navigator by
pressing the Insert… button:

2.4. Find the three mentioned variables in the Variable Navigator and Add them to the

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2.5. In the Case Studies tab, rename (if desired) the Current Case Study and select the
column spec as Ind variable by checking the appropriate checkbox. Equally, define
the two column duties as dependent (Dep column) variables.

2.6. Press the View… button to actually access the window setup for the case study and
prepare the study for reflux ratio from 0.1 to 1 with a step size of 0.1. That should
setup a 10 points case study.

2.7. Press the Start button. Once the Case Study tool has run the 10 simulations, watch
the results by pressing the Results… button:



Go inside the Column Subflowsheet to access all associated unit operations to the

distillation column by pressing the Column Environment button :

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Try to delete the condenser and the associated streams not needed anymore (To Condenser,
Reflux & CondDuty). Attach Ovhd stream as vapour outlet.

Go back to the Parent Environment, add another tray to the column, change the feed to the
top tray, specify 13,80 bar as top stage pressure and reconverge the column, now with only
the TVP spec.

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The bottoms liquids obtained from the stabilizer column can still be processed to remove propane and lighter
components to keep only the butanes and heavier.

It is decided to do this further separation by distillation. However, the column does not exist
yet and it needs to be designed. The simulator offers a group of mathematical methods for a
short cut design of distillation columns that can be of great help when estimating the
dimensions of new columns. These methods allow estimating the minimum number of trays,
the minimum reflux ratio and the optimal feed location.

Shortcut distillation calculations are based on the standard Fenske, Underwood, Gilliland and
Kirkbride equations to provide an initial estimate of the number of theoretical trays, reflux ratio
and optimal feed tray location. These estimates are most effective when generated before
performing full simulation calculations to set up initial values for those simulation calculations.
The Fenske method estimates the minimum number of theoretical stages (at total reflux)
assuming constant relative volatility of the components. The Underwood method estimates
minimum reflux (for an infinite number of theoretical stages) assuming constant molar flow
through the column, an optimal feed tray location and saturated reflux. The Gilliland method
estimates the number of theoretical trays required for a given split with the reflux at a fixed
multiplier of the minimum reflux ratio. The Kirkbride method estimates an optimal feed tray
location (numbered from top of the column).

For the proposed exercise, it is possible to use the short-cut methods to estimate the
arrangements for the depropanizer column. There is a known drawback of this short cut
method and is the inability to calculate for partial condensers. It does only calculate for total
and full reflux condensers.

3.1. Begin by installing a Short Cut column from the Object Palette to process the
bottoms liquid from the stabilizer column and connect new streams to the outlet

3.2. Define a Vapour Top Product Phase using the adequate radio button.

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3.3. In the Parameters page of the Design tab, fix Propane as the Light Key component
in Bottoms and i-Butane as the Heavy Key component in top.

3.4. Define their desired composition as 0.001 mole fraction for both.

3.5. Fix the condenser pressure at 15 bar and the reboiler one at 15.5 bar.

Q7: What Minimum Reflux Ratio is the tool calculating?

3.6. It is common practice to fix around 1.15 to 1.3 times the minimum reflux ratio. For
the column you are designing, calculate 1.2 times the minimum and enter the
resulting value in the External Reflux Ratio cell:

3.7. Move to the Performance tab and answer the following questions:

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Q8: What is the Minimum Number of Trays (integer number)?

Q9: And the Actual Number of Trays?

Q10: What is the Optimal Feed Stage?

Q11: What is the reboiler duty? And the condenser one?

3.8. Move to the Worksheet tab:

Q12: What is the flowrate of the bottoms product? And what is its propane molar

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Q13: What is the flowrate of the vapour top product? And what is its i-butane
molar fraction?


With the results obtained with the short-cut methods, it is possible to create a rigorous model, using the short-cut
results as starting values to help in the convergence of the rigorous column.

4.1. Install a Distillation Column from the Object Palette.

4.2. In the Connections step of the Input Expert, provide names for all streams connected
to the column. Use your answers to Q9 and Q10 to complete this page.

4.3. Fix the condenser pressure at 15 bar and the reboiler pressure at 15.5.

4.4. You might want to use the temperatures calculated by the short cut method as
estimates for your rigorous column.

4.5. Use the External Reflux Ratio that you calculated in point 3.6 above as reflux ratio

4.6. Once in the Design tab, Connections page of the column, move to the Monitor page
and use as second necessary specification the molar vent rate that the short cut
method calculated.

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4.7. Define now two new specifications to fix the composition of propane in the liquids
of the reboiler and the composition of i-butane in the vapor leaving the condenser
both equal to 0.001 molar fraction.

4.8. Re-run the column.

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Q14: What is the reboiler duty? And the condenser one?

Q15: What is the flowrate of the bottoms product? And what is its propane molar

Q16: What is the flowrate of the vapour top product? And what is its i-butane
molar fraction?

Q17: Were helpful the results from the short-cut methods in order to find a
rigorous solution for the distillation column?

4.9. Plot the results page showing the concentration of the two key components in all
column trays.

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The simulator includes a Utility (Tray Sizing) to calculate diameter, height, pressure drop, etc. for gas-liquid columns.
With the Tray Sizing utility you can perform design and rating sizing calculations on part or all
of a converged column. Packing or tray information can be specified relating to specific tower
internals such as tray dimensions or packing sizes, design flooding, and pressure drop
specifications. Results include tower diameter, pressure drop, flooding, tray dimensions.
Because the utility is only available for columns with vapourliquid flows, it cannot be used to
size the Liquid-Liquid Extractor.

We will try to do a preliminary estimation of the dimensions of the column that was just
calculated in exercise 3 and 4 above.

5.1. Click on Tools menu, Utilities, and add the Tray Sizing utility.

5.2. Click on Select TS (tray section), click on the converged column, Main TS object, OK.

5.3. Click on Auto Section... button.

5.4. Decide what Type of Internal you want to use for the column. For the time being,
select Sieve trays.

5.5. Click the Next> button and check that the defaults that the utility offers for several
construction parameters are OK with your usual column provider. If not, just modify
them and adapt accordingly. For demonstration purposes, we will keep the values
as they appear in the Utility.

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5.6. Click the Complete AutoSection button:

Q18: How many sections the utility suggests to use? What are the diameter and
the number of flow paths of each one?

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Q19: What have been the design limits and the limiting stages to decide to
change section?

5.7. Install a second Tray Sizing Utility for the same column Tray Section. This time,
instead of using the Auto Section button, just use the Add Section button. You
should have to see that the most conservative results of the multi section columns
have been applied to the whole of the tray section in this new sizing exercise.

5.8. Remove the just calculated single sieve-trays section and try a new design using Koch
type valve trays.

Q20: Do you foresee any problem if using this type of internals? How would you
solve them? Try increasing the Downcomer Clearance by a 10%

Up to now we have used the utility in Design mode to help us to calculate possible diameters
using specified internals and design limits. However, the utility can be as well used to check
how certain column diameters and number of flow paths will perform if used for a given
calculated column.

5.9. Install a new Tray Sizing utility for the same column tray section.

5.10. Use the Add Section to have a single Sieve section calculated.

5.11. Move to the Specs page of the Design tab and change the Mode from Design to

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Q21: Check how would perform a 1.5 m diameter column with 1 flow path. What
warnings do appear? Would it help increasing the number of flow paths to two?
And increasing the downcomer clearance?


Column and distillation calculations do not need to be restricted to the column environment and solver. Sometimes,
it might be worth to perform certain calculations related to column design and operation in
the Main simulation Environment. For instance, if it is necessary to check the performance of
the column reboiler using more rigorous calculation algorithms or maybe the evaluation of
existing equipment (Rating) then, it is better to simulate it in the main flowsheet.

To facilitate this task, the column solution allows exporting information from the internal
results to the Main Environment. This is done using the Internal Streams capability of the
column. This option is located in the Flowsheet tab, Internal Streams page.

6.1. Move to the abovementioned page and press the Add button that you will find there.

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6.2. In the Stage column select the last column tray. In the Type column, select Liquid. By
doing these two selections, we are telling the column that we want to export to the
Main Environment a copy of the liquid flow that goes from the last column tray to
the reboiler.

6.3. Finally, in the Stream column, provide a name for the stream that will be
automatically created, i.e. Reboiler Feed, and check the Export check box. The Run
button needs to be pressed to have the column converge again.

6.4. Check that a new fully defined stream called Reboiler Feed has appeared in the Main
Flowsheet. This is a “live” copy of the results obtained in the column solution for the
liquid that goes from the last tray to the reboiler. If column feed changes or if
column operation changes and then the column provides new results, the Reboiler
Feed stream will change accordingly.

6.5. Create a new stream, of pure water, as Medium Pressure utility steam (175 C, Vap
Frac = 1.00). Call it Steam In. Water is not in the component list, so you must go to
Basis Environment and add it.

6.6. Install a Shell & Tube heat exchanger. Use Reboiler Feed as Tube Side inlet. Use
Steam In as Shell Side Inlet. Assume that there is no pressure drop in any of the

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HYSYS Interface

UniSim Interface

6.7. Allow the steam stream to subcool to 174 C at the exchanger outlet.

Q22: What are the MP Steam requirements if the heat exchanger still is required
to heat up to the same reboiler temperature?

Q23: What UA is necessary to accomplish the boiling? What heat exchanger

method have you used to calculate the UA, End-Point or Weighted?

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HYSYS Interface

UniSim Interface


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You have to design a de-ethanizer column to remove C2 and lighter components from a light
hydrocarbon gas.

The details of the de-ethanizer working conditions are:

· Component Recovery: 99% of the propane in the feed must be recovered in the
bottom product.

· The bottoms purity is defined by an ethane to propane ratio of 0.025.

· The column has 18 ideal trays with a full reflux condenser and a reboiler.

· Condenser operates at 425 psig and its pressure drop with respect to the first column
tray is of 5 psi.

· Reboiler pressure is 440 psig.

· 990 lbmol/h of the feed enter at 440 psig and 0.35 vaporized at tray 9, having a %
molar composition of:

Component Molar %

N2 0.03

C1 44.59

C2 19.83

C3 19.09

iC4 4.16

nC4 4.60

iC5 1.68

nC5 1.16

C6 2.96

C7 1.90

© 2013 by inprocess Page 35


Trick: If the column does not converge easily, it might be worth first trying with the C2/C3 ratio
spec and a Reflux Ratio spec of 1. Once a converged solution is attained, then the RR spec can
be deactivated and the C3 purity activated again.

AQ1: What are the operating costs (Condenser and Reboiler duties) of this

· Reduce the number of trays to 17 (to reduce the capital costs) and recalculate the

AQ2: How much have the operating costs increased?

Page 36 © 2013 by inprocess





Using the Peng-Robinson property package for thermodynamic properties, calculate:

· products compositions,

· stage temperatures,

· interstage flowrates and compositions,

· reboiler duty, and

· condenser duty

for the distillation column specifications below, which represent an attempt to obtain four
nearly pure products from a single distillation operation. Reflux is a saturated liquid. Why is
such a high reflux ratio required?

Column Feed Information

Temperature 150 F

Pressure 25 psia

Component Molar Flow

nC4 14.08 lbmol/h

nC5 19.53 lbmol/h

nC6 24.78 lbmol/h

nC8 39.94 lbmol/h

· Column: 28 trays + reboiler (25 psia) + total condenser (20 psia).

· Feed at tray 14.

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· Reflux Ratio = 20.

· Distillate Rate: 14.08 lbmol/h.

· Draw rate @ tray 10: 19.53

lbmol/h. · Draw rate @ tray 24:

24.78 lbmol/h.


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In his book Random Packings and Packed Towers, Design and Applications R. Strigle (Gulf,
1987) describes a column for the recovery of propylene and propane from the C 4 and heavier
hydrocarbons. The top product is to contain no more than 1 mole% C4 hydrocarbons while
the bottom product should have no more than 2 mole% C 3 hydrocarbons. An existing column
that is 5 ft in diameter with 22 trays (of a type unspecified) that are 24 inches apart is being
considered for refitting with packing. The column is operated with a top pressure of 220 psia.
The feed is liquid at 115 F and undergoes a 2.4 mol % flash on entry to the column. Strigle
states that the feed flow to the column is 47,620 lb/hr, the bottoms product flow rate is 8,440
lb/hr, and the reflux flow rate is 66,600 lb/hr. Strigle reports that the column is equivalent to
14 theoretical stages (plus condenser and reboiler), with the feed in the middle.

We assumed constant pressure operation. Thermodynamic properties were calculated from

the Peng-Robinson (Lee-Kesler) model (Strigle does not tell us which model he used). The
feed pressure was assumed to be the same as the column pressure. Specifying the bottoms
flow rate in lb/hr and the reflux ratio (calculated from the reflux and distillate flows given by

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Strigle as 1.7) resulted in the product flows as shown in the table above, where trace
compositions are shown as zero mole%. As can be seen from the table the combined C3 mole
fractions in the bottom is 1.96 mole% which just meets the specification. The combined C4
concentration in the distillation is only 0.7 mole%, indicating that the feed position isn’t
optimal. This is easily checked by a means of a pseudo-binary McCabe-Thiele diagram for the
key components propane and isobutane.

Moving the feed up three stages lowers the bottoms C3 concentration to just 1.0 mol%! This
suggests that we should be able to lower the reflux flow. In fact, the reflux ratio can be
reduced to just 1.27 and still meet the 2 mole% specification for the C4’s in the bottoms
resulting in a reduction of 28% for the condenser duty and 20% for the reboiler! The lower
reflux also implies a significant reduction in internal traffic.


An aromatics column for a heavy naphtha reformer is to be designed to separate the toluene
and lighter components from the xylenes and heavier aromatics.

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The feed consists of benzene through C-10 aromatics and the column operates at a top
pressure of 150 kPa.

The feed is superheated at 200 kPa of pressure and undergoes a 12% molar flash on entry to
the column. The distillate flow can contain a maximum of 0.40 wt % xylenes, and the bottoms
a maximum of 0.25 wt % toluene.

Assuming a total pressure drop of 50 kPa, use the Shortcut column to preliminary design the
distillation column, with a 30% reflux higher than the minimum one.

Column Feed Information

Component wt% Feed

Benzene 0.3

n-Heptane 0.6

Toluene 25.5

n-Octane 4.2

p-Xylene 9.9

m-Xylene 26.7

o-Xylene 19.2

n-Nonane 1.3

Indene 12.0

Naphthalene 0.3

Total Feed Flow 28000 kgmol/h

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Apply the results obtained to the simulation of a rigorous column model, assuming a 80 %
tray efficiency


Page 42 © 2013 by inprocess