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The American University of Sharjah

College of Engineering

Department of Chemical Engineering

CHE 321 - Separation Processes

Design Project
Spring 2015

Sieve Depropanizer Design

Submitted by:

George Missak - b00048155

Bader Al Dowajy - b00048295

Submitted to: Dr. Taleb Ibrahim

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The main objective of this design assignment is to decide a process for separating a mixture

of Ethane, Propane, n-Butane and n-Pentane. We were asked to design a depropanizer based

on the specifications provided. The light key and heavy key components for this mixture are

Propane and n-Butane, respectively. The system must not have more than 3.5 mol/s flow of

heavy key in distillate product and light key in bottoms product. Another constraint was that

the trays should operate at 70% flooding. Our hand calculations found that in order to

separate this mixture we need a distillation column with 32 trays with the 16th stage being the

optimum feed stage and 24 inch tray spacing. Using HYSYS we found that the diameter of

the column from the top section and the bottom section are 9.5 ft and 12.5 ft, respectively. As

for the height of the column, we found from HYSYS that it is 64 ft.

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Table of Contents

Abstract II

List of Figures IV

1. Introduction 1

1.1 Design Theory: 3

1.2 Solving the Problem: 4

1.3 Design Specifications: 5

2. HYSYS Simulation (Wilson Fluid Package) 6

2.1 Short Cut Distillation 6

2.2 Rigorous Distillation 9

2.2.1 Column Sizing (Assuming 24’’ spacing) 11

3. Discussion and Conclusion 14

4. References 15

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List of Figures
Figure 1: The Process of Distillation [2] 2

Figure 2: Feed Specifications 6

Figure 3: Column Specifications 7

Figure 4: Results 7

Figure 5: Workbook Tables of Compositions, Energy Streams, Specifications &

Material Streams 8

Figure 6: PFD of the Shortcut Distillation Column 8

Figure 7: Column Specifications 9

Figure 8: PFD of Rigorous Distillation Column 10

Figure 9: Design Parameters 11

Figure 10: Results 12

Figure 11: Temperature vs. Stage Position 13

Figure 12: Mass Flow vs. Stage Position 13

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1. Introduction

Distillation a method of separating a mixture of substances into its component fractions of

needed purity based on the difference in boiling point of each component [1]. Distillation is a

common practice of separation both in the laboratories and industries. Examples of industries

that involve the use of distillation columns are oil-gas, water treatment and pharmaceutical

industries. In general, a fractionating column consists of 5 main components: vertical column,

condenser, re-boiler, reflux drum and numerous trays [2]. The detailed fractionating column

can be seen on figure 1. During the process of separation the feed enters the column and it

gets heated. As the feed turns into a vapor, it moves upward through sets of trays with

openings in them (sieve, bubble caps or valves). Once the vapor reaches the part of the

column where the temperature is equal to its boiling point, it will turn into a liquid and get

collected. The substance with the lowest boiling point will be collected at the top of the

column [2]. The condenser is responsible for cooling down the liquid and sending it either to

a receiver where the distillate gets collected or back inside the column for further

purification. The re-boiler is responsible for collecting the liquids at the bottom of the column

and separating them into the bottoms and the part that is sent back into the column to be

reheated [3]. The column consists of three sections: feed, enriching and stripping.

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Figure 1: The Process of Distillation [2]

There are two common types of fractionating columns: batch and continuous. In the batch

column, a certain amount of feed is inserted into the column and it keeps circulating it until

the distillate can be collected. However, for the continuous fractionating column, feed is

constantly added and distillate is constantly collected. The continuous column is

characterized primarily by the type of its feed; additionally, variables such as extra side

streams and amount of product streams play an important role in identifying the continuous

column [4]. Feed stream can have two or more components. Consecutively, this will

determine the number of product streams that will come out of the column. Furthermore, if a

side stream is at the top of the column, the process is known as azeotropic distillation; if the

stream is at the bottom then it is an extractive distillation [4]. Finally, a column can be known

as tray or packed. A column is called packed if it has a packing material that improves the

liquid vapor interaction [4].

A depropanizer is a special distillation column that is widely used in oil refineries and gas

industries in order to isolate propane from a mixture of substances containing butane and

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other heavy organic components [5]. Sieve tray is the most basic form of trays consisting of a

metal plate with holes drilled in it. Vapor simply passes through the liquid that is deposited

on the plate. They are inexpensive to manufacture, have high operation range and are good at

fouling applications [4].

1.1 Design Theory:

In the following design problem, the task is to design a sieve-tray depropanizer column that

would separate ethane, propane, n-butane and n-pentane. This is a multi-component

continuous distillation problem. All components are part of the alkane organic family. Ethane

has a molecular formula C2H6 it has single intermolecular covalent bonds and its boiling

point is(-15°C). Propane has a molecular formula of C3H8 it has single intermolecular

covalent bonds and its boiling point is (-38 °C). N-Butane has a molecular formula of C4H10

it has single intermolecular covalent bonds and its boiling point is (2 °C). N-Pentane has a

molecular formula of C5H12 it has single intermolecular covalent bonds and its boiling point

is (°C). All boiling points are given at 15 atm. The components with the highest volatility

(lowest boiling point) will be collected at the top of the column and those with higher boiling

points will be at the bottom. Based on the desired amounts of bottoms (3.5 mol /s of propane)

and distillate (3.5 mol/s of n-butane), it can be concluded that propane is the light key and n-

butane is the heavy key. Assuming non-distillation of non-keys, it can be inferred that ethane

is the light non key, which will be at the top of the column, and n-pentane is the heavy non

key which will be entirely at the bottom.

•In this process, total condenser and total reboiler were used. The feed of 1000 mol/s had 100

mol/s of ethane, 300 mol/s of propane, 500 mol/s of n-butane and 100 mol/s of n-pentane.

The given temperature of the column was 298 K and the given pressure was 15 atm. The

trays have to be operating at 70% of flooding. Flooding happens at high vapor flow rates

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when the excessive entrainment of liquid overflows the downcomers ( border on the side of

the tray plate) capacity and the column floods.

1.2 Solving the Problem:

In the following design problem, the objective is to determine the optimum feed plate, total

number of equilibrium stages and the number of real stages, column height and diameter and

the cost of separation system. First, there is a need to determine the constants of volatility for

each substance while taking the heavy key as the reference. The use of the De Prestier Chart

is necessary for this. Then the Fenske and Underwood equations are used to calculate the

number of stages. Next, the use of thermodynamic properties and Lee Kesler correlation is

essential to determine the real gas constant (Z) that is needed to find density, average

molecular weight of vapor and liquid and saturated volume of the components. Following

that the surface tension and viscosity will be determined with the help of Perry’s Chemical

Engineering handbook in order to be able to calculate the diameter for to and bottom and the

height of the column. Following that the Hysys simulation would have to be conducted using

both the normal and the shortcut distillation columns. Finally, the cost of the separation

system will be determined using the tools provided in the separation textbook and of Perry’s

Chemical Engineering handbook.

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1.3 Design Specifications:

• Feed= 1000 mol/s

• Ethane flow rate = 100 mol/s

• Propane flow rate = 300 mol/s

• N-butane flow rate = 500 mol/s

• N-pentane flow rate = 100 mol/s

• Temperature of column = 298 K

• Pressure of column= 15 atm

• Distillate no more than 3.5 mol/s of n-butane

• Bottom, no more than 3.5 mol/s of propane

• 70% of flooding

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2. HYSYS Simulation (Wilson Fluid Package)

2.1 Short Cut Distillation

In order to do the HYSYS simulation for this separation process, we need to start up by using

the “Short Cut Column” which is a column that only requires feed specifications (Flow rate,

compositions, pressure and temperature), reflux ratio, pressure at condenser and reboiler and

the compositions of the light and heavy key in the bottoms and distillate, respectively. From

this column, we get the minimum number of stages (Nmin) and the theoretical number of

stages required for this process.

Note: 3600 kgmol/hr = 1000 kgmol/s & 15 atm = 1520 kPa

Figure 2: Feed Specifications

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Figure 3: Column Specifications

The results obtained for condenser and reboiler temperatures and the number of stages of the

column are as follows: Nmin = 7.926 N = 15.845 = 16 Feed Stage = 8

Figure 4: Results

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The following are the PFD & workbook tables for the column:

Figure 5: Workbook Tables of Compositions, Energy Streams, Specifications & Material Streams

Figure 6: PFD of the Shortcut Distillation Column

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2.2 Rigorous Distillation

Now that we have obtained the flow rates of the bottoms and distillate products,

the number of stages and the optimum feed stage, we plug these values into the

“Rigorous Distillation Column” in order to obtain more specifications and to

size the column so that we can be able to perform the cost analysis on it. Since

the Short Cut Method only gives us the theoretical number of stages, we divide

that number by the efficiency in order to get the actual number of stages N =

N(theo)/Efficiency = 16/0.503 = 31.81 = 32

And the feed stage becomes stage 16.

Figure 7: Column Specifications

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The PFD of this column is as follows:

Figure 8: PFD of Rigorous Distillation Column

Now, we can move on to the sizing of this column.

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2.2.1 Column Sizing (Assuming 24’’ spacing)

We start by going to the “Tray Sizing” tool and we fill in the specifications required in order

to obtain the diameters (Top & bottom) and height of our column.

These are the section specifications provided:

Figure 9: Design Parameters

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After clicking the “Complete AutoSection” button, we obtain the following results:

Figure 10: Results

Diameter (Top) = 2.896 m ≈ 9.5 ft Diameter (Bottom) = 3.810 m ≈ 12.5 ft

Column height = 9.144 + 10.36 = 19.504 m ≈ 64 ft

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The following plots give us the temperature and flow profile of the column:


Figure 11: Temperature vs. Stage Position


Figure 12: Mass Flow vs. Stage Position

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3. Discussion and Conclusion

After completing our hand calculations and simulating the separation process on HYSYS, we

found that in order to separate this mixture, we need a column of 9.5 ft. diameter at the top and 12.5

ft. diameter at the bottom. However, our hand calculations show that we need a top section diameter

of 10.4 ft. and a bottom section diameter of 14.325 ft. Although the diameter results are different, but

they are close to each other, so any difference in the results can be caused by some mistakes in

calculations or rounding off numbers. Both our HYSYS simulation and hand calculations showed that

we need a column with 32 actual stages. The diameter doesn’t differ with the number of stages, but

the height of the column is obviously affected by that. Another difference between the HYSYS

simulation and our hand calculation results would be the difference in the temperature of the distillate

leaving the condenser as our calculations showed that the distillate would leave at a temperature of

32⁰C and the HYSYS simulation showed that it would leave at around 23⁰C. After entering the

number of stages we found using our hand calculations (32 real stages with the 16th stage as the feed

stage) in HYSYS, we found that in order to separate this mixture, we will need a 64 ft. column with

24 inch tray spacing. Our hand calculations showed that at this number of stages the height of the

column would be approximately 72 ft. which gives us a 11% difference in the height of the column

which is somewhat a reasonable difference.

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4. References

[1] Kiss, A. A. Advanced Distillation Technologies: Design, Control and Applications.

Somerset, NJ, USA: Wiley, 2013.
[2] Tham, M. (2009). Distillation: An Introduction. [Online]. Retrieved from,
[3] Pujado, R. P. & Jones. S. J. P. Handbook of Petroleum Processing. The Netherlands,
Dordrecht. 2008.
[4] Wankat, Philip. Separation process engineering.

[5] Perry, R. H., Green, D. W., & Maloney, J. O. (1997). Perry's chemical engineers'
handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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