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Shuwana Tasleem, K. Anithaa and V. Ramesh Kumar *

Department of Chemical Engineering
University College of Technology, Osmania University, Hyderabad – 500 007,
(A.P) India

Aspen is a Process simulation software package widely used in industry today
and easy to use, powerful, flexible, process engineering tool for the design,
steady-state simulation and optimization of process plants. In the present study
an attempt has been made to carry out simulation studies on Extractive and
Crude Distillation columns.
In the case study 1, Simulation studies are carried out on Extractive column.
The acetone-methanol extractive distillation using water as an entrainer is
simulated on Aspen Plus software package. Calculation of the vapor-liquid
equilibrium for the ternary system is done by the UNIQUAC model and
compared with other thermodynamic models. The effects of the solvent to feed
molar ratio, reflux ratio, feed stage, feed solvent stage, and solvent feed
temperature are studied to obtain the best design of the extractive distillation
column with minimal energy requirements. The simulation results show the
effect of the main variables on the extractive distillation process.
In the case study 2, Simulation studies are carried out on distillation of crude
oil. Steady state simulation of Pre-flash, Atmospheric column (Pipestill) and
Vacuum distillation units in a crude oil distillation plant is performed using
ASPEN simulations. Primary processing of oil gives fractions such as gas,
gasoline, kerosene, gas oil, atmospheric residue, oil fractions and heavy residue.
The quantity of each fraction is specified by the composition of oil.

Presently with NIT-Warangal, AP
Process simulation refers to the usage of a mathematical model to
describe a chemical process. The model is usually solved using a computer
program; the results of which, either numerical or graphical, describe the
operation of the plant. The simulation studies, for any system reduces the
process development cost, as it minimizes the required experimental and pilot
plant work and the waste generated. Steady state simulations provide powerful
insight into the plant behavior that can be used to enhance design, safety and
operation of process facilities while minimizing capital and operating costs.
Fig. 1 Classification of the types and uses of Process Simulation Programs

Mathematical Model
of the Chemical Process
Type of Model
Steady State Dynamic
Simulation Design Optimization Synthesis
Program Type
Sequential Modular Program Specific Program

Fig. 2 Structure of a Sequential Modular Simulation Program


Modules Design and Library of
sub- Optimizatio Physical and
programs n sub- thermodynamics
programs Properties data
Simulation Tool – ASPEN PLUS
ASPEN PLUS is an easy to use and flexible process modeling tool for
steady state simulation, design, performance monitoring, optimization and
business planning of process plants such as chemicals, specialty chemicals
petrochemicals and petroleum and metallurgy industries. Given a process design
and an appropriate selection of thermodynamic models, ASPEN PLUS uses the
mathematical models to predict the performance of the process. This
information can then be used in an interactive fashion to optimize the design.
ASPEN PLUS is a great tool for the development of the chemical
processes or carrying out analysis on existing process industry as a design tool
because of its ability to simulate a variety of steady-state processes ranging
from single unit operation to complex processes involving many units. Usually
it provides the user with a comprehensive system of online prompts, hypertext
help and expert system guidance at every step making it easy to build and run
the simulation models.
Importantly, ASPEN PLUS does not design the process, it takes a design
that the user supplies and simulates the performance of the process specified in
that design. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the underlying chemical
engineering principles is required to supply reasonable values of input
parameters and to evaluate the suitability of the results obtained.
Aspen Engineering SuiteTM Simulation & Optimization – Steady-State
provides a complete set of tools to enable users to quickly create steady-state
models for their process. ASPEN PLUS dynamics extends ASPEN PLUS
steady-state models into dynamic process models, enabling design and
verification of process control schemes, safety studies, relief valve sizing,
failure analysis, and development of start-up, shut-down, rate–change and grade
transition policies. ASPEN PLUS dynamics is a core element of Aspen Tech’s
ASPEN ONE® process engineering applications.
Literature Review
Stojić [1] report a computer simulation of the atmospheric distillation using
Aspen Plus simulator. The operating parameters, they studied were taken from
the “Badger” project documentation, which was designed for the oil refinery in
Novi Sad. The simulation was performed for a type of crude oil, which is
currently in use.
Massimiliano Errico et al [2], in their work on industrial crude oil distillation
unit evaluated the possibility of modifying the feed conditions by installing a
pre-flash drum or a pre-flash plate column. They performed simulation of the
unit by means of the software package Aspen Plus 13.0. They compared the
obtained results with the plant data in terms of flow rate and product quality
utilizing the ASTM D-86 curves and a good agreement is reported.
GÓmez & Gil [3] report simulation and analysis of an extractive distillation
process (extractive distillation and recovery columns) for the separation of
Tetrahydrofuran (THF)-Water azeotropic mixture using Aspen Plus® and
Aspen Split simulators. They employed the NRTL model for the calculation of
vapor liquid equilibrium of the system. The solvent to feed molar ratio, reflux
molar ratio, feed stage, feed solvent stage, and feed solvent temperature, were
determined and their effects on the separation and the energy consumption in
the two columns was studied.
Vafae et al [4] studied the steam distillation process for the oil recovery
processes. They considered a Multi-Layer Perceptron (MLP) network as a new
and effective method to simulate the distillate recoveries of 16 sets of crude oil
data obtained from literature. API, viscosity, characterization factor and steam
distillation factor were taken as input parameters of the network while distillate
yield is the result of the model. Thirteen sets of data were used for training the
network and three remaining sets were used to test the model. They also
discussed the comparison between the developed MLP model, Equation of State
(EOS)-based method and Holland–Welch correlations and found that the errors
of the MLP model for training and test data sets are significantly lower than that
of those methods. Also, the MLP network does not require oil characterization,
which is a necessary and rigorous step in EOS and Holland–Welch methods.
Gonçalves et al [5] studied the dynamic simulation as applied to the
Atmospheric Distillation Unit of a crude oil refinery. The unit considered was a
representative of real refineries and was characterized by multiple interactions
and high level of non-linearities. They have reported the behavior of the system
for several process operating conditions.
Gil1 et al [6] studied the simulation of an extractive distillation column with the
ASPEN PLUS software platform and using the RadFrac module for distillation
columns, to investigate the effect of the ethylene glycol and glycerol
composition, the entrainer feed entry stages, the entrainer split stream feed, and
the azeotropic feed temperature on the separation. A rigorous simulation of the
extractive distillation column finally established was also performed, including
a secondary recovery column for the mixture of solvents and recycle loop, to
simulate an industrially relevant situation.
Cui Xianbao [7] studied a batch extractive distillation in a column with a middle
vessel. They simulated the process by a constant holdup model and solved by
two point implicit method. They report that, for the system separating acetone-
methanol mixture using water as solvent, the solvent at the bottom and the
product at the top of the column can be with drawn simultaneously for a long
period of time. It needs more time for the solvent to reach high purity that that
required for the more volatile component to reach high purity, so that the time
required to withdraw solvent from the bottom is delayed.
The work of Baharev et al [8] presents the computation of distillation columns
with interval methods. They proposed a ‘branch-and-prune’ algorithm which is
guaranteed to converge, and is fairly general at the same time. Power of the
suggested method is demonstrated by solving, with guaranteed convergence,
even the MESH equations of a 22 stage extractive distillation column with a
ternary mixture.
Process Description
The development of a simulation model for a chemical process using ASPEN
PLUS involves the following steps:
1. Define the process flowsheet configuration by specifying
a. Unit Operations.
b. Process Streams flowing between the units.
c. Unit operation models to describe each unit operation.
2. Specify the chemical components.
3. Choose a thermodynamic model to represent the physical properties of
the components and mixtures in the process.
4. Specify the component flow rates and thermodynamic conditions (i.e.,
temperature, pressure or phase condition) of the feed streams.
5. Specify the operating conditions for the unit operations.
6. Run the simulation.
Case Study I - Simulation studies on Extractive column
Extractive distillation is a separation process used to separate mixtures that
are difficult or impossible to separate by conventional distillation. In extractive
distillation, a third component (solvent or entrainer) is added to the binary
mixture to increase the relative volatility of the original components.
For the work presented here, a system of Acetone-Methanol mixture was
selected. The acetone-methanol system has a minimum boiling point azeotrope,
and the extractive distillation is a possible method used to separate this
azeotropic mixture; with suggested entrainer as water. In this study, the effect of
the main variables on mixture separation, were studied by simulation on Aspen
Plus software. The thermodynamic package using UNIQUAC1 model was used
to evaluate the vapor-liquid equilibrium (VLE), according to the experimental
data obtained from literature. The simulation was carried out taking into account
pressure drops and heat-integration, in order to compare the results with those
reported previously in literature in which the property estimation was done by
other thermodynamic models that cannot represent accurately the VLE or
considered simplifying assumptions.
UNIQUAC is a type of property method available in Aspen library.
Case Study II - Simulation studies on distillation of crude oil
Crude oil is a mixture of many thousands of components varying from
light hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane, etc., to very high molecular weight
components. The composition of crude oil depends also on the location of
exploitation. These facts exclude the use of classical characterization methods for
the crude oil composition by mole or mass frictions of individual components. In
petroleum refining, the boiling point ranges are used instead of mass or mole
frictions. Three types of boiling point analysis are known: ASTM D862, ASTM
D158 and TBP (true boiling point). Properties of a petroleum stream are not
specified in terms of composition. Instead, properties such as 5% point, 95%
point, final boiling point, flashpoint and octane number are used.
The method for quantitative calculations of the petroleum frictions is to
break them into pseudo components. Each pseudo component has its average
boiling point, specific gravity, and molecular weight.
The process consists of the following steps
1. The process feed (MIXCRUDE), consisting of a blend of two crude oils
(OIL-1 and OIL-2; goes to the pre flash furnace.
2. The pre flash tower (PREFLASH) removes light gases and some naphtha
from the partially vaporized feed.
3. Pre flash bottoms (CDU-FEED) are further processed in the crude
distillation unit (CDU). The CDU consists of a crude unit furnace and an
atmospheric tower. First, the crude unit furnace partially vaporizes the bottoms
from the pre flash. Then the atmospheric tower separates the preflash bottoms
into five cuts
 Heavy naphtha (HNAPHTHA)
 Kerosene (KEROSENE)
 Diesel (DIESEL)
 Atmospheric gas oil (AGO)
 Reduced crude (RED-CRD)
4. Reduced crude goes to the vacuum distillation unit (VDU) for further
fractionation under vacuum conditions. The VDU consists of a vacuum unit
furnace and vacuum tower. The vacuum tower produces the following additional
 Overhead (OFF-GAS)
 Light vacuum gas oil (LVGO)
ASTM- American Society for Testing and Materials, is an international standards organization that develops
and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and
 Asphaltic residue (RESIDUE)
Case Study I - Simulation studies on Extractive column
The process flow diagram of the extractive distillation process is
presented on Figure 3. The process has two columns, one for extractive
separation and another for solvent recuperation. The azeotropic mixture and the
solvent are fed to the first column, in which the components boil and are
separated allowing the less volatile components to be collected in the bottoms
and in the top of the column the light key component is collected. The bottom
product is fed to the second column in which the solvent is recovered and
recycled to the extractive distillation column.
Figure 3. Process Flow Sheet for Extractive Distillation

Table 1 Feed stream conditions

stream 1 4
Feed mole flow (kmol/h) 100 1
Temperature(OC) 20 47
Pressure (atm) 1 1
Acetone 0.7775 0
Methanol 0.2225 0
Water 0 1

Table 2 Configuration of Extractive and Recovery column

Parameter Extractive Recovery
column column
number of stages 52 26
Feed stage 48 14
Entrainer feed stage 22 -
Reflux ratio 5 3
Condenser total total
Pressure drop per stage (atm) 1 1
Distillate mole flow (kmol/hr) 76 25

Figure 4. X-Y plot for Acetone- Figure 5. Residue curve for

Methanol Acetone-Methanol

Azeotrope @

Case Study II - Simulation studies on distillation of crude oil

Figure 6 shows the steady-state simulation scheme of Preflash and atmospheric
columns in ASPEN Plus.
Figure 6. Flow Sheet of Crude Distillation

Table 3 Oil-I Data (Dubai crude)

Light End API3 Gravity Curve
VOL % Temp( C ) Components Liq. Vol. Mid Vol. Gravity
API – American petroleum Institute
Frac. %
2.1 27.8 C1 - Methane 0 2.1 122.5
9.1 93.3 C2 - Ethane 0.02 5.6 76.9
20.2 148.9 C3 - Propane 0.29998 14.65 61.2
26.7 193.3 iC4 - Isobutane 0.17999 23.45 51.3
47.1 304.4 nC4 - n Butane 0.84994 36.9 41.6
53.8 348.9 iC5 - Isopentane 0.73 50.45 31.5
64.1 415.6 nC5 - n Pentane 1.18 58.95 25.8
81.8 565.6 Cy5 - Cyclopentane 0.08 72.95 20.1
100 722.3 90.9 4.4
Table 4 Oil-II Data (Basara Crude)
Distillation Light End API Gravity Curve
Liq. Vol. Mid Vol.
VOL % Temp( C ) Components Frac. % Gravity

2.2 27.8 C1 - Methane 0 2.2 120.2

8.9 93.3 C2 - Ethane 0.0199986 5.55 72.3
19.5 148.9 C3 - Propane 0.2899793 14.2 58.1
25.5 193.3 iC4 - Isobutane 0.2299836 22.5 47.8
47.5 304.4 nC4 - n Butane 0.8599386 36.5 37.2
55.2 348.9 iC5 - Isopentane 0.76 51.35 28.6
66.1 415.6 nC5 - n Pentane 1.07 60.65 23.4
84.4 565.6 Cy5 - Cyclopentane 0.11 75.25 16.6
100 722.3 92.2 8
Figure 7 TBP curves of Dubai, Figure 8 TBP curves of Dubai,
Basara & Blend Crudes Bombay & Blend Crudes

Results and Analysis

Case Study I - Simulation studies on Extractive column
Figure 9 Temperature Profile for Figure 10 Molar – Flow rates for
Extractive Column Extractive Column

Figure 11 Vapor Composition Profiles for Extractive Column

Table 5 Comparison of Simulation Results with Other Studies
Parameter langston This study
Model Wilson UNIQUAC
Acetone purity 99.7% 99.0%
E/F Ratio 4 2

Table 6 Extractive Column conditions for all above mentioned methods

Parameter langsto This study
Number stages 73 52
Binary feed stage 5 48
Entrainer feed stage 25 22
Reflux ratio 4 5
Binary feed composition (%mol)
Acetone 50 77.75
Methanol 50 22.25
Pressure drop per stage(atm) 0.02 0.01

Table 7 Recovery Column conditions for all above mentioned methods

Parameter langsto This study
Number of stages 34 26
Feed stage 18 14
Reflux ratio 3.86 3
Pressure drop per stage(atm) 0.02 0.01
The best primary column configuration shows that the entrainer is fed
above the binary feed, which allows higher acetone purity. Similar results have
been reported in literature.
Figure 8 Temperature Profile for Figure 9Molar – Flow rates for
Extractive Column – Wilson Extractive Column – Wilson
Method Method

Figure 10 Vapor Composition for Extractive Column – Wilson Method

Case Study II - Simulation studies on distillation of crude oil

Table 8 Results for Dubai and Basara crude data
Mass flow(kg/hr) Yield(wt%)
Light 3635.708 0.615437
Naptha 86607.92 14.66061
H Naptha 40468.6 6.850348
Diesel 73077.25 12.3702
Kerosene 62740.9261 10.62051
AGOO 50195.5212 8.49688
Off Gas 9086.717 1.53816
Lvgo 71312.2749 12.07143
Hvgo 109898.901 18.60321
Residue 73660.1838 14.17321

ASTM curves for the products are plotted using stream results. The ASTM
curves are on the Stream Results | Vol. % Curves sheet.
Figure 11 Block Crude Figure 12 Block VDU (PetroFrac)
(PetroFrac) Stream results Stream results - Temperature Vs
-Temperature Vs Vol % Vol %

TBP curve for streams LVGO, HVGO, and RESIDUE are plotted. The
True Boiling Point curves appear on the Stream Results | Vol. % Curves
Process Limitations
The feed temperature is the most important limitation because at a certain
temperature the oil starts to crack and coke appears in the column, which results
in flooding of the column and consequently the process collapses.
The limitation is the column pressure for the same reason. The number of
stages is also included in limitations, because plant has to be tested as there is.
However, the stage from which liquid is drawn for stripers and stage of return
wasn’t limitations, so it was tested in purpose of getting more quantity as well
as quality of light fraction with regard on composition of gasoline fraction get
from OIL-I crude oil on this plant. It was used in case of OIL-II type of crude
Sensitivity Analysis
The first simulation was run with Dubai and Basara crude oil. The
simulation was successfully done, because the matching of the results with the
project data was satisfying. The comparison between the project data and the
data obtained by the simulation is given.
The simulation was run again with a different crude oil. The Dubai and
Bombay type of crude oil was used for the simulation. Because of the process
limitations, mentioned above, no further pressure and temperature adjustment is
possible or even necessary. Results of this analysis in terms of the fraction flow
rates. Comparing these results to those for the Dubai and Basara type of crude
oil, significant change can be seen.
Aspen Plus can be successfully used to simulate the atmospheric and
vacuum crude unit with the existing project parameters for the crude oil Dubai
and Basara. What is more important is the fact that this unit can be used for a
different crude oil, such as the Dubai and Basara crude oil, with not so
significant changes in basic operating parameters. These changes were in
accordance to the main process limitations and unit capability.
Table 9 Results for Dubai and Basara crude data
Mass Flow Yield Mass flow Yield (wt
(lb/hr) (wt %) (kg/hr) %)
LIGHT 8015.3647 0.6154 3635.708 0.615437
NAPTHA 190937.775 14.6606 86607.92 14.66061
HNAPTHA 89217.9902 6.8503 40468.6 6.850348
DIESEL 161107.765 12.3702 73077.25 12.3702
KEROSENE 138320.068 10.6205 62740.9261 10.62051
AGO 110662.184 8.4968 50195.5212 8.49688
OFF GAS 20032.7823 1.5381 9086.717 1.53816
LVGO 157216.658 12.0714 71312.2749 12.07143
HVGO 242285.608 18.6032 109898.901 18.60321
RESIDUE 162392.911 14.1732 73660.1838 14.17321
Figure 13 Block VDU Stream Figure 14 Block VDU Stream
results Temperature Vs Vol % results Temperature Vs Vol %
Dubai & Basara Crude Dubai & Basara Crude

Table 10 Results for Dubai and Bombay crude data

Mass Flow Yield Mass flow Yield

(lb/hr) (wt %) (kg/hr) (wt %)

LIGHT 3797.58623 0.3021 1722.5561 0.30211

284700.082 22.6487 22.64877

95581.8548 7.6038 7.603832

180511.959 14.36083 14.36028

140940.474 11.2122 11.21225

108169.128 8.6052 8.605188

OFF GAS 20040.0979 1.59425 9090.0353 1.594252

LVGO 148983.658 11.8521 67577.849 11.85211

230901.33 18.3689 18.36891

21145.8867 3.4522 3.452292

Figure 15 Block VDU Stream Figure 16 Block VDU Stream

results Temperature Vs Vol % results Temperature Vs Vol %
Dubai & Bombay Crude Dubai & Bombay Crude

The following conclusions can be made from the present study:
1. Aspen Plus can be successfully used to simulate different process like the
extractive distillation and the atmospheric and vacuum crude units
2. The separation of azeotropic mixtures like acetone-methanol is a feasible
by extractive distillation if the solvent is selected properly. For this study,
water was a feasible entrainer but the use of a solvent with a higher
boiling point could be more appropriate for this azeotropic separation.
3. From the results of simulation of different crudes ( yield %), it can be
concluded that using Dubai & Bombay crude mixture yields more
distillates than Dubai & Basara type of mixed Oil.
4. BK-10 method yields good results than other methods; In many
Petroleum industries BK-10 method is used for its ability to produce
results for all types of crudes.
1. “Simulation of Atmospheric Crude Unit "Badger" Using Aspen
Plus”, Milana M. Stojić*, Svetlana Lj. Nedeljkov, Darko M. Krstić,
Siniša Mauhar, Petroleum & Coal, 46(2), 57 - 62 , 2004.
2. “Energy Saving In A Crude Distillation Unit By A Preflash
Implementation”, Massimiliano Errico, Giuseppe Tola, Michele Mascia
Applied Thermal Engineering 29 (2009) 1642–1647
3. “Simulation Of The Tetrahydrofuran Dehydration Process By
Extractive Distillation”, P.A. GÓMEZ And I.D. GIL, Latin American
Applied Research 39:275-284 (2009)
4. “Simulation Of Steam Distillation Process Using Neural Networks”,
M.T. Vafaei, R. Eslamloueyan∗, Sh. Ayatollahi, Chemical Engineering
Research And Design 8 7 ( 2 0 0 9 ) 997–1002
5. “Dynamic Simulation And Control: Application To Atmospheric
Distillation Unit Of Crude Oil Refinery”, David D. Gonçalves,
Fernando G. Martins, Sebastião Feyo De Azevedo, 20th European
Symposium On Computer Aided Process Engineering – ESCAPE20
6. “Simulation Of Ethanol Extractive Distillation With A Glycols
Mixture As Entrainer”, I.D. Gil1*, A.M. Uyazán1, J.L. Aguilar1, G.
Rodríguez1, L.A. Caicedo1, 2nd Mercosur Congress On Chemical Engineering, 4th
Mercosur Congress On Process Systems Engineering

7. “Batch Extractive Distillation In A Column With A Middle Vessel”,

CUI Xianbao, YANG Zhicai, Zhai Yarui And Pan Yujan, Chinese J.
Chem. Eng., 10(5), 529 – 534 (2002)
8. “Computation Of An Extractive Distillation Column With Affine
Arithmetic”, Ali Baharev, Tobias Achterberg, Endre Rév, Aiche
Journal, 2009, 55 (7), 1695-1704