2 Types of packing

Column packing for industrial separation processes is produced from various materials and is supplied in multifarious shapes and sizes. It may be dumped at random or stacked in regular geometric patterns, and it must ensure a large area of contact between the gas and the liquid phases and a uniform phase distribution. The current economic situation favours the adoption of packed columns in rectification, absorption, and liquid-liquid extraction processes. Consequently, the demand for packing in mass transfer equipment for the chemical and allied industries has greatly increased and has triggered off many new developments in the last few years. As has already been mentioned, packed columns have also become widely accepted in ecological engineering, e. g. in air and gas scrubbing processes and in water treatment. The main unit operation involved is mass transfer, but heat transfer by direct contact is also a significant factor. The only new high-performance packings to which consideration has been given in this book are those for which process engineering performance data are available. Hence, certain gaps may exist in the information presented. Nevertheless, the theoretical fundamentals and the fluid dynamics and mass transfer models that have been derived from the results obtained on all packings investigated are sufficiently accurate for application in industrial practice. The main applications dealt with here are systems in which the phases are in countercurrent flow. The analysis and design of packed columns for thermal separation processes can be difficult in many cases. This applies not only to the actual scale-up of laboratory and pilot plant results but also to the uncertainty involved in many cases by the procedures adopted. Most hydrodynamic calculations for packed columns are uncomplicated and lead to results that can be satisfactorily applied in practice. However, results obtained by mass transfer calculations, e. g. for the determination of column height, are often associated with a degree of uncertainty, and dubiety can thus arise. An example arises in applying the data derived from special absorption tests to solve rectification problems. Despite the valuable contributions made by some research workers, this task was still considered to be insoluble until a few years ago. Since the physical laws relating to mass transfer are fundamentally the same in all cases, it ought to be possible to describe thermal separation processes in terms that are valid for all systems. To this aim, the author has performed comprehensive experiments on numerous individual types of packing of various shapes and sizes. The results obtained with different systems and in columns of different dimensions have been systematically analyzed. They have been compared with those obtained in a previous model developed by the author about ten years ago for predicting the mass transfer efficiency of packed columns by means of a relationship of general validity. The model necessitates prior determination of the liquid holdup. It has been verified by measurements performed by the author or cited in the literature, and it allows all test results obtained with various rectification systems, including data from absorption studies, to be brought to a common denominator. A model for liquid-liquid systems in packed columns has also been checked against experimental results.

Packed Towers in Processing and Environmental Technology. Reinhard Billet Copyright © 1995 VCH Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Weinheim ISBN: 3-527-28616-0

e.e. The packing systems selected for consideration here can be regarded as representative of the progress made in this field. the number N per unit volume. In the subsequent stages of widespread acceptance in practice. and the results allow the optimum packing to be selected for a given separation task. the surface area per unit volume. Hiflow rings and saddles and Hackette. The scientific studies required to determine the packing characteristics and to derive data for industrial-scale columns were performed in the author's laboratories and external pilot plants. Thus the likelihood of channelling in many beds of random packing introduces an uncontrollable and fortuitous element in the separation of mixtures with certain physical properties and poses the threat of poor efficiency in columns of large diameter. However. i. ceramic and plastics packing of various geometries and dimensions. They feature a low pressure drop per theoretical stage. and the void fraction e. Din-Pac. and the bulk density. They have one feature in common. known under the tradename CMR. geometrically arranged beds of packing were formerly given preference over random packing in an attempt to realize high capacities and efficiencies. which is an absolutely essential asset for saving energy and avoiding thermal decomposition of the product stream in separation processes. and VSP rings. The examples presented in Fig. A frequent difficulty has been to attain uniform distribution of the liquid over the entire cross-section at the feed inlet or the head of the column. New designs of saddles include the Super-Torus. Characteristic examples of packing that were investigated in the author's laboratories are illustrated in Fig. Systematic studies had shown that it represented an optimum. . Modern types of random packing merit particular attention from the economic aspects of optimizing performance and minimizing materials consumption and production costs. special plates and. in some cases. 2.1 Packing dumped at random Many conventional beds of random packing have caused difficulties and problems in large-diameter columns. but differ from one another in their basic geometry and the associated characteristic data.24 2 Types of packing The trend in thermal separation techniques decidedly favours high-performance packing with the outstanding process engineering characteristics specified by the chemical and allied industries. The risk of maldistribution also exists in the layer of packing close to the column shell. the packing density. 2. It was followed by other latticework types. 2. i. the nominal size d. Envi-Pac. their latticework structure. and it was accordingly recommended for a number of applications.1 together with the relevant geometrical data. Consequently. great changes in the design of random packing have largely altered this situation in recent industrial practice.e. Close runners-up were the plastics and metal cascade mini-rings. and their shortcomings account for the reservations that are still held against them. latticework packing set the pace. viz. the effective void fraction.g. The plastics Nor-Pac ring was the first modern type of high-performance packing to be introduced in industrial practice.1 have been restricted to types for which process engineering performance data were available from studies in the author's research facilities. the surface area per unit volume a. i. to ensure that the packing is adequately wetted. The studies embraced a relatively wide range of metallic.e.

1. Examples of packing for random beds including data on the number per unit volume. It also permits the lowest possible column bottom temperature in the separation of heat-sensitive mixtures.2 Packing stacked in geometric patterns 25 Nominal packing size 50 mm Fig.2 Packing stacked in geometric patterns Packing stacked in a regular pattern permits the realization of a minimum pressure drop per theoretical stage. The capital investment costs for geometrically arranged packing is normally higher than that for dumped. and the relative void fraction 2. studies on separation process economics have shown that the greatest contribution towards the . and is therefore most suitable for minimizing energy consumption in separation processes that necessitate many stages. 2. However. the area per unit volume.2.

One of the factors that has initiated this trend has been the increased severity of the legislation imposed in industrial countries on the prevention of air and water pollution. g. The corresponding process engineering data presented in Chapter 3 were derived from experiments in the author's pilot plants and were supplemented by manufacturers' data. specialized knowledge on how best to distribute the liquid is part and parcel of manufacturing knowhow. even in columns of comparatively large diameter.g. This costs factor entails a gap between the applications for stacked beds of packing and those for dumped beds. and methanol. The prototype that they introduced on the market was the Mellapak. randomly dumped and systematically arranged beds of packing. Normally. 2. high-performance. in which case preference would be given to arranged packing. The provisos are that the beds have been carefully installed and that the liquid phase has been uniformly distributed. which is often observed in conventional beds of packing and which greatly impairs the efficiency. The wide variety of thermal separation tasks in the process industries acts as an incentive for manufacturers of stacked packing to further modify existing designs (cf. A factor that restricts their widespread acceptance is their capital investment costs. Glitsch structured sheet-metal packing. the surface area per unit volume a and the void fraction 8. 2. e. Other companies followed suit with designs of outstanding merit. examples of packings with excellent process engineering characteristics that have not been included are the Rombopak and Norton types. higher fatty acids and alcohols. For instance.for the removal of pollutants and recoverable products from off-gas streams . The design aim of all new types of stacked packing has been to minimize the pressure drop per unit efficiency at high loads. Fig.2 is by no means complete. Maldistribution. which has since been succesfully used for many years in industrial columns with diameters of up to eight metres. Fig. The aim is more to outline the current state of the art and the direction of present trends and to illustrate these in the light of some examples of modern. e. yet more effective arranged packing had to be developed to close this gap.26 2 Types of packing total costs is made by energy. The predecessors of most modern designs are Sulzer Chemtech gauze and sheet-metal packings. . 2. can be largely avoided by devices for redistributing any liquid that may channel down the walls of the column. the production of heavy water and the distillation of amines and glycols. It is beyond the scope of this book to go into full details on all the developments that have been made in the last few years. g. New and cheaper. the list given in Fig.2 illustrates the geometry of some modern stacked packing and includes data on the geometry. Obviously. In fact. Various reports have confirmed the successful performance in practice of stacked packing.and in desorption. they are uneconomical at pressure drops higher than 10 mm WG per theoretical stage. e. the demand for energy-saving separation equipment has even diverted trends from mass-transfer trays towards columns with systematically arranged packing. and Raschig Ralu Pak 250 VC metal packing.2). Montz Bl-type metal and Cl-type plastics packings. High-performance structured gauze packing has proved successful in many fields of the chemical and allied industries. The benefits offered by low-pressure-drop packing are by no means confined to rectification and are now widely recognized in absorption processes . Again the first step towards meeting the requirements was made by Sulzer.

978 3 -7m ]. .96 Nontz packing Bl .3 Geometric packing parameters 27 Mellapok 250 Y Nontz C 1^300 a-250. 2. e = 0. £ [m /m ] Fig.2. 2. It can be seen that each packing has its own peculiar geometry and surface structure.2.1 and 2.300 a = 250 3 a^ 202 e=0.3 Geometric packing parameters The examples shown in Figs. Each must be subjected to comprehensive experiment in order to determine the performance characteristics upon which reliable fluid-dynamics and mass-transfer models can be based.2 represent a mere cross-section of the multifarious packings offered for process and ecological engineering. Examples of geometrically arranged packing including data on the area per unit volume and relative void fraction 3 2.

28 2 Types of packing Column packing with a high volumetric efficiency obviously necessitates excellent hydrodynamic design and surfaces that greatly promote separation.3. and s can be obtained by combining Eqns (2-1) to (2-3). by vc-vP Vr (2-3) A simple relationship between 8. The relationship between the relative void fraction. and the average wall thickness of packing . metal foil. the area per unit volume. a. Thus 8 > 1 .— as (2-4) 20 60 100 140 180 220 260 300 340 380 420 460 500 Area per unit volume a [ m 2 /m 3 ] Fig. 2. (2-1) The effective void fraction or porosity 8 in a bed of packing depends on the surface area Ap of the packing and the thickness s of the basic material.e. A quantity to which the performance parameters are usually related is the ratio a of the surface area of the packing to the volume of the column. or plastics film. which is usually in the form of sheet metal. i. The volume of material required for the bed is given by V < — sA (2-2) and the effective void fraction of the bed.

Eqns (2-1) to (2-4) are valid for all beds of packing. It can be seen from the nomogram presented in Fig. It consists of two absorption columns of 9. Flue gas desulfurization plant in one of BASF AG's power stations. Other parameters are required to evaluate the performance.3 Geometric packing parameters 29 In principle.4. The packing density T and thus the area a per unit volume in random beds may be V somewhat greater in large-diameter columns (subscript T) than in pilot columns (subscript P) Fig.2. 2. 8 m . Together with 8 and a. 2.3 that the effective void fraction increases as the thickness of the material decreases.4 m diameter and 35 m total height. The beds of 50-mm plastic Hiflow rings are packed to an effective height of c. and they must allow for the geometry and texture of the packing. they govern the phase distribution and the area of contact between phases. but the information that they yield on the efficiency. capacity. Eqn (2-4) reveals the limits within which the effective void fraction 8 for a desired surface area per unit volume a can be altered by appropriate selection of the practically realizable thickness s of the material. and pressure drop is purely qualitative.

2. . This example clearly demonstrates that columns with random beds of modern packing can also give good results in plants of large capacity.30 2 Types of packing of comparatively small diameter.4.(1 .EP) ^~ J\p (2-6) A photograph of a twin-line absorption plant is shown in Fig. The differences in the area per unit volume and the relative void fraction can be obtained from the following equations: (2-5) ET = 1 .

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