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Chapter 2.

Equipment Set-Up In the simplest case of continuous distillation, a single feed liquid mixture of 2 components (i.e. binary mixture) is separated into 2 products: known as the overhead product or top product or distillate, and the bottom product or simply, the bottoms. A typical set-up for continuous distillation operation is shown in the Figure below. The main equipment where separation occurs is the distillation column and reboiler. The liquid feed enters the distillation column after preheat. The liquid flows to the reboiler where steam is used as the heating medium. The reboiler provides the initial vapourisation of liquid phase to create the vapour phase. Part of the liquid in the reboiler is vapourised and the vapour is returned to the distillation column. The remaining liquid leaves the reboiler as bottoms and provides the heat source to preheat the feed.

The vapour flows up the column and leaves as overhead vapour. The overhead vapour is condensed by the overhead condenser and collected in the overhead accumulator. Part of the liquid from the overhead accumulator is withdrawn as the distillate, and the rest is returned to the column as reflux liquid. The reflux liquid flows down the column, combining with the feed stream in the column, and the combined liquid continues to flow down the column. Normally, the

section of the column above the feed entry is known as the rectifying section, and the section below the feed entry is known as the stripping section. Inside the column, the down-flowing liquid comes into contact with the up-flowing vapour. The distillation column is equipped with trays and/or packings, devices to facilitate the vapour-liquid contact. During the vapour-liquid contact, the vapour is enriched further in MVC (and stripped of LVC) while the reserved is true for the liquid. An example of VL contact on a tray is shown in the Figure below:

For more information about column internals, see the Section below. Column Internals Trays and packings are column internals that serve as contacting devices that improves the vapourliquid contact in the column. A simple classsfication is provide in the Figure below.

The operating principles and functions of the some of the following internals shall be discussed. Trays - Components, Types ( Sieve, Valve and Bubble Caps ) and Characteristics Packings - Random & Structured, characteristics Other Internals, e.g. liquid distributor, packing support, etc. Column main nozzles (inlet, outlet): top, intermediate, and bottom There are also some guidelines on using tray or packed columns. [ Back on Top ]

Packed Column & Packings Besides tray column, distillation (as well as other unit operations such as gas absorption, liquid-liquid extraction, etc.) can also be carried out using packed column filled with packings. Various types of packings made of different types of materials of construction are available, and both random and structured packings are commonly used. Examples of random packings as shown in the Figures below - left and right - are Raschig rings, Pall rings, Berl saddles, etc.

Random vs. Stacked Random packings, as the name implied, are dumped into a column during installation and allowed to fall in random. Small packings poured randomly into a vessel is certainly the more popular and commonly employed form of packed-tower design. However, in certain instances where exceptionally low pressure drop and very high flowrates are involved, stacked or oriented packings have also been used. See the Figure below. However, only those packings of cylindrical shape and with a diameter larger than 3-inch would be practical to install in a stacked form. Two types of arrangement are possible: triangular (diamond) pitch or square pitch.

The different packings has several basic characteristics that make them suitable for gas-liquid contacts. Click here for more information. [ Back on Top ]

Dry vs. Wet Random Packing In dry packing application, the packings are allowed to drop into the column via the (a) chute-and-sock method, or (b) rope-and-bucket method.

Dry packing avoids high hydrostatic liquid head, and prevents the introduction of water into a dry process. It is also quicker and less expensive than wet packing, and it minimises rusting of metal packings. In any case, it is not suitable for plastic packings, as plastic typically floats on water. Wet packing applications are preferred when the packings are constructed of breakage-prone materials, such as ceramic or carbon. The column is first filled with water and the packings are gently poured down the column. The water cushions the fall and promotes randomness of settling. This tends to increase column capacity and improve the column pressure drop characteristics. Wet packing also minimises compression and mechanical damage to packing materials. The main disadvantage is the need to remove the water after loading and dry the packings. [ Back on Top ]

Structured Packing Structured packings are considerably more expensive per unit volume than random packings. They come with different sizes and are neatly stacked in the column. Structure packings usually offer less pressure drop and have higher efficiency and capacity than random packings. 2 examples are shown in the Figures below - left and right.

Besides packings, there are other column internals.