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Column Internals

Why are they important?


Vapour and Liquid Contact
Mass Transfer
Heat Transfer

There are three types of internals:
Trays
Random Packing
Structured Packing

Designing trays and downcomers for distillation columns first involves a primary design
stage. During this the following parameters are usually established.
Vapour and liquid flowrate, operating conditions and desired flow regime
Tray diameter and area
Type of Tray
Bubbling Area and downcomer hole area
A preliminary estimate of tray spacing and no of passes
A preliminary tray and downcomer layout.

Flow Regime describes the nature of the vapour and liquid dispersion on the tray. There are
two major types:
Froth Regime - This is when the liquid phase is continuous. It occurs at low vapour
velocities, high liquid velocities and atmospheric distillation.
Spray Regime - This is when the gas phase is continuous. This occurs at high vapour
velocities, low liquid velocities and vacuum distillation.

There are three main types of trays:
Sieve Trays
Valve Trays
Bubble Trays

Sieve Trays
High Efficiency
Medium/High Capacity
Good for Fouling Service
Good Turndown Ratio (2/1)
Can get weeping/dumping at low rates


Valve Trays
Most common
High Efficiency
Good turndown ratio (5/1) ie. you can reduce the actual flowrate to 1/5 of the design
flowrate while maintaining the same efficiency
Fouling can affect the valve opening
Medium/High Capacity


Bubble Cap Trays
High Costs (2 x Cost of Sieve Trays)
Low/Medium Capacity
Medium Efficiency
High Pressure Drop

Design Work

Tray Spacing Overall column height depends on plate spacing. Generally varies between
.15 1m. The general rules of thumb are:
Diameter >4ft it is best to use 24in spacing - this is designed as such for ease of
maintenance.
Diameter between 2.5-4ft it is best to use 18in spacing - the smaller spacing is
acceptable as maintenance of narrower columns can generally be completed without
entering the column. Small spacing and small diameter columns used where headroom
is restricted.
Above 1m Diameter, plate spacing of .36m to .6m is common, with .5m to be used as
an initial estimate

Hole Diameters on Sieve Trays
These generally vary from 1/16-1in. The general rules of thumb are that large holes are
recommended for fouling and corrosive services and a spray regime. For others smaller
punched holes are preferred with 3/16in being the desired.

Fractional Hole Area and Hole Spacing on Sieve Trays
Fractional Hole Area is defined as the ratio of the total area of the tray holes to the tray
bubbling area (bubbling area is the area less the areas of unperforated regions such as
downcomer, downcomer seal and large calming zones.)

Fractional Hole Area =
2

,
`

.
|
holepitch
diam hole
K

Where K =0.905 for equilateral triangular pitch, and K = 0.785 for a square pitch.

Hole pitch is the centre-to-centre hole spacing. Holes are generally spaced on an equilateral
triangular pitch as this minimises liquid bypassing around perforations and affords a greater
ratio of hole diameter to hole pitch. Fractional hole area usually varies between 0.05-0.15.
Determining this variable is usually a trade-off between capacity and turndown.

Valve Tray Design
Typically valve trays are designed with 12-16 valves per square foot of bubbling area.
Typically, orifice and disk diameters are about 1.5 and 2in respectively. The disk typically
rises 3/16 to 7/16in above the tray deck, open area of fully open valves is typically about 10-
15%.

Calming Zones
It is common practice to provide a blank area between the inlet downcomer or inlet weir and
the hole field, and another blank area between the hole field and the outlet weir. These are
termed calming zones.

The inlet recalming zone is used because the entering liquid possesses a vertical velocity in a
downward direction, this causes excessive weeping and inhibits bubble formation at the first
row of holes or valves.
The outlet calming zones are used for vapour disengagement from the froth on the tray prior
to the liquid entering the downcomer.

Outlet Weirs
Outlet weirs maintain a certain liquid level on the tray.
Spray Regime - Weir height is not important for the spray regime as the liquid enters
the downcomer as a shower of liquid droplets. However, in practice a small weir is put
in so that if running at low flow rates and operating in the froth regime tray liquid
height can still be maintained. A height of 3/4-1in is generally preferred.
Froth Regime - A weir height of 2-3in is generally used. A higher liquid level gives
good vapour- liquid contact time and provides good bubbling formation. However, the
higher the liquid level the higher the pressure drop, downcomer backup, entrainment
rate and weeping tendency.

Weir height can be determined from the following equation:

0.5dH) - h - (2 h 0.5dH) - h - (4
ow w ow
> >

Where h
w
= weir height (in)
h
ow
= height of liquid crest over the weir (in)
dH = hydraulic gradient (in)

Downcomers
The passage of liquid from the top to the bottom of a tray tower is primarily through
downcomers.
There are a number of different types:
- Straight segmental vertical downcomer - The type most commonly used. Utilises column
area for downflow and is cheaper and much more simple.
- Circular downcomer- not widely used as it provides low downflow area and limited
vapour disengagement space.
- Envelope downcomer- used in low-liquid- load applications to minimise liquid leakage.
Not widely used.
- Sloped downcomers represent the best utilisation of column area for downflow. They
provide sufficient volume for vapour- liquid disengagement without wasting the active area on
the tray below. It is recommended that the ratio of the top area to the bottom area of sloped
downcomers be between 1.5 and 2.0.

The height and width of the downcomer will be determined based on the following factors:
Downcomer Velocity - the maximum velocity needs to be low enough to prevent
downcomer flooding. Velocities range from 0.1-0.7ft/s
Residence Time in Downcomers - the residence time needs to be long enough to allow
adequate V/L disengagement. The ideal residence time established from reviewing
flooded columns determined that a minimum residence time of 3s is needed and the
best residence time is 5s.

Downcomer residence time is given by:


wd
bc d
r
L
h A
t
L



Where tr = residence time (s)
h
bc
= clear liquid back up (m)
L
wd
= liquid flowrate is downcomer (kg/s)
A
d
= Downcomer area (m
2
)


Relationships for downcomer area and width are described below:
Downcomer Area - Reducing downcomer area reduces the column diameter, which increases
the tray bubbling area. At large downcomer areas this can result in substantial cost savings. At
downcomers of 5-8% there is little economic incentive to reduce it further. Reducing
downcomer area below this:
- Makes the downcomer sensitive to foaming and fouling.
- Smaller weirs associated with small downcomers distort the liquid flow pattern.

Two types of flooding:
Downcomer back- up - when high liquid flowrate causes the liquid level on the tray to
rise, causing liquid to flood back up the downcomer.
Liquid Entrainment - High vapour velocities blow liquid off the immediate tray onto
the tray above it.


Multi-pass Trays
You can get multi-pass trays. To determine whether a multi-pass tray is required the liquid
flow in m
3
/h/m weir length is examined. When this gets above a certain number then double
or mutli-pass trays can be installed.
Advantages
Enhanced tray and downcomer capacity
Lower Tray Pressure Drop
Disadvantages
Shorter Path Length, which leads to lower tray efficiency.


Column Diameter
Principally determined by vapour flow rate. Vapour velocity must be below that
which would cause excess liquid entrainment or high pressure drop.
Maximum superficial vapour velocity given by Souders and Brown equation:

2 / 1
2
) (
) 047 . 0 27 . 0 171 . 0 (
]
]
]


+
V
V L
t t v
l l u



Where u
v
= max. allowable superficial velocity (m/s)
l
t
= plate spacing (m) (range 0.5 1.5m)

Column Diameter can be calculated from:

v v
w
c
u
V
D

4


Where D
c
= column diameter (m)
V
w
= Max. Vapour Rate (kg/s)


Column Pressure Drop

Pressure Drop per Plate
Two main sources of pressure loss
1) Vapour flow through holes (orifice loss)
2) Static head of liquid on plate
Is found by the sum of h
d
, h
w
+h
ow
and h
r


Dry Plate Pressure Drop (h
d
)

Calculate Max. vapour velocity through tray holes by:

H
b
H
A
V
u

Where V
b
= Max volumetric flow rate of liquid and gas (m3/s)
A
H
= Hole area of tray



Calculate dry plate pressure drop from:

L
v h
d
C
u
h

2
0
51
]
]
]



Where h
d
= pressure drop per tray
u
h
= Max. vapour velocity through holes (m/s)
C
0
= orifice co-efficient. Obtained from fig. 11.34 below (pg 576
Coulson & Richardson).

Liquid height pressure drop (h
w
& h
ow
)
h
w
= height of weir
h
ow
= height of liquid above weir
Estimated by Francis Weir formula:

3 / 2
750
]
]
]

w L
w
ow
l
L
h



Where h
ow
= height of liquid above weir
L
w
= Liquid flow rate (kg/s)
l
w
= Weir length (m)

Total Pressure drop across plate can be calculated by using:


t L
h g P . .

Where h
t
is found from:


r ow w d t
h h h h h + + + ) (

Total column pressure drop is found from summing plate pressure drops, as well as losses
across inlets and fittings etc.

Note: 1) This pressure drop may have to be recalculated through successive iterations in a
rigorous design method.
2) If there is a significant pressure drop, it may not be assumed constant across the
column. An estimation of the pressure drop at each stage must be made (this will
affect calculation of subsequent data, eg. Temperatures, compositions etc.) and
recalculated from successive iterations.


Weep Point

Column must be designed so that lowest possible vapour velocity must be well above weep
point.
Weep point can be calculated from:


2 / 1
2
) (
)] 4 . 25 ( 90 . 0 [
v
h
h
d K
u




Where u
h
= vapour velocity at which weeping will occur (m/s)
K
2
= constant, dependant on clear liquid on the plate, from fig. 11.30 pg 571
Coulson & Richardson Vol. 6
d
h
= hole diameter (mm)