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Absorption and Stripping

Some important definitions
• In distillation, heat drives the separation of the more volatile from the
less volatile component; this unit op is always counter-current.
• In stripping/absorption, separation is induced by addition of a third
component; these unit ops can be either counter-current or co-current.

stripping: a volatile component of a liquid stream vaporizes into a
carrier gas stream

absorption: a soluble component of a gas stream dissolves in an
extracting liquid stream
- physical absorption: the desired component is soluble in the
extracting liquid
- chemical absorption: the desired component reacts with the
extracting liquid
• irreversible chemical absorption: generates product/waste
• reversible chemical absorption: solvent is recycled by stripping

Stripping and absorption are often used together.
Ex.: Integrated system for removing CO
2
from syn gas
stripper
MEA + CO
2
N
2
N
2
+ CO
2
MEA
H
2
, CO
MEA + CO
2
Gases in at the bottom.
Liquids in at the top.
(Why?)
solvent cooler
absorber
H
2
NCH
2
CH
2
OH
(MEA)
hot feed gas
H
2
, CO, CO
2
syn gas
heat
exchanger
Key simplifying assumptions
1. stripping gas/carrier gas is insoluble in solvent
2. solvent is non-volatile
- therefore all streams are either pure or binary
3. columns are isothermal and isobaric
4. heat of absorption is negligible
- therefore energy balance is automatically satisfied
Degrees of freedom analysis:
D.o.F. = C – P + 2 = 3 – 2 + 2 = 3
(A,B,C) (V,L)

When T, P are fixed (assumption 3), can specify only one more
variable: x
B
or y
B
Labeling streams
n
th
stage
Packed columns are used more often than tray (plate)
columns in absorption/stripping, because of low mass
transfer efficiencies.

HETP ≡ height (of packing) equivalent to a theoretical
plate.
H
E
T
H
E
T
P

L
n-1
x
n-1
V
n
y
n
L
n
x
n
V
n+1
y
n+1
x
n
, y
n
: mole fractions of solute A at equilibrium leaving the n
th
stage
V
n
: total gas flow rate = (moles solute A + moles carrier gas B) / time
L
n
: total liquid flow rate = (moles solute A + moles solvent C) / time
Fractional stages are possible with packed columns.
Since A is transferred in one direction only (liq → gas, or gas → liq), V and L
are not constant. Therefore CMO is not valid.
Using mole ratios
what is constant? G ≡ carrier gas flow rate, moles B/time
since B is presumed insoluble, G
n
= G
n+1
= G
S ≡ solvent flow rate, moles C/time
since C is presumed non-volatile, S
n
= S
n-1
= S


X
A
S ·
moles A
moles C

moles C
time
·
moles A
time
in liquid stream

Y
A

moles A
moles B

moles B
time
·
moles A
time
in gas stream

Y
A
·
moles A in gas stream
moles B in gas stream
·
y
A
y
B
·
y
A
1  y
A
vapor mole ratio:

X
A
·
moles A in liquid stream
moles C in liquid stream
·
x
A
x
B
·
x
A
1  x
A
liquid mole ratio:
McCabe-Thiele analysis of stripping
feed
S, X
0
stripping gas
G, Y
N+1
G, Y
1
S, X
N
stage 1
stage N
stage j
S, X
j
G, Y
j+1
CMB: GY
j+1
+ SX
0
= GY
1
+ SX
j

operating line equation:

Y
j+1
= (S/G)X
j
+ [Y
1
– (S/G)X
0
]

slope = S/G Y
int
= [Y
1
– (S/G)X
0
]

analogous to operating line for stripping section
of distillation column

usually specified: X
0
, Y
N+1
, S/G, X
N


fast plotting of operating line:
• the point (X
N
, Y
N+1
) lies on the operating line
• calculate Y
1
from CMB
• the point (X
0
, Y
1
) also lies on the operating line
Ex.: Analysis of counter-current stripper
1. Plot VLE data as mole ratios
(unless x
0
< 0.05)
Note: y = x line has no use here.

2. Plot (X
N
, Y
N+1
) and (X
0
, Y
1
)
and draw operating line.
It will be below the VLE line.
N = 3


•(X
0
,Y
1
)

3. Step off stages (use
Murphree efficiencies if
available).

Given X
0
, X
N
, Y
N+1
and S/G, find N.

•(X
N
,Y
N+1
)



• 1

2

3
To find minimum stripping gas flow rate (G
min
):
1. Plot X
0
on VLE line (watch for earlier pinch point, if VLE is curved).
•X
0
2. Calculate G
min
= S / (S/G)
max

Rule-of-thumb: (S/G)
opt
≡ 0.7 (S/G)
max
Estimating fractional stages
Y
X
X
N

(X
3
, Y
4
)
(X
4
, Y
4
)
• •
VLE
op. line
X
3

X
N
X
4






·
X
N
  X
3
X
4
  X
3
fractional stage
requirement
McCabe-Thiele analysis of absorber
Solvent
S, X
0
feed
G, Y
N+1
G, Y
1
S, X
N
stage 1
stage N
stage k
S, X
k-1
G, Y
k
CMB: GY
N+1
+ SX
k-1
= GY
k
+ SX
N

operating line equation:

Y
k
= (S/G)X
k-1
+ [Y
N+1
– (S/G)X
N
]

slope = S/G Y
int
= [Y
N+1
– (S/G)X
N
]

analogous to operating line for rectifying section
of distillation column

usually specified: X
0
, Y
N+1
, S/G, Y
1


fast plotting of operating line:
• the point (X
0
, Y
1
) lies on the operating line
• calculate X
N
from CMB
• the point (X
N
, Y
N+1
) lies on the operating line
1. Convert VLE data to mole
ratios (unless x
0
< 0.05)
Note: y = x line has no use here.

2. Plot (X
0
, Y
1
) and (X
N
, Y
N+1
) and
draw operating line.
It will be above the VLE line
(because mass is transferred in
opposite direction, gas → liq).
N = 3


(X
N
,Y
N+1
)•

3. Step off stages (use
Murphree efficiencies if
available).

Given X
0
, Y
1
, Y
N+1
and S/G, find N.

(X
0
,Y
1
)•

• •

Find minimum extracting solvent flow rate (S
min
) for given G:
1. Plot Y
N+1
on VLE line (watch for earlier pinch point, if VLE is curved).

2
1
3

Y
N+1


Ex.: Analysis of counter-current absorber
2. Calculate S
min
= G • (S/G)
min
Rule-of-thumb: (S/G)
opt
≡ 1.4 (S/G)
min
Multiple non-interacting solutes
Multiple soluble components (A, D, E…) in solvent C, to be stripped using gas B,

OR

Multiple components (A, D, E…) in carrier gas B, to be absorbed using solvent C.

If streams are dilute and components do not interact with each other, assume VLE for
each component is independent.

Treat each as a single-component problem, and solve sequentially.

For dilute streams, Y
i
= y
i
/ (1 - y
i
) ≈ y
i
X
i
= x
i
/ (1 - x
i
) ≈ x
i
S/G ≈ L/V


Ex.: 2-component absorber
1
N
x
A,0
x
D,0
y
A,N+1

y
D,N+1
y
A,1

y
D,1
x
A,N

x
D,N
Separation of A requires N = 3.


(x
A,N
,y
A,N+1
)•

(x
A,0
,y
A,1
)•

• •


2
3
1

Specify y
A,N+1
, y
D,N+1
, x
A,0
, x
D,0
Specify L/V and y
A,1
. Find N and y
D,1
Separation of D must also
use N = 3 and same L/V.
Trial-and-error: guess y
D,1

(x
D,0
,y
D,1
)•

• •



2
3
1
(x
D,N
,y
D,N+1
)•

Probably a good idea to use a different graph for each component…
y

x
Irreversible absorption
Add reagent R to solvent. R reacts essentially irreversibly with
solute A to form non-volatile products

R + A(g) → R•A(l)

e.g., NaOH + H
2
S(g) → Na
2
S + H
2
O
Equilibrium lies far to the right: x
A
≅ 0 and y
A
≅ 0
Equation of the VLE line: y
A
= 0
Ex. Irreversible absorption
1
N
C + R
x
0
= 0

A + B
y
N+1

B
y
1
= 0
C + R•A
x
N
= 0
y
N+1



(x
0
,y
1
)•

Specify y
N+1
, x
0
, L/V.
Required: x
N
= y
1
= 0

VLE
Only one theoretical
equilibrium stage required …
(x
1
,y
1
)


(A + R•A)
y

x
Ex.: Irreversible absorption with low efficiency
1
N
C + R
x
0
= 0

A + B
y
N+1

B
y
1
≠ 0
A + R•A
x
N
= 0
y
N+1



(x
0
,y
1
)•

Specify y
N+1
, x
0
, L/V, y
1
≠ 0

VLE
More than one actual
equilibrium stage required …
(A + R•A)















2
6
5
4
3
1






E
MV
= 0.25
y

x
Co-current cascade
• can use higher vapor velocity to increase mass transfer rate
• can use smaller diameter column without risk of flooding
• generally used for irreversible absorption
(x
1
,y
1
)


Specify y
0
, x
0
= 0, x
N
, y
N
= 0

(A + R•A)
L, x
0
V, y
N

V, y
0

L, x
N

j
L, x
j
V, y
j


y ·
L
V
x + y
0
+
L
V
x
0
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
Vy
0
+Lx
0
·Vy
j
+Lx
j
(x
0
,y
0
)•

VLE
Only one theoretical
equilibrium stage required, if
the reaction is irreversible
and mass transfer is fast …
x
VLE for dilute streams
Obtain the slope, m, from Henry’s Law:

P
B
= H
B
x
B
where y
B
= P
B
/P
total

P
B
is the partial pressure of B, and H
B
is the Henry’s Law constant.
Note: H
B
= H
B
(T), like an equilibrium constant.
When streams are dilute, VLE data can
be approximated by a straight line.
y = mx
Analytical solution, when both VLE and op. line are straight
(x
0
,y
1
)•

•(x
1
,y
1
)

(x
1
,y
2
) •

•(x
2
,y
2
)

(y)
1
= y
2
- y
1
(x
2
,y
3
) •

(y)
2

  y
( )
j
· y
j +1
y
j
change in vapor composition between
adjacent stages:
special case: if L/V = m, then (y)
j
= y.
y
1
+ y
2
+ y
3
+ … = y
N+1
– y
1
= Ny


y
j +1
·
L
V
x
j
+ y
1

L
V
x
0
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
CMB:


y
j
· mx
j
VLE:

N ·
x
0
  x
N
x
N
 
L
V
( )
  1
y
N+1
OR
general case: L/V ≠ m, then (y)
j
≠ (y)
j+1
Kremser equation: L/V ≠ m

y
j
· mx
j
use VLE:

  y
( )
j
·
L
V
m
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
y
j
m
+ y
1

L
V
x
0
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
·
L
mV
1
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
y
j
+ y
1

L
V
x
0
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷

  y
( )
j +1
·
L
mV
1
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
y
j +1
+ y
1

L
V
x
0
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷

  y
( )
j +1
  y
( )
j
·
L
mV
1
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
y
j +1
y
j
( )
·
L
mV
1
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
  y
( )
j

  y
( )
j +1
·
L
mV
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
  y
( )
j
· A   y
( )
j
where A = L/mV ≡ absorption factor


y
N+1
y
1
·   y
( )
1
+   y
( )
2
+   y
( )
3
+   y
( )
4
+... ·   y
( )
1
1+ A+ A
2
+ A
3
+...
( )
·   y
( )
1
1 A
N
1 A

y
N+1
y
1
  y
( )
1
·
y
N+1
y
N
A   y
( )
0
·
1 A
N
1 A
where y
0
= mx
0

y
N+1
  y
1
y
1
  y
0
·
A  A
N+1
1  A
Kremser equation:

Other forms of Kremser equation
N ·
ln 1  S
  1
( )
x
0
  x
N+1
x
N
  x
N+1

÷
÷
+S
  1

lnS
More forms shown in Wankat, chapter 12.4
x
N
  x
N+1
x
0
  x
N+1
·
1  S
1  S
(N+1)
where S = mV/L ≡ stripping factor,
and x
N+1
= y
N+1
/m

For liquid phase compositions
(stripper columns):


y
N+1
  y
1
y
1
  y
0
·
A  A
N+1
1  A
For gas phase compositions
(absorber columns):


N ·
ln 1 A
1
( )
y
N+1
y
0
y
1
y
0
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
+ A
1
é
ë
ê
ê
ù
û
ú
ú
lnA
solve for N:


N ·
ln 1 A
1
( )
y
N+1
y
0
y
1
y
0
æ
è
ç
ö
ø
÷
+ A
1
é
ë
ê
ê
ù
û
ú
ú
ln 1+ E
MV
A
1
1
( )
é
ë
ù
û
include Murphree vapor efficiency:

Counter-current column sizing
Height:
1. measure HETP
2. measure E
MV
3. obtain N


Diameter:
1. key parameter is V, total gas flow rate (not constant)
2. V
j
is largest at the top of a stripper column, or at the
bottom of an absorber column
3. calculate D using same procedure as distillation column