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An Integrated Heat Pump Cycle for Enhanced Argon Recovery

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000019375D
Publication Date: 2003-Sep-12
Document File: 2 page(s) / 57K

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Abstract

The argon recovery step in an air separation process may be enhanced by employing a heat pump that adds heat at the bottom of the low pressure column and withdraws heat from the argon condenser at the top of the argon sidearm column. Increased argon recovery may be desirable in cases where the air separation unit (ASU) feed is enriched in argon, or in any situation where the value of argon-rich products is high. Typical heat pump configurations would employ an additional stand-alone compressor and possibly a separate heat exchanger for this purpose. This configuration adds substantial capital cost to a standard ASU and negatively impacts the economics of increasing argon recovery. The process described here allows reduction in the capital costs associated with a heat pump by integrating the heat pump with the main air compressor (MAC) and main heat exchanger, and by using the ASU feed stream as the heat pump fluid.

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An Integrated Heat Pump Cycle for Enhanced Argon Recovery

The argon recovery step in an air separation process may be enhanced by employing a heat pump that adds heat at the bottom of the low pressure column and withdraws heat from the argon condenser at the top of the argon sidearm column. Increased argon recovery may be desirable in cases where the air separation unit (ASU) feed is enriched in argon, or in any situation where the value of argon-rich products is high. Typical heat pump configurations would employ an additional stand-alone compressor and possibly a separate heat exchanger for this purpose. This configuration adds substantial capital cost to a standard ASU and negatively impacts the economics of increasing argon recovery. The process described here allows reduction in the capital costs associated with a heat pump by integrating the heat pump with the main air compressor (MAC) and main heat exchanger, and by using the ASU feed stream as the heat pump fluid.

The present invention is described pictorially in Figure 1. Oxygen-enriched bottoms liquid is withdrawn from the high pressure column and is routed to a small stripping column whose reboiler is in an indirect heat transfer relationship with the argon sidearm column condenser. The small stripping column consists of a few equilibrium stages (e.g. 5 stages) that further separate oxygen-enriched high pressure column bottoms liquid into a further enriched oxygen-rich vapor/liquid bottoms product and into an over...