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Liquid Distribution Measurement Techniques for Distillation Columns

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000254564D
Publication Date: 2018-Jul-11
Document File: 7 page(s) / 1M

Publishing Venue

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Abstract

Unit operations in many process industries require vapor-liquid contact and efficient liquid distribution. Such operations can be carried out in devices include, but not limited to, distillation columns (with trays, random or structured packing, contact strips), adsorption columns, heat exchangers (shell-and-tube, plate-fin, coil-wound, printed circuit, etc.), and chromatographic columns. Although considered by experts as established technology, distillation operation continues to attract attention from researchers who seek to improve column design methodologies and implement advanced column internals.

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Liquid Distribution Measurement Techniques for Distillation Columns Unit operations in many process industries require vapor-liquid contact and efficient liquid distribution. Such operations can be carried out in devices include, but not limited to, distillation columns (with trays, random or structured packing, contact strips), adsorption columns, heat exchangers (shell-and-tube, plate-fin, coil-wound, printed circuit, etc.), and chromatographic columns. Although considered by experts as established technology, distillation operation continues to attract attention from researchers who seek to improve column design methodologies and implement advanced column internals.

An improved understanding of liquid distribution is crucial in determining the efficiency of separation that may be achieved in a distillation column containing random or structured packing and would aid in better column design. The ability to non-intrusively gather information throughout a distillation column operating at a variety of conditions has the potential to advance the understanding of physical processes that underlie the contact of vapor and liquid. One key non- intrusive method is process tomography. Tomographic techniques to measure multiphase flows and systems include, but are not limited to, x-ray computed tomography, gamma-ray transmission tomography, x-ray radiography, magnetic resonance imaging, neutron transmission tomography, positron emission tomography, x-ray diffraction tomography, electrical capacitance tomography, optical transmission tomography, microwave tomography, and ultrasonic tomography. Specifically, X-ray computed tomography and high energy gamma tomography have been utilized to understand liquid distribution in distillation columns for industrially relevant conditions. The purpose of this disclosure is to describe different configurations of distillation columns and tomography equipment to measure/visualize liquid distribution and vapor-liquid flow behavior inside a distillation column, with emphasis on distillation columns containing structured packing used in cryogenic air separation industry.

In cryogenic air separation industry, distillation columns enable the separation of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and in some cases, krypton, xenon, neon, and other noble gases, from air. To make oxygen as product, the distillation system uses two thermally coupled distillation columns. These are more commonly referred to as “high” and “low” pressure columns (or, alternatively, the “lower” and “upper” columns). FIG.1 shows a typical two-column distillation unit used for air separation. It is entirely possible for certain air separation plants to have only one distillation column or more than two distillation columns for production of nitrogen and/or oxygen. Argon removal, when desired or needed, takes place at a point in the low-pressure column where the concentration of argon is highest. The argon can be concentrated in a section of the low-pressure c...