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ENSC3019 Unit Operations

and Unit Processes


Assignment 2
Absorption Column
Design

Robin Kwan 20892346
Anton Gustavson 20912564

Due 20/10/2014 5pm
Our liquid gas absorption column will strip an 8% CO
2
mole feed to 3%
mole CO
2
. This process will follow an equilibrium curve defined by
Y=0.3422X
2
+1.2604X. The solvent chosen was propylene carbonate
which will flow at a flow rate of 1.146x10
6
mol/hr. The absorption
column will be randomly packed by 50mm metal pall rings, at a column
diameter of 0.948m. The local mass transfer coefficient for liquid phase
was calculated to be 6.9x10
-4
m/s, while the local mass transfer
coefficient for vapour phase was 2.429x10
-5
kmol/barm
2
s. The number
of gas transfer units required was 3, while the height of a liquid and gas
transfer unit was 0.633m and 2.578m respectively. The total packing
height used will be 9.33m which will be subdivided into two equal.
sections.

1

1 Project description

This gas absorption column is designed to strip
an 8% mole CO
2
gas stream to less than 3%
mole CO
2
. It is assumed the initial solvent is
clean of any CO
2
before it enters the
absorption process. The table below shows the
relevant data of our feed and exit streams.
Volumetric flow rate, V 25 MMscfd
Temperature, T 298K
Pressure, P 6900 kPa
Feed gas carbon dioxide
mole fraction, y
1
0.08
Product gas carbon dioxide
mole fraction, y
2
0.03
Solvent initial carbon
dioxide mole fraction, x
2
0
Table 1 Project stream data
The following table shows the properties of
the fluid.
Properties of Propylene Glycol
Molecular
weight
102.09 kg/kmol
Density 1198 kg/m
3

Viscosity 0.009345 Ns/m
2

Properties of Vapour
Molecular
weight
19.18 kg/kmol
Density 51.37 kg/m
3
Viscosity 5.98 x 10
-5
Ns/m
2

Properties of individual gas
Molecular
weight of CO
2

44.01 kg/kmol
Molecular
weight of CH
4

16.04 kg/kmol
Table 2 Properties of fluid
2 Solvent selection
Propylene Glycol was chosen because of its
higher carbon dioxide solubility. Water was
rejected due to its relatively low solubility and
acidity with carbon dioxide. Selecting water
could cause problems in the design phase
where material selection is limited due to its
corrosiveness. By comparing Henrys Law
between the two organic compounds, the
solubility of carbon dioxide in propylene
carbonate exceeds the solubility in propylene
glycol (Gui, Tang, Fei, 2010).
3 Minimum required liquid-to-gas
(L
s
/V
s
) ratio
Firstly, the equilibrium curve for CO
2
must be
found. The equilibrium curve was constructed
through Henrys Law.


To be able to plot the equilibrium curve in
mole ratio graph, it was needed to convert the
above equation. The relationship between
mole ratio and mole fraction are given as:



Substituting this relationship into original
equilibrium equation and it became:



With arbitrary equilibrium data X, we obtained
the corresponding Y value. The some
equilibrium data was tabulated below:
2


Table 3 Equilibrium curve data
These values were then used to plot the
equilibrium curve. The plotted curve is shown
in Figure 1. Using polynomial trend line on
excel, the following formula was derived.


The last term was disregarded because it was
very close to zero. Thus the equation of the
trend line simply became:


The equation for min Ls/Vs ratio
(


X* was obtained by substituting Y
1
as Y in the
trend line equation.


Calculating the min(

):
(


4 Actual solvent circulation rate
Converting volume flow rate of feed gas
The volume flow rate was given as 25
MMscfd and this is in American standard
condition at 14.7 psia and 60
o
F (Chelcalc, n.d.).
So to convert that volume flow rate to our
operating flow rate, the equation below was
used.


Figure 2
Figure 1 Graph showing the equilibrium curve, minimum Ls/Vs line and operating line
3

[

]
Molar flow rate of feed in gas (V
f
)
Applying Ideal gas law:

]
Converting to molar flow rate:

]
Molar flow rate of solute free basis (V
s
)

]
Actual solvent flow rate (Ls)
It was found out earlier that:
(

)
Thus we can calculate the minimum required
solvent flow rate:

]
It is stated that the actual solvent circulation is 1.2
times the minimum required. Therefore:

]
5 Selection of random packing
material
We selected a packing size of 50mm due to the
calculated column diameter. Smaller packing
sizes are more expensive while a packing size
that is too large leads to poor liquid
distribution (Sinnot 2003). It is recommended
to follow the recommended sizing in the table
below.

Figure 2 Recommended packing size ranges (Sinnott
2003, pg. 592)
Since propylene carbonate has a pH of 7
(Huntsman 2010) we are not restricted to
choosing materials based on their potential
corrosiveness in the solvent. Typically packing
material is often made of cheap and inert
plastics such as polypropylene, ceramic or
metal. Originally the packing was designed in
Raschig rings or Berl saddles, although more
modern advancements have seen the use of
Pall rings. Other modern designs include
Intalox saddles, Super Intalox and Hypac
packings.
The material was selected by comparing the
materials specific properties and the
constraints of the system. High pressure
systems could make plastic packing
structurally unsound, so that was excluded
quickly. 50mm metal Pall rings were selected
over 50mm ceramic Pall rings due to having a
higher void fraction which allows more space
for liquid/gas transfer. Although 50mm
ceramic pall rings have a slightly larger
specific packing surface area, this was not
deemed significant enough compared to the
large changes in the void fraction (Benitez
2009). The Pall ring design was chosen
because of their increased liquid-gas interface
and free area when compared to Rashig rings,
while being cheaper than other saddle designs.
6 Number of overall gas transfer
units
Equation for calculating number of overall gas
transfer units (N
OY
) are given as:
4


The above was simplified further due to the
straight operating and equilibrium lines, and it
became:


Where,


To be able to utilise the above equations,


and

(hence

and

) had to be found first.


They were obtained from the equilibrium
curve as well. The actual Ls/Vs ratio was
simply:

)
Then


Once

was found, the corresponding

was
obtained as well from the equilibrium curve.


Next, the

was obtained by converting

to
mole fraction. The same method was used to
find

and they are:


These values were then substituted back to
find the log mean driving force:




Calculating the gas transfer unit,

:
Table 4 Design data for various packings
5



7 Height of liquid phase transfer
unit
Ondas method was used to find the
correlations for the film mass-transfer
coefficient (k
G
& k
L
) and effective wetted area
of the packing (a
w
). These values are needed to
calculate the height of liquid and gas transfer
unit (H
L
& H
G
).
Effective wetted area(a
w
)

[(

]
Where,

]
Some of the surface tensions for common
packing materials are given below:

Figure 3 Surface tension of typical packing material
(Sinnott 2003, pg. 601)
Then, a
w
became:

[ (

]
Liquid diffusivity (D
L
)


Where,

was the molar volume of the CO


2
at
its normal boiling point. This was obtained
from table given below:

Figure 4 Structural contributions to molar volumes
(Sinnott 2003, pg. 333)
Calculating D
L
:

]
Once liquid diffusivity and effective area was
found, it was then proceeded to find film
mass-transfer coefficient for liquid phase (k
L
).
Film mass transfer coefficient for liquid phase
(k
L
)

]
Height of liquid phase transfer unit (H
L
)


6

Where,

]
Then, H
L
became:



8 Height of gas phase transfer unit
As mentioned earlier, Ondas method was
used to calculate the height of gas phase
transfer unit as well. There are a few key
parameters that need to be determined. They
were vapour diffusivity (D
G
), gas mass flow
rate per unit cross-sectional area (V
W
*) and
film mass transfer coefficient for gas phase
(k
G
).
Vapour diffusivity (D
G
)

[(


Where,

is the special diffusion volume


coefficients and their values was obtained
from the table below.

Figure 5 Diffusion volumes of simple molecules
From the table above, the diffusion volume for
CO
2
is given as 26.9 and the diffusion volume
of CH
4
is simply:


By substituting all the known variables, the
gas diffusivity can be calculated:

]
Gas mass flow rate per unit cross-sectional
area (V
W
*)


Where, value for K
4
was obtained from the
graph below.

Figure 6 Generalised pressure drop correlation (Sinnott
2003, pg. 620)
To be able to use the graph, the flow factor
(F
LV
) was needed and it was obtained by the
following equation:
7


This value, along with the design pressure
drop of 21 mmH
2
O/m packed height, was used
to find K
4
=0.25. The selection of pressure drop
will be discussed in Part 4.6.2. Thus,

can be
calculated:

]
Film mass transfer coefficient for gas phase
(k
G
)


Where, K
5
is associated constant. K
5
= 5.23 for
packing sizes above 15mm and 2.00 for sizes
below 15mm. Then, k
G
became:

]
Height of gas phase transfer unit (H
G
)


Where,

]
Then H
G
became:



9 Height of overall gas transfer
unit
The relationship between the overall height of
a transfer unit and individual film transfer unit
is given by:


10 Finding height of packing
required
Equation for total height of packing was
simply:


11 Specifying column diameter
The column internal cross-sectional area was
obtained by the following equation:




12 Expected pressure drop
Entrainment or flooding in an absorption
column is undesirable as it will decrease the
efficiency and increase the pressure drop.
Therefore it is important to design the
absorption column within an acceptable limit.
Flooding can be estimated in terms of
percentage flooding as below:
[


Table of acceptable limit for percentage
flooding for different type packings were
given below (Woods 2007):
Packing type Acceptable flooding
percentage:
Intalox saddles 80%
Raschig rings 60%
Pall rings 90%
Table 5 Acceptable flooding percentage
8

Pressure drop of 21 mmH
2
O/m was chosen for
our design. The K
4
at that pressure drop was
found earlier and to be 0.28 while the K
4
during flooding was 0.52. Then the flooding
percentage became:
[


For Pall rings, this value satisfied the
acceptable flooding percentage of 90%.
Therefore, our chosen pressure drop was
suitable for the design of absorption column.
Converting the unit [mmH
2
O/m] to [Pa/m]:
[

]
[

]
So the total expected pressure drop was:


13 Final design summary
Design temperature 298 K
Design pressure 6900 kPa
Solvent Propylene
carbonate

Solvent flow rate 1.146 x 10
6
mol/hr
Min operating curve
slope
0.827
Operating curve slope 0.993
Packing type Pall rings
Packing size 50 mm
Packing material steel
Number of overall gas
transfer units
3 unit
Height of liquid
transfer unit
0.63 m
Height of gas transfer
unit
2.58 m
Height of overall gas
transfer
3.11 m
Total height of packing 9.33 m
Column internal
diameter
0.95 m
% flooding 69.3 %
Expected pressure
drop
2 kPa

9

14 Process Flow Diagram
Feed
Gas IN
Loaded
Solvent
Stripped
Solvent
Reboiler
Stripper
Gas Liquid
Seperator
Liquid
Reflux
Solvent
Cooler
Clean Gas Out
Heat
Exchanger
Absorption
column
4
1
2
3
Condenser

Stream Molar flow rate (mol/hr) Temperature (K) Pressure (kPa)
1 8.214E+07 298 6900
2 1.138E+08 298 6900
3 1.096E+08 298 6598
4 7.791E+07 298 6598
15 Equipment sketch

10

16 Nomenclature
Symbol Description Unit Symbol Description Unit

Total concentration

Total height of packing

Liquid diffusivity

Effective wetted area

Gas diffusivity

Packing size

Flow factor

Film mass-transfer coefficient


for gas phase

Packing factor

Film mass-transfer coefficient


for liquid phase

Molar gas flow-rate per unit cross-


sectional area

Special diffusion volume


coefficients

Height of gas phase transfer unit

Viscosity of solvent

Height of liquid phase transfer unit

Density of solvent

Height of overall gas transfer unit

Vapour density

Constant 4

Liquid surface tension

Constant 5 (5.23 for packing sizes


above 15mm, and 2.00 for sizes
below 15mm)

Critical surface tension for


packing material

Molar flow rate of solute free basis


solvent
Association factor for the
solvent (2.6 for water, 1.9 for
methanol, 1.5 for ethanol and
1.0 for associated solvents)

Liquid mass flow rate Column internal diameter

Molar liquid flow-rate per unit


cross-sectional area

Molecular mass of solvent

Liquid mass flow rate

Total pressure

Liquid mass flow rate per cross-


sectional area

Gas constant (0.08314)

Molecular mass of CH
4
Temperature

Molecular mass of CO
2
Mole ratio of CO
2
in liquid

Molecular mass for vapour Mole ratio of CO


2
in gas

Number of overall gas transfer unit Actual packing area

Molar flow rate of solute free basis


gas
Gravitational constant (9.81)

Vapour mass flow rate Slope of the equilibrium line

Molar flow rate of feed in gas Mole fraction of CO


2
in liquid

Molar volume of the solute at its


boiling point

Mole fraction of CO
2
in gas

Gas mass flow-rate per unit column


cross-sectional area


17 Reference
Gui X., Tang, Z. & Fei, W. 2010. CO
2
capture with Physical Solvent Dimethyl Carbonate at High Pressures. Journal of
Chemical & Engineering Data, 55, 3736-3741
Huntsman, 2010, Ultrapure propylene carbonate .Available from:
<http://www.huntsman.com/performance_products/Media%20Library/Carbonates_MC348531D1109A9A2E040EBCD2B6B
7B06/files/ultrapure_propylene_carbonate.pdf>. [20 October 2014]
Institute of Chemical sciences and engineering n.d., Gas Volume Conversion. Available from: <
http://checalc.com/solved/volconv.html>. [13 October 2014]
Sinnott, RK 2003, Coulson & Richardsons Chemical Engineering, 3
rd
edn., Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford
Woods, DR 2007, Rules of Thumb in Engineering Practice, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co KGaA, Weinheim
Benitez, J 2009, Principles and Modern Applications of Mass Transfer Operations, 2
nd
edn, John Wiley & Sons, INC, New
Jersey
11