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School of Engineering

Taylors University

Removal of SO2 by Using Gas


Absorption Column
Student Name: Low Lup Kwan
Student ID: 1002B71021

Group Members:

Koay Geok Hwa


Keshminder Singh

School of Engineering
Taylors University
Malaysia
15 June 2012

Date of Experiment: 15/6/2012


Report due date: 22/6/2012
Report submission date:
Checked by:
Item/marks
Format/10
Abstract and
Introduction/10
Figures and Diagrams/15
Materials and Method/10
Results Discussions/45
References/10
Total

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Table of Contents
ABSTRACT

1.0

Introduction

2.0

Experimental Design

2.1 Materials

2.2 Methods

2.3 Procedures

3.0

Results & Discussion

4.0

Error Analysis

10

5.0

Conclusions

10

References

11

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ABSTRACT
The objective of the experiment is to study the absorption of SO 2 gas and water in an absorption
tower. SO2 gas is produced from a gas engine and fed to the absorption column through the
bottom of the column while water is fed from the top of the column. Absorption resins are used
as column packing. The gas flow rate was set constant, while water flow rate is increased until
flooding occurs in the column. During flooding, the concentrations of SO 2 at the inlet and outlet
of absorption column, pH value of water outlet and pressure drop across the column are
recorded. The relationship between the gas flow rate and water flow rate, gas flow rate and pH,
gas flow rate and pressure drop as well as gas flow rate against the percentage of sulfur dioxide
removed are discussed in the study.
1.0 I NTRODUCTION
Air pollution can be classified as localized and non-localized pollution. Non-localized
atmospheric pollution are primarily concerned with increases in concentration of naturally
occurring compounds above the unpolluted clean air levels.
Air pollution occurs when the air contains gases, dust, fumes or odour in harmful amounts. Air
pollution is harmful to the health of living being and causes damage to plants and materials.
Pollutants can be classified into 2 categories; primary pollutants and secondary pollutants.
Primary pollutants are those that directly pollute the air, such as carbon monoxide from car
exhausts and sulfur dioxide from the combustion of coal. Secondary pollutants are those that are
formed due to chemical reactions.
Sulfur dioxide, SO2 is one of the primary pollutants. SO 2 is produced by vehicle exhaust,
coal combustion, volcanoes outburst and in various industrial processes such as paper production
or petroleum industries. SO2 forms acid with the presence of water, which explains the formation
of acid rain. Acid rain not only dangers human health, animals and vegetation, it also corrodes
building structures, paint and aesthetic features.
Therefore, emission of SO2 gas should be reduced, especially those emitted from
industrial processes. One of the ways to remove SO2 gas is by gas-liquid absorption. Gas-liquid
absorption is done in an absorption packed tower. It consists of a cylindrical column, equipped
with a gas inlet at the bottom, a liquid inlet at the top, gas and liquid outlet at the top and bottom,

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and a supported mass of inert solid shapes, called tower packing [3]. The liquid flows
downwards, while the gas flow in opposite direction, that is upwards. When the liquid flow is too
high compared to the gas flow, flooding occurs in the column packing.

2.0 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN


The materials used in the experiment, methods of collecting data, as well as the procedure
of the experiments were stated and discussed in the sections below.
2.1 Materials

Diesel/Petrol engine

Gas analysis meter

Packed absorption column

Absorption resins

Peristaltic pump

Tap water

pH meter

2.2 Methods
Firstly, the calibration for peristaltic pump flow rate and actual flow rate of water is done.
Flow rate of water is measured using a measuring cylinder and timed using a stop watch.
Next, the diesel engine is started to provide gas flow into the absorption column. The
water level at the bottom of the column is maintained by controlling the water exit valve. The gas
flow rate is kept constant whereas the water flow rate is increased until flooding occurs in the
absorption column. At the water flow rate that flooding occurs, the pressure drop across the
column, pH value of the output water, and the concentration of sulfur dioxide at the input and
output of the column were measured. Pressure drop is measured using U-tube manometer. pH is
measured using pH meter. Concentration of sulfur dioxide is measured using gas analysis meter.

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2.3 Procedures
1.

The peristaltic pump was calibrated. The corresponding water flow rate was measured using
a measuring cylinder and timed using a stop watch.

2.

The gas output from a diesel engine containing diesel was connected to the input of gas
absorption column containing absorption materials commonly known as absorption resins. It
is important to ensure that the connections are made perfectly.

3.

The diesel engine was started and the water passing through the peristaltic pump was fed
into the absorption column from the top of the column.

4.

The system was allowed to run for 1 minute before conducting the study to allow the system
to stabilise.

5.

The gas flow rate was set to 5 L/min while the water flow rate was set to 5 mL/min. To
prevent gas flow downwards, the water level at the bottom of column was maintained at
approximately 5 cm height by adjusting the outlet valve of water

6.

The water flow rate is increased until flooding occurred in the column is observed. Once
flooding occurred, the pressure drop across the column, pH value of the output water, and
the concentration of sulfur dioxide at the input and output of the column were measured.

7.

Experiment was repeated by changing the gas flow rate to 10, 15 L/min.

Figure 1: Experiment set-up

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3.0 R ESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS


Firstly, the calibration for peristaltic pump flow rate and actual flow rate of water is done.
Flow rate of water is measured using a measuring cylinder and timed using a stop watch. The
results are tabulated in Table 1. The data in Table 1 are plotted in a graph shown in Figure 2.
Table 1: Calibration of water flow rate
Peristatic

Volume of

Pump Flow

water collected

Rate (mL/min)
5
10
15
20

Time (s)
1st

(mL)

2nd

reading reading
4.00
4.50
3.16
3.43
2.78
2.75
2.28
2.36

20
30
40
50

1.4

Average

Actual Flow

flow rate

Rate of water

(mL/s)

(L/min)

4.7059
9.1047
14.4665
21.5517

0.2824
0.5463
0.8680
1.2931

Average
4.25
3.30
2.77
2.32

f(x) = 0.06x
R = 1

1.2
1.0
0.8
Actual Flow Rate of Water (L/min)

0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
0

10

15

20

Peristatic Pump Flow Rate (mL/min)

Figure 2: Graph of actual flow rate of water against peristaltic pump flow rate

25

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From Figure 2, a best fit line was plotted and the equation of the line is y = 0.061 x . The
R2 value is 0.9787 which shows the data are precise. The equation of line can be used to
calculate the actual flow rate of water from the peristaltic pump flow rate in the experiment later
on.
For each gas flow rate, the water flow rate is increased until flooding occurred in the
absorption column. Flooding occurs when the water flow rate is too high, such that there is water
built up above the absorption resins column. At that time, the absorption resins are lifted up and
vibrates in the column. The gas passes through the water like bubbling. Therefore, to study the
behavior of the absorption process, the water flow rate once flooding occurs is the main interest.
The experimental results are tabulated in Table 2 below.
Table 2: Experimental results
Gas Flow
Rate
(mL/min
)
5

10

Water
Flow Rate
(mL/min)

Pressure
Difference,
P (cm

5
10
25
5
10
13.5

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)


Outpu
Input
Removal
t
(ppm)
(%)
(ppm)

pH

H2O)

No Flooding
8

6.76

656

5.87

138

(Water flow
rate, ml/min)
Flooding at 25

256

60.98
Flooding at

No Flooding
7.5

Observation

13.5
68

50.72
Flooding at

15

No Flooding

7.5 and Over flooding at 8.5

8.5

5.77

77

63

18.18

The actual water flow rate where flooding occurs are calculated using the calibrated
equation obtained previously.
Calculating the first set of water flow rate reading which is 25 mL/min,
y=0.061 x

(1)

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y=0.061 ( 25 )=1.525 L/min


Similar calculation is done for other flow rates. Table 3 shows the summary of water flow
rates that causes flooding in the absorption column.

Table 3: Water flow rates that causes flooding in absorption column


Gas Flow Rate

Peristaltic Pump Flow Rate

Actual Flow Rate of

(mL/min)
5
10
15

(mL/min)
25.0
13.5
8.5

Water (L/min)
1.5250
0.8235
0.5185

f(x) = NaN exp( NaN x )

12
10
8

Actual flow rate of water (L/min)

6
4
2
0
0.5

1.5

2.5

3.5

4.5

Gas flow rate (mL/min)

Figure 3: Relationship between water flow rate and gas flow rate at the point when flooding
occurs in the absorption column

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From Figure 3, it is seen that as the gas flow rate increases, the water flow rate that
causes the flooding decreases exponentially. This means that water flow rate decreases while gas
flow rate increases. The graph is an exponential graph. While gas flow rate increase to infinity,
the water flow rate will become constant at a ultimate value. Even when the gas flow rate
continue to increase, the water flow rate that causes flooding will remains the same, because
there is only certain amount of fluid that can occupy the whole column. When gas flow rate is
high, only little amount of water flows through the column. This means less contact between the
gas and water, which means less absorption occur. Absorption becomes less effective at this
point. Therefore, it is said that the optimum ratio of gas flow rate to water flow rate at flooding is
1:2 [1].

70
f(x) = - 4.28x + 86.09
R = 0.92

60
50
40
Percentage of SO2 removed (% )

30
20
10
0
4

10

12

14

16

Gas flow rate (mL/min)

Figure 4: Relationship between percentage of SO2 removed and gas flow rate
From Figure 4, it is seen that the percentage of SO 2 removed decreases as gas flow rate
increases, As describe for Figure 3 above, water flow rate decreases as gas flow rate increases,
until gas flow rate increase to infinity, the water flow rate will remain constant. This is also when
absorption is less effective as less contact between water and gas. In Figure 4, we can see that

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the percentage of SO2 decreases at higher gas flow rate. This justifies the hypothesis that
absorption is less effective, as less amount of SO2 is removed.
During absorption, sulfur dioxide reacts with water to form sulfurous acid. The chemical
reaction can be expressed as follow [2]:SO2 + H 2 O H 2 SO 3 (aq .)

(2)

The above reaction is reversible. The backward reaction is called desorption, where
sulfurous acid can react to form SO2.
Water is not a good absorbent for sulfur dioxide, as it produces acid solution. To
neutralize the sulfurous acid, a base should be used. Sodium hydroxide is a strong basic solution
that can neutralize the equally strong sulfurous acid. Sodium hydroxide solution can be used as
the absorbent in the absorption column, instead of using water. The chemical reactions involve in
this absorption process are shown as below [4]:SO 2 + NaOH NaHSO3

(3)

NaHSO3+ NaOH Na2 SO 2+ H 2 O

(4)

7
6.8
f(x) = - 0.1x + 7.12
R = 0.82

6.6
6.4
6.2
pH

6
5.8
5.6
5.4
5.2
4

10
Gas flow rate (mL/min)

12

14

16

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Figure 5: Relationship between pH of outlet water flow rate and gas flow rate
From Figure 5, it is shown that the pH of the water outlet is below pH 7. The pH of water
outlet decreases as gas flow rate increases. From eqn.(2), when sulfur dioxide reacts with water,
sulfurous acid is formed, therefore the pH should be lower than pH 7. As discussed previously,
the percentage of SO2 removed decreases as gas flow rate increases. Less SO2 removed means
lower reaction yield or less sulfurous acid is formed. From here, we can conclude that pH of
water outlet should decrease as gas flow rate increases. This complies to the experimental results
obtained.

9.5
9
8.5

Pressure difference, P (cm H2O)

8
7.5
7
6.5
4

10

12

14

16

Gas flow rate (mL/min)

Figure 6: Relationship between pressure difference and gas flow rate


According to Figure 6, there is no specific relationship between pressure difference and
gas flow rate. Supposedly when the gas flow rate increases, the down-flowing water will
encounter higher resistance, causing higher pressure drop across the packings. However, there
may be some error occurred with the manometer that causes the experiment results to differ from
actual result.

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4.0 ERROR ANALYSIS


There were a few errors that occurred during the experiment. Firstly, the method of
calculating the actual flow rate using measuring cylinder and stop watch is not accurate. There
will be a small delay in time no matter what. To rectify this, the experiment was repeated to
obtain the average flow rate.
Besides that, the water level at the bottom of the column requires close monitoring. At a
certain time, due to small negligence, the water level increased too high and caused the water to
enter the gas inlet. At this point, the water is in contact with the gas at inlet, where water acts as
the absorbent to the SO2 gas. This causes the concentration of SO 2 at the inlet to reduce, which
will affect the experimental results.
Other than that, it was quite difficult to control the air flow rate. The desired air flow rate
cannot be reached accurately. The indicator for the flow meter also fluctuates all the time.
Lastly, there are also water leak at the joints. This might reduce the inlet water flow rate
which consequently affects the amount of gas absorbed.
5.0 CONCLUSION
In conclusion, the absorption of SO 2 gas and water in an absorption tower is studied. The
actual flow rate is calibrated with the peristaltic pump flow rate. When gas flow rate increases,
the flow rate of water needed to create flooding in the column decreases. The percentage of SO 2
removed decreases at with increasing gas flow rate. Similarly, the pH of water outlet decreases as
gas flow rate increases. There is no specific relationship between pressure difference and gas
flow rate as there is some errors occurred during the experiment.
There are several ways to improve the experiment. Firstly, to measure the water flow rate
accurately, a digital flow meter should be used. Besides that, the water level at the bottom of the
column should be closely monitored to ensure that water does not enter the gas pipe. The joints
should be connected tightly to make sure there are no leaks.

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Reference
[1] Coulson, JM, Richardson, JF 1996, Chemical Engineering: Volume 1: Fluid Flow, Heat
Transfer and Mass Transfer, 5th edn., Butterworth Heinemann, United Kingdom.
[2] Wang, LW, Pereira, NC, Hung, YT 2004, Air Pollution Control Engineering, Humana Press
Inc., New Jersey
[3] Coulson, J.M. and Richardson, J.F., 2002. Chemical Engineering: Volume 2: Particle
Technology and Separation Processes, 5th ed. Butterworth Heinemann, Bath U.K.
[4] Franks, RGE 1967, Mathematical Modeling on Chemical Engineering, John Wiley and Sons,
Inc., New York