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Advancements in Distillation Columns and Internals to Redefine Performance and Optimize Operations 

Advancements in Distillation Columns and Internals to Redefine Performance and Optimize Operations 

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February 7, 2024

Vapor distillation columns are commonly used in petrochemical, chemical, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical companies as they separate and clean products and sort mixtures. 

Factories require distillation columns to make many chemicals and fuels. However, traditional column internals can limit capacity, efficiency, and flexibility. Companies require advanced column internals that boosts performance from reputed distillation column manufacturers to stay competitive. 

The distillation columns market is estimated to reach USD 47.23 billion by 2027 and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 4.6%, and the rise in demand for advanced distillation columns is due to the need for higher purity and efficiencies of distillates and rising stringent regulations of industrial safety and environment. 

Let’s understand why factories and industries should invest in high-tech and advanced vapour distillation columns and how they overcome problems faced by traditional distillation columns. 

Challenges with Traditional Distillation Columns

Here are different challenges that come with traditional distillation columns: 

  • Energy Consumption

Vapor distillation columns used in conventional distillation notoriously consume energy, contributing substantially to operating expenses. Columns need a lot of energy. Heat and cooling change the phases in steps, and it wastes energy and increases costs. 

  • Fouling

Fouling builds up inside distillation columns due to excessive condensation. Besides, vapors from chemicals can also cause fouling. Fouling prevents efficient heat transfer inside the column. Proper heat transfer and fluid flow are needed for optimum distillation, and fouling reduces the efficiency of vapor distillation columns. 

  • Entrainment

Bubbles form quickly when a liquid turns into vapour and causes too much foam. It can pull liquid up with the vapour and cause the containers or packed beds to mix with liquid. This mixing is unwanted as the liquid from one part goes to a higher part, and overall, entrainment affects the functioning of distillation columns. 

  • Flooding

Trays or packed sections can flood, and it happens when too much liquid builds up or surges. Flooding is seen when temperature differences are low, and pressure drops are high. 

  • Weeping

Weeping happens when the liquid drops stick to the walls and go down. The liquid is meant to go through trays or packs; however, it goes around them by the walls. Weeping makes the column separate mixtures worse than it should and affects the efficiency of the separation process. 

What are the Key Advancements in the Column Internals to Overcome the Challenges?

Distillation column manufacturers found ways to improve old column designs by designing new parts that help columns separate mixtures better. The new distillation columns can process more material without using more energy and reduce buildup inside the columns. 

Here are the key advancements in the column and internals provided by leading vapor distillation column manufacturers in India:

Structured Packing

Structured packings from vapour distillation column suppliers in India, like Stalwart International, boost efficiency via enhanced mass transfer. Diverse orientations are optimal for particular purposes. As compared to trays, uniform vapour/liquid distribution is superior. The efficacy and capacity increase due to the expansive surface area, and the new columns are suitable for wide viscosity ranges.

High-Performance Trays

High-performance trays enhance the column performance without making any complex modifications to the existing tray supports and column. Specialised shaped downcomers, liquid inlet momentum breakers, tray inlet liquid/vapor contact initiation devices, and directional valves positioned in the tray periphery areas are some of the features in high-performance trays that helps to achieve the target column performance. Also, the shape of valves units in high-performance trays are developed in a way to improve vapor/liquid contact, minimize pressure drop, and maintain desired fouling resistance. 

Grid Packing

Grid packings feature robust construction from thick sheet metal, unlike standard packing. A smooth surface reduces the contamination caused by viscous streams. They are usually used in vacuum tower wash zones, and FCC pumps around to replace structured packing. The packings can handle lots of liquid without blocking and help to spread out the liquid efficiently inside the column. Vapor distillation column suppliers will suggest this feature to avoid entrainment and channelling. 

Knitted Packing

Knitted packing comprises high-density cables in woven configurations. It ensures excellent flow distribution and minimal pressure drop. The material can handle high loads and is suitable for wide throughput ranges. Distillation columns with knitted packing can withstand high loads, are suitable for a wide viscosity range, and are resistant to fouling and abrasion. 

HIDiC

HIDiC combines double-effect distillation with vapour recompression to reduce energy consumption, boost sustainability, and decrease reboiler duty. The approach decreases operating costs while maintaining the desired separation.

Benefits of Modern Column Designs

Here are some reasons why industries and factors should ask for advanced distillation columns from vapor distillation column suppliers in India:

Increased Capacity and Efficiency 

Advanced internals like structured packing maximize mass transfer surface area, and the increased area enhances separation efficiency. It allows higher volumes of feed processing without increasing footprint. The packing creates multiple contact points and improves contact time between descending liquid and ascending vapour streams. 

Enhanced Ability to Handle Wide Boiling Range Feeds

Enhanced fractionation capabilities handle diverse boiling points with ease, allowing you to tap into new feedstock possibilities. 

Improved Flexibility in Meeting Varying Product Specifications

Automated column internals, controls, and modular construction provide flexibility. Individual module or tray replacements can be done efficiently and make reconfiguring the column easy. It adapts column operation to changes, like fluctuating impurity levels or demands for products from the same feed. Automated draw-off and reflux controls give freedom to fine-tune operating variables. 

Facilitate Heat Integration and Sustainability

Vapor distillation columns are designed for effective heat recovery and transfer. Heat recovered from reboilers can be utilized elsewhere in the plant through heat exchangers. Large surface area packing enhances heat transfer and allows maximum heat recovery within the column. This level of thermal efficiency improves overall energy usage and reduces the environmental footprint per barrel of throughput.

Wrapping Up

Advanced distillation columns help factories stay ahead of their competitors. The latest column designs allow plants to separate mixtures better. Advanced designs are required to comply with strict environmental regulations and evolving feedstocks. Manufacturers of vapour distillation columns in India, such as Stalwart International, are in an excellent position to offer cutting-edge solutions. 
Stalwart helps industries and factories to separate mixtures better with advanced features in vapor distillation columns. We use our knowledge of special parts and modular setups to manufacture equipment with the aim of lowering the costs of running plants. We offer a comprehensive range of services from designing and manufacturing to installation and maintenance. Connect with our experts if you require a customized vapor distillation column for your industry.

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