Flow patterns, performance and scale-up of distillation trays

  • Christian C. Ani

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This work is concerned with the nature of liquid flow across industrial sieve trays operating in the spray, mixed, and the emulsified flow regimes. In order to overcome the practical difficulties of removing many samples from a commercial tray, the mass transfer process was investigated in an air water simulator column by heat transfer analogy. The temperature of the warm water was measured by many thermocouples as the water flowed across the single pass 1.2 m diameter sieve tray. The
    thermocouples were linked to a mini computer for the storage of the data. The temperature data were then transferred to a main frame computer to generate temperature profiles -
    analogous to concentration profiles. A comprehensive study of the existing tray efficiency models was carried out using
    computerised numerical solutions. The calculated results were compared with experimental results published by the Fractionation Research Incorporation (FRl) and the existing models did not show any agreement with the experimental results. Only the Porter and Lockett model
    showed a reasonable agreement with the experimental results for cenain tray efficiency values.
    A rectangular active section tray was constructed and tested to establish the channelling
    effect and the result of its effect on circular tray designs. The developed flow patterns showed
    predominantly flat profiles and some indication of significant liquid flow through the central
    region of the tray. This comfirms that the rectangular tray configuration might not be a
    satisfactory solution for liquid maldistribution on sieve trays.
    For a typical industrial tray the flow of liquid as it crosses the tray from the inlet to the
    outlet weir could be affected by the mixing of liquid by the eddy, momentum and the weir shape in the axial or the transverse direction or both. Conventional U-shape profiles were developed when the operating conditions were such that the froth dispersion was in the mixed regime, with good liquid temperature distribution while in the spray regime. For the 12.5 mm hole diameter tray the constant temperature profiles were found to be in the axial direction while in the spray regime and in the transverse direction for the 4.5 mm
    hole tray. It was observed that the extent of the liquid stagnant zones at the sides of the tray
    depended on the tray hole diameter and was larger for the 4.5 mm hole tray. The liquid hold-up results show a high liquid hold-up at the areas of the tray with low liquid temperatures, this supports the doubts about the assumptions of constant point efficiency across an operating tray.
    Liquid flow over the outlet weir showed more liquid flow at the centre of the tray at high
    liquid loading with low liquid flow at both ends of the weir.
    The calculated results of the point and tray efficiency model showed a general increase in
    the calculated point and tray efficiencies with an increase in the weir loading, as the flow
    regime changed from the spray to the mixed regime the point and the tray efficiencies
    increased from approximately 30 to 80%.Through the mixed flow regime the efficiencies
    were found to remain fairly constant, and as the operating conditions were changed to
    maintain an emulsified flow regime there was a decrease in the resulting efficiencies.
    The results of the estimated coefficient of mixing for the small and large hole diameter trays show that the extent of liquid mixing on an operating tray generally increased with increasing capacity factor, but decreased with increasing weir loads. This demonstrates that above certain weir loads, the effect of eddy diffusion mechanism on the process of liquid mixing on an operating tray to be negligible.
    Date of AwardNov 1988
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKaren E. Porter (Supervisor) & Bruce Davies (Supervisor)


    • flow patterns
    • performance
    • scale up
    • heat and mass transfer
    • distillation trays

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