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Computer Aided Design of Distillation Column

Article  in  Journal of Applied Sciences Research · August 2015


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Banka Samidha
L. D. College of Engineering


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ISSN: 1819-544X EISSN: 1816-157X

JOURNAL home page: 2015 Special; 11(17): pages 8-12.

Published Online 30 August 2015. Research Article

Computer Aided Design of Distillation Column

Banka Samidha R.
Dept. of Chemical Engineering, L. D. College of Engineering, Gujarat technological University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

Received: 23 June 2015; Accepted: 25 July 2015

© 2015 AENSI PUBLISHER All rights reserved


The paper is for software that deals with computation of detailed design of a distillation column. The platform used for developing the
software is MATLAB(Matrix Laboratory); a software package which is one of the most widely used tools in the engineering field today.
The methodology includes initial step of defining the basic correlations between input and output variables followed by the step of forming
the algorithm. Subsequently there is crucial step of developing a flowchart, writing the code and then testing it to remove any errors. The
program will be improved further continuously by adding on more modules to prepare robust and user friendly design software. The
invention is a self-made program in MATLAB for designing of distillation column. The program is a modular one i.e. it is broken into
several functions and in a step wise step determination of tower particulars. It contains about 30 different functions and a main program
named as "re4" that enables easy execution of all other functions. The functions also include a list of popular chemicals used in distillation
column along with its databank; there is also a provision for addition of data if chemical not present in data bank. The program is been tried
to made user friendly by providing provisions for user to enter various varying details such as plate spacing, type of tray, Material of
Construction, type of utility to be used, etc. The program is been designed for four component feed mixture, a binary mixture distillate and a
quaternary mixture residue. The program foremost starts calculation with molar liquid and vapor flow rates of enriching section. The
program computes tray material balances at the temperature given by user, thus providing the information that whether the given tray
temperature corresponds to feed tray or not. Similarly, it computes molar liquid and vapor flow rates of stripping section and thus bottom up
tray calculations are done. It also gives information about number of trays in enriching as well as stripping section and hence the total
number of trays. Next it calculates minimum number of trays using popular FUG(Fensky-Underwood- Gilliland’s) Method with Eduljee's
equation for Gilliland's correlation. It also calculates volumetric flow rate of vapor and its flooding velocity with the help of flooding
constant that user has to enter from the chart shown; given percentage of downcomer area, it will calculate the tray area and thus the tower
diameter. It also calculates the tray efficiency using O'Connell's Method and actual number of trays based on it. If user wants that it gives an
option for cost calculation too. Moving to cost calculation it calculates cost of construction of column based on material of construction
along with tower dimensions. It correspondingly calculates annual variable cost or precisely operating cost, thus giving the value of total
cost. Finally, it displays two output files one giving relationship between reflux ratio and theoretical stages and other giving details for cost
along with actual number of trays.
Keywords MATLAB, Multi-Component Distillation Column, Number of theoretical Stages, Lewis Matheson Method, Cost Optimization

INTRODUCTION The feed is fed in the tower and the product and the
by-product or waste is achieved may be from the top
Distillation is defined as a process in which a or bottom depending upon the system.
liquid or vapor mixture of two or more substances is The detail design of distillation column consists
separated into its component fractions of desired of mathematical operations based on input data,
purity, based on difference in volatility of operating conditions, reflux ratios, feed and product
components in a boiling liquid mixture. flow rates, etc. and computing output variables such
A distillation column is a long tower containing as column dimensions, number of trays, feed tray
of either number of trays or packings that is used for location, etc.[15]
either separation of various components from a MATLAB, a software package for high
mixture or for purification of a specific substance. performance numerical computation and

Corresponding Author: Banka Samidha R., Dept. of Chemical Engineering, L. D. College of Engineering, Gujarat
technological University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
Ph: +91 8401417439 E-mail:
9 Banka Samidha R., 2015 /Journal Of Applied Sciences Research 11(17), Special, Pages: 8-12

visualization, is one of the most widely used tools in engineers and scientists in industry and academia use
the engineering field today. Its broad appeal lies in MATLAB, the language of technical computing.
its interactive environment, which features hundreds
of built-in functions for technical computation, 1.3.2. Key Features:
graphics and animation. In addition, MATLAB  High-level language for numerical computation,
provides easy extensibility with its own high level visualization, and application development
programming language.  Interactive environment for iterative exploration,
This project focuses on combining the attributes design, and problem solving
of MATLAB and the detail design procedure of  Mathematical functions for linear algebra,
distillation column by following a step by step statistics, Fourier analysis, filtering, optimization,
approach of developing the program. Initial step is of numerical integration, and solving ordinary
defining the basic correlations between input and differential equations
output variables followed by the step of forming the  Built-in graphics for visualizing data and tools
algorithm. Subsequently there is crucial step of for creating custom plots
writing the code and then testing it to remove any  Development tools for improving code quality
errors. The program can be improved further and maintainability and maximizing performance
continuously by adding on more and more new  Tools for building applications with custom
features into it. [13] graphical interfaces
 Functions for integrating MATLAB based
1.2 Why Lewis Matheson Method?
algorithms with external applications and languages
The various reasons of using Lewis Matheson such as C, Java, .NET, and Microsoft® Excel®
method are as follows:
1. It is applicable for both binary as well as
1.4 Cost Estimation:
multicomponent distillation, unlike McCabe Thiele
As soon as final process design stage is
or Ponchon Savriot methods which are applicable for
completed, it becomes to make accurate cost
only two component separation.
estimations because detailed equipment
2. It gives the number of theoretical stages without
specifications and definite plant facility information
specifying equilibrium stages, which is not possible
are available.
with Thiele Geddes Method.
Evaluation of costs in the preliminary design
3. It does not require data from graphs that are
phases is referred to as pre-design cost estimation.
cumbersome to draw as in Enthalpy Concentration or
Such estimates should be capable of providing a
Ponchon Savriot method. basis for company management to decide whether
4. Also plotting such rigorous graphs in MATLAB
further capital should be invested in the project.
are difficult and the software is inefficient to read the
Fixed costs, direct production costs for raw
required values itself.
materials, labour, maintenance, power, and utilities
5. Also some methods have steps that together
must all be included along with costs for plant and
form a loop during calculations, in such case the
administrative overhead, distribution of the final
required result may not be given or there is a chance products, and other miscellaneous items.
of failure of program, this is not a problem with
A traditional economic definition of capital is “a
Lewis Matheson Method.
stock of accumulated wealth.” The capital needed to
6. Also use of computers facilitates an easier and
supply the required manufacturing and plant facilities
convenient use of this method.
is called the fixed-capital investment (FCI)., while
that necessary for the operation of the plant is termed
the working capital (WC). The sum of the fixed-
1.3.1. Introduction to MATLAB [13]:
capital investment and working capital is known as
MATLAB® is a high-level language and
the total capital investment (TCI). The fixed-capital
interactive environment for numerical computation,
portion may be further subdivided into
visualization, and programming. Using MATLAB,
manufacturing fixed-capital investment, also known
you can analyse data, develop algorithms, and create as direct cost, and nonmanufacturing fixed-capital
models and applications. The language, tools, and
investment, also known as indirect cost. [10]
built-in math functions enable you to explore
Fixed Cost Calculation in terms of design of
multiple approaches and reach a solution faster than
Distillation Column:
with spread sheets or traditional programming
CT = f1*Cb + N*f2*f3*Ct + Cp1
languages, such as C/C++ or Java™. You can use
N = number of trays
MATLAB for a range of applications, including Cb = exp[7.123 + 0.1478(ln W) + 0.02488(ln W) 2 +
signal processing and communications, image and
0.01580(L/D) ln(Tb/Tp)],
video processing, control systems, test and
(9020<W<2,470,000 lbs of column exclusive of
measurement, computational finance, and
nozzles and skirts)
computational biology. More than a million
Ct = 375.5 exp(0.1739D), 2<D<16 ft tray diameter
10 Banka Samidha R., 2015 /Journal Of Applied Sciences Research 11(17), Special, Pages: 8-12

Cp1 = 204.9D0.6332L0.8016, 2<D<24, 57<L<170 ft 4. Certain bugs and error may occur due to system
(platforms and ladders) incompatibility.
f4 = 2.25/(1.0414)N, when the number of trays N is 5. Cannot enable junk inputs and inappropriate
less than 20 inputs.
6. Still lacks in extreme robustness and user-
2.1. Problem for Program Test – I: friendliness.
The program has been tested for "Example 8.11" 7. The program does not account for any
of "Process Engineering and Design by Prof. S. B. contingency or undesired activity occurring during
Thakore and B.I.Bhatt." [15] process or in column.

2.2. Problem for Program Test – II: 4. Conclusion:

The verification of diameter function with This program works well for design of
"Example 8.13" of "Introduction to Process distillation column. It reduces time and efforts and
Engineering and Design" by "Prof. S. B. Thakore and can be utilized by students, teachers, industrial
B. I. Bhatt" [15] equipment developers and researchers.

3. Discussion: This program can be used as base for extensive

The program has been successfully tested for coding and further detailing of distillation column.
above mentioned Problems.
5. Future Scope:
3.1. Assumptions: 5.1 In Programming:
Following assumptions are made for the coding The following things can be thought for
and usage of method: improvement in coding:
1. All the physical properties, for example density, 1. A more generalized program can be made.
viscosity, etc., of the components involved remain 2. Can be made yet more robust and user friendly.
unaltered during the process. 3. Input control and specification can be made.
2. Molar flow rate of liquid and vapour is constant 4. Program can be extended for other details
throughout the column. required for complete designing of distillation
3. Molar latent heat of vaporization of liquid phase column.
is equal to molar latent heat of condensation of vapor 5. Separate modules can be formed regarding
phase. Hence moles of liquid vaporized over each various different calculations. For example: For
theoretical stage are equal to moles of vapor Reflux Ratio, For Number of stages, etc.
condensed on that stage. 6. Databank related to widely used chemicals in
4. Molar flow rate of liquid and vapors in enriching distillation is created but can be extended.
section (L and V) and also in stripping section (Ĺ and 7. Graphical User Interface (GUI) can be used.
Ṽ) remains constant. 8. Other methods can also be tried for the same.
5. Temperature of each tray is known. 9. Complete software for distillation column
6. Partial vapor pressures and bubble point and design, operation calculation and learning can be
dew point calculations are made. made.

3.2. Advantages of such Program: 5.2 Column Designing:

1. It saves time and energy that is otherwise wasted 1. We can go for detail designing of distillation
in pen and paper method. column i.e.
2. Gives accurate answers, corrected up to four a. If the feed mixture contains more than two
decimal places. components, then select two key components from
3. Programs can be coded as per case specific or all the components of feed mixture.
user specific. b. Decide the operating pressure of distillation
4. Complex equations and iterations can be solved column and determining the vapour liquid
easily. equilibrium data.
5. It is Stage by stage calculations is easy. c. Specifying the degree of separation required.
6. It can be well utilized for academics and d. In case of multi-component distillation, deciding
teaching purposes and a base for research studies. the distribution of key components and distribution
of non-key components in distillate and residue.
3.3. Limitations of current Program: 2. Real design considerations:
1. It is very case specific. a. Safety Considerations can also be taken into
2. Lewis Matheson method is not suitable for account.
problems involving multiple feeds, and side-streams, b. Programs can be developed which can manage
or where more than one column is needed. operations.
3. It is insufficient for real tower designing. c. Design of head, support and other mechanical
parts can be incorporated.
11 Banka Samidha R., 2015 /Journal Of Applied Sciences Research 11(17), Special, Pages: 8-12

3. One can try other methods also such as: 5. Esmaeil Atashpaz Gargari, Farzad
a. Methods for binary distillation like: Hashemzadeh, Ramin Rajabioun, Caro Lucas,
i. McCabe – Thiele Method 2008. Colonial competitive algorithm: A novel
ii. Ponchon – Savriot Method approach for PID controller design in MIMO
b. Shortcut Methods distillation column process International Journal
i. Fensky-Underwood-Eduljee’s method of Intelligent Computing and Cybernetics, 1(3).
ii. Smith Brinkley method 6. Gilliland’s correlation chart (modified by Liddle
c. Rigorous Methods in 1968) from “Separation Process Engineering”
i. Thiele – Geddes Method by Wankat, 2007.
ii. Matrix methods 7. Houcque, D., 2005. Introduction to MATLAB for
4. Figurative: Engineering Students, North-western University,
a. One can add more graphs. (version 1.2, August 2005), Chap.1,4,6
b. One can go for diagrammatical view of designed
column. irst/matlab.pdf
c. One can use pictorial view for representing 8. Ignacio E. Grossmann, Mark M. Daichendt,
various sections of distillation column. 1996. New trends in optimization-based
approaches to process synthesis, Computers &
Acknowledgement Chemical Engineering, 20(6-7): 665-683, Fifth
International Symposium on Process Systems
I am very thankful Prof. S. M. Dutta (HoD – Engineering.
Chemical Engineering Dept., Governement 9. Marius Olteanu, Nicolae Paraschiv, Otilia
Engineering College, Bhuj, Gujarat ) for guiding us Cangea, 2010. Modeling Gilliland Correlation
throughout the work. He helped me in crossing all using Genetic Programming, Int. J. of
the hurdles in the way of project by getting the Computers, Communications & Control, V(5):
answer to the problems. He also taught me how to 837-843.
approach a problem. The interest taken by him for 10. Max S. Peters, Klaus D. Timmerhaus, Ronald E.
the successful completion of this project was worth West, 2011. Plant Design and Economics for
high appreciation as it served as a motivation for me Chemical Engineers, 5th ed., McGraw-Hill, New
to work on this project with heavy efforts. York.
I would also like to thank all the respective 11. McCabe, W.L., J.C. Smith, P. Harriot, 2005.
faculty members for their kind support in completion Unit Operations of Chemical Engineering,7th
of this project. ed. McGraw-Hill, New York.
I am deeply indebted to various authors whose 12. Perry, R.H., J.O. Maloney, 2008. Perry's
material was used in preparation of this project and Chemical Engineers' Handbook, 8th ed.,
hence acknowledge them in the references list. McGraw-Hill, New York.
Finally I heartily thank my family members for 13. Pratap, R., 2006. Getting Started with Matlab 7,
their constant support and motivation throughout the Oxford University Press, Switzerland, Chap. 1,
process of making this project. 2, 4.
14. Robert E. Treybal, 1981. Mass Transfer
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Appendix – Output Window (Sample)*

*Not all output windows are shown.

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