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Mass transfer operations in packed towers

An alternative to stage wise equipment:



The idea is to fill a column with solid packing:

- The packing shaped to provide liquid-vapour mass transfer area

- There is no discrete and identifiable stages

- Liquid and vapour are continuously contacted

- Mass exchange tends to bring the two phases to equilibrium.
Mass transfer operations in packed towers
Liquid inlet
Liquid outlet Gas inlet
Gas outlet
Mass transfer operations in packed towers
Materials:
metal
plastic
ceramic
Choice of materials depend on the corrosiveness of
the system and the cost of the material
Mass transfer operations in packed towers

Tray operations

- Surface area for mass transfer:
Bubble/liquid interface

- Equilibrium:
Vapour and liquid phases leaving a stage are assumed to be in equilibrium;
non-equilibrium is accounted for with stage efficiencies

- Operating points are given by set of ( )
1
,
+ n n
y x

Packed operations

- Surface area for mass transfer:
Surface area for packing

- Equilibrium:
Vapour and liquid are not at equilibrium; non-equilibrium provides
the force for mass transfer

Mass transfer operations in packed towers
Advantages of packed columns

Lower pressure drop for the gas phase,
e.g. for vacuum distillation

Lower capital cost if the diameter (function of vapour flow rate) is less
than 0.6 m.


Can be made of corrosion resistant material,
e.g. ceramics.

Mass transfer operations in packed towers
Advantages of plate columns over packed columns:

More economical at higher vapour flow rates (i.e.
diameter).

More suitable for large numbers of theoretical stages
(because of redistribution issue).

Better for large fluctuations of temperature (leading to
packing attrition).

More suitable for highly exothermic/endothermic
operations (easier to fit heat transfer surface).

Better for highly fouling conditions (if the column size
allows for man-way access for cleaning).
Mass transfer operations in packed towers
1. Absorption principles (in this lecture and in online notes)

2. Mass-transfer fundamentals

3. Mass-transfer coefficients

4. Absorption in packed towers design principles

5. Design of absorption in packed towers: complete cycle
Absorption
Gas absorption is a process in which a gas mixture is in
placed in contact with a liquid for the purpose of
preferential dissolving of one or more components of
the gas mixture

Examples:

- NH3 is removed from oven gas by water
- CO2, H2S are removed from natural gas using
water solutions of alkaline salts
- Benzene, toluene are removed from natural gas
using hydrocarbon oil
Equilibrium relations for dilute solutions:
solubility
- The maximum amount of the gas that can be dissolved in
a solvent at specific conditions (T,P) is called solubility
Absorption: Thermodynamics of the process
Imagine a system where we have a binary mixture
of two components A and B, one (A) is volatile and
the second one (B) is a non-volatile solvent.

The mixture coexists with an equilibrium gas of
almost pure volatile component, which has pressure
P. So if we place a piston on the top of the system,
exerting pressure P, the system will be in
equilibrium.

The concentration of the volatile component A in
solvent B is called solubility of A in B at P, T. This
characteristics can be measured for a range of
binary systems under different P,T conditions.

In general solubility decreases with temperature. it is
natural to guess that if we heat the system up, the
energy supplied in the system will be used to
evaporate more of the volatile component A.
P, T
Thermodynamics of the process:
Multicomponent mixture
Now we deal with a jar where a number of
components is dissolved in the solvent and also
forms and equilibrium gas mixture.

Each component can be characterized with its own
solubility under these conditions (composition, P, T).

In general these solubilities (and other properties of
the systems) must be described using methods of
multicomponent phase equilibria (or measured
experimentally).

In many cases the system can be described with
simplified relations

If ideal gas is in equilibrium with ideal mixture we can
apply the following expression to find partial
pressures of the components:


If ideal gas is in equilibrium with non-ideal mixture,
Henrys law applies
i i
Px p =
i i
x T H p ) ( =
P, T
Equilibrium relations for dilute solutions:
Henrys law
A A
x T H p ) ( =
Henrys law is valid for dilute solutions,
where A does not ionize, dissociate or
react in the liquid phase
For water H [atm/mole fraction]
Equilibrium relations for dilute solutions:
Henrys law
A A A
x T H Py p ) ( = =
Henrys law is valid for dilute solutions,
where A does not ionize, dissociate or
react in the liquid phase
For water H [atm/mole fraction]
Equilibrium relations for dilute solutions:
Solubility data
Absorption: General design considerations
1. Entering gas composition flow rate, temperature and pressure
2. Desired degree of separation
3. Choice of solvent:
- High gas solubility
- Low volatility
- Low corrosiveness
- Low cost
- Low viscosity
- Non-toxic, non-explosive
4. Minimum solvent flow rate -> actual solvent flow rate
5. Number of equilibrium stages
6. Heat/cooling requirements
7. Type of absorber
8. Geometrical parameters of the system/economy

Design
objective
Thermophysical
characteristics
Basic design
elements
Technical
specifications
Basic design
elements
Absorption: Design considerations
y
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
(mole fraction of A in V)
x
a
x
b
y
a
y
b
equilibrium line
x*
b
Operating line
) (
*
A A
x f y =
P x T H y
A A
/ ) (
*
=
Equilibrium line
Absorption: Design considerations
y
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
(mole fraction of A in V)
x
a
x
b
y
a
y
b
equilibrium line
x*
b
The driving force for mass transfer
x
n
Absorption: Design considerations
Limiting conditions: gas-liquid ratio
This condition is called the limiting (L/V)
min
ratio. This is
the lowest flow of solvent possible in the system to achieve
the desired separation, although in an infinite number of
stages.




The actual solvent flow is usually calculated a multiple of
(L/V)min (1.1-1.5 times)
y
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
(mole fraction of A in V)
x
a
x
b
y
a
y
b
equilibrium line
x*
b
Absorption: Design considerations
Limiting conditions: Gas-liquid ratio; straight operating line
Condition: L, V constant -> L/V constant

This is possible for very dilute (<5% mole fraction) mixtures
so change in total number of moles of each flow is
insignificant

A) Limiting (L/V)
min
value:

y
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
(mole fraction of A in V)
x
a
x
b
y
a
y
b
equilibrium line
x*
b
a b
a b
x x
y y
V
L

=
|
.
|

\
|
*
min
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
Gas
y
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
Gas
y
i
x
i
y
Mass transfer of A
B A
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
Gas
y
i
x
Mass transfer of A
Two film theory:
resistance to the overall mass transfer is viewed as a combined
resistance of liquid and gas films at the interface
i
y
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Mass transfer rate (per unit area)
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
Gas
y
i
x
i
y
| |
i
y
y y k r =
| | x x k r
i
x
=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
(mole fraction of A in V)
y
equilibrium line
i
y
i
x
y
x
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Mass transfer rate (per unit area)
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
Gas
y
i
x
i
y
| |
i
y
y y k r =
| | x x k r
i
x
=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
(mole fraction of A in V)
y
equilibrium line
i
y
i
x
y
x
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Mass transfer rate (per unit area)
| | x x K r
x
=
*
| |
*
y y K r
y
=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
i
y
i
x
y
x
*
y
*
x
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
A
C
Gas mixture C is in equilibrium with the liquid system A:
x T H y ) (
*
= (in Henrys law regime)
*
y
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
i
x
Gas
y
B A
C
*
y
Mass transfer rate (per unit area)
| | x x K r
x
=
*
| |
*
y y K r
y
=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
i
y
i
x
y
x
*
y
*
x
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
Liquid
m
o
l
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

x
i
x
Gas
y
B
A
C
*
y
Mass transfer rate (per unit area)
| | x x K r
x
=
*
| |
*
y y K r
y
=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
i
y
i
x
y
x
*
y
*
x
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
i
y
i
x
y
x
*
y
*
x
y
i
x
i
y
k x x k
y y
K
1
) (
1
*
+

=
y x y
k k
m
K
1 1
+ =
Resistance of gas film
Resistance of liquid film
Overall gas resistance m
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
i
y
i
x
y
x
*
y
*
x
y x x
mk k K
1 1 1
+ =
Resistance of gas film
Resistance of liquid film
Overall liquid
resistance
Operations in packed towers:
Mass transfer theories
y x y
k k
m
K
1 1
+ =
Resistance of gas film
Resistance of liquid film
Overall gas resistance
- when coefficients k
y
and k
x
are of the same order of
magnitude and m is much greater then 1 the liquid phase
resistance is controlling

- in the opposite situation when solubility is very high, the
gas film resistance is controlling
Consider an absorption column;
For diluted gases the change in flow rates is neglected

Consider a mass transfer process in a section of
the column dZ (cross-section of the column is S)

L
a
,x
a
V
a
,y
a
V
b
,y
b
L
b
,x
b
Z
dZ
SdZ y y a K Vdy
y
*) ( =
Integration leads to:
} }

= =
b
a
y
y
y
Z
y
y y
dy
Z
V
aS K
dZ
V
aS K
*
0
S
Absorption in packed towers
L
a
,x
a
V
a
,y
a
V
b
,y
b
L
b
,x
b
Z
S
}

=
b
a
y
y
y
y y
dy
a K
S V
Z
*
/
}

b
a
y
y
y y
dy
*
change in the concentration divided
by driving force. This property is
called the number of transfer units
(NTU)
a K
S V
y
/
This property has units of length, is
constant for constant L/V and is called
the height of transfer units
(HTU)
Absorption in packed towers
L
a
,x
a
V
a
,y
a
V
b
,y
b
L
b
,x
b
Z
S
Oy Oy
b
a
y
N H
y y
dy
a K
S V
Z =

=
}
*
/
Absorption in packed towers
To understand the meaning of these
definitions consider a specific case when
both the equilibrium and operating lines are
straight and parallel

The driving force is then constant
throughout the process and can be
moved outside the integral, leading to:
* y y
y y
N
a b
Oy

=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
b
x
b
y
a
x
a
y
operating line
Absorption in packed towers
To understand the meaning of these
definitions consider a specific case when
both the equilibrium and operating lines are
straight and parallel

The driving force is then constant
throughout the process and can be
moved outside the integral, leading to:
* y y
y y
N
a b
Oy

=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
b
x
b
y
a
x
a
y
operating line
Similar to the number of stages in
the tray process
Absorption in packed towers
* y y
y y
N
a b
Oy

=
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
b
x
b
y
a
x
a
y
operating line
Similar to the number of stages in
the tray process
a K
S V
y
/
HTU (H
oy
) is the height
of packing required to achieve
one separation step
Oy Oy
b
a y
N H
y y
dy
a K
S V
Z =

=
}
*
/
Absorption in packed towers
Oy Oy
b
a y
N H
y y
dy
a K
S V
Z =

=
}
*
/
y
y y
dy
y
dy
y y y y
dy
y y
dy
N
a b
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
y
Oy
b
a
b
a
b
a
b
a
A

=
A
=

=
}
} } }
1
*
1
* *
*
*
* *
ln
] [ ] [
a a
b b
a a b b
y y
y y
y y y y
y


= A
Simplification using
average driving force
notion
Average driving force
calculated as logarithmic
mean of driving forces at
the top and bottom of the
column
Absorption in packed towers
Example: A gas stream of 3.0% A is passed through a packed column to
remove 99% of A by absorption in water. The absorber operates at
25C and 1 atm, V/S=20mol/h/ft2, L/S=100mol/h/ft2

y*=3.1x
k
x
a=60mol/h/ft3
k
y
a=15mol/h/ft3

Find N
oy
, H
oy
Z
T
neglecting changes in the gas and liquid flow
Absorption in packed towers: Example

effect of pressure
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
equilibrium line
Consider the effect of pressure on
the equilibrium distribution of the
volatile component:
P x T H y / ) ( = Henrys law
P=1bar
P=2bar
Absorption in packed towers:
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
b
x
b
y
a
x
a
y
Consider the effect of pressure on
the equilibrium distribution of the
volatile component:
P x T H y / ) ( = Henrys law
P=1bar
P=2bar
*
b
x
If the L/V ratio remains the same

- at higher pressure we need fewer
stages


effect of pressure
Absorption in packed towers:
x
(mole fraction of A in L)
y
b
x
b
y
a
x
a
y
Consider the effect of pressure on
the equilibrium distribution of the
volatile component:
P x T H y / ) ( = Henrys law
P=1bar
P=2bar
*
b
x
If the L/V is changed

- lower L/V ratio

- less solvent required
- higher pressure leads to more
efficient absorption
- lower pressure leads to more
efficient desorption (stripping)

effect of pressure
Absorption in packed towers:
Absorption processes
Multicomponent absorption
- separate equilibrium and operating
lines

- for dilute mixtures, L/V constant ->
the slope of the operating lines
for all components is the same
Absorption processes
Multicomponent absorption
- separate equilibrium and operating
lines

- for dilute mixtures, L/V constant ->
the slope of the operating lines
for all components is the same
Absorption processes with chemical reactions
- Can be used to obtain a more complete removal of a component from the
mixture

NH3 from air by using dilute acid solution
CO2 from natural gas by using dilute basic solution
} }
= =

=
b
a
b
a
y
y a
b
y
y
Oy
y
y
y
dy
y y
dy
N ln
*
Irreversible reaction