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Kolmetz.Com is a chemical engineering web site that publishes technical articles on distillation, process optimization, operations training, personal improvement, process unit safety and environmental concerns.

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Distillation Simulation

"Resolving Process Distillation Equipment Problems"

Karl Kolmetz

Timothy M. Zygula

Prepared for
The 5th Annual Regional Olefins Conference
October 31st - November 3rd, 2000
Hyatt Hotel
Johor Bahru, Malaysia


In most chemical processing systems two main unit operations dominate; chemical reaction followed by separation. From the reactor the reactants are then sent to a separation unit. The reactants are separated into desired products, unreacted products for recycle, and unwanted or by products.

Most Separation Units contain distillation equipment. Distillation Equipment was developed to separate ethanol from the by-products of fermentation. From the original batch stills, distillation equipment has progress to the type of trayed and packed columns used today

General Distillation Equipment Design

The first step in resolving any distillation problem is to understand the operating and technical fundamentals of the column. Knowledge of how a column functions, hydraulic constraints, thermodynamic and equilibrium limits, and heat and material balances are required. This knowledge needs to be accumulated in advance of formulating any resolution of a problem.

At least three types of distillation equipment problems exist. The first problem is inappropriate design, the second problem is inappropriate operation, and the third is potential damage to internal equipment. Before a process is shut down for repairs the inappropriate design and damage to internal equipment should determined, and inappropriate operation should be eliminated


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