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Design Guidelines for Ethylene Quench Towers

Karl Kolmetz

Timothy M. Zygula


Chee Mun Tham


Dr. Wai Kiong Ng

Jun H Chan

Jeff N Gray

KLM Technology Group

Prepared for

2007 AIChE Spring Meeting
Houston TX USA


Ethylene quench oil and quench water towers may have the highest failure rates in fractional distillation due to the rigorous service that these tower perform. Almost all of the challenge areas of distillation are concentrated into one column system; high temperature, solids, fouling potential, oxygenates, polymerization potential, heat removal by pump arounds, and a mixture of hydrogen, steam, and C1 to C20s. Given this combination, the guidelines for designing this column have to be flexible yet sturdy to handle each of the challenges.

One of the most reliable designs has been the one developed in 1998 (1). These designs have run continually for eight years, with previous designs in these revamped columns having less than one year run length. Motivated by Kister and Schwartz’s concluding remarks that good engineering judgment is needed in evaluating quench towers (2), the authors will examine the history of quench oil and quench water tower’s successful and not successful case studies and lessons than can be learned from each of the cases.

Introduction to the Paper