Distillation is one of the most extensively used operations in the chemical process industries (CPI). It is a highly energy-intensive unit operation, and continuously rising energy costs make it imperative to look for ways to reduce energy requirements. Some energy-saving configurations can increase capital investment costs, so the benefits need to be weighed carefully. Various techniques, such as heat integration, heat pumps, thermal couplings and others have been employed to achieve energy reductions [ 2–4]. Vapor-recompression-assisted distillation is one such technique to reduce energy consumption by utilizing the energy from the column overhead stream, with added external mechanical energy, to boil the bottom stream.
This article illustrates the technique through an example of a typical C3-splitter (propane-propylene splitter) design wherein significant energy savings and operational benefits are achieved by using vapor recompression distillation. With the availability of reliable and proven compressors to handle large capacities for industrial use, this concept is gaining attention and merits consideration for new distillation installations.
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