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Controlling Reboilers Heated by Condensing Steam or Vapor

By Henry Z. Kister, Fluor Corp. |

Methods for controlling reboilers in distillation towers are central to good reboiler operation and tower stability. Control valves can be located in the steam-inlet line or in the condensate-outlet line. This article updates guidance for key considerations and practices using both schemes A large fraction of distillation tower reboilers, possibly most, are heated by condensing vapor. Typical examples are steam reboilers, refrigeration vapor reboilers, and heat-integrated reboilers that condense overhead vapor from the same or a different tower. For these reboilers, the control valve can be located either in the steam (or vapor) inlet line or in the condensate outlet line. The two methods are different in principle and operation, have different strengths and weaknesses, and require different measures to achieve trouble-free operation. The selected method, as well as the features added to overcome its weaknesses, is central for good reboiler operation, performance and tower stability. The literature has some excellent reviews [1, 2] on this subject, but these reviews have last been updated three decades ago. Recent excellent sources [3] have only partially addressed some of the key considerations. This article aims to fill in the…
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