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Distillation Column Thermal Optimization: Employing Simulation Software

By Irina Rumyantseva and Ron Beck Aspen Technology |

Several market conditions, including availability of light crude oilds in the U.S., low natural-gas prices and improving macroeconomics, are driving debottlenecking projects related to columns in both petroleum refining and chemical settings. Fortunately, the process-simulation tools that can be used to perform the front-end of these projects have advanced significantly in the past several years. Distillation columns present one of the most challenging design and operational challenges in most chemical and petroleum-refining processes. According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, over 40,000 distillation columns are involved in plant operations in the chemical and petrochemical industries in North America, and they consume approximately 40% of the total energy used [1]. The hydraulics and phase behavior of chemicals within a column are complex and are dependent on a number of geometrical and maintenance factors, making it difficult to optimize column performance by hand calculations. Thus, industry is employing process-simulation software in order to optimize energy use in columns and pinpoint potential column modifications to implement in column design and retrofitting. Modern process-simulation software has all the tools necessary to maximize…
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