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Distillation-tray downcomer design improves mass transfer efficiency

By Scott Jenkins |

A new approach to the design of the downcomer portion of distillation column trays — presented at the recent American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Spring 2010 meeting (San Antonio, Tex.; March 21–25) — promotes a uniform fluid flow pattern, which improves mass transfer efficiency. The Downcomer Distributor was developed through a joint research program between AMT International Inc. (Plano, Tex.; www.amtintl.com) and Petronas (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; www.petronas.com.my) with an objective to eliminate deviations from an ideal fluid-flow pattern that occur on typical distillation trays, which result from recycling of fluid on the tray and by the existence of stagnant regions of liquid. The Downcomer Distributor technology results in directional flow and distribution within the downcomer itself and as the liquid exits the downcomer. Inside the AMT Downcomer Distributor (diagram), liquid is distributed according to pre-determined proportions by “uniquely arranged, slanted and triangle-shaped discharge ports” that initiate and maintain a uniform plug-flow pattern. In testing, the Downcomer Distributor consistently resulted in approximately 5–10% greater tray efficiency compared to existing…
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