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Minimize Trapped Components in Distillation Columns

By Soundar Ramchandran , Solutia, Inc. |

    Minor components trapped in distillation columns can react to form solids that cause major problems. The conventional responses to this situation focus upon dealing with the solids after they have become formed. A better strategy consists of preventing or minimizing the solids formation in the first place, by changing the column operating conditions.   Understanding the situation The solids-formation problem arises during distillation when minor components react with each other under the process conditions inside the column, forming polymers or other heavy molecules that are not completely soluble in the liquid phase in certain sections of the column. The presence of these solids often leads to unpredictable vapor-liquid contact, in turn adversely affecting product quality and increasing the plant’s downtime and maintenance expenses. In many cases, engineers approach the problem by aiming to modify trays or other column internals to deal with solids more easily, and/or by injecting additives to either inhibit the reactive species or disperse the solids. Not only are these responses usually expensive; they also do not address the underlying problem. In some cases, taking a closer look at the column operations…
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