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Comment Separation Processes

Packing must fail

By Mike Resetarits, Fractionation Research Inc. (FRI) |

For the first half of my career, I worked in a group that developed, designed and sold distillation trays. Late during the 1970s, half of that group’s business disappeared — almost overnight — when structured packing replaced trays in very large ethylbenzene-styrene vacuum columns. Even the best of trays could not compete with the low pressure drops of structured packings. In 1985, Norton Co. authored the following articles: “Distillation of Light Hydrocarbons in Packed Columns” by R. F. Strigle, Jr. and “Tower Packings Cut Olefin-Plant Energy Needs” by J.R. Sauter and W.E. Younts III. Those articles sent a shock wave through my tray group. We said, “ They want to pack everything.” We also said, “For trays to survive… packing must fail.” For the next four years, I kept a file on global packing failures. After four years, the file included 33 cases where packings had fallen short. Approximately half of the cases regarded structured packing. Distributors and redistributors were mentioned often as were “second revamps” and “plugging” and “broken promises”. There were cases where the old tray rings had been left inside revamped columns.…
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