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Comment PDF Distillation

Should the Doctor Believe a Flowmeter?

By Henry Z. Kister |

Henry Kister shares lessons learned from troubleshooting distillation towers Many cooling-water systems do not have flowmeters. This is a tale about a cooling-water flowmeter that made a difference. As a startup superintendent at ICI Australia in the late 1970s, the author was in charge of starting up a new unit in the olefins plant that produced polymer-grade propylene. The main equipment was a C3 splitter column, which at the time was the biggest tower in Australia. It is still in operation today, and can be seen as one lands at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. The auxiliaries were a reboiler heated by waste heat from the olefins quench-water system, a water-cooled condenser, and a reflux drum. Due to the very high cooling load, a new cooling-water system was added to service the new unit alone, mostly the C3 splitter condenser. The cooling tower was some distance away from the unit, and the large cooling-water pipes were mostly underground to avoid the need of a pipe rack. The equipment was installed, and the author was in the process of commissioning and testing the unit, well before hydrocarbons were introduced. The author started up the cooling-water system. The startup was smooth and uneventful. Everything was fine, water…
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