Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Research and Publications


Retrofit of Distillation Columns Using Thermodynamic Analysis

Dr Y. Demirel, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Document Type Article

This article was originally published in "Separation science and Technology”, Volume 41, Number 5. [DOI: 10.1080/01496390600600047] © Copyright (2006) Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and Taylor & Francis Group, LLC . Further details about the following article can be found at . Seperation Science and Technology


Thermodynamic analysis provides the column grand composite curves and exergy loss profiles, which are becoming readily available for a converged distillation column simulation. For example, the Aspen Plus simulator performs the thermodynamic analysis through its Column–Targeting tool for rigorous column calculations. This study uses the column grand composite curves and the exergy loss profiles obtained from Aspen Plus to assess the performance of the existing distillation columns, and reduce the costs of operation by appropriate retrofits in a methanol plant. Effectiveness of the retrofits is also assessed by means of thermodynamics and economics. The methanol plant utilizes two distillation columns to purify the methanol in its separation Section. The first column operates with 51 stages, has a side heat stream to the last stage, a partial condenser at the top and a side condenser at stage 2, and no reboiler. The second column operates with 95 stages, has a side heat stream to stage 95, a total condenser, and high reflux ratio. Despite the heat integration of the columns with the other Sections and a side condenser in column 1, the assessment of converged base case simulations have indicated the need for more profitable operations, and the required retrofits are suggested. For the first column, the retrofits consisting of a feed preheating and a second side condenser at stage 4 have reduced the total exergy loss by 21.5%. For the second column, the retrofits of two side reboilers at stages 87 and 92 have reduced the total exergy loss by 41.3%. After the retrofits, the thermodynamic efficiency has increased to 55.4% from 50.6% for the first column, while it has increased to 6.7% from 4.0% for the second. The suggested retrofits have reduced the exergy losses and hence the cost of energy considerably, and proved to be more profitable despite the fixed capital costs of retrofits for the distillation columns of the methanol plant.