Chemical engineering distillation column - Essay Example

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It has wide applications in industrial separation of organic compounds from themselves or from other elements or compounds. This paper discusses some of the properties of the distillation column for…
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Chemical engineering distillation column
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Chemical engineering distillation column Introduction Distillation is one of the physical processes for separating fluid mixtures. It has wide applications in industrial separation of organic compounds from themselves or from other elements or compounds. This paper discusses some of the properties of the distillation column for efficient operation. The paper explores a case to illustrate a test procedure for efficient functionality of a distillation column given limited time resource.
The problem
The problem involves provision of engineering support to a company’s ethanol production plant. The company’s operation has been renovated and its distillation column at the Moore lab is being repurposed for large scale R&D. The required task is therefore to determine if the column has potential to efficiently distillate within economic operation costs. While a five-step procedure is recommended for testing the facility, time is scarce and not all the steps can be implemented. The steps are; calculation of the theoretical capabilities of the distillation column in the lab, preparation of an accurate vapor liquid equilibrium diagram of water and ethanol, accounting for the energy usage of the distillation process, accounting for the final products ethanol concentration, and analysis of the costs and benefits of obtaining higher yields against higher purities. The time scarcity however dictates that only two of the steps are adopted in order to determine the column’s capacity.
Selected procedure and reason for selection
My team would choose to prepare an accurate vapor liquid equilibrium diagram for water and ethanol, and to account for the final product’s ethanol concentration. The vapor liquid equilibrium would be preferred because of its theoretical basis that can be used in an experiment to test the facility’s efficiency and freedom from errors. This is because for any mixture of two fluids and across varying temperatures or pressures, there is an equation that determines corresponding mole ratios of mixture components in the vapor state given a temperature or pressure. A given volume of water and ethanol can then be used in the column and measurements taken at a given temperature and mole ratio determined. If the experimental values correspond to theoretical values, as determined by Raoult’s theory, then the column is approved to be operationally efficient. It is therefore an accurate measure of efficiency (Theodore, Ricci and Vanvliet, p. 233). Accounting for the final ethanol concentration is another efficient process for determining the operational efficiency of the distillation column. This is because of the expected variation of the components concentrations based on volatility. When the distillation column is efficiently functional, then the more volatile liquid is expected to increase its percentage composition in the vapor zone and decrease its percentage composition in the liquid base while the less volatile liquid increases its percentage composition in the liquid state while reducing its composition in the vapor phase at the first vaporization temperature or pressure. The approach is therefore accurate in determining efficiency in operations (Gu, Petkov and Konstantinov, p. 250).
Expected observations if the column is working properly
For the vapor liquid equilibrium diagram, the determined mole ratios for water and ethanol are expected to correspond to theoretical values as generated by Raoult’s law (Theodore, Ricci and Vanvliet, p. 233). For the final product concentration, the percentage concentration of ethanol, in the vapor zone, should be gradually increasing with time while that of water be decreasing with time within the ethanol’s vaporizing conditions (Gu, Petkov and Konstantinov, p. 250).
Works cited
Gu, Da, Petkov, Hristov, and Konstantinov, Mihail. Robust control design with Matlab. Natick, MA: Springer, 2005, Print.
Theodore, Louis, Ricci, Francesco, and Vanvliet, Timothy. Thermodynamics for the practicing engineer. New Jersey, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Print. Read More
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