Further studies on flow distribution on distillation sieve trays
The thesis describes experimental work on the possibility of using deflection baffles in conventional distillation trays as flow straightening devices, with the view of enhancing tray efficiency. The mode of operation is based on deflecting part of the liquid momentum from the centre of the tray to the segment regions in order to drive stagnating liquid at the edges forward. The first part of the work was a detailed investigation into the two-phase flow patterns produced on a conventional sieve tray having 1 mm hole size perforations. The data provide a check on some earlier work and extend the range of the existing databank, particularly to conditions more typical of industrial operation. A critical survey of data collected on trays with different hole sizes (Hine, 1990; Chambers, 1993; Fenwick, 1996; this work) showed that the hole diameter has a significant influence on the flow regime, the size of the stagnant regions and the hydraulic and mass transfer performance. Five modified tray topologies were created with different configurations of baffles and tested extensively in the 2.44 m diameter air-water pilot distillation simulator for their efficacy in achieving uniform flow across the tray and for their impact on tray loading capacity and mass transfer efficiency. Special attention was given to the calibration of the over 100 temperature probes used in measuring the water temperature across the tray on which the heat and mass transfer analogy is based. In addition to normal tray capacity experiments, higher weir load experiments were conducted using a 'half-tray' mode in order to extend the range of data to conditions more typical of industrial operation. The modified trays show superior flow characteristics compared to the conventional tray in terms of the ability to replenish the zones of exceptionally low temperatures and high residence times at the edges of the tray, to lower the bulk liquid gradient and to achieve a more uniform flow across the tray. These superior flow abilities, however, tend to diminish with increasing weir load because of the increasing tendency for the liquid to jump over the barriers instead of flowing over them. The modified tray topologies showed no tendency to cause undue limitation to tray loading capacity. Although the improvement in the efficiency of a single tray over that of the conventional tray was moderate and in some cases marginal, the multiplier effect in a multiple tray column situation would be significant (Porter et al., 1972). These results are in good agreement with an associated CFD studies (Fischer, 1999) carried out by partners in the Advanced Studies in Distillation consortium. It is concluded that deflection baffles can be used in a conventional distillation sieve tray to achieve better liquid flow distribution and obtain enhanced mass transfer efficiency, without undermining the tray loading capacity. Unlike any other controlled-flow tray whose mechanical complexity impose stringent manufacturing and installation tolerances, the baffled-tray models are simple to design, manufacture and install and thus provide an economic method of retrofitting badly performing sieve trays both in terms of downtime and fabrication.