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Title: Hybrid membrane-distillation separation for ethylene cracking
Author: Etoumi, Assma S. Abdalla
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 8361
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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Gas separations are often required in chemical processes, e.g. air separation, ethylene production, etc. These are often challenging and costly processes because of the low temperature and high pressure needed if vapour-liquid phase separations are involved. This thesis focuses on hybrid membrane-distillation separations as an opportunity to develop more energy-efficient separation processes. In a typical ethylene plant, recovery, the separation and purification of the cracked product are economically important. The focus of this thesis is on the ‘C2splitter’ which separates the desired product, ethylene, from ethane. Cryogenic distillation, which is currently used to separate the binary ethylene-ethane mixture, is extremely expensive in terms of both capital and operating costs, especially because of refrigerated cooling requirements. Hybrid membrane-distillation processes are able to effectively separate low-boiling compounds and close-boiling mixtures and to reduce energy consumption, relative to cryogenic distillation. However, hybrid membrane-distillation processes present challenges for process modelling, design and operation. There are two major challenges associated with the modelling of hybrid processes for low temperature separations: i) the complex interaction between the process and the refrigeration system and ii) the large number of structural options, e.g. conventional column, membrane unit or hybrid membrane-distillation separation, where the distillation column can be integrated with the membrane unit to form a sequential, parallel, ‘top’or ‘bottom’ hybrid scheme. This thesis develops a systematic methodology to design, screen, evaluate and optimise various design alternatives. Schemes are evaluated with respect to energy consumption, i.e. power consumption of process and refrigeration compressors, or energy costs. In the methodology, process options are screened first for feasibility, based on numerous simulations and sensitivity analyses. Then, the feasible options are evaluated in terms of energy consumption and compared to the performance of a conventional distillation column. Finally, economically viable schemes are optimised to identify the most cost-effective heat-integrated structure and operating conditions. The methodology applies models for multi-feed and multi-product distillation columns, the membrane, compressor and refrigeration system; heat recovery opportunities are systematically captured and exploited. For the separation of relatively ideal mixtures, modified shortcut design methods, based on the Fenske-Underwood-Gilliland method are appropriate because they allow fast evaluation without needing detailed specification of column design parameters (i.e. number of stages, feed and side draw stage locations and reflux ratio). The modifications proposed by Suphanit (1999) for simple column design are extended to consider multi-feed and/or multi-product columns. The complex column designs based on the approximate calculations method are validated by comparison with more rigorous simulations using Aspen HYSYS. To design the hybrid system, a reliable and robust membrane model is also needed. To predict the performance of the module model, this work applies and modifies detailed membrane model (Shindo et al., 1985) and approximate method (Naylor and Backer, 1955) to avoid the need for initial estimates of permeate purities and to facilitate convergence. Heat integration opportunities are considered to reduce the energy consumption of the system, considering interactions within the separation process and with the refrigeration system. A matrix-based approach (Farrokhpanah, 2009) is modified to assess opportunities for heat integration. The modified heat recovery model eliminates the need to design the refrigeration cycle and uses a new simple, linear model that correlates the ideal (Carnot) and a more accurately predicted coefficient of performance. This work develops a framework for optimising important degrees of freedom in the hybrid separation system, e.g. permeate pressure, stage cut, side draw molar flow rate and purity, column feed and side draw locations. Heat recovery options between: i) column feeds and products; ii) the membrane feed and products and iii) the associated refrigeration system are considered. A deterministic and a stochastic optimisation algorithm are applied and compared for their efficiency of solving the resulting nonlinear optimisation problem. The new approach is demonstrated for the design and optimisation of heat-integrated sequential and parallel hybrid membrane-distillation flowsheets. Case study results show that hybrid scheme can reduce energy cost by 11%, compared to distillation, and that parallel schemes have around 8% lower energy costs than sequential hybrid schemes. These results suggest hybrid membrane-distillation processes may be competitive with distillation when applied for ethylene-ethane separations, but that further development of suitable membranes may still be needed.
Supervisor: Jobson, Megan Sponsor: Libyan Petroleum Institute
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hybrid membrane-distillation processes ; Ethylene-ethane separation