Distillation Columns

Distillation columns, also known as fractionating columns or fractionation columns, are essential to the distillation of liquid mixtures. They assist in separating the mixture into its component parts based on volatility differences. Distillation columns are used for large-scale industrial applications, as well as smaller laboratory distillation projects.

Industrial Distillation Columns

Industrial processes utilize distillation columns when large quantities of liquids must be distilled. Distillation columns are used in everything from coal tar processing to the brewing of beer, though they are most commonly used in petroleum refinement. Industrial distillation is a common, but energy-intensive, separation process. In chemical plants, it typically accounts for up to 40% or more of the plant’s total energy consumption.

Industrial distillation columns are commonly large, vertical, cylindrical towers with diameters ranging from 65 centimeters to 6 meters, and heights from 6 meters to 60 meters or more. These distillation columns are usually operated continuously.

Under most circumstances, the amount of feed being added to a distillation column is equal to the amount of product being removed. Similarly, the amount of heat entering a distillation column from its reboiler is generally equal to the amount of heat removed by condensers and with the outgoing product. Heat is a crucial operating parameter for these devices, as excess or insufficient heat can cause foaming, flooding, entrainment, or weeping.

Industrial distillation columns use external reflux to better separate mixtures. Inside the column, downflowing reflux liquid (the portion of condensed overhead liquid product that returns to the upper part of the column), provides cooling and condensation of upflowing vapors, which increases the column’s effectiveness. The more reflux, the better.

A distillation column’s design and operation are dependent on the composition of the feed and the desired composition of the end product. Numerous analytical methods and simulation models have been devised to aid designers in the creation of effective distillation columns.

Distillation Column Manufacturers

MEGTEC is a leading designer and manufacturer of industrial distillation columns. Their skid-mounted and modular designs feature high-efficiency reboilers and special material finishes for improved chemical resistance, free iron removal, and cleaning.

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