Novel predictive tool for accurate estimation of packed column size

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Publication details

Bahadori, A & Vuthaluru, HB 2010, 'Novel predictive tool for accurate estimation of packed column size', Journal of Natural Gas Chemistry, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 146-150.

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Traditionally the majority of fractionation columns in natural gas processing plants were equipped with trays. However an option to trayed columns is to use packing. Packed columns offer a larger surface area per unit volume for mass transfer and the continuous gas to liquid contact throughout the column rather than at specific levels (such as in tray columns). For process design purposes, it is essential to estimate the pressure drop for enabling the proper operation of packed columns. In this study, a simple generalized pressure drop correlation (GPDC) which is easier than existing approaches requiring more complicated and longer computations is developed for sizing randomly packed fractionation columns for pressure drops up to 150 mm water per meter of packing. This correlation can be used to estimate pressure drop for a given loading and column diameter. Alternatively, for a given pressure drop the diameter can be determined. The predictions from the proposed correlation have been compared with reported data and found good agreement with average absolute deviation hovering around 4.9%. The proposed predictive tool is superior owing to its accuracy and clear numerical background, wherein the relevant coefficients can be retuned quickly if new and more accurate data are available in the future. This proposed simple-to-use approach can be of immense practical value for the engineers and scientists to have a quick check on the pressure drop in packed columns for a given loading and column diameter. In particular, gas engineers would find the proposed approach can be used very friendly involving no complex expressions with transparent and easy-to-handle calculation steps.