(62f) Study on Cascade Refrigerant and Mixed-Refrigerant Systems for Ethylene Plants | AIChE

(62f) Study on Cascade Refrigerant and Mixed-Refrigerant Systems for Ethylene Plants


Dinh, H. - Presenter, Lamar University
Zhang, J. - Presenter, Lamar University
Xu, Q. - Presenter, Lamar University

Refrigeration system holds an important role in most chemical/petrochemical processes. A refrigerant system transfers heat from low-temperature sources to high-temperature sinks through vapor-compression cycles at the expense of mechanical work, magnetism, laser or other means. In many industrial processes, the refrigeration systems are employed for chilling and freezing the final liquid/solid products or liquefying the gas intermediates/products for the downstream cryogenic separation.  Optimal synthesis of these systems is attractive not only because of their economic benefits but also because they incorporate most of energy transfer operations in widespread use in the chemical industry.  The traditional cascade refrigeration system (CRS) used in ethylene plants includes multiple refrigerants and multiple temperature and pressure levels. Each component subsystem includes a compression section, a condensing section and several temperature levels with sub-coolers, expansion valves, evaporators and flash drums. Recently, mixed-refrigerant system (MRS) has shown some advantages comparing to the single-component one. A MRS uses a mixture as the refrigerant instead of several pure components as in conventional cascade refrigeration systems. This system operates within smaller temperature differences at the lower limit; therefore, it leads to a smaller increase in entropy and consequently a smaller loss in energy. Besides, an MRS also requires a simpler unit configuration and fewer maintenance problems.

In this study, both types of refrigeration systems used in ethylene plants are studied based on exergy analysis, a powerful method to explore system energy loss below ambient temperature.  The procedure involves three consecutive steps: Thermodynamic Analysis, Synthesis Model Development and Solving, and Solution Validation and Evaluation.  Rigorous steady-state models of both refrigeration systems are firstly constructed and employed to generate Exergy-Temperature (B-T) chart in order to analyze their thermodynamics and energy distributions.  An exergy-based mixed-integer linear programming (MINLP) model is developed to maximize the energy efficiency of each system, where multiple refrigerants with multiple recycling loops are simultaneously addressed and all of cooling demands are fulfilled. The optimal solution is subsequently examined by conducting rigorous simulation to check their feasibility and consistency. Economic evaluation is also carried out from the calculated capital cost of new equipments and annual operating cost.  The efficacy of the developed methodology is demonstrated by two case studies: a cascade refrigeration system and a mixed-refrigerant system used in two ethylene plants.