A hot-vapor bypass system maintains distillation tower pressure control. The key to operational success is to minimize the energy transfer from the hot vapor to the bulk subcooled liquid within the reflux drum.
Three parameters can be used to optimize distillation processes: temperature, pressure, and composition. When two of these are controlled, the third parameter is fixed. For example, when pressure and temperature are controlled and/or optimized, the composition is known. Among the three parameters, pressure control is the most important. Effective column pressure control is critical to controlling product quality.
This article discusses a common design configuration known as hot-vapor bypass. A hot-vapor bypass system often employs a flooded condenser located at ground level to control distillation tower pressure. A previous CEP article, “Control Column Pressure via Hot-Vapor Bypass,” introduced the hot-vapor bypass control scheme (1). A good hot-vapor bypass design ensures precise pressure control even when operating outside of its intended operation range.
Even though the hot-vapor bypass design configuration is fairly common in industry, it can be the source of operating instabilities, unexpected upsets, and even unit shutdowns. This article discusses a common mistake that engineers make when designing a hot-vapor bypass system — attempting to configure it for both fully condensed and partially condensed operation.
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