Evaporator Arrangement

Single-Effect Evaporators Single-effect evaporators are used when the required capacity is small, steam is cheap, the material is so corrosive that very expensive materials of construction are required, or the vapor is so contaminated that it cannot be reused. Single-effect evaporators may be operated in batch, semibatch, or continuous-batch modes or continuously. Strictly speaking, batch evaporators are ones in which filling, evaporating, and emptying are consecutive steps. This method of operation is rarely used since it requires that the body be large enough to hold the entire charge of feed and the heating element be placed low enough so as not to be uncovered when the volume is reduced to that of the product. The more usual method of operation is semibatch, in which feed is continually added to maintain a constant level until the entire charge reaches final density. Continuous-batch evaporators usually have a continuous feed and, over at least part of the cycle, a continuous discharge. One method of operation is to circulate from a storage tank to the evaporator and back until the entire tank is up to desired concentration and then finish in batches. Continuous evaporators have essentially continuous feed and discharge, and concentrations of both feed and product remain substantially constant.

Thermocompression The simplest means of reducing the energy requirements of evaporation is to compress the vapor from a single-effect evaporator so that the vapor can be used as the heating medium in the same evaporator. The compression may be accomplished by mechanical means or by a steam jet. In order to keep the compressor cost and power requirements within reason, the evaporator must work with a fairly narrow temperature difference, usually from about 5.5 to 11°C (10° to 20° F). This means that a large evaporator heating surface is needed, which usually makes the vapor-compression evaporator more expensive in first cost than a multiple-effect evaporator. However, total installation costs may be reduced when purchased power is the energy source, since the need for boiler and heat sink is eliminated. Substantial savings in operating cost are realized when electrical or mechanical power is available at a low cost relative to low-pressure steam, when only high-pressure steam is available to operate the evaporator, or when the cost of providing cooling water or other heat sink for a multiple-effect evaporator is high.

Mechanical thermocompression may employ reciprocating, rotary positive-displacement, centrifugal, or axial-flow compressors. Positive-displacement compressors are impractical for all but the smallest capacities, such as portable seawater evaporators. Axial-flow compressors can be built for capacities of more than 472 m3/s (1 X 106 ft3/min). Centrifugal compressors are usually cheapest for the intermediate-capacity ranges that are normally encountered. In all cases, great care must be taken to keep entrainment at a minimum, since the vapor becomes superheated on compression and any liquid present will evaporate, leaving the dissolved solids behind. In some cases a vapor-scrubbing tower may be installed to protect the compressor. A mechanical recompression evaporator usually requires more heat than is available from the compressed vapor. Some of this extra heat can be obtained by preheating the feed with the condensate and, if possible, with the product. Rather extensive heat-exchange systems with close approach temperatures are usually justified, especially if the evaporator is operated at high temperature to reduce the volume of vapor to be compressed. When the product is a solid, an elutriation leg such as that shown in Fig. 11-122b is advantageous, since it cools the product almost to feed temperature. The remaining heat needed to maintain the evaporator in operation must be obtained from outside sources.

While theoretical compressor power requirements are reduced slightly by going to lower evaporating temperatures, the volume of vapor to be compressed and hence compressor size and cost increase so rapidly that low-temperature operation is more expensive than high-temperature operation. The requirement of low temperature for fruit-juice concentration has led to the development of an evaporator employing a secondary fluid, usually Freon or ammonia. In this evaporator, the vapor is condensed in an exchanger cooled by boiling Freon. The Freon, at a much higher vapor density than the water vapor, is then compressed to serve as the heating medium for the evaporator. This system requires that the latent heat be transferred through two surfaces instead of one, but the savings in compressor size and cost are enough to justify the extra cost of heating surface or the cost of compressing through a wider temperature range.

Steam-jet thermocompression is advantageous when steam is available at a pressure appreciably higher than can be used in the evaporator. The steam jet then serves as a reducing valve while doing some useful work. The efficiency of a steam jet is quite low and falls off rapidly when the jet is not used at the vapor-flow rate and terminal pressure conditions for which it was designed. Consequently multiple jets are used when wide variations in evaporation rate are expected. Because of the low first cost and the ability to handle large volumes of vapor, steam-jet thermocompressors are used to increase the economy of evaporators that must operate at low temperatures and hence cannot be operated in multiple effect. The steam-jet thermocompression evaporator has a heat input larger than that needed to balance the system, and some heat must be rejected. This is usually done by venting some of the vapor at the suction of the compressor.

Multiple-Effect Evaporation Multiple-effect evaporation is the principal means in use for economizing on energy consumption. Most such evaporators operate on a continuous basis, although for a few difficult materials a continuous-batch cycle may be employed. In a multiple-effect evaporator, steam from an outside source is condensed in the heating element of the first effect. If the feed to the effect is at a temperature near the boiling point in the first effect, 1 kg of steam will evaporate almost 1 kg of water. The first effect operates at (but is not controlled at) a boiling temperature high enough so that the evaporated water can serve as the heating medium of the second effect. Here almost another kilogram of water is evaporated, and this may go to a condenser if the evaporator is a double-effect or may be used as the heating medium of the third effect. This method may be repeated for any number of effects. Large evaporators having six and seven effects are common in the pulp and paper industry, and evaporators having as many as 17 effects have been built. As a first approximation, the steam economy of a multiple-effect evaporator will increase in proportion to the number of effects and usually will be somewhat less numerically than the number of effects.

The increased steam economy of a multiple-effect evaporator is gained at the expense of evaporator first cost. The total heat-transfer surface will increase substantially in proportion to the number of effects in the evaporator. This is only an approximation since going from one to two effects means that about half of the heat transfer is at a higher temperature level, where heat-transfer coefficients are generally higher. On the other hand, operating at lower temperature differences reduces the heat-transfer coefficient for many types of evaporator. If the material has an appreciable boiling-point elevation, this will also lower the available temperature difference. The only accurate means of predicting the changes in steam economy and surface requirements with changes in the number of effects is by detailed heat and material balances together with an analysis of the effect of changes in operating conditions on heat-transfer performance.

The approximate temperature distribution in a multiple-effect evaporator is under the control of the designer, but once built, the evaporator establishes its own equilibrium. Basically, the effects are a number of series resistances to heat transfer, each resistance being approximatelyproportional to 1/UnAn. The total available temperature drop is divided between the effects in proportion to their resistances. If one effect starts to scale, its temperature drop will increase at the expense of the temperature drops across the other effects. This provides a convenient means of detecting a drop in heat-transfer coefficient in an effect of an operating evaporator. If the steam pressure and final vacuum do not change, the temperature in the effect that is scaling will decrease and the temperature in the preceding effect will increase.

The feed to a multiple-effect evaporator is usually transferred from one effect to another in series so that the ultimate product concentration is reached only in one effect of the evaporator. In backward-feed operation, the raw feed enters the last (coldest) effect, the discharge from this effect becomes the feed to the next-to-the-last effect, and so on until product is discharged from the first effect. This method of operation is advantageous when the feed is cold, since much less liquid must be heated to the higher temperature existing in the early effects. It is also used when the product is so viscous that high temperatures are needed to keep the viscosity low enough to give reasonable heat-transfer coefficients. When product viscosity is high but a hot product is not needed, the liquid from the first effect is sometimes flashed to a lower temperature in one or more stages and the flash vapor added to the vapor from one or more later effects of the evaporator.

In forward-feed operation, raw feed is introduced in the first effect and passed from effect to effect parallel to the steam flow. Product is withdrawn from the last effect. This method of operation is advantageous when the feed is hot or when the concentrated product would be damaged or would deposit scale at high temperature. Forward feed simplifies operation when liquor can be transferred by pressure difference alone, thus eliminating all intermediate liquor pumps. When the feed is cold, forward feed gives a low steam economy since an appreciable part of the prime steam is needed to heat the feed to the boiling point and thus accomplishes no evaporation. If forward feed is necessary and feed is cold, steam economy can be improved markedly by preheating the feed in stages with vapor bled from intermediate effects of the evaporator. This usually represents little increase in total heating surface or cost since the feed must be heated in any event and shell-and-tube heat exchangers are generally less expensive per unit of surface area than evaporator heating surface.

Mixed-feed operation is used only for special applications, as when liquor at an intermediate concentration and a certain temperature is desired for additional processing.

Parallel feed involves the introduction of raw feed and the withdrawal of product at each effect of the evaporator. It is used primarily when the feed is substantially saturated and the product is a solid. An example is the evaporation of brine to make common salt. Evaporators of the types shown in Fig. 11-122b or e are used, and the product is withdrawn as a slurry. In this case, parallel feed is desirable because the feed washes impurities from the salt leaving the body.

Heat-recovery systems are frequently incorporated in an evaporator to increase the steam economy. Ideally, product and evaporator condensate should leave the system at a temperature as low as possible. Also, heat should be recovered from these streams by exchange with feed or evaporating liquid at the highest possible temperature. This would normally require separate liquid-liquid heat exchangers, which add greatly to the complexity of the evaporator and are justifiable only in large plants. Normally, the loss in thermodynamic availability due to flashing is tolerated since the flash vapor can then be used directly in the evaporator effects. The most commonly used is a condensate flash system in which the condensate from each effect but the first (which normally must be returned to the boiler) is flashed in successive stages to the pressure in the heating element of each succeeding effect of the evaporator. Product flash tanks may also be used in a backward- or mixed-feed evaporator. In a forward-feed evaporator, the principal means of heat recovery may be by use of feed pre-heaters heated by vapor bled from each effect of the evaporator. In this case, condensate may be either flashed as before or used in a separate set of exchangers to accomplish some of the feed preheating. A feed preheated by last-effect vapor may also materially reduce condenser water requirements.

Seawater Evaporators The production of potable water from saline waters represents a large and growing field of application for evaporators. Extensive work done in this field to 1972 was summarized in the annual Saline Water Conversion Reports of the Office of Saline Water, U.S. Department of the Interior. Steam economies on the order of 10 kg evaporation/kg steam are usually justified because (1) unit production capacities are high, (2) fixed charges are low on capital used for public works (i.e., they use long amortization periods and have low interest rates, with no other return on investment considered), (3) heat-transfer performance is comparable with that of pure water, and (4) properly treated seawater causes little deterioration due to scaling or fouling.

Figure 11-125a shows a multiple-effect (falling-film) flow sheet as used for seawater. Twelve effects are needed for a steam economy of 10. Seawater is used to condense last-effect vapor, and a portion is then treated to prevent scaling and corrosion. Treatment usually consists of acidification to break down bicarbonates, followed by deaera-tion, which also removes the carbon dioxide generated. The treated seawater is then heated to successively higher temperatures by a portion of the vapor from each effect and finally is fed to the evaporating surface of the first effect. The vapor generated therein and the partially concentrated liquid are passed to the second effect, and so on until the last effect. The feed rate is adjusted relative to the steam rate so that the residual liquid from the last effect can carry away all the salts in solution, in a volume about one-third of that of the feed. Condensate formed in each effect but the first is flashed down to the following effects in sequence and constitutes the product of the evaporator.

As the feed-to-steam ratio is increased in the flow sheet of Fig. 11-125a, a point is reached where all the vapor is needed to preheat the feed and none is available for the evaporator tubes. This limiting case is the multistage flash evaporator, shown in its simplest form in Fig. 11-125b. Seawater is treated as before and then pumped through a number of feed heaters in series. It is given a final boost in temperature with prime steam in a brine heater before it is flashed down in series to provide the vapor needed by the feed heaters. The amount of steam required depends on the approach-temperature difference in the feed heaters and the flash range per stage. Condensate from the feed heaters is flashed down in the same manner as the brine.

Since the flow being heated is identical to the total flow being flashed, the temperature rise in each heater is equal to the flash range in each flasher. This temperature difference represents a loss from the temperature difference available for heat transfer. There are thus two ways of increasing the steam economy of such plants: increasing the heating surface and increasing the number of stages. Whereas the number of effects in a multiple-effect plant will be about 20 percent greater than the steam economy, the number of stages in a flash plant will be 3 to 4 times the steam economy. However, a large number of stages can be provided in a single vessel by means of internal bulkheads. The heat-exchanger tubing is placed in the same vessel, and the tubes usually are continuous through a number of stages. This requires ferrules or special close tube-hole clearances where the tubes pass through the internal bulkheads. In a plant for a steam economy of 10, the ratio of flow rate to heating surface is usually such that the sea-water must pass through about 152 m of 19-mm (500 ft of %-in) tubing before it reaches the brine heater. This places a limitation on the physical arrangement of the vessels.

Inasmuch as it requires a flash range of about 61° C (110° F) to produce 1 kg of flash vapor for every 10 kg of seawater, the multistage flash evaporator requires handling a large volume of seawater relative to the product. In the flow sheet of Fig. 11-125b all this seawater must be deaerated and treated for scale prevention. In addition, the laststage vacuum varies with the ambient seawater temperature, and ejector equipment must be sized for the worst condition. These difficulties can be eliminated by using the recirculating multistage flash flow sheet of Fig. 11-125c. The last few stages, called the reject stages, are cooled by a flow of seawater that can be varied to maintain a reasonable last-stage vacuum. A small portion of the last-stage brine is blown down to carry away the dissolved salts, and the balance is recirculated to the heat-recovery stages. This arrangement requires a much smaller makeup of fresh seawater and hence a lower treatment cost.

The multistage flash evaporator is similar to a multiple-effect forced-circulation evaporator, but with all the forced-circulation heaters in series. This has the advantage of requiring only one large-volume forced-circulation pump, but the sensible heating and short-circuiting losses in available temperature differences remain. A disadvantage of the flash evaporator is that the liquid throughout the system is at almost the discharge concentration. This has limited its industrial use to solutions in which no great concentration differences are required between feed and product and to where the liquid can be heated through wide temperature ranges without scaling. A partial

Multiple Downcomer Trays


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