Thermal Design Of Reboilers

For a single-component reboiler design, attention is focused upon the mechanism ofheat and momentum transfer at the hot surface. In multicomponent systems, the light components are preferentially vaporized at the surface, and the process becomes limited by their rate of diffusion. The net effect is to decrease the effective temperature difference between the hot surface and the bulk of the boiling liquid. If one attempts to vaporize too high a fraction of the feed liquid to the reboiler, the temperature difference between surface and liquid is reduced to the point that nucleation and vapor generation on the surface are suppressed and heat transfer to the liquid proceeds at the lower rate associated with single-phase natural convection. The only safe procedure in design for wide-boiling-range mixtures is to vaporize such a limited fraction of the feed that the boiling point of the remaining liquid mixture is still at least 5.5° C (10° F) below the surface temperature. Positive flow of the unvaporized liquid through and out of the reboiler should be provided.

Kettle Reboilers It has been generally assumed that kettle reboilers operate in the pool boiling mode, but with a lower peak heat flux because of vapor binding and blanketing of the upper tubes in the bundle. There is some evidence that vapor generation in the bundle causes a high circulation rate through the bundle. The result is that, at the lower heat fluxes, the kettle reboiler actually gives higher heat-transfer coefficients than a single tube. Present understanding of the recirculation phenomenon is insufficient to take advantage of this in design. Available nucleate pool boiling correlations are only very approximate, failing to account for differences in the nucleation characteristics of different surfaces. The Mostinski correlation [Eq. (5-102)] and the McNelly correlation [Eq. (5-103)] are generally the best for single components or narrow-boiling-range mixtures at low fluxes, though they may give errors of 40 to 50 percent. Experimental heat-transfer coefficients for pool boiling of a given liquid on a given surface should be used if available. The bundle peak heat flux is a function of tube-bundle geometry, especially of tube-packing density; in the absence of better information, the Palen-Small modification [Eq. (5-108)] of the Zuber maximum-heat-flux correlation is recommended.

A general method for analyzing kettle reboiler performance is by Fair and Klip, Chem. Eng. Prog. 79(3), 86 (1983). It is effectively limited to computer application.

Kettle reboilers are generally assumed to require negligible pressure drop. It is important to provide good longitudinal liquid flow paths within the shell so that the liquid is uniformly distributed along the entire length of the tubes and excessive local vaporization and vapor binding are avoided.

This method may also be used for the thermal design of horizontal thermosiphon reboilers. The recirculation rate and pressure profile of the thermosiphon loop can be calculated by the methods of Fair [Pet. Refiner, 39(2), 105-123 (1960)].

Vertical Thermosiphon Reboilers Vertical thermosiphon reboilers operate by natural circulation of the liquid from the still through the downcomer to the reboiler and of the two-phase mixture from the reboiler through the return piping. The flow is induced by the hydrostatic pressure imbalance between the liquid in the down-comer and the two-phase mixture in the reboiler tubes. Thermosiphons do not require any pump for recirculation and are generally regarded as less likely to foul in service because of the relatively high two-phase velocities obtained in the tubes. Heavy components are not likely to accumulate in the thermosiphon, but they are more difficult to design satisfactorily than kettle reboilers, especially in vacuum operation. Several shortcut methods have been suggested for thermosiphon design, but they must generally be used with caution. The method due to Fair (loc. cit.), based upon two-phase flow correlations, is the most complete in the open literature but requires a computer for practical use. Fair also suggests a shortcut method that is satisfactory for preliminary design and can be reasonably done by hand.

Forced-Recirculation Reboilers In forced-recirculation reboilers, a pump is used to ensure circulation of the liquid past the heattransfer surface. Force-recirculation reboilers may be designed so that boiling occurs inside vertical tubes, inside horizontal tubes, or on the shell side. For forced boiling inside vertical tubes, Fair's method (loc. cit.) may be employed, making only the minor modification that the recirculation rate is fixed and does not need to be balanced against the pressure available in the downcomer. Excess pressure required to circulate the two-phase fluid through the tubes and back into the column is supplied by the pump, which must develop a positive pressure increase in the liquid.

Fair's method may also be modified to design forced-recirculation reboilers with horizontal tubes. In this case the hydrostatic-head-pressure effect through the tubes is zero but must be considered in the two-phase return lines to the column.

The same procedure may be applied in principle to design of forced-recirculation reboilers with shell-side vapor generation. Little is known about two-phase flow on the shell side, but a reasonable estimate of the friction pressure drop can be made from the data of Diehl and Unruh [Pet. Refiner, 36(10), 147 (1957); 37(10), 124 (1958)]. No void-fraction data are available to permit accurate estimation of the hydrostatic or acceleration terms. These may be roughly estimated by assuming homogeneous flow.

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  • josefa
    What causes vapor binding in heat exchangers?
    4 years ago
  • Jenna
    Why forced flow reboilers?
    4 years ago
  • dennis
    Do reboiler heat exchangers have tubes?
    2 years ago
  • robert
    What causes vapor binding in a heat exchanger?
    2 years ago
  • Anna
    What is a positive flow in a reboiler?
    1 year ago

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