Examples Of Contactors

High-Velocity Pipeline Contactors High-velocity cocurrent flow can give more power input than any other approach. This is critical when extremely high rates of reaction quenching are needed.

Example 21: Doubling the Velocity in a Horizontal Pipeline Contactor—Impact on Effective Heat Transfer Velocity in pipeline quench systems often exceeds 62 m/s (200 ft/s). Note that this is far above the flooding velocity in distillation packing, distillation trays, or gas-sparged reactors. There are few data available to validate performance even though liquid injection into high-velocity gas streams has been historically used in quenching reactor effluent systems. However, the designer knows the directional impact of parameters as given by Eq. (14-187).

For example, if a 10-ft length of pipe gives a 90 percent approach to equilibrium in a quench operation, Eq. (14-182) says that the backcalculated NG is 2.303:

Equation (14-187) says if we double velocity but retain the same length, we would expect an increase of NG to 4.0.

Restated, the approach to equilibrium rises from 90 percent to greater than 98 percent even though the contact time is cut in half.

Vertical Reverse Jet Contactor A surprisingly effective modification of the liquid injection quench concept is to inject the liquid countercurrent upward into a gas flowing downward, with the gas velocity at some multiple of the flooding velocity defined by Eq. (14-203). The reverse jet contactor can be envisioned as an upside-down distillation tray. For large gas volumes, multiple injection nozzles are used. One advantage of this configuration is that it minimizes the chance of liquid or gas bypassing. Another advantage is that it operates in the froth region which generates greater area per unit volume than the higher-velocity cocurrent pipeline quench.

The concept was first outlined in U.S. Patent 3,803,805 (1974) and was amplified in U.S. Patent 6,339,169 (2002). The 1974 patent presents data which clarify that the key power input is from the gas stream.

A more recent article discusses use of the reverse jet in refinery offgas scrubbing for removal of both SO2 and small particles [Hydrocarbon

Processing, 84,(9), 99-106 (2005)]. This article cites downward gas velocities in the range of 10 to 37 m/s and notes gas pressure drop in the range of 6 to 20 in of water. Removals of SO2 and fine particles were both close to 99 percent. The froth produced by the contactor reverses direction, flows down, and is largely disengaged in a vessel mounted below.

Example 22: The Reverse Jet Contactor, U.S. Patent 6,339,169

This patent deals with rapid cooling and removal of NH3 from gas exiting an acrylonitrile reactor. Liquid is injected upward. The claims suggest downward-flowing gas velocity is between 20 and 25 m/s.

Gas cooling is reported to be largely complete in 0.1 s. NH3 removal at the exit of the contactor is reported to be greater than 99 percent. The gas is cooled by water vaporizing from the injected liquid, with total water circulated being in the range of 100 times that evaporated.

Since the gas cooling and NH3 scrubbing move in parallel, they would be expected to achieve nearly the same approach to equilibrium as long as the pH of all the liquid stays below a key threshold. The great excess of liquid enables this.

The key is high froth interfacial area per unit volume.

Simple Spray Towers The other extreme to the pipeline and reverse jet contactors is an open vessel where spray is injected down into upflowing gas to form a rain of liquid. The advantage of simple spray towers is that they give low gas pressure drop and also tend to be nonfouling.

Even though gas velocity is well below flooding velocity, the finer droplets of the spray will be entrained. Note the wide spectrum of particle sizes shown by Fig. 14-88.

However, as shown by Examples 23 and 24, they can be extremely effective in liquid-limited systems.

Bypassing Limits Spray Tower Performance in Gas Cooling As shown by Example 18, only modest performance is achieved in gas-limited systems. The modest efficiency is due to gas bypassing. Tall spray towers are not effective countercurrent devices. Even with nominally falling droplets, there is a great deal of backmixing because there is no stabilizing pressure drop as there would be in a column filled with packing or trays. A packet of droplets weighs more than a gas-filled space. The result is that the volume that is filled with the most droplets moves down relative to all other volumes. Similarly the gas volume that has fewest droplets moves up more quickly than other volumes. This generates bypassing of liquid and gas. The flows are driven by the rain of droplets themselves. Anything less than perfect distribution of liquid and gas will induce a dodging action between the flowing streams. Most designers limit expectations for spray contactors to some fraction of a single equilibrium stage regardless of height.

One approach that has been employed to get better distribution in spray systems is to mount a single large-capacity nozzle in the center of the vessel with radial discharge of large droplets. The droplets are discharged with enough velocity to penetrate to the vessel walls.

Spray Towers in Liquid-Limited Systems—Hollow Cone Atomizing Nozzles If we follow an element of liquid leaving a hollow cone hydraulic spray nozzle, the sequence is a rapidly thinning cone followed by wave development, followed by shedding of ligaments, followed by breakage of the ligaments into droplets. See Fig. 14-86. The sequence gives high transfer for liquid-limited systems. This results from the thin sheet of the hollow cone as well as the creation of fresh surface in the breakup process.

Devolatilizers Devolatilization systems are liquid-limited due to the combination of high liquid viscosity and removal of a component with high relative volatility. Simpson and Lynn [AIChE J., 23 (5), 666-673 (1977)] reported oxygen stripping from water at 98 percent complete, in less than 1 ft of contact. The concept has been employed for residual devolatilization in refineries.

Spray Towers as Direct Contact Condensers Similarly spray contactors can be highly effective for direct contact condensers, which are also liquid-limited. The high transfer rate in the initial formation of sprays is the key. Kunesh [Ind. Engr. C'hem. Res., 32, 2387-2389 (1993)] reported a 97 percent approach to equilibrium in a hydrocarbon system in the 6-in space below the discharge of a row of hollow cone spray nozzles.

Other results on heat transfer in a large spray condenser are given by Waintraub et al. ("Removing Packings from Heat Transfer Sections of Vacuum Towers," AIChE 2005 Spring National Meeting, Proceed ings of Topical Conference, April 10, 2005, Atlanta, p. 79). The paper highlights the importance of good gas and liquid distribution.

Converting Liquid Mass-Transfer Data to Direct Contact Heat Transfer Liquid-limited performance measures are much more commonly given for mass-transfer than for heat transfer. Often mass-transfer data are reported as kLa with units of h-1. This can be converted to hLa with units of Btu/(h °F ft3) by Eq. (14-188).

T = temperature, °R pL = liquid density, lb/ft3 cL = liquid specific heat, Btu/(lb-°F)

Calculation of transfer units for heat transfer is relatively simple. For a liquid

(liquid contact time)(hLa)

plCl where pL = liquid density and cL = liquid specific heat. [See parallel gas expression, Eq. (14-181).]

Unlike gases, the liquid properties that control mass and heat transfer differ greatly. The key term is diffusivity which for liquids drops with viscosity.

The resulting values for hLa and NL can be surprisingly large when a pure vapor such as steam is condensed. See Example 23.

Example 23: Estimating Direct Contact Condensing Performance Based on kLa Mass-Transfer Data If an aqueous system at 560°R gives a kLa of 60 h-1, what does Eq. (14-188) predict for hLa in a direct contact steam condenser? For an aqueous system lL = 1 cP Pl = 62 lb/ft3 cl = 1 Btu/(lb-°F)

and Eq. (14-189) predicts hLa = 187(60)(1)(62)(1/560)°-5 = 29,400 Btu/(b°Fft3)

When a pure gas such as HCl is absorbed by low viscosity liquid such as water, simple spray systems can also be highly effective. See Example 24.

Example 24: HCl Vent Absorber (Kister, Distillation Troubleshooting, Wiley, 2006, p. 95.) A 6-in-diameter, 8-ft-tall packed bed was giving major problems due to failure of the packing support. Water was the scrubbing fluid.

The liquid distributors were replaced with carefully positioned spray nozzles, and the packing was removed. HCl in the vent was removed to a level one-fortieth of the original design.

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