Packedcolumn Flood And Pressure Drop
Pressure drop of a gas flowing upward through a packing countercurrently to liquid flow is characterized graphically in Fig. 1453. At very low liquid rates, the effective open cross section of the packing is not appreciably different from that of dry packing, and pressure drop is due to flow through a series of variable openings in the bed. Thus, pressure drop is proportional approximately to the square of the gas velocity, as indicated in the region AB. At higher liquid rates, the effective open cross section is smaller because of the presence of liquid (region A'B'). The pressure drop is higher, but still proportional to the square of the gas velocity.
At higher gas rates, a portion of the energy of the gas stream is used to support an increasing quantity of liquid in the column. For all liquid rates, a zone is reached where pressure drop is proportional to a gas flow rate to a power distinctly higher than 2; this zone is called the loading zone. The increase in pressure drop is due to the liquid accumulation in the packing voids (region BC or B'C')
As the liquid holdup increases, the effective orifice diameter may become so small that the liquid surface becomes continuous across the cross section of the column. Column instability occurs concomitantly with a rising continuousphase liquid body in the column. Pressure drop shoots up with only a slight change in gas rate (condition C or C ). The phenomenon is called flooding and is analogous to entrainment flooding in a tray column.
Alternatively, a phase inversion occurs, and gas bubbles through the liquid. The column is not unstable and can be brought back to gasphase continuous operation by merely reducing the gas rate. A stable operating condition beyond flooding (region CD or C D ) may form with the liquid as the continuous phase and the gas as the dispersed phase [Lerner and Grove, Ind. Eng. Chem. 43, 216 (1951); Teller, Chem. Eng. 61(9), 168 (1954); Leung et al., Ind. Eng. Chem. Fund. 14 (1), 63 (1975); Buchanan, Ind. Eng. Chem. Fund. 15 (1), 87 (1976)].
For totalreflux distillation in packed columns, regions of loading and flooding are identified by their effects on masstransfer efficiency, as shown in Fig. 1454. Gas and liquid rate increase together, and a
FIG. 1450 Common structured packings. (a) A small element of Mellapak™ showing embossed surface, holes, and corrugatedsheet arrangement. (b) A closeup of the surface of FlexipacTM showing grooved surface and holes. (c) Fitting structured packing elements to a largediameter tower. (d) Mellapak Plus™, a fourthgeneration structured packing, showing a 45° inclination angle in the element and nearvertical inclination at the elementtoelement transition. Note that in the tower, the successive layers will be oriented 90° to each other as in part b. (Parts a, d, courtesy of Sulzer Chemtech; parts b, c, courtesy of KochGHtsch LP. )
FIG. 1450 Common structured packings. (a) A small element of Mellapak™ showing embossed surface, holes, and corrugatedsheet arrangement. (b) A closeup of the surface of FlexipacTM showing grooved surface and holes. (c) Fitting structured packing elements to a largediameter tower. (d) Mellapak Plus™, a fourthgeneration structured packing, showing a 45° inclination angle in the element and nearvertical inclination at the elementtoelement transition. Note that in the tower, the successive layers will be oriented 90° to each other as in part b. (Parts a, d, courtesy of Sulzer Chemtech; parts b, c, courtesy of KochGHtsch LP. )
point is reached at which liquid accumulates rapidly (point B) and effective surface for mass transfer decreases rapidly.
FloodPoint Definition In 1966, Silvey and Keller [Chem. Eng. Progr. 62(1), 68 (1966)] listed 10 different flood point definitions that have been used by different literature sources. A later survey (Kister and Gill, Proceedings of Chemeca 92, p. 1852, Canberra, Australia, 1992) listed twice that many. As Silvey and Keller pointed out, the existence of so many definitions puts into question what constitutes flooding in a packed tower, and at what gas rate it occurs. Symptoms used to identify flood in these definitions include appearance of liquid on top of the bed, excessive entrainment, a sharp rise in pressure drop, a sharp rise in liquid holdup, and a sharp drop in efficiency. The survey of Kister and Gill suggests that most flood point definitions describe the point of flooding initiation (incipient flooding; point C or C' on Figs. 1453 and 1454). The different incipient flooding definitions gave surprisingly little scatter of flood point data (for a given packing under similar operating conditions). It follows that any definition describing flooding initiation should be satisfactory.
The author believes that due to the variations in the predominant symptom with the system and the packing, the use of multiple symptoms is most appropriate. The author prefers the following definition
Liquid Inlet
Liquid Distributor
Packed Bed (Structured Packing)
Liquid Distributor
Packed Bed (Random Packing)
Column Sump
FIG. 1451 Illustrative cutaway of a packed tower, depicting an upper bed of structured packing and a lower bed of random packing. (Courtesy of Sulzer Chemtech.)
by Fair and Bravo [Chem. Eng. Symp. Ser. 104, A183 (1987)]: "A region of rapidly increasing pressure drop with simultaneous loss of mass transfer efficiency. Heavy entrainment is also recognized as a symptom of this region." An almost identical definition was presented earlier by Billet (Distillation Engineering, Chem. Publishing Co., New York, 1979).
The maximum operational capacity or throughput (often also referred to as maximum efficient capacity) is defined (Strigle, Packed Tower Design and Applications, 2d ed., Gulf Publishing, Houston, Tex., 1994) as the "Maximum vapor rate that provides normal efficiency of a packing" (i.e., point B in Fig. 1454). The MOC is clearcut in Fig. 1454. On the other hand, locating the MOC in other cases is difficult and leaves a lot of room for subjectivity.
Triangular cross section
FIG. 1452 Crimp geometry in structured packings. (a) Flow channel cross section. (b) Flow channel arrangement. (From J. R. Fair and J. L. Bravo, Chem. Eng. Progr., Jan. 1990, p. 19; reproduced courtesy of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.)
In most cases, [Kister and Gill, Chem. Eng. Progr. 87(2), 32 (1991)], the velocity at which MOC is reached is related to the flood point velocity by us.MOC = 0.95 us_fl (14139)
Flood and Pressure Drop Prediction The first generalized correlation of packedcolumn flood points was developed by Sherwood, Shipley, and Holloway [Ind. Eng. Chem., 30, 768 (1938)] on the basis of laboratory measurements primarily on the airwater system with random packing. Later work with air and liquids other than water led to modifications of the Sherwood correlation, first by Leva [Chem. Eng. Progr. Symp. Ser., 50(1), 51 (1954)], who also introduced the pressure drop curves, and later in a series of papers by Eckert. The generalized floodingpressure drop chart by Eckert [Chem. Eng. Progr. 66(3), 39 (1970)], included in previous editions of this handbook, was modified and simplified by Strigle (Packed Tower Design and Applications, 2d ed., Gulf Publishing, Houston, Tex., 1994) (Fig. 1455). It is often called the generalized pressure drop correlation (GPDC). The ordinate is a capacity parameter [Eq. (14140)] related to the SoudersBrown coefficient used for tray columns.
CP = CsFp°5v 0 05 = uj pG Y'50e5va05 (14140) p V Pl  Pg / p where US = superficial gas velocity, ft/s pG, pL = gas and liquid densities, lb/ft3 or kg/m3
log gas rote
FIG. 1453 Pressuredrop characteristics of packed columns.
log gas rote
FIG. 1453 Pressuredrop characteristics of packed columns.
FIG. 1451 Illustrative cutaway of a packed tower, depicting an upper bed of structured packing and a lower bed of random packing. (Courtesy of Sulzer Chemtech.)
FIG. 1452 Crimp geometry in structured packings. (a) Flow channel cross section. (b) Flow channel arrangement. (From J. R. Fair and J. L. Bravo, Chem. Eng. Progr., Jan. 1990, p. 19; reproduced courtesy of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.)
Fp = packing factor, ft1 V = kinematic viscosity of liquid, cS
C'S = Cfactor, Eq. (1477), based on tower superficial cross
sectional area, ft/s CP = capacity factor, dimensional [units consisted with Eq. (14140) and its symbols]
The abscissa scale term is the same flow parameter used for tray (dimensionless):
For structured packing, Kister and Gill [Chem. Eng. Symp. Ser. 128, A109 (1992)] noticed a much steeper rise of pressure drop with flow parameter than that predicted from Fig. 1455, and presented a modified chart (Fig. 1456).
The GPDC charts in Figs. 1455 and 1456 do not contain specific flood curves. Both Strigle and Kister and Gill recommend calculating the flood point from the flood pressure drop, given by the Kister and Gill equation
Equation (14142) permits finding the pressure drop curve in Fig. 1455 or 1456 at which incipient flooding occurs.
For lowcapacity random packings, such as the small firstgeneration packings and those smaller than 1in diameter (Fp > 60 ft1), calculated flood pressure drops are well in excess of the upper pressure drop curve in Fig. 1455. For these packings only, the original Eckert flood correlation [Chem. Eng. Prog. 66(3), 39 (1970)] found in pre1997 editions of this handbook and other major distillation texts is suitable.
The packing factor Fp is empirically determined for each packing type and size. Values of Fp, together with general dimensional data for individual packings, are given for random packings in Table 1413 (to go with Fig. 1455) and for structured packings in Table 1414 (to go with Fig. 1456).
Packing flood and pressure drop correlations should always be used with caution. Kister and Gill [Chem. Eng. Progr., 87(2), 32 (1991)] showed that deviations from the GPDC predictions tend to be systematic and not random. To avoid regions in which the systematic deviations lead to poor prediction, they superimposed experimental data points for each individual packing on the curves of the GPDC. Figure 1457 is an example. This method requires a single chart for each packing type and size. It provides the highest possible accuracy as it interpolates measured data and identifies uncertain regions. A set of charts is in Chapter 10 of Kister's book (Distillation Design, McGrawHill, New York, 1992) with
FIG. 1455 Generalized pressure drop correlation of Eckert as modified by Strigle. To convert inches H2O to mm H2O, multiply by 83.31. (From Packed Tower Design and Applications by Ralph E. Strigle, Jr. Copyright © 1994 by Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, Texas. Used with permission. All rights reserved.)
FIG. 1455 Generalized pressure drop correlation of Eckert as modified by Strigle. To convert inches H2O to mm H2O, multiply by 83.31. (From Packed Tower Design and Applications by Ralph E. Strigle, Jr. Copyright © 1994 by Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, Texas. Used with permission. All rights reserved.)
updates in Kister, Lason, and Gill, Paper presented at the AIChE Spring National Meeting, Houston, Tex., March 1923, 1995; and in Kister, Scherffius, Afshar, and Abkar, in Distillation 2007: Topical Conference Proceedings, 2007 AIChE Spring National Meeting, Houston, Texas. The latter reference also discusses correct and incorrect applications of those interpolation charts.
There are many alternative methods for flood and pressure drop prediction. The Billet and Schultes [IChemE Symp. Ser. 104, pp. A171 and B255 (1987)] and the Mackowiak ("Fluiddynamik von Kolonnen mit Modernen Füllkorpern und Packungen für Gas/Flussigkeitssysteme," Otto Salle Verlag, Frankfurt am Main und Verlag Sauerländer Aarau, Frankfurt am Main, 1991) correlations are versions of the GPDC that take the liquid holdup into account. The Eiden and Bechtel correlation [IChemE Symp. Ser. 142, p. 757 (1997)] is a version of the GPDC in which accuracy is improved by using constants representative of packing shape instead of packing factors. The Lockett and Billingham correlation (IChemE Symp. Ser. 152, p. 400, London, 2006) uses a Wallis correlation where cG + mcL = cu
and was shown to work well for highsurfacearea (>400 m2/m3) structured packings. Here CG is the gas Cfactor, Eq. (1477), based on the tower superficial crosssectional area, and m and CLG are constants, available from the cited reference for some packing.
A drawback of most of these correlations (except that of Eiden and Bechtel) is the unavailability of constants for many, often most, of the modern popular packings.
The above methods apply to nonfoaming systems. Foaming systems can be handled either by applying additional derating (system) factors to the flood correlation (see Table 149) or by limiting the calculated pressure drop to 0.25 in of water per foot of packing (Hausch, "Distillation Tools for the Practicing Engineer," Topical Conference Proceedings, p. 119, AIChE Spring Meeting, New Orleans, March 1014, 2002).
Pressure Drop The GPDC discussed above (Figs. 1455 and 1456) and the Kister and Gill interpolation charts provide popular methods for calculating packing pressure drops. An alternative popular method that is particularly suitable for lower liquid loads was presented by Robbins (below).
For gas flow through dry packings, pressure drop may be estimated by use of an orifice equation. For irrigated packings, pressure drop increases because of the presence of liquid, which effectively decreases the available cross section for gas flow (Fig. 1453). In principle, there should be a method for correcting the dry pressure drop for the presence of liquid. This approach was used by Leva [Chem. Eng. Progr. Symp. Ser. No. 10, 50, 51 (1954)]. A more recent method by Robbins [Chem. Eng. Progr., p. 87 (May 1991)] utilizes the same approach and is described here. The total pressure drop is
where APt = total pressure drop, inches H2O per foot of packing
APl = pressure drop due to liquid presence
Gf = gas loading factor = 986Fs(Fp/20)«5 (14148)
Lf = liquid loading factor = L(62.4/pL)(Fp/20)<154L1 (14149)
The term Fpd is a dry packing factor, specific for a given packing type and size. Values of Fpd are given in Tables 1413 and 1414. For operating pressures above atmospheric, and for certain packing sizes, Lf and G/ are calculated differently:
L{ = L(62.4/Pl)(V2°)°W2 Lf = L(62.4/pL)(2°/Fpd)°5^L1
(1415°) Fpd > 2°° (14151«) Fpd < 15 (141516)
The Robbins equations require careful attention to dimensions. However, use of the equations has been simplified through the introduction of Fig. 1458. The terms Lf and Gf are evaluated, and the APL is obtained directly from the chart. Basic nomenclature for the Robbins method follows:
Fpd = dry packing factor, ft1
Fs = superficial Ffactor for gas, U.pf, ft/s(lb/ft3)05 G = gas mass velocity, lb/hrft2 Gf = gas loading factor, lb/hrft2 L = liquid mass velocity, lb/hrft2 Lf = liquid loading factor, lb/hrft2 AP = pressure drop, inches H2O/ft packing (x 83.3 = mm H2O/m packing)
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