Hydrocarbon Compression

Archive for the ‘Tower Pressure’ Category

Seal Pans Downcomer

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The downcomer from the bottom tray is submerged in a seal pan (see Fig. 8.3), to preserve its downcomer seal. I always set the horizontal dimension between the over-flow lip of the seal pan, (dimension y) the downcomer at four inches, so I never have to worry about restricting liquid flow from the bottom tray. This horizontal dimension should be equal to or greater than the vertical clearance between the downcomer and the seal pan floor (dimension ? which is typically, two to three inches). If a deformation of the downcomer reduces the horizontal clearance between the seal pan overflow lip, and the downcomer, the resulting restriction can cause the bottom tray to flood due to downcomer back-up. If the bottom tray floods, flooding will progress up the column. With time, the entire column will flood due to the small restriction in the seal pan. That’s why a detailed trayby-tray inspection is important.

seal pan Seal Pans Downcomer

Written by Jack

April 30th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

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Shear Clips

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If a tower has a history of tray deck damage due to pressure surge or high liquid level, the mechanical integrity of the trays should be upgraded. This is done by the use of shear clips, as shown in Fig. 8.4. The use of shear clips is not the best way to improve the mechanical integrity of trays but it is the only effective method to use during a turnaround, when no other plans have been made to mechanically upgrade the tray decks and time is short.

Underneath the tray, where the tray panels are bolted together, there is a narrow vertical strip of steel which is called the integral truss. This truss is not connected to the tray ring. Referring to Fig. 8.4, a small steel bar (4 in by 2 in by 0.25 in) is welded or bolted to the end of the integral truss. This bar is the shear clip which is inserted underneath the tray ring. (Do not weld the shear clip to the tray ring.) When an upward surge of vapor pushes the tray up, the force is transmitted along the length of the integral truss, through the shear clip, to the tray ring, and thus to the vessel wall. Many large diameter towers will already have shear clips. But if your inspection indicates they are not present and tray failure has been a problem, the installation of shear clips is the way to go for three reasons:

• The job can usually be done in 24 hours, while other tower work continues.
• The shear clips can be cut from ordinary 0.25 in carbon steel plate.
• Experience proves they are effective in resisting moderate pressure surges.

sear clips Shear Clips

Written by Jack

April 30th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Tower Pressure

Tower Final Inspection

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At a Gulf Coast refinery, the reboiler thermosyphon circulation could not be reestablished after a turnaround. The tower was reopened and a lessthan-alive contract employee was found stuck in the reboiler draw-off nozzle. At the Good Hope Refinery (when I was the technical manager), we once left a complete scaffold (poles, boards, everything) in the bottom of a debutanizer tower. Rags, hard hats, plywood, and especially plastic bags left in packed columns should be removed from inside draw sumps and downcomers. I know it’s rough on the knees, but crawl across every tray and look into each downcomer. One lost flashlight in a small downcomer may flood every tray in the tower. A rag caught on a vortex breaker in a jet fuel draw box has caused a complete refinery shutdown.

Check the tray clips, tray panels, and downcomer bolting bars. At least the nuts and bolts should be finger-tight. If you find a single loose nut, insist that every nut on that tray be retightened. I will check the tray clips and 10 percent of the downcomer bolting bar nuts for finger-tight.

Written by Jack

April 30th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

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Tower Internal Manways

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Contract maintenance workers often will not replace the tray manways unless the tray manway is adjacent to a tower external manway. They reason that once the tray manways that are visible from the tower manway are closed, there is no way for someone to inspect the other trays. This problem is not just common—it is universal. The maintenance force at the Good Hope Refinery pulled this nasty trick on me at the coker fractionator. Equipped with my crescent wrench, I opened the tray internal manway below the side tower manway. I discovered that the 12 trays below this point had their manways stacked in their downcomers. In 1990, I worked on a project to improve fractionation at the Chevron Refinery crude distillation unit in El Segundo, California. When the tower was opened to implement my design, the tray manways were found lying on the tray decks below the diesel draw tray. The lesson is, inspect each tray and then witness the closure of each tray manway, separately.

Written by Jack

April 30th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

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Inlet Weirs

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Most trays have outlet weirs devoted to maintaining the downcomer seal. But some trays have inlet weirs too, or inlet weirs, but no outlet weirs. A sketch of an inlet weir is shown in Fig. 8.2. Note the horizontal distance between the downcomer and the inlet weir (dimension x). This distance ought to be equal to or greater than the downcomer clearance—that is, the vertical space between the tray floor and the bottom edge of the downcomer. Unfortunately, a small deformation of the downcomer may push the downcomer quite close to the inlet weir. The resulting reduction in the horizontal clearance between the inlet weir and the downcomer will restrict the liquid flow. This will cause downcomer backup and tray flooding of the trays above.

inlet weirs Inlet Weirs

Often, there is no process reason for the use of inlet weirs, especially at higher liquid rates. Then, the inlet weirs may be removed. But some tray types, such as “Exxon Jet Tab,” trays or total trap-out chimney trays with no outlet weir, absolutely require the use of inlet weirs.

Written by Jack

March 29th, 2011 at 9:22 am

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Improper Downcomer Clearance

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The bottom edge of the downcomer from the tray above should be 0.25 to 0.5 in below the top edge of the weir of the tray below. This is called a positive downcomer seal. Without a positive downcomer seal, vapor will flow up the downcomer and displace the downflowing liquid. This will cause flooding due to excessive downcomer backup.

On the other hand, if the bottom of the downcomer is too close to the tray below, then the “head loss under the downcomer” will be excessive. Typically, a minimum downcomer clearance is 1.5 to 2 in. Too small a downcomer clearance will result in restricting the liquid flow from the downcomer. This will also cause excessive downcomer backup and flooding. Check the correct downcomer clearance on the vender tray drawings prior to the tower inspection.

Written by Jack

March 29th, 2011 at 9:19 am

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Loss of Downcomer Seal Due to Leaks

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The vertical edges to the downcomers are bolted to bars welded to the vessel wall. These are called, “downcomer bolting bars.” Gaskets are often used to tightly seal the edge of the tray downcomer to these bars. If the bolts are loose or if the gaskets are missing, vapor will blow into the downcomer and displace the descending liquid. Downcomer backup and flooding may result.

The area underneath the downcomer is called the downpour area. If a tray deck corrodes, it often first holes through in the downpour area. This will cause flooding due to downcomer back-up.

The bottom edge of the downcomer will be somewhat flexible in larger diameter towers. If the width of the tower is less than 5 ft, then the downcomer bolting bars prevent flexing of the bottom edge of the downcomer. However, if the width of the downcomer is over 5 or 6 ft, then downcomer bracing brackets (see Fig. 8.1) are required. The bottom edge of the downcomer should be immobilized by attachment to the bolting bar or bracing bracket every 4 to 5 ft, of downcomer width.

downcomer bracing Loss of Downcomer Seal Due to Leaks

Recall that the pressure outside the downcomer is slightly greater than the pressure inside the downcomer. Therefore, a force will push the downcomer toward the vessel wall and reduce the open area of the downcomer. This restriction promotes downcomer backup and flooding. Don’t expect to see this deformation of the downcomer during your inspection. Once the vapor flow through the tray stops, the downcomer will spring back to its design position.

Written by Jack

March 29th, 2011 at 9:15 am

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Tray Deck Levelness

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For smaller diameter towers a visual check of tray deck levelness is sufficient. For two-pass trays, a small diameter tower is less than 8 ft.

For single-pass trays, a diameter of less than 6 ft is small.For towers of 10 ft or more in diameter, check for out-of-levelness of a tray check using a carpenter’s laser level, available in hardware stores for about $40. Purchase a level that has short tripod legs. Use the bubble to level up the legs. Set the level on one end of the tower, and check the height of the red beam at the other end and at the center of the tray for out of levelness. As it is often dim and dusty in the tower, the trace of the red laser may be clearly visible. Low points and areas of the tray deck which are out of level can now be easily identified.

The more level the tray, the better the mixing efficiency between vapor and the liquid. Certainly, if the tray out-of-levelness is greater than the height of the weir, tray efficiency will be badly degraded.

Checking for weir out-of-levelness is easy. Set the laser level on the edge of the weir. Using the bubble glass level indicator, adjust the laser level to a true horizontal position. The line of red light compared to the top of the weir will indicate how much of the weir is out of level. A weir that is more than 0.5 in out of level should be re-adjusted. If it is not, stagnant liquid pools behind the higher section of the weir, as described in the prior chapter, will result and ruin the tray‘s efficiency.

Written by Jack

March 29th, 2011 at 9:10 am

Posted in Tower Pressure

Internal Reflux Evaporation

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The tray temperatures in our preflash tower, shown in Fig. 6.4, drop as the gas flows up the tower. Most of the reduced sensible-heat content of the flowing gas is converted to latent heat of evaporation of the downflowing reflux. This means that the liquid flow, or internal reflux rate, decreases as the liquid flows down the column. The greater the temperature drop per tray, the greater the evaporation of internal reflux. It is not unusual for 80 to 90 percent of the reflux to evaporate between the top and bottom trays in the absorption section of many towers. We say that the lower trays in the absorption section of such a tower are “drying out.” The separation efficiency of trays operating with extremely low liquid flows over their weirs will be very low. This problem is commonly encountered for towers with low reflux ratios and a multi component overhead product composition.

crude preflash Internal Reflux Evaporation

Written by Jack

January 24th, 2011 at 10:36 am

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Conversion of Sensible Heat to Latent Heat

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When we raise the top reflux rate to our preflash tower, the tower-top temperature goes down. This is a sign that we are washing out from the upflowing vapors more of the heavier or higher-molecular-weight components in the overhead product. Of course, that is why we raised the reflux rate. So the reduction in tower-top temperature is good.

But what happened to the sensible-heat content (the heat represented by the temperature) of the vapors leaving the tower? As the vapor is cooler, the sensible-heat content decreased. Where did this heat go?

A small part of the heat was picked up by the extra liquid draining from the top tray. This extra liquid comes from the extra reflux. But the liquid flow through the tower is too small to carry away much heat. The main reason why the vapors leaving the top tray are cooler is vaporization; in other words, the sensible-heat content of the flowing vapors is converted to latent heat of vaporization.

But what is vaporizing? The reflux, of course. The sensible-heat content of the vapors, which is reduced when the reflux rate is increased, is converted to latent heat as the vapors partially vaporize the incremental reflux flow.

As the reflux rate is raised, the weight flow of vapor through the top tray, and to a lesser extent through all the trays below (except for the bottom tray), increases. This increase in the weight flow of vapor occurs even though the external heat input to the preflash tower is constant. The weight flow of vapor to the bottom tray is presumed to be solely a function of the pounds of vapor in the feed.

Written by Jack

January 24th, 2011 at 10:33 am

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