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# SEPARATORS Gravity Settling The majority of the process vessels you see in your plant are gravity , vapor

- liquid separators . Their main purpose is to settle out droplets of entrained liquid from the up flowing gas . Factors that affect the settling rate of these droplets are Droplet size . Big droplets settle faster than little droplets . Contrary to that nonsense we were taught in school , cannon balls do drop faster then B B s -------- if one accounts for the resistance of air ( B B s are small spheres of lead shot used in air guns ) . Density of vapor . The less dense the vapor the faster the droplet settling rate . Density of liquid . The more dense the liquid droplets , the faster the droplet settling rate . Velocity of vapor . The slower the vertical velocity of the vapor , the faster the settling rate . Viscosity of the vapor . The lower the vapor viscosity , the faster the settling rate . Entrainment Due to Foam A light , frothy foam is naturally more susceptible to entrainment than is a clear , settled liquid . Knockout drums handling foam , therefore , should be designed for a lower K value . Perhaps the K value that can be tolerated might be reduced by 25 to 35 percent , in the anticipation of such foam . But foam may have a rather dramatic effect on entrainment , through a mechanism that is unrelated to vapor velocity . The problem I am referring to is high foam level . We already discussed this problem in Chap.7 , in the section devoted to level control . Figure 26.2 illustrates this problem . The level shown in the gauge glass is 18 in below the inlet nozzle . This is okay . But inside the drum , we have foam . The average density of the foam plus liquid in the drum might be 0.60 . The density of the clear liquid in the gauge glass is 0.80 . Referring back to the logic in Chap. 7 , the foam level in the tower is then 33 percent higher than the liquid level in the gauge glass . One this foam level rises above the feed inlet nozzle , the vapor in the feed blows the foam up the drum . A massive carryover of liquid ( or foam ) into the vapor line then results . I mentioned above that a small amount of mist carryover to a centrifugal compressor helped keep the rotor clean , and did no harm . Sudden slugs of liquid into the compressor inlet are another matter . They are likely to unbalance the rotor and cause substantial damage . If the compressor is a high - speed ( 10,000 - rpm ) , multistage machine , it is likely to be wrecked by a slug of liquid . Even a small surge of liquid entering a reciprocating compressor can be very bad . The intake valves are almost certain to be damaged . Typically , the valve plate will break . Water - Hydrocarbon Separations Figure 26.3 shows a reflux drum serving a distillation column . We have a reflux drum because The drum provides a few minutes of holdup for the overhead product and reflux . This prevents the reflux pump from losing suction, should the amount of liquid discharging from the pump briefly exceed the amount of liquid draining from the condenser . The reflux drum separates liquid and wet gas by gravity setting . A horizontal vapor - liquid separator

works in much the same way as the vertical K O drum . The horizontal usually want to separate water from the reflux stream , water . Why do we usually want to separate water from the reflux stream , shown in Fig.26.3 ? Same of the bad things that happen to the distillation tower , if water persistently entrains into the reflux are The distillation tray efficiency is reduced . The water may settle out on the hydrocarbon liquid on the tray . This reduces contact between the up flowing vapor and the down flowing , internal reflux . The tray may flood . Water and hydrocarbon mixing on the tray deck , stirred up by the flowing gas , creates on emulsion . The emulsion does not separate as readily as clear liquid from the gas . Premature down - comer backup , followed by tray deck flooding , result . Tray deck , down comer , and vessel wall corrosion is increased . Water conducts electricity a thousand times better than do liquid hydrocarbons , corrosion involves the transfer of electrons between steel and inorganic molecules , such as Hydrochloric acid to form ferric chlorides Hydrogen cyanide to from ferric cyanide Carbon dioxide to form iron carbonate Hydrogen sulfide to from iron bisulfide The water acts as a highway for the electrons ( the term electrons comes from the word electricity ) to move between these potentially corrosive molecules and the vessel wall . Water in reflux tends to get trapped in the tower , if the tower - bottom temperature is above the boiling point of water , at the tower's operating pressure . The water trickles down the tower and revaporizes off of the hot reboiler tubes . As the water may be saturated with corrosive salts and gases , reboiler tube corrosion can be rapid . In almost every petroleum refinery service , refluxing water is a quick route to reboiler tube leaks . Water setting and viscosity Water droplets settle out of a lighter liquid hydrocarbon phase because of gravity . The water is denser than the liquid hydrocarbons . Liquid droplets settle out of a lighter gas phase because of gravity . What is the difference ? The difference is viscosity . We neglected the effect on the gas viscosity when calculating the K value in K O drums . Gas viscosities are almost always very low . But liquid viscosities are extremely variable At a constant viscosity the settling rate of water in another liquid , due to gravity is proportional to ( Density of water ) - ( density of liquid the reflux drum ) For water settling out of gasoline in the reflux drum shown in Fig. 26.3 , the settling rate is between 1/2 and 1 ft / min . If a droplet of water has to fall through a layer of hydrocarbon 3 ft deep , it would take about 3 to 6 min. If the hydrocarbon is less dens and less viscous than gasoline ( like butane ) , the settling rate will be faster . If the hydrocarbon is more dense and more viscous than gasoline ( like diesel oil ) , settling time will be longer . The most neglected , but most important , feature of the reflux drum shown in Fig.26.3 is the riser , a

piece of pipe 4 to 12 in high , protruding from the bottom of the drum . You see , water settles to the bottom of the drum . The water then runs along the bottom of the drum into the water draw - off boot . Electric precipitators in mist removal Sulfuric acid production unit in Texas City , we had an electrostatic precipitator to remove a liquid sulfuric acid mist from a flowing gas stream . It worked in the same way as a precipitator in liquid - liquid service However , the electrodes or grids were not parallel plates . As illustrated in Fig.26.4 , the grids were lead tubes and lead - coated wires. The gas flowed through about four hundred 8 in lead tubes , arranged in parallel . It was rather like a single - pass , shell - and - tube heat exchanger ( see Chap.21 ) . This electric sulfuric acid - mist precipitator worked fine , until on of the lead coated wires inside the tubes broke . Then the entire precipitator would arc . This means , the amps would jump up and down , as the single broken wire flapped around inside the tube . I do not know why , but the wires failed only on weekends . Then your fearless author author would crawl inside the precipitator , and cut out the broken wire and plug the tube with a wooden plug . Static Coalescers A coalescer works in the same way as a demister , except that it is used to accelerate the removal of droplets of a heavier liquid from a flowing lighter liquid . An ordinary coalescer is shown in Fig.26.5 . This coalescer was used to remove entrained caustic from a flowing isobutane stream . The liquid isobutane would impact the coalescer pad at a velocity of 1 to 2 ft / min . The droplets of caustic , which have a higher surface tension than isobutane , would adhere to the surface of the coalescer fibers . As the caustic droplets grew bigger and heavier , they would drain down the fibers of the pad , and into the boot .

increasing Overhad Drum level for settling time may help. Additionally, decreasing Drum temp to improve phase separation between HCN and water. You should also be sure any wash water quality to MF overhead is constant, has not deteriorated, and is set at proper rate. There is a chance additional water flow may help to improve phase separation as well, although this goes against coventional thinking.