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Flooded Condenser Controls: Principles and Troubleshooting

By Henry Kister, Fluor Corp. |

Flooded condensers are the prime tower pressure-control methods for total condensers that generate only liquid products, and although these control methods can be troublesome, a good understanding of their principles will help achieve improved, trouble-free operations Pressure is the most important variable for controlling distillation columns (Figure 1) because pressure affects every aspect of a distillation system: vaporization, condensation, temperature, volatility and so on. An unsteady pressure typically results in an unsteady column. There are several ways to control tower pressure, depending on how the tower is configured. If a tower has an overhead vapor product, manipulating the vapor flowrate usually controls pressure. If the tower has no vapor product (it has a total condenser and produces only liquid), tower pressure can be controlled by partially flooding the condenser and manipulating the liquid level in the condenser. Another alternative for either vapor or liquid products is to manipulate the coolant flowrate (or temperature) to control the tower pressure. Coolant manipulation is popular in refrigerated towers, but is usually avoided in cooling-water condensers, as it can cause accelerated fouling and corrosion. …
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