Modeling and in-depth analysis of the start-up of dividing-wall columns
Saving potentials of up to 30% in capital and operating costs are the driving forces behind the increase in the application of dividing-wall columns in industry. However, a lack of knowledge still exists when dealing with the start-up of dividing-wall columns, which is inherently a strongly nonlinear process. Here, for the first time the start-up of dividing-wall columns is explored, where the starting point is an empty column at ambient conditions. A model is presented which is capable of predicting the dynamic discrete-continuous changes which are characteristic of dividing-wall columns. The proposed process model takes into account the heat transfer across the dividing wall as well as the vapor distribution below the dividing wall. The degree of accuracy of the model is clearly determined by comparing different simplifications, e.g. a constant vapor distribution ratio equal to the steady-state value. The detailed studies were carried out with strict product specifications so that the influence of process parameters could be quantified. The rigorous process model and the obtained simulation results presented in this study provide a promising basis for developing and applying optimal start-up policies for dividing-wall columns. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.