A cryogenic distillation column

A high-pressure cryogenic distillation column which replicates a key component of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant has been developed in Australia.
A high-pressure cryogenic distillation column replicating a key component of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant has been developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the University of Western Australia (UWA).

According to Nick Burke, research scientist at CSIRO, even if cryogenic distillation is already practised in industry, some gaps remain when it comes to high pressures. The pilot plant will help to fill these gaps and better understand the fundamentals of distillation in temperature and pressure regions not previously explored.

The column measures 2 metres in height and 50 millimetres in diameter. It can operate at temperatures as low as -70 °C and pressures as high as 50 bars, with modifications enabling operation at up to 100 bars. Lower temperatures could be obtained thanks to a reflux condenser made by the CSIRO.

The aim of the pilot plant is to separate heavier hydrocarbons from natural gas prior to its transformation into LNG. Nick Burke stated: "We can test different column internals and can operate under conditions that would not be considered in commercial facilities. In other words, we can push the limits of cryogenic distillation without the threat of deleterious process disturbances."

He added that other applications, such as air separation, CO2 removal or noble-gas enrichment, could benefit from high-pressure cryogenic distillation.

Source: Chemical Engineering.