How to Properly Install Column Internals

Good column internal installation is vital for optimum tower performance, as well as trouble-free shutdowns. The mass transfer performance of a packed column is exceedingly dependent on the quality of the column internals. Optimal configuration to the tower packings as well as to the individual operating conditions demand comprehensive process engineering oversight.

The Dangers of Improperly Installed Column Internals

The importance of a properly installed column is under-appreciated in many cases. A poorly installed column can lead to inferior results. Permanent damage to the column may appear when the proper installation precautions are not taken before conditioning and use.

Data and subsequent correlations won’t accurately reflect the performance of the device being tested if a tray or packing isn’t properly installed. It is essential to have qualified personnel in order to install distillation equipment with the necessary care and skill to correctly measure performance. You or your contractor should be familiar with installing packing and trays, or else it is recommended to have a vendor’s representative on premises during installation. If not possible, the representative should at least perform inspections on critical items. AMACS has Field Advisors available to customers to oversee the installation of any of our process tower internals.

Before You Install Column Internals

You should ensure all parts are correct for items such as the tower’s internal diameter including its manways and nozzles. You should know its tangent to tangent dimensions, roundness, location of support rings and wall clips, levelness of rings and clips, and more.

Installation is immensely difficult for a tower that is out-of-round by more than the allowed trays. Out-of-roundness is most likely to happen in the nozzles and manways but can happen in other areas. You should be prepared for field modifications to some of the hardware when this occurs. Existing towers should also undergo the same pre-installation checks due to tower roundness changing over years of operations.

Installation, especially during turnarounds, can be expedited by having the required tower hardware available on the job site prior to installation. AMACS offers installation hardware for all mass transfer internals from any manufacturer. Hardware lockers can be delivered to the job-site during turnarounds to support inspection, cleaning and removal of existing trays and internals. For express delivery requirements during your emergency or planned shutdown, AMACS can provide hardware trailers, complete with stocked inventory of standard tray hardware, including valves, clamps and fasteners in most common materials such as Carbon Steel, 410 ss, 304L ss, and 316L ss on a consignment basis. Customers only pay for the hardware used.

Tips for Proper Installation of Column Packing

Whether random or structured, it is essential to have the proper five key elements for your packing:

  1. Support plate – They are multi-beam-type units that are generally set on a continuous support ring.
  2. Packing retainer – This is a device that holds the structured or random packing in place during upset conditions.
  3. Packing materials – They can be composed of metal, alloys, woven wires, cables, and other materials.
  4. Distributor – They provide an even flow of liquid across the top of the packed bed.
  5. Feed inlet device – These devices deliver vapor and liquid to mass transfer devices and come in mixed phase feeds, intermediate feed, and foam suppression types.

It is vital the support beams fit the support ring correctly to keep them from falling off the ring during vapor flow surges. It’s a good idea to clamp the support plate to the support ring. Ring levelness isn’t critical because the bed’s top can be leveled to maintain specified clearance between the liquid distributor and top of the packing.

Tips for Proper Installation of Column Trays

Each tray installation depends on the size, industry, and requirements of the column internal. However, proper installation usually begins by installing the expandable tray rings to ensure they are level. The rings are also sealed at the wall with gasketing. The tray ring should also be sealed in a way to prevent the liquid on the tray from leaking to the tray below. Commercial tower tray rings are generally seal-welded to the tower wall and do not need gasketing.

It is essential all trays are level for liquid to flow evenly across the tray deck whether in normal or cartridge trays. If not, capacity and tray efficiency are compromised. We also recommend laying out the trays outside the tower before installation to show how the trays are to be assembled.

AMACS is a recognized leader in the manufacture of process column internals, including packing, and trays. Feel free call or e-mail us with your requirements to get a quick response.