With rising energy prices and increased focus on efficiency, the synthesis and design of energy-efficient separation processes is a major challenge for a practicing engineer. All chemical industries require separation units to meet product quality, to recover harmful chemicals, etc. Quite often for a multicomponent separation, a sequence of separation devices based on distillation, membrane, adsorption, etc. are used. Some examples include crude petroleum distillation, ethylene recovery, gas separations, etc. However, all the separation processes are energy intensive. It is estimated that the separation processes account for 40 – 70% of chemical plant costs (Humphrey and Keller, 1997). The energy consumption of such separation processes is heavily dependent on how the separation devices are sequenced or configured. Suboptimal sequences are known to result in energy penalty in excess of 50% (Shah and Agrawal, 2010). Therefore, it is essential to develop easy-to-use methods that will identify optimal separation sequences leading to large energy savings.
Our research is aimed at developing a systematic approach to generate energy efficient separation schemes for several applications. We not only develop separation sequences of individual unit operations but also hybrid sequences containing different separation technologies. In addition to synthesis of novel separation schemes (Shah and Agrawal, 2010; Ramapriya et. al., 2017), we have also developed heat integration approaches for improving the energy efficiency of the given process (Shenvi et. al., 2012). Heat integration helps to utilize the available heat in a process to produce work rather than rejecting it, thereby leading to an improvement in efficiency. The aim of this research is to reduce energy consumption of various separation processes. Our goal is to provide easy-to-use tools for the synthesis of optimal separation process while considering all possible separation unit operations.