Separation processes are used in chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, gas separation, semi-conductor and other such industries. Separations can account for generally 40 - 70% of chemical plant costs (Humphrey and Keller, 1997).
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. Separation processes are also energy intensive. For example, in a typical refinery, about 2% of the incoming crude petroleum is used to supply energy of a crude distillation configuration that uses four distillation columns. 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%. 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. A special interest is also directed towards developing heat integration approaches in congruence with a separation process.
The overall goal of this research is to reduce energy consumptions of separation processes.