- Flash evaporation
Flash (or partial)
evaporationis the partial vaporizationthat occurs when a saturated liquid stream undergoes a reduction in pressure by passing through a throttling valve or other throttling device. This process is one of the simplest unit operations. If the throttling valve or device is located at the entry into a pressure vesselso that the flash evaporation occurs within the vessel, then the vessel is often referred to as a flash drum.
If the saturated liquid is a single-component liquid (for example, liquid
propaneor liquid ammonia), a part of the liquid immediately "flashes" into vapor. Both the vapor and the residual liquid are cooled to the saturation temperatureof the liquid at the reduced pressure. This is often referred to as "auto-refrigeration" and is the basis of most conventional vapor compression refrigerationsystems.
If the saturated liquid is a multi-component liquid (for example, a mixture of
propane, isobutaneand normal butane), the flashed vapor is richer in the more volatile components than is the remaining liquid.
Flash evaporation of a single-component liquid
The flash evaporation of a single-component liquid is an isenthalpic (i.e., constant
enthalpy) process and is often referred to as an adiabatic flash. The following equation, derived from a simple heat balance around the throttling valve or device, is used to predict how much of a single-component liquid is vaporized.
:"X = 100 ( HuL – HdL ) ÷ ( HdV – HdL )"
If the enthalpy data required for the above equation is unavailable, then the following equation may be used.
:"X = 100 · cp ( Tu – Td ) ÷ Hv"
( Note: The words "upstream" and "downstream" refer to before and after the liquid passes through the throttling valve or device.)
This type of flash evaporation is used in the
desalinationof brackish water or ocean water by " Multi-Stage FlashDistillation." The water is heated and then routed into a reduced-pressure flash evaporation "stage" where some of the water flashes into steam. This steam is subsequently condensed into salt-free water. The residual salty liquid from that first stage is introduced into a second flash evaporation stage at a pressure lower than the first stage pressure. More water is flashed into steam which is also subsequently condensed into more salt-free water. This sequential use of multiple flash evaporation stages is continued until the design objectives of the system are met. A large part of the world's installed desalination capacity uses multi-stage flash distillation. Typically such plants have 24 or more sequential stages of flash evaporation.
Equilibrium flash of a multi-component liquid
The equilibrium flash of a multi-component liquid may be visualized as a simple
distillationprocess using a single equilibrium stage. It is very different and more complex than the flash evaporation of single-component liquid. For a multi-component liquid, calculating the amounts of flashed vapor and residual liquid in equilibrium with each other at a given temperature and pressure requires a trial-and-error iterative solution. Such a calculation is commonly referred to as an equilibrium flash calculation. It involves solving the "Rachford-Rice equation":Curtis H. Whitson, Michael L. Michelsen, "The Negative Flash", Fluid Phase Equilibria, 53 (1989) 51–71.]
* "zi" is the mole fraction of component "i" in the feed liquid (assumed to be known);
* "β" is the fraction of feed that is vaporised;
* "Ki" is the equilibrium constant of component "i".
The equilibrium constants "Ki" are in general functions of many parameters, though the most important is arguably temperature; they are defined as:
* "xi" is the mole fraction of component "i" in liquid phase;
* "yi" is the mole fraction of component "i" in gas phase.
Once the Rachford-Rice equation has been solved for "β", the compositions "xi" and "yi" can be immediately calculated as:
The Rachford-Rice equation can have multiple solutions for "β", only one of which guarantees that all "xi" and "yi" will be positive. In particular, it will be the only "β" for which:
It is possible to use
Newton's methodfor solving the above Rachford-Rice equation, but there is a risk of converging to the wrong value of "β"; it is important to initialise the solver to a sensible initial value, such as ("βmax"+"βmin")/2 (which is however not sufficient: Newton's method makes no guarantees on stability), or, alternatively, use a bracketing solver such as the bisection methodor the Brent method, which are guaranteed to converge but can be slower.
The equilibrium flash of multi-component liquids is very widely utilized in petroleum refineries,
petrochemicaland chemical plants and natural gas processingplants.
Spray dryingis the rapid drying of a slurryof very small solids suspended in a liquid. The slurry is first atomized into very small liquid droplets which are then sprayed into a stream of hot dry air. The liquid rapidly evaporates leaving behind dry powder or dry solid granules. The dry powder or solid granules are recovered from the exhaust air by using cyclones, bag filters or electrostatic precipitators.
A brief explanation of spray drying has been included here because some readers may consider spray drying to be a form of flash evaporation. However, although it is a form of liquid evaporation, it is quite different from flash evaporation.
* [http://www.tlv.com/global/US/steam-theory/flash-steam-and-vapor.html Vapor and Flash Steam] Animation, photos and technical explanation of the difference between Flash Steam and Vapor.
* [http://www.spiraxsarco.com/resources/steam-engineering-tutorials/condensate-recovery/flash-steam.asp Flash Steam Tutorial] The benefits of recovering flash steam, how it is done and typical applications.
* [http://www.escwa.org.lb/information/publications/edit/upload/tech-01-3-e.pdf Water Desalination Technologies] in the Middle East and Western Asia
* [http://www.niro.com/ndk_website/niro/cmsresources.nsf/filenames/spray-drying.pdf/$file/spray-drying.pdf Discussion of spray drying]
* [http://petrochemical.gronerth.com/flash_distillation_program_explorer.htm Flash evaporation program online] Flash distillation of the hydrocarbon compounds.
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