Side draw control design for a high purity multi-component distillation column

Isuru A. Udugama, M. T. Munir, Rob Kirkpatrick, Brent R. Young, Wei Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Industrial methanol production involves a multi component feed containing methanol, water and trace levels of ethanol being refined to produce AA grade methanol at high product recovery. Due to practical constraints, the bottoms discharge of the column is primarily water with only trace of methanol impurities. As a result of these constraints, ethanol, which is a non-key middle boiling component gets “trapped” near the side draw of the column forming an ethanol bulge, which in turn results in non-linear, inverse, time and state varying behaviour of the side draw ethanol composition. In this work, we established that the existence of the ethanol bulge creates the complex process behaviour of the side draw ethanol composition and that this bulge needs to be explicitly controlled. This type of explicit composition bulge analysis and subsequent control has not been attempted on methanol distillation columns before. For this purpose a novel, robust and practical side draw control scheme to detect and remedy the excess ethanol bulge movement using override control is presented. The side draw controller, together with other regulatory controllers is shown to maintain on-specification operations of the column. Disturbance rejection tests carried out illustrate that the side draw control scheme will keep the column operating within commercial specification. It is also shown that a traditional DV control structure is unable to achieve this objective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
JournalISA Transactions
Publication statusPublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


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