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Cooling Towers: Design and Operation Considerations

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Cooling towers are a very important part of many chemical plants. They represent a
relatively inexpensive and dependable means of removing low grade heat from cooling

Figure 1: Closed Loop Cooling Tower System

The make-up water source is used to replenish water lost to evaporation. Hot water
from heat exchangers is sent to the cooling tower. The water exits the cooling tower and
is sent back to the exchangers or to other units for further cooling.

Types of Cooling Towers

Cooling towers fall into two main sub-divisions: natural draft and mechanical draft.
Natural draft designs use very large concrete chimneys to introduce air through the
media. Due to the tremendous size of these towers (500

ft high and 400 ft in diameter at the base) they are generally

used for water flowrates above 200,000 gal/min. Usually
these types of towers are only used by utility power stations in the United States.
Mechanical draft cooling towers are much more widely used. These towers utilize large
fans to force air through circulated water. The water falls downward over fill surfaces
which help increase the contact time between the water and the air. This helps maximize
heat transfer between the two.

Types of Mechanical Draft Towers

Figure 2: Mechanical Draft Counterflow Tower Figure 3: Mechanical Draft Crossflow Tower

Mechanical draft towers offer control of cooling rates in their fan diameter and speed of
operation. These towers often contain several areas (each with their own fan) called

Cooling Tower Theory

Heat is transferred from water drops to the surrounding air by the transfer of sensible
and latent heat.
Figure 4: Water Drop with Interfacial Film

This movement of heat can be modeled with a relation known as the Merkel Equation:


KaV/L = tower characteristic
K = mass transfer coefficient (lb water/h ft2)
a = contact area/tower volume
V = active cooling volume/plan area
L = water rate (lb/h ft2)
T1 = hot water temperature (0F or 0C)
T2 = cold water temperature (0F or 0C)
T = bulk water temperature (0F or 0C)
hw = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at bulk water temperature
(J/kg dry air or Btu/lb dry air)
ha = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at wet bulb temperature
(J/kg dry air or Btu/lb dry air)

Thermodynamics also dictate that the heat removed from the water must be equal to
the heat absorbed by the surrounding air:


L/G = liquid to gas mass flow ratio (lb/lb or kg/kg)
T1 = hot water temperature (0F or 0C)
T2 = cold water temperature (0F or 0C)
h2 = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at
exhaust wet-bulb temperature (same units as
h1 = enthalpy of air-water vapor mixture at
inlet wet-bulb temperature (same units as above)

The tower characteristic value can be calculated by solving Equation 1 with the
Chebyshev numberical method:


Figure 5: Graphical Representation of Tower Characteristic

The following represents a key to Figure 5:

C' = Entering air enthalpy at wet-bulb temperature, Twb
BC = Initial enthalpy driving force
CD = Air operating line with slope L/G
DEF = Projecting the exiting air point onto the water operating line and then onto the
temperature axis shows the outlet air web-bulb temperature

As shown by Equation 1, by finding the area between ABCD in Figure 5, one can find
the tower characteristic. An increase in heat load would have the following effects on the
diagram in Figure 5:
1. Increase in the length of line CD, and a CD line shift to the right
2. Increases in hot and cold water temperatures
3. Increases in range and approach areas
The increased heat load causes the hot water temperature to increase considerably
faster than does the cold water temperature. Although the area ABCD should remain
constant, it actually decreases about 2% for every 10 0F increase in hot water temperature
above 100 0F. To account for this decrease, an "adjusted hot water temperature" is usd in
cooling tower design.

Figure 6: Graph of Adjusted Hot Water Temperatures

The area ABCD is expected to change with a change in L/G, this is very key in the
design of cooling towers.

Cooling Tower Design

Although KaV/L can be calculated, designers typically use charts found in the Cooling
Tower Institute Blue Book to estimate KaV/L for given design conditions. It is important
to recall three key points in cooling tower design:
1. A change in wet bulb temperature (due to atmospheric conditions) will not
change the tower characteristic (KaV/L)
2. A change in the cooling range will not change KaV/L
3. Only a change in the L/G ratio will change KaV/L

Figure 7: A Typical Set of Tower Characteristic Curves

The straight line shown in Figure 7 is a plot of L/G vs KaV/L at a constant airflow.
The slope of this line is dependent on the tower packing, but can often be assumed to be
-0.60. Figure 7 represents a typical graph supplied by a manufacturer to the purchasing
company. From this graph, the plant engineer can see that the proposed tower will be
capable of cooling the water to a temperature that is 10 0F above the wet-bulb
temperature. This is another key point in cooling tower design.
Cooling towers are designed according to the highest geographic wet bulb
temperatures. This temperature will dictate the minimum performance available by the
tower. As the wet bulb temperature decreases, so will the available cooling water
temperature. For example, in the cooling tower represented by Figure 7, if the wet bulb
temperature dropped to 75 0F, the cooling water would still be exiting 10 0F above this
temperature (85 0F) due to the tower design.
Below is the summary of steps in the cooling tower design process in industry. More
detail on these steps will be given later.
1. Plant engineer defines the cooling water flowrate, and the inlet and outlet water
temperatures for the tower.
2. Manufacturer designs the tower to be able to meet this criteria on a "worst case
scenario" (ie. during the hottest months). The tower characteristic curves and the
estimate is given to the plant engineer.
3. Plant engineer reviews bids and makes a selection

Design Considerations
Once a tower characteristic has been established between the plant engineer and the
manufacturer, the manufacturer must design a tower that matches this value. The
required tower size will be a function of:
1. Cooling range
2. Approach to wet bulb temperature
3. Mass flowrate of water
4. Web bulb temperature
5. Air velocity through tower or individual tower cell
6. Tower height
In short, nomographs such as the one shown on page 12-15 of Perry's Chemical
Engineers' Handbook 6th Ed. utilize the cold water temperature, wet bulb temperature,
and hot water temperature to find the water concentration in gal/min ft2. The tower area
can then be calculated by dividing the water circulated by the water concentration.
General rules are usually used to determine tower height depending on the necessary time
of contact:

Approach to Wet Bulb (0F) Cooling Range (0F) Tower Height (ft)
15-20 25-35 15-20
10-15 25-35 25-30
5-10 25-35 35-40

Other design characteristics to consider are fan horsepower, pump horsepower, make-
up water source, fogging abatement, and drift eliminators.

Operation Considerations

Water Make-up
Water losses include evaporation, drift (water entrained in discharge vapor), and
blowdown (water released to discard solids). Drift losses are estimated to be between 0.1
and 0.2% of water supply.

Evaporation Loss = 0.00085 * water flowrate(T1-T2) (5)

Blowdown Loss = Evaporation Loss/(cycles-1) (6)
where cycles is the ratio of solids in the circulating water to the
solids in the make-up water
Total Losses = Drift Losses + Evaporation Losses + Blowdown Losses (7)
Cold Weather Operation
Even during cold weather months, the plant engineer should maintain the design water
flowrate and heat load in each cell of the cooling tower. If less water is needed due to
temperature changes (ie. the water is colder), one or more cells should be turned off to
maintain the design flow in the other cells. The water in the base of the tower should be
maintained between 60 and 70 0F by adjusting air volume if necessary. Usual practice is
to run the fans at half speed or turn them off during colder months to maintain this
temperature range.

You can download a small DOS program that will calculate the tower characteristic or
cold water temperature for a given tower based on a few inputs. Download here!


1. The Standard Handbook of Plant Engineering, 2nd Edition, Rosaler, Robert C.,
McGraw-Hill, New York, 1995

2. Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook, 6th Edition, Green, Don W. et al, McGraw-
Hill, New York, 1984

Experienced-Based Rules of Chemical Engineering

Your about to read an award winning article.

This article won the 2000 Beychok-Montemayor
Award here at The Chemical Engineers' Resource

Updated Fall of 2002 (New Additions in Blue)

Experience is typically what turns a good engineer into a great engineer. An engineer
that can look at a pipe and a flowmeter and guess the pressure drop within 5%. Someone
who can at least estimate

the size of a vessel without doing any calculations. When I think of such rules, two
authors come to my mind, Walas and Branan. Dr. Walas' book, Chemical Process
Equipment: Selection and Design has been widely used in the
process industry and in chemical engineering education for
years. Mr. Branan has either helped write or edit numerous
books concerning this topic. Perhaps his most popular is Rules of Thumb for Chemical
Engineers. Here, I'll share some of these rules with you along with some of my own.
Now, be aware that these rules are for estimation and are not necessary meant to replace
rigorous calculations when such calculations should be performed. But at many stages of
analysis and design, these rules can save you hours and hours. As always, if you have
some shortcuts that you'd like to add to the list, email them to me and I'll add them on.
You can also download this page as an Excel 97 file here (updated). New Note: Thanks
to Leopoldo Cabieses, we now have the Excel spreadsheet available in Spanish.
Download the spanish version here.

Physical Properties

Property Units Water Organic Liquids Steam Air Organic Vapors

Heat Capacity KJ/kg 0C 4.2 1.0-2.5 2.0 1.0 2.0-4.0

Btu/lb 0F 1.0 0.239-0.598 0.479 0.239 0.479-0.958
Density kg/m3 1000 700-1500 1.29@STP
lb/ft3 62.29 43.6-94.4 0.08@STP
Latent Heat KJ/kg 1200-2100 200-1000
Btu/lb 516-903 86-430
Thermal Cond. W/m 0C 0.55-0.70 0.10-0.20 0.025-0.070 0.025-0.05 0.02-0.06
Btu/h ft 0F 0.32-0.40 0.057-0.116 0.0144-0.040 0.014-0.029 0.116-0.35
Viscosity cP 1.8 @ 0 0C **See Below 0.01-0.03 0.02-0.05 0.01-0.03
0.57 @ 50 0C
0.28 @ 100 0C
0.14 @ 200 0C
1-15 10-1000 1.0 0.7 0.7-0.8

** Viscosities of organic liquids vary widely with temperature

Liquid density varies with temperature by:

Gas density can be calculated by:

Boiling Point of Water as a Function of Pressure:

Tbp (°C) = (Pressure (MPa) x (1x109))0.25

Materials of Construction
Material Advantage Disadvantage
Very poor resistance to acids and
Low cost, easy to fabricate, abundant, most
stronger alkaline streams. More brittle
Carbon Steel common material. Resists most alkaline
than other materials, especially at low
environments well.
Relatively low cost, still easy to fabricate.
No resistance to chlorides, and
Resist a wider variety of environments than
Stainless Steel resistance decreases significantly at
carbon steel. Available is many different
higher temperatures.
Moderate cost, still easy to fabricate.
Little resistance to chlorides, and
Resistance is better over a wider range of
254 SMO (Avesta) resistance at higher temperatures
concentrations and temperatures compared
could be improved.
to stainless steel.
Very good resistance to chlorides (widely
While the material is moderately
used in seawater applications). Strength
Titanium expensive, fabrication is difficult. Much
allows it to be fabricated at smaller
of cost will be in welding labor.
Superior resistance to chlorides, even at
higher temperatures. Is often used on sea Very expensive material and fabrication
Pd stabilized Titanium
water application where Titanium's is again difficult and expensive.
resistance may not be acceptable.

Very good resistance to high temperature Moderate to high expense. Difficult to

caustic streams. weld.

Very wide range to choose from. Some

Fairly expensive alloys. Their use must
Hastelloy Alloy have been specifically developed for acid
be justified. Most are easy to weld.
services where other materials have failed.

Brittle, very expensive, and very

difficult to fabricate. Some stream
One of the few materials capable of
Graphite components have been know to
withstanding weak HCl streams.
diffusion through some types of

Superior resistance to very harsh services Extremely expensive, must be

where no other material is acceptable. absolutely necessary.

Cooling Towers
A. With industrial cooling towers, cooling to 90% of the ambient air saturation
level is possible.
B. Relative tower size is dependent on the water temperature approach to the wet
bulb temperature:
5 2.4
15 1.0
25 0.55
C. Water circulation rates are generally 2-4 GPM/sq. ft (81-162 L/min m2) and air
velocities are usually 5-7 ft/s
(1.5-2.0 m/s)
D. Countercurrent induced draft towers are the most common. These towers are
capable of cooling to within 2 °F
(1.1 °C) of the wet bulb temperature. A 5-10 °F (2.8-5.5 °C) approach is more
E. Evaporation losses are about 1% by mass of the circulation rate for every 10 °F
(5.5 °C) of cooling. Drift losses are around 0.25% of the circulation rate. A
blowdown of about 3% of the circulation rate is needed to prevent salt and
chemical treatment buildup.

A. Pneumatic conveyors are best suited for high capacity applications over
distances of up to about 400 ft. Pneumatic conveying is also appropriate for
multiple sources and destinations. Vacuum or low pressure (6-12 psig or 0.4 to
0.8 bar) is used for generate air velocities from 35 to 120 ft/s (10.7-36.6 m/s). Air
requirements are usually in the range of 1 to 7 cubic feet of air per cubic foot of
solids (0.03 to 0.5 cubic meters of air per cubic meter of solids).
B. Drag-type conveyors (Redler) are completed enclosed and suited to short
distances. Sizes range from 3 to 19 inches square (75 to 480 mm). Travel
velocities can be from 30 to 250 ft/min (10 to 75 meters/min). The power
requirements for these conveyors is higher than other types.
C. Bucket elevators are generally used for the vertical transport of sticky or
abrasive materials. With a bucket measuring 20 in x 20 in (500 mm x 500 mm),
capacities of 1000 cubic feet/hr (28 cubic meters/hr) can be reached at speeds of
100 ft/min (30 m/min). Speeds up to 300 ft/min (90 m/min) are possible.
D. Belt conveyors can be used for high capacity and long distance transports.
Inclines up to 30° are possible. A 24 in (635 mm) belt can transport 3000 cu. ft./h
(85 cu m/h) at speeds of 100 ft/min (30.5 m/min). Speeds can be as high as 600
ft/min (183 m/min). Power consumption is relatively low.
E. Screw conveyors can be used for sticky or abrasive solids for transports up to
150 ft (46 m). Inclines can be up to about 20°. A 12 in (305 mm) diameter screw
conveyor can transport 1000-3000 cu. ft./h (28-85 cu. m/h) at around 40-60 rpm.

A. During most crystallizations, C/Csat (concentration/saturated concentration) is
kept near 1.02 to 1.05
B. Crystal growth rates and crystal sizes are controlled by limiting the degree of
C. During crystallization by cooling, the temperature of the solution is kept 1-2 °F
(0.5-1.2 °C) below the saturation point at the given concentration.
D. A generally acceptable crystal growth rate is 0.10 - 0.80 mm/h
Drivers and Power Recovery
A. Efficiencies: 85-95% for motors, 40-75% for steam turbines, 28-38% for gas
engines and turbines.
B. Electric motors are nearly always used for under 100 HP (75 kW). They are
available up to 20,000 HP (14,915 kW).
C. Induction motors are most popular. Synchronous motors have speeds as low as
150 rpm at ratings above 50 HP (37.3 kW) only. Synchronous motors are good for
low speed reciprocating compressors.
D. Steam turbines are seldom used below 100 HP (75 kW). Their speeds can be
controlled and they make good spares for motors in case of a power failure.
E. Gas expanders may be justified for recovering several hundred horsepower. At
lower recoveries, pressure let down will most likely be through a throttling valve.

Drying of Solids
A. Spray dryer have drying times of a few seconds. Rotary dryers have drying
times ranging from a few minutes to up to an hour.
B. Continuous tray and belt dryers have drying times of 10-200 minutes for
granular materials or 3-15 mm pellets.
C. Drum dryers used for highly viscous fluids use contact times of 3-12 seconds
and produce flakes 1-3 mm thick. Diameters are generally 1.5-5 ft (0.5 - 1.5 m).
Rotation speeds are 2-10 rpm and the maximum evaporation capacity is around
3000 lb/h (1363 kg/h).
D. Rotary cylindrical dryers operate with air velocities of 5-10 ft/s (1.5-3 m/s), up
to 35 ft/s (10.5 m/s). Residence times range from 5-90 min. For initial design
purposes, an 85% free cross sectional area is used. Countercurrent design should
yield an exit gas temperature that is 18-35 °F (10-20 °C) above the solids
temperature. Parallel flow should yield an exiting solids temperature of 212 °F
(100 °C). Rotation speeds of 4-5 rpm are common. The product of rpm and
diameter (in feet) should be 15-25.
E. Pneumatic conveying dryers are appropriate for particles 1-3 mm in diameter
and in some cases up to 10 mm. Air velocities are usually 33-100 ft/s (10-30
m/s). Single pass residence time is typically near one minute. Size range from 0.6-
1.0 ft (0.2-0.3 m) in diameter by 3.3-125 ft (1-38 m) in length.
F. Fluidized bed dryers work well with particles up to 4.0 mm in diameter.
Designing for a gas velocity that is 1.7-2 times the minimum fluidization velocity is
good practice. Normally, drying times of 1-2 minutes are sufficient in continuous

Drum Type Vessels

A. Liquid drums are usually horizontal. Gas/Liquid separators are usually vertical
B. Optimum Length/Diameter ratio is usually 3, range is 2.5 to 5
C. Holdup time is 5 minutes for half full reflux drums and gas/liquid separators
Design for a 5-10 minute holdup for drums feeding another column
D. For drums feeding a furnace, a holdup of 30 minutes is a good estimate
E. Knockout drum in front of compressors should be designed for a holdup of
10 times the liquid volume passing per minute.
F. Liquid/Liquid separators should be designed for settling velocities of 2-3 inches/min
G. Gas velocities in gas/liquid separators, velocity = k (liquid density/(vapor density-1))^0.5,
where k is 0.35 with horizontal mesh
deentrainers and 0.167 with vertical
mesh deentrainers. k is 0.1 without
mesh deentrainers and velocity is in
H. A six inch mesh pad thickness is very popular for such vessels
I. For positive pressure separations, disengagement spaces of 6-18 inches before the mesh pad and 12 inches after the
pad are generally suitable.

Electric Motors and


A. Efficiencies range from 85-95% for electric motors, 42-78% for steam turbines
28-38% for gas engines and turbines
B. For services under 75 kW (100 hp), electric motors are almost always used.
They can be used for services up to about 15000 kW (20000 hp)
C. Turbines can be justified in services where they will yield several hundred
horsepowers. Otherwise, throttle valves are used to release pressure.
D. A quick estimate of the energy available to a turbine is given by:

where: Delta H = Actual available energy, Btu/lb

Cp = Heat Capacity at constant pressure, Btu/lb 0F
T1 = Inlet temperature, 0R
P1 = Inlet pressure, psia
P2 = Outlet pressure, psia
K = Cp/Cv

A. Most popular types are long tube vertical with natural or forced circulation.
Tubes range from 3/4" to 2.5"
(19-63 mm) in diameter and 12-30 ft (3.6-9.1 m) in length.
B. Forced circulation tube velocities are generally in the 15-20 ft/s (4.5-6 m/s)
C. Boiling Point Elevation (BPE) as a result of having dissolved solids must be
accounted for in the differences between the solution temperature and the
temperature of the saturated vapor.
D. BPE's greater than 7 °F (3.9 °C) usually result in 4-6 effects in series (feed-
forward) as an economical solution. With smaller BPE's, more effects in series are
typically more economical, depending on the cost of steam.
E. Reverse feed results in the more concentrated solution being heated with the
hottest steam to minimize surface area. However, the solution must be pumped
from one stage to the next.
F. Interstage steam pressures can be increased with ejectors (20-30% efficient) or
mechanical compressors (70-75% efficient).

A. Initially, processes are classified according to their cake buildup in a laboratory
vacuum leaf filter :
0.10 - 10.0 cm/s (rapid), 0.10-10.0 cm/min (medium), 0.10-10.0 cm/h (slow)
B. Continuous filtration methods should not be used if 0.35 sm of cake cannot be
formed in less than 5 minutes.
C. Belts, top feed drums, and pusher-type centrifuges are best for rapid filtering.
D. Vacuum drums and disk or peeler-type centrifuges are best for medium
E. Pressure filters or sedimenting centrifuges are best for slow filtering.
F. Cartridges, precoat drums, and sand filters can be used for clarification duties
with negligible buildup.
G. Finely ground mineral ores can utilize rotary drum rates of 1500 lb/dat ft2
(7335 kg/day m2) at 20 rev/h and 18-25 in Hg (457-635 mm Hg) vacuum.
H. Course solids and crystals can be filtered at rates of 6000 lb/day ft2 (29,340
kg/day m2) at 20 rev/h and 2-6 in Hg (51-152 mm Hg) vacuum.

Mixing and Agitation

A. Mild agitation results from superficial fluid velocities of 0.10-0.20 ft/s (0.03-
0.06 m/s). Intense agitation results from velocities of 0.70-1.0 ft/s (0.21-0.30 m/s).
B. For baffled tanks, agitation intensity is measured by power input and impeller
tip speeds:
Power Requirements Tip Speeds
HP/1000 gal kW/m3 ft/s m/s
Blending 0.2-0.5 0.033-0.082 ----- ----
0.5-1.5 0.082-0.247 7.5-10.0 2.29-3.05
Reaction w/
1.5-5.0 0.247-0.824 10.0-15.0 3.05-4.57
Heat Transfer
5.0 0.824 15.0-20.0 4.57-6.09
5.0-10.0 0.824-1.647 15.0-20.0 4.57-6.09
Slurries 10.0 1.647 ----- ----
C. Various geometries of an agitated tank relative to diameter (D) of the vessel
Liquid Level = D
Turbine Impeller Diameter = D/3
Impeller Level Above Bottom = D/3
Impeller Blade Width = D/15
Four Vertical Baffle Width = D/10
D. For settling velocities around 0.03 ft/s, solids suspension can be accomplished
with turbine or propeller impellers. For settling velocities above 0.15 ft/s, intense
propeller agitation is needed.
E. Power to mix a fluid of gas and liquid can be 25-50% less than the power to mix
the liquid alone.

Pressure and Storage

Pressure Vessels
A. Design Temperatures between -30 and 345 °C (-22 to 653 °F) is typically about
25 °C (77 °F) above maximum operating temperature, margins increase above this range
B. Design pressure is 10% or 0.69 to 1.7 bar (10 to 25 psi) above the maximum operating
pressure, whichever is greater. The maximum operating pressure is taken as 1.7 bar (25 psi)
above the normal operation pressure.
C. For vacuum operations, design pressures are 1 barg (15 psig) to full vacuum
D. Minimum thicknesses for maintaining tank structure are:
6.4 mm (0.25 in) for 1.07 m (42 in) diameter and under
8.1 mm (0.32 in) for 1.07-1.52 m (42-60 in)
9.7 mm (0.38 in) for diameters over 1.52 m (60 in)
E. Allowable working stresses are taken as 1/4 of the ultimate strength of the material
F. Maximum allowable working stresses:
Temperature -20 to 650 °F 750 °F 850 °F 1000 °F
-30 to 345 °C 400 °C 455 °C 540 °C
CS SA203 18759 psi 9950 psi 2500 psi
1290 bar 686 bar 273 bar
302 SS 18750 psi 15950 psi 6250 psi
1290 bar 1100 bar 431 bar
G. Thickness based on pressure and radius is given by:

where pressure is in psig, radius in inches, stress in psi, corrosion allowance in inches.
**Weld Efficiency can usually be taken as 0.85 for initial design work
H. Guidelines for corrosion allowances are as follows: 0.35 in (9 mm) for known corrosive fluids,
0.15 in (4 mm) for non-corrosive fluids, and 0.06 in (1.5 mm) for steam drums and air receivers.

Storage Vessels
I. For less than 3.8 m3 (1000 gallons) use vertical tanks on
J. Between 3.8 m3 and 38 m3 (1000 to 10,000 gallons) use horizontal tanks on concrete supports
K. Beyond 38 m3 (10,000 gallons) use vertical tanks on concrete pads
L. Liquids with low vapor pressures, use tanks with floating roofs.
M. Raw material feed tanks are often specified for 30 days feed supplies
N. Storage tank capacity should be at 1.5 times the capacity of mobile supply vessels.
For example, 28.4 m3 (7500 gallon) tanker truck, 130 m3 (34,500 gallon) rail cars

A. Liquid lines should be sized for a velocity of (5+D/3) ft/s and a pressure
drop of
2.0 psi/100 ft of pipe at pump discharges
At the pump suction, size for (1.3+D/6) ft/s and a pressure drop of 0.4 psi/100 ft of pipe
**D is pipe diameter in inches
B. Steam or gas lines can be sized for 20D ft/s and pressure drops of 0.5 psi/100 ft of pipe
C. Limits on superheated, dry steam or gas line should be 61 m/s (200 ft/s) and a pressure
drop of 0.1 bar/100 m or 0.5 psi/100 ft of pipe. Saturated steam lines should be limited to 37
m/s (120 ft/s) to avoid erosion.
D. For turbulent flow in commercial steel pipes, use the following:

E. For two phase flow, an estimate often used is Lockhart and Martinelli:
First, the pressure drops are calculated as if each phase exist alone in the pipe, then
F. Control valves require at least 0.69 bar (10 psi) pressure drop for sufficient control
G. Flange ratings include 10, 20, 40, 103, and 175 bar (150, 300, 600, 1500, and 2500 psig)
H. Globe valves are most commonly used for gases and when tight shutoff is required. Gate valves
are common for most other services.
I. Screwed fitting are generally used for line sizes 2 inches and smaller. Larger connections should
utilize flanges or welding to eliminate leakage.
J. Pipe Schedule Number = 1000P/S (approximate) where P is the internal pressure rating in psig and
S is the allowable working stress of the material is psi. Schedule 40 is the most common.


A. Power estimates for pumping liquids:

kW=(1.67)[Flow (m3/min)][Pressure drop (bar)]/Efficiency
hp=[Flow (gpm)][Pressure drop (psi)]/1714 (Efficiency)
**Efficiency expressed as a fraction in these relations
B. NPSH=(pressure at impeller eye-vapor pressure)/(density*gravitational constant)
Common range is 1.2 to 6.1 m (4-20 ft) of liquid
C. An equation developed for efficiency based on the GPSA Engineering Data Book is:
Efficiency = 80-0.2855F+.000378FG-.000000238FG^2+.000539F^2-.000000639(F^2)G+
where Efficiency is in fraction form, F is developed head in feet, G is flow in GPM
Ranges of applicability are F=50-300 ft and G=100-1000 GPM
Error documented at 3.5%
D. Centrifugal pumps: Single stage for 0.057-18.9 m3/min (15-5000 GPM), 152 m (500
maximum head; For flow of 0.076-41.6 m3/min (20-11,000 GPM) use multistage, 1675 m (5500 ft)
maximum head; Efficiencies of 45% at 0.378 m3/min (100 GPM), 70% at 1.89 m3/min (500 GPM),
80% at 37.8 m3/min (10,000 GPM).
E. Axial pumps can be used for flows of 0.076-378 m3/min (20-100,000 GPM)
Expect heads up to 12 m (40 ft) and efficiencies of about 65-85%
F. Rotary pumps can be used for flows of 0.00378-18.9 m3/min (1-5000 GPM)
Expect heads up to 15,200 m (50,000 ft) and efficiencies of about 50-80%
G. Reciporating pumps can be used for 0.0378-37.8 m3/min (10-100,000
Expect heads up to 300,000 m (1,000,000 ft).
Efficiencies: 70% at 7.46 kW (10 hp), 85% at 37.3 kW (50 hp), and 90% at 373 kW (500

Compressors and Vacuum Equipment

A. The following chart is used to determine what type of compressor is to be used:

B. Fans should be used to raise pressure about 3% (12 in water), blowers to raise to less than 2.75 barg (40 psig),
and compressors to higher pressures.
C. The theoretical reversible adiabatic power is estimated by:
Power = m z1 R T1 [({P2 / P1}a - 1)] / a
T1 is the inlet temperature, R is the gas constant, z1 is the compressibility, m is the molar flow rate,
a = (k-1)/k , and k = Cp/Cv
D. The outlet for the adiabatic reversible flow, T2 = T1 (P2 / P1)a
E. Exit temperatures should not exceed 204 0C (400
F. For diatomic gases (Cp/Cv = 1.4) this corresponds to a compression ratio of about 4
G. Compression ratios should be about the same in each stage for a multistage unit,
the ratio = (Pn / P1) 1/n, with n stages.
H. Efficiencies for reciprocating compressors are as follows:
65% at compression ratios of 1.5
75% at compression ratios of 2.0
80-85% at compression ratios between 3 and 6
I. Efficiencies of large centrifugal compressors handling 2.8 to 47 m3/s (6000-100,000 acfm) at suction is about 76-78%
J. Reciprocating piston vacuum pumps are generally capable of vacuum to 1 torr absolute, rotary piston types can achieve
vacuums of 0.001 torr.
K. Single stage jet ejectors are capable of vacuums to 100 torr absolute, two stage to 10 torr, three stage to 1 torr, and five
stage to 0.05 torr.
L. A three stage ejector requires about 100 lb steam/lb air to maintain a pressure of 1 torr.
M. Air leakage into vacuum equipment can be approximated as follows:
Leakage = k V(2/3)
where k =0.20 for P >90 torr, 0.08 for 3 < P < 20 torr, and 0.025 for P < 1 torr
V = equipment volume in cubic feet
Leakage = air leakage into equipment in lb/h

Heat Exchangers

A. For the heat exchanger equation, Q = UAF (LMTD), use F = 0.9 when charts for the LMTD correction
factor are not available
B. Most commonly used tubes are 3/4 in. (1.9 cm) in outer diameter on a 1 in triangular spacing at 16 ft (4.9 m) long.
C. A 1 ft (30 cm) shell will contains about 100 ft2 (9.3 m2)
A 2 ft (60 cm) shell will contain about 400 ft2 (37.2 m2)
A 3 ft (90 cm) shell will contain about 1100 ft2 (102 m2)
D. Typical velocities in the tubes should be 3-10 ft/s (1-3 m/s) for liquids and30-100 ft/s (9-30 m/s) for gases
E. Flows that are corrosive, fouling, scaling, or under high pressure are usually placed in the tubes
F. Viscous and condensing fluids are typically placed on the shell side.
G. Pressure drops are about 1.5 psi (0.1 bar) for vaporization and 3-10 psi (0.2-0.68 bar) for other services
H. The minimum approach temperature for shell and tube exchangers is about 20 °F (10 °C) for fluids and
10 °F (5 °C) for refrigerants.
I. Cooling tower water is typically available at a maximum temperature of 90 °F (30 °C) and should be
returned to the tower no higher than 115 °F (45 °C)
J. Shell and Tube heat transfer coefficient for estimation purposes can be found in many reference books
or an online list can be found at one of the two following addresses:
K. Double pipe heat exchangers may be a good choice for areas from 100 to 200 ft2 (9.3-18.6 m2)
L. Spiral heat exchangers are often used to slurry interchangers and other services containing solids
M. Plate heat exchanger with gaskets can be used up to 320 °F (160 °C) and are often used for interchanging
duties due to their high efficiencies and ability to "cross" temperatures. More about compact heat exchangers
can be found at:

Tray Towers

A. For ideal mixtures, relative volatility can be taken as the ratio of pure component vapor pressures
B. Tower operating pressure is most often determined by the cooling medium in condenser or the
maximum allowable reboiler temperature to avoid degradation of the process fluid
C. For sequencing columns:
1. Perform the easiest separation first (least trays and lowest reflux)
2. If relative volatility nor feed composition vary widely, take products off one at time
as the overhead
3. If the relative volatility of components do vary significantly, remove products in order
of decreasing volatility
4. If the concentrations of the feed vary significantly but the relative volatility do not,
remove products in order of decreasing concentration.
D. The most economic reflux ratio usually is between 1.2Rmin and 1.5Rmin
E. The most economic number of trays is usually about twice the minimum number of trays.
The minimum number of trays is determined with the Fenske-Underwood Equation.
F. Typically, 10% more trays than are calculated are specified for a tower.
G. Tray spacings should be from 18 to 24 inches, with accessibility in mind
H. Peak tray efficiencies usually occur at linear vapor velocities of 2 ft/s (0.6 m/s) at moderate pressures,
or 6 ft/s (1.8 m/s) under vacuum conditions.
I. A typical pressure drop per tray is 0.1 psi (0.007 bar)
J. Tray efficiencies for aqueous solutions are usually in the range of 60-90% while gas absorption and
stripping typically have efficiencies closer to 10-20%
K. The three most common types of trays are valve, sieve, and bubble cap. Bubble cap trays are
typically used when low-turn down is expected or a lower pressure drop than the valve or sieve
trays can provide is necessary.
L. Seive tray holes are 0.25 to 0.50 in. diameter with the total hole area being about 10% of the total
active tray area.
M. Valve trays typically have 1.5 in. diameter holes each with a lifting cap. 12-14 caps/square foot
of tray is a good benchmark. Valve trays usually cost less than seive trays.
N. The most common weir heights are 2 and 3 in and the weir length is typically 75% of the tray diameter
O. Reflux pumps should be at least 25% overdesigned
P. The optimum Kremser absorption factor is usually in the range of 1.25 to 2.00
Q. Reflux drums are almost always horizontally mounted and designed for a 5 min holdup at half of the
drum's capacity.
R. For towers that are at least 3 ft (0.9 m) is diameter, 4 ft (1.2 m) should be added to the top for vapor
release and 6 ft (1.8 m) should be added to the bottom to account for the liquid level and reboiler return
S. Limit tower heights to 175 ft (53 m) due to wind load and foundation considerations.
T. The Length/Diameter ratio of a tower should be no more than 30 and preferrably below 20
U. A rough estimate of reboiler duty as a function of tower diameter is given by:
Q = 0.5 D2 for pressure distillation
Q = 0.3 D2 for atmospheric distillation
Q = 0.15 D2 for vacuum distillation
where Q is in Million Btu/hr and D is tower diameter in feet

Packed Towers
A. Packed towers almost always have lower pressure drop than comparable tray towers.
B. Packing is often retrofitted into existing tray towers to increase capacity or separation.
C. For gas flowrates of 500 ft3/min (14.2 m3/min) use 1 in (2.5 cm) packing, for gas flows
of 2000 ft3/min (56.6 m3/min) or more, use 2 in (5 cm) packing
D. Ratio of tower diameter to packing diameter should usually be at least 15
E. Due to the possibility of deformation, plastic packing should be limited to an unsupported
depth of 10-15 ft (3-4 m) while metallatic packing can withstand 20-25 ft (6-7.6 m)
F. Liquid distributor should be placed every 5-10 tower diameters (along the length) for pall rings
and every 20 ft (6.5 m) for other types of random packings
G. For redistribution, there should be 8-12 streams per sq. foot of tower area for tower larger than
three feet in diameter. They should be even more numerous in smaller towers.
H. Packed columns should operate near 70% flooding.
I. Height Equivalent to Theoretical Stage (HETS) for vapor-liquid contacting is 1.3-1.8 ft
(0.4-0.56 m) for 1 in pall rings and 2.5-3.0 ft (0.76-0.90 m) for 2 in pall rings
J. Design pressure drops should be as follows:
Service Pressure drop (in water/ft packing)
Absorbers and Regenerators
Non-Foaming Systems 0.25 - 0.40
Moderate Foaming Systems 0.15 - 0.25
Fume Scrubbers
Water Absorbent 0.40 - 0.60
Chemical Absorbent 0.25 - 0.40
Atmospheric or Pressure Distillation 0.40 - 0.80
Vacuum Distillation 0.15 - 0.40
Maximum for Any System 1.0

**For packing factors and more on packed column design see:

Packed Column Design


A. The rate of reaction must be established in the laboratory and the residence time or space velocity

will eventually have to be determined in a pilot plant.

B. Catalyst particle sizes: 0.10 mm for fluidized beds, 1 mm in slurry beds, and 2-5 mm in fixed
C. For homogeneous stirred tank reactions, the agitor power input should be about
0.5-1.5 hp/1000 gal (0.1-0.3 kW/m3), however, if heat is to be transferred,
the agitation should be about three times these amounts.
D. Ideal CSTR behavior is usually reached when the mean residence time is 5-10 times
the length needed to achieve homogeneity. Homogeneity is typically reached with
500-2000 revolutions of a properly designed stirrer.
E. Relatively slow reactions between liquids or slurries are usually conducted most
economically in a battery of 3-5 CSTR's in series.
F. Tubular flow reactors are typically used for high productions rates and when the
residence times are short. Tubular reactors are also a good choice when significant
heat transfer to or from the reactor is necessary.
G. For conversion under 95% of equilibrium, the reaction performance of a 5 stages
CSTR approaches that of a plug flow reactor.
H. Typically the chemical reaction rate will double for a 18 °F (10 °C) increase in
I. The reaction rate in a heterogeneous reaction is often controlled more by the rate of
heat or mass transfer than by chemical kinetics.
J. Sometimes, catalysts usefulness is in improving selectivity rather than increasing
the rate of the reaction.

Refrigeration and Utilities

A. A ton of refrigeration equals the removal of 12,000 Btu/h (12,700 kJ/h) of heat
B. For various refrigeration temperatures, the following are common refrigerants:
Temp (°F) Temp (°C) Refrigerant
0 to 50 -18 to -10 Chilled brine or glycol
-50 to -40 -45 to -10 Ammonia, freon, butane
-150 to -50 -100 to -45 Ethane, propane
C. Cooling tower water is received from the tower between 80-90 °F (27-32 °C)
and should be returned between 115-125 °F (45-52 °C) depending on the size
of the tower. Seawater should be return no higher than 110 °F (43 °C)
D. Heat transfer fluids used: petroleum oils below 600 °F (315 °C), Dowtherms
or other synthetics below 750 °F (400 °C), molten salts below 1100 °F (600 °C)
E. Common compressed air pressures are: 45, 150, 300, and 450 psig
F. Instrument air is generally delivered around 45 psig with a dewpoint 30 °F below the coldest
expected ambient temperature.