Distillation Columns & System Design

Industrial Distillation Systems

Designing an economical distillation system to achieve your desired separation requires an engineer experienced in process equipment integration and proven scale-up.

EPIC’s process design, engineering and fabrication experts work with you to understand your separation needs, develop a detailed 3D model, and fabricate a custom distillation column to meet your goals and your budget. Scale-up of separation processes is non-linear, and must be designed and implemented by qualified process engineers for:

  • Increased scale mechanical design
  • Sizing of each column
  • Selection of the proper equipment
  • Project management of process skid fabrication (to specification and tolerance)
  • Commissioning at production rates

Learn more about basic columns, batch distillation, or other advanced design techniques and contact EPIC today (314) 845-0077 to discuss your project.

View more distillation systems and plants in our photo gallery

distillation system design examples

Industrial Distillation columns: Specialized process equipment used to separate physical and chemical properties of a mixture, primarily utilize different boiling points. Industrial distillation equipment can take many approaches to separation, including; batch distillation, vacuum, fractional, steam, azeotropic, extractive distillation or solvent recovery methods.

Case Studies of Proven Industrial Distillation Columns

Pilot Scale System with Industrial Distillation Equipment Achieves 90% CO2 Sequestration

A modular distillation skid design allowed safe and timely off-site construction of a pilot-scale distillation skid. The pilot plant is testing an experimental new technology for CO2 removal from power plant flue (or exhaust) gas. CO2 was removed from flue gas in a two-step distillation process with solvent reclamation. Read the full CO2 Sequestration from Coal Fired Flue Gas case study…

Key Features: Modular skid weighing 39,000 lbs and standing 51 feet tall, dual packed distillation units, DeltaV DCS, Class 1, Div 1

A Dual Skid Continuous Distillation System Provides Compact Solution

A two-part design was developed for an ethanol extraction system that needed to fit into a small space as part of EPIC’s turnkey responsibility process.  Overall project timeline shortened due to on-site upgrades and skid fabrication progressing in tandem. The finished “plug and play” skid was delivered as two separate framed pieces to the client site and successfully navigated to the installation spot. Continue to the Innovative Distillation Skid Design case study…

Key Features: Two distillation units, reflux loops, hot oil system, heat exchanger, hydrotesting, FEA analysis, vacuum pump system to lower required energy inputs.

Client Testimonials

“I have had the pleasure to work with EPIC on numerous successful jobs, and I’ve been impressed with their team of process engineers and skilled craftsmen. They are adept at achieving specified separations through column sizing and process modeling. Quality and customer service are clearly priorities for EPIC, and I recommend them for any distillation project” – Industrial Distillation Systems Consultant Expert & former Senior Fellow at Solutia/Monsanto

Industrial Distillation Column Process Types

EPIC has special expertise with multi-scale industrial columns and systems. Our engineers have broad knowledge across different types of batch and continuous distillation including:

    • Vacuum distillation – This form of distillation relies on the basic principle that boiling occurs when vapor pressure exceeds ambient pressure for a liquid. The pressure above the liquid being distilled is reduced via vacuum to below its vapor pressure, causing it to boil and rise through the column. This may or may not require heating.
    • Fractional distillation – Distillation process where chemical components are separated into “fractions” based on their properties. The most common method is to heat the liquid to a specific temperature that causes several components to evaporate.
    • Azeotropic distillation – Distillation systems where an “entrainer” is added in order to break an azeotrope. The entrainer additive causes the other substances present to separate into immiscible liquids.
    • Steam distillation – Used for temperature sensitive materials or materials that begin eroding at sustained high temperatures. By adding water or steam to the distillation process, the boiling temperatures of the other substances are brought down, allowing lower temperatures to be used.
    • Extractive distillation – Type of distillation where a solvent is introduced to the mixture which changes the relative volatilities of the other substances, allowing them to be separated through normal distillation methods. This is used when two substances have a very similar boiling point.
    • Solvent Recovery Systems – While distillation is not the only process used for solvent recovery, it is one of the most common ones. Solvent reclamation can be achieved with absorption, evaporation, distillation, liquid extraction, precipitation, crystallization, and other separation unit operations. EPIC’s process engineers are well-versed in solvent recovery systems and can help you design a custom application to recycle solvent or recover it for further use. Contact an engineer today to discuss your needs.

These methods of distillation may be used individually or in tandem to achieve the desired result. For example, if a material is extremely sensitive to temperature, steam distillation may used along with vacuum distillation in one column to distill the mixture.

Distillation may also be completed in sequential steps, utilizing several columns and multiple types of industrial distillation equipment. EPIC works with you, based off your test data, to determine the best separation method for your product. Check out our examples of proven industrial distillation columns, or contact us to get started.


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Distillation Column Design Check



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