Process Systems & Pilot Plants

Fractional Distillation

fractional distillation columnAre you looking to separate two or more substances? By taking advantage of different vapor points of substances within your mixture, EPIC’s distillation experts can design a distillation system to pull one or more products off your base mixture. Fractional distillation, sometimes referred to as simply distillation, is a common separation technique for many substances, including: industrial chemicals, crude oil, ethanol and water, water based solutions, and more.

EPIC’s distillation scale-up team will take your separation goals, budget and process considerations and use advanced simulation methods and our proven engineering approach to find an optimal system design.  Once a finalized design is approved, our skilled craftsmen will build a complete modular distillation system for your plant.

Start your project today by contacting an engineer about our proven engineering methods or call (314) 845-0077.

Proven Project Example: Fractional Distillation

91% Ethanol Separation Achieved with Modular Distillation System

distillation system 2D designA dual distillation column system, designed as a modular system, to separate ethanol from water using a fractional column. A reflux system is included to maximize separation by recycling distillate to the column for a cleaner separation. The modular system design minimized interruption to existing operations for the client, and allowed easier installation of the new ethanol separation system. Full case study…

Key Features: Dual fractionation distillation column design, hot oil evaporation system, reflux loops, hydrotesting, FEA analysis, vacuum pump integrated design

Client Testimonial

“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” – Dr. Terry Tolliver, Distillation Consultant Expert and former Senior Fellow at Solutia/Monsanto

Fractional Distillation Basics

example of fractional distillation with crude oilFractionating distillation takes advantage of differences in vapor pressures among substances in a mixture to achieve separation. As mixtures rise in a fractionating column, substances separate on molecular weight, and specific mixtures (aka fractions) can be pulled out of the column at different heights.

A common example of this type of distillation is the separation of crude oil. As crude oil is heated and rises in a column, heavy oils are pulled off near the bottom of the column, while gasoline and kerosene are pulled out higher in the column.

An outline of steps are as follows:

  1. A mixture containing substances with different vapor pressures and molecular weights is heated.
  2. Components with lower boiling points (vapor pressures) will evaporate and rise in the column
  3. As evaporation picks up steam (no pun intended), substances with higher molecular weights will condense back into liquids and fall down the column as “rain”. When a fractionating column is running at production, vapor will simultaneously be rising while liquid is falling throughout the column, maximizing contact between molecules and separation efficiency.
  4. Vapor or liquid reaching certain points in the column, or simply the top of the column, are pulled out of the column as a fraction. If the fraction contains vapor, the vapor will be condensed back into a liquid. These fractions are the end-products separated out from the original mixture.

To read a more in-depth example, check out our blog post on how fractional distillation works.

Get a Custom Distillation System: Next Steps

  1. Have a basic outline of your process technology and accompanying data– EPIC does not provide specific process technologies. You should know what you are separating, and a basic process for achieving that separation. EPIC will help you scale your process into a working pilot plant or full-scale production system.
  2. Contact EPIC or call us at (314) 845- 0077 to discuss your application and our turnkey responsibility methods. A thorough discussion of your distillation goals, budget and technology will help both parties determine if this project is a technical and commercial fit.
  3. Front-end engineering and system design are completed as project partners. EPIC’s distillation scale-up specialists simulate your process parameters at the increased scale, complete Process Flow Diagrams (PFD’s), Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&ID’s), material balances, equipment lists and any other required design documentation to present you with a complete bid package.
  4. Fabrication and controls engineering will begin on your custom fractional distillation system. Our state-of-the-art fabrication plant allows for off-site system fabrication while any on-site civil modifications take place at your facility. An open door policy means you are welcome to come to EPIC to see your distillation module take shape at any point during the process.
  5. Testing, shipping and installation. Your completed fractionating column will be fully tested before shipment, and arrives on-site ready for process hookups. Installation typically takes less than a week for modular distillation systems, and on-site commissioning will begin immediately.33
  6. Full system start-up is complete, and training is provided for system operators. EPIC will not leave until all punch-list items are checked off and you feel comfortable running and troubleshooting the system.

Start designing your custom distillation system today: (314) 845 -0077 or fill out a contact form.


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EPIC Modular Process Systems
4134 Meramec Bottom Rd
St. Louis, MO 63129, US
(314) 403-1869