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ChE Plus Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 3

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In this issue:

New Article Available

vol2iss2_article.gif (6299 bytes)Solving the Colebrook Equation for Friction Factors - Part 2
Part 2 of Mr. Tom Lester's article where he discusses how to properly solve the Colebrook Equation for various flow scenarios. This article includes a spreadsheet tool that accompanies the article. This article can be found at:

The Basics of Vaporization

Vaporization of an industrial fluid has always been a topic that many process engineers, especially those who have not faced the challenge before, find daunting.  When it comes to vaporizing a fluid that could be considered "less than perfectly clean", there's always the fear of fouling the heat exchanger being used....and with good reason! 

Now, vaporization is a very broad topic.  There's vaporization (typically called reboiling in this context) at the bottom of all distillation columns.   There's also vaporization when the goal is to concentrate a solute dissolved in water (this is more correctly referred to as evaporation).  You can learn all about different types of reboilers at The Distillation Group hosted by Mr. Andrew Sloley.  For a closer look at the heat exchangers used for vaporization specifically, check out the Wolverine Tube Heat Transfer Databook (Adobe Acrobat required). 

Also realize that there is more than one way to vaporize a fluid, as is typically the case in the engineering profession.  For a fluid that is considered to have "average fouling tendencies", using a thermosiphon setup is quite common.   Below is a typical setup that utilizes a vertical shell and tube heat exchanger.

vol2iss2_vaporization.gif (8617 bytes)

The "golden rule" in employing this type of configuration is that the maximum vapor fraction should be no more than 30%.  Use a lower vapor fraction for more fouling fluids.  Why a 30% vapor fraction?   Simple...experience has shown that a 30% vapor fraction helps keep a 6-8 foot long tube wet along it's entire lenth (or nearly the entire length).  This is key, for when the tube begins to dry out, fouling occurs.  Note the use of a separate vessel to allow the two-phase mixture leaving the heat

"The golden rule in employing this type of configuration is that the maximum vapor fraction should be no more than 30%"

exchanger to separate.  The mounting of the components is such that the liquid level in the vessel is aligned with the top of the tubes (the vaporization is usually done in the tubes to aid in the cleaning of the exchanger).  This is what allows the thermosiphon motion of the setup.  Note the absence of a pump.  When the steam is turned on, the tubes are flooded with liquid.   As the liquid begins to vaporize, a natural temperature gradient is created and the fluid is "pulled" in the exchanger.  This is a very common method of vaporizing industrial fluids that has been proven effect time and time again.

Now, if the fluid that you need to vaporize is considered "extremely fouling", then another method may work best.  This method is commonly referred
to as forced circulation.  This arrangement would look similar to the one above, except that the fluid is NOT vaporized on the heat transfer surface and a circulation pump is necessary.  The heat of vaporization is added via sensible heat and then the fluid is forced through an orifice plate before entering the separation vessel.  This method employs much larger circulation flows and small temperature rises through the heat exchanger.  We can discuss this arrangement in more detail if there is sufficient interest.  If you want to know more about forced circulation vaporization, let me know and I'll put it on the agenda for a future newsletter.

Estimating the New Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol     (back to top)

For our readers outside the U.S., you may not be as "in tune" with the increased popularity of ethanol as those in the states.  In short, ethanol plants are being built at an amazing rate in the U.S.  Why are companies in the U.S. making ethanol?  There's been a huge demand created by the gradual phase out of MTBE as a fuel additive.  I won't even think about going into the political topics surrounding ethanol, nor will I comment on why MTBE is being phased out.  Every member of our audience is bound to have very strong opinions on both topics and frankly they've both been discussed sufficiently.

vol2iss2_ethanol.gif (7649 bytes)So, why am I bringing up the topic here in our newsletter?  Well, for all of the reasons to use ethanol or to not use ethanol in gasoline, there was one fact that the industry simply couldn't avoid in the past.  It took more energy to make a gallon of ethanol from biomasses than the ethanol had energy value.   On an industrial scale, that was enough to make any company dedicated to large scale production very nervous.  However, with the advancement of ethanol technologies, that may be changing.  Hosien Shapouri, James Duffield, and Michael Graboski have published a paper titled "Estimating the New Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol" that compares the current production costs of those of the past.  It's an interesting article and, if nothing else, the results area a testament to the power of ingenuity.

Overheard in the Online Forum     (back to top)

vol2iss2_forum.gif (6716 bytes)

Recently in our online forum, the following inquiry was posted (edited for publication):

"In our compressed air system, it has been assumed that if the intake air temerature is reduced by 4C, the power consumption of the compressor is reduces by 1%. I am unsure how the air temperature affects the power consumption?"

One of our senior forum advisors, Art Montemayor, offers the following response:

"You have good cause for doubting that compressor power requirements are lessened by a drop in suction air temperature. If anything, the power to a compressor will increase should the suction temperature be lowered. This is assuming what you failed to state: the compressor is a reciprocating type with fixed capacity and at constant speed. This is logically so and easily explained by the fact that the air density increases with a lower temperature, thereby allowing the machine to suck in and deliver more air - and thereby necessitating more horsepower.

Bear in mind that many engineers often make the mistake of not understanding that the air delivered is often measured and dealt with in volumetric (as opposed to mass) units. Therefore, these same engineers make the mistake that because many books state that the percent horsepower saved per volume of air (@ stated conditions) is increased as the temperature is decreased, then they believe that in a given compressor, the horsepower is less if the suction temperature is lower -- which is not true and is not what the books state. The error here is that most books on compression (especially university text

"The error here is that most books on compression (especially university text books and thermodynamics books) deal with theoretical situations - not the real life."

books and thermodynamics books) deal with theoretical situations - not the real life. For example, the books don't state it outright, but they are assuming that you can vary the capacity of a given compressor at will -- and differentially at that too! This is not the usual case in practice. That's why, if you state the specific case of sucking in and delivering a given quantity of air (identified at a specific condition - such as SCFM, 70 F and 14.696 psia), then it is true that you can "save" horsepower by lowering the suction temperature - but based on volumetric capacity - not the empirical mass capacity that a compressor realizes. The fact of the matter is that horsepower represents work done at a certain rate on a specific mass of gas - not volume. Therefore, if you suck in more mass (due to a density increase and a constant, positive volume displacement), you will require more horsepower. There is no alternative to this fact."

Gasoline - How Much is Left?     (back to top)

I have to admit something...I've always hoped that I'd live long enough to see what shape the world takes after the appreciable oil reserves are depleted.  Now, before I go on, let me say....I am in no way anti-oil!   Look at what oil has done for the entire world, especially the developed countries around the world.  So much of every aspect of our lives is impacted by the precious energy locked up in oil.  The reason I'd like to be around for this transition is because it will force engineers and consumers to go through an adaption the likes of which don't come along very often! 

Aren't you, as an engineer, eager to see what changes take place?   What technology will rule the automotive industry?  Will corporations own millions of acres of farmland dedicated strictly to producing crops that are destined to become plastic (not too far from the way the paper industry is today)?  What materials will step up and take the place of the thousands of materials derived from oil?  It will indeed be an interesting ride!

You can just about drive yourself crazy trying to guess when this might happen considering that you have to take into account variables such as global population growth, rate of consumption increase, outputs, new technologies, etc.  While I'm by no means old, it's amazing to see the progress that's being made right now and I'm sure that there's more to come.  I believe that the short term goal should be to minimize the use of oil for transportion, thereby giving the entire chemical industry more time to complete it's evolution.  There's much research and development needed before we're ready to face the challenges of tomorrow's chemical processing industry.  One thing is for sure, chemical engineers will become even more important in the future and we have to be ready to evolve along with our industry.

New Software Available     (back to top)

vol2iss2_software.gif (3707 bytes)Ezze Gage
Download a Preview - Buy Now in the Online Store
We must determine the uncertainty of our measurement systems before we can compare, control or optimize our manufacturing processes. Every part of the measurement process (instruments [gage], operators, methods, and environment) introduces variation into the measurement. In some cases there is more variation in the measurement process than in the parts (process) being measured.

EZZE GAGE is an easy to use Measurement Systems Analysis add-in for MS Excel that generates two Gage study Reports (ANOVA & RANGE AVERAGE). The software generates graphs from your data with just one key click. Another key click quickly prints your report. All this plus a Technical Tutorial to help you reduce variation and start improving your process Cpk by improving the measurement process.

Links for Chemical Engineers     (back to top)

We hope that everyone is enjoying the redesign of our site and our new logo.  Every so often, it becomes necessary to streamline the site and it's enormous amount of content.  In addition to ChE Links (our flagship link directory managed by Dr. Bernhard Spang), we've also introduced a reciprocal link directory as our way of saying thanks to all of the websites out there that link to  Our reciprocal link directory give us a chance to present even more great websites to our visitors.  If you have a site and you'd like to link to, let us know and we'll include your link in our directory.

Here are some great links that you can find in these directories.

From ChE Links:

John French's Art of Distillation
Electronic text of a book about distillation from 1651.

Filtration Spectrum
Color graphic illustrating the range of materials removed by filtration technologies from particle filtration through reverse osmosis, also available as PDF file.

From our reciprocal link directory:

Engineering links from BAI Engineering.

Great resources list for those interested in moving solid particles.

Questions and Answers
     (back to top)

1.  How can I determine the length of a pulley belt without stopping our machine?

Approximate length: 
L = 2C + 1.57 (D + d)
Exact length:
L = 2C + 1.57 (D + d) + ((D -d)2/4C)

vol2iss2_belt.gif (2249 bytes)

L   =   Pitch length of belt
C   =  Center distance
D   =  Pitch diameter of large pulley
d   =   Pitch diameter of small pulley

Reference: and

2.  What is a good estimate for a roughness factor for a pipeline that is severly rusted?

As pipes age, their roughness can increase substantially which makes fluid dynamic calculations quite a challenge.  Before are some good estimates to use for aged piping:

vol2iss2_roughness.gif (90208 bytes)

Reference: Online Pressure Drop Calculator (Check this site out, they've got some great tools!)

3.  What are some of the best sites on the internet for learning more about all aspects of sulfuric acid?

Since more sulfuric acid is produced on the planet than any other chemical, this is a good question.  The following sites offer a wealth of information on the topic:
...and perhaps the very best one:  

ChE Plus     (back to top)

If you haven't joined ChE Plus yet, now's the time.  Our subscribers enjoy the benefits of to the fullest extent possible.  For only $34.99 USD (one time fee), you get printable copies of all of our newsletters and articles, advance copies of coming articles and all of these benefits:

1.  Chemical engineering calculation tools and procedures in MS Excel
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6.  Member community database for networking and solving those really tough problems  
PLUS: New members receive "The Ultimate Chemical Engineering Download" package upon joining


Contribute to the Newsletter     (back to top)

Do you have a tip or trick to contribute to our newsletter?  Maybe you just have something to say?  Share you experiences with us.  Our mailing list numbers nearly 15,000 chemical and processing engineers from around the globe.  Send your contributions to

Free Trade Publications     (back to top)

No hidden or trial offers, and no purchase necessary. Publications are absolutely free to those who qualify.

Browse through our extensive list of trade publications by industry, title, or geographic eligibility to find the titles that best match your skills and interests. Simply complete the application form and submit it.

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