Properly install column internals

Good installation is crucial for trouble-free startups and optimum tower performance. Experienced installers share their practical knowledge to help you make sure that your tower will work as expected. The advice also applies to absorbers and strippers.

By Frank Rukovena, Jr., Fractionation Research, Inc.

4 of 4 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 > View on one page

A key preliminary

We haven’t mentioned everything that needs to be considered during installation of mass-transfer trays and packing, but following the recommendations here will help you have an easier startup. Then, should you run into trouble, the care you took in installation will allow you to eliminate much speculation about what could be wrong and find the real problem sooner. It’s also very helpful for future reference to photograph the equipment installation as it happens.


I would like to thank the following FRI installation and operations personnel for their insightful input to this article: Jesse L. Dawson, Jason L. Dawson, Chad W. Kindred, Kenneth W. Martin, Fred G. Smith, Terry C. Thurber, Jr., and David Williams.


  1. Spiegel, L., “A new method to assess liquid distributor quality,” Chem. Eng. and Proc., 45, pp. 1,011-1,017 (2006).
  2. Moore, F. and F. Rukovena, “Liquid and gas distribution in commercial packed towers,” CPP Ed. Europe, p. 11-15 (1987).
  3. Dhabalia, D. and M. Pilling, “Distributor design and testing,” Petr. Tech. Quarterly, revamps supplement, pp. 9-11 (2006).
  4. Kunesh, J. G., L. Lahm and T. Yanagi, “Commercial scale experiments that provide insight on packed tower distributors,” Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 26, pp. 1,845-1,850 (1987).
  5. Fitz, C.W., Jr., D. W. King and J. G. Kunesh, “Controlled liquid maldistribution studies on structured packing,” presented at Fall National Meeting, AIChE, New York (1999).
  6. Olujic, Z., F. Stoter and J. de Graauw, “Performance evaluation of structured packings,” presented at Annual Meeting, AIChE, New York (1992).
  7. Kister,   H. Z., “Distillation operation,” pp. 27-53, McGraw-Hill, New York (1990).
  8. Sands, R. R., “Distillation: How to specify and install cartridge trays,” Chem. Eng., pp. 86-92 (April 2006).
Fractionation Research, Inc.
FRI is a non-profit organization that for more than 50 years has focused on research and evaluation of trays and packings. It generates data in its two commercial-size distillation towers. (The low-pressure column has 4-ft. and 8-ft. diameter sections. The high-pressure column is 4 ft. in diameter. The test distillation conditions range from full vacuum to 500 psia. Typical test fluids include p-xylene/o-xylene, cyclohexane/n-heptane, and iso-butane/n-butane.) These data are used to develop and improve design correlations. Many vendors have trusted FRI to test their products and all of FRI’s members depend on FRI’s data and correlations to design their towers. Membership is open to any company that uses, designs or supplies direct-contact mass-transfer equipment. See for the list of members and other information about FRI.

Frank Rukovena, Jr., is president of Fractionation Research, Inc., Bartlesville, Okla.; e-mail him at

4 of 4 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 > View on one page

Join the discussion

We welcome your thoughtful comments. Please comply with our Community rules.
All comments will display your user name.

Want to participate in the discussion?

Register for free

Log in for complete access.


  • Thanks to all who ever realated the installation explaination


RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments