FIBER-FILM™ Contactor Technology

Source: Merichem Company
Each treating system is custom-designed to meet customer requirements, then engineered and fabricated to the customer's specifications.

Each treating system is custom-designed to meet customer requirements, then engineered and fabricated to the customer's specifications. Whether your need is for a completely new facility or a minimum retrofit to upgrade existing equipment, Merichem has the solution. Merichem's minimum scope of supply includes:

  • Complete basic engineering design
  • Fabrication of FIBER-FILM® Contactors and other proprietary and special equipment
  • Operating and maintenance manuals
  • Process licensing
  • In-plant technical services and engineering support prior to start up and during operation

Additional services available at the client's option include:

  • Detailed engineering design
  • Fabrication of modularized systems
  • Installation supervision
  • Operator training

The John T. Files Technical Center, Merichem's Houston research center, supports the development of new applications of FIBER-FILM® Contactor technology and other technologies for the refining and petrochemical industries. Our research staff welcomes the challenge of creating an innovative application that meets your needs.

FIBER-FILM® Contactor technology is backed by the engineering know-how of our technical services department. Merichem engineers and technicians take pride in their record of long-term customer satisfaction.

FIBER-FILM® Contactor versus Conventional Technologies

Conventional System = Conventional Problems

  • Caustic treating processes with dispersive mixing devices were once the only option available to the industry. Yet conventional dispersion and phase separation methods are subject to numerous shortcomings – lack of turndown capability, pluggage, flooding, channeling, unpredictable treating results, long settling times, aqueous phase carryover, generation of dilute aqueous wastes, lower service factor, hydrocarbon losses, larger plot space, product contamination, and additional processing steps and equipment needed to separate phases.

  • The conventional method of contacting two immiscible liquids – such as hydrocarbon and caustic or amine – is to disperse one liquid thoroughly into the other as small droplets. Impurities pass between the two phases at the surface of the droplet. Mass transfer can only be improved by creating more numerous and smaller droplets in order to increase surface area.

  • Even when the dispersion-based system provides adequate treatment, separating the two phases is usually extremely inefficient. The mixture must remain in the phase separator until the caustic droplets settle out by gravity, a process that may take hours. As the treating requirement becomes more difficult, mixing energy is increased to maximize interfacial surface area leading to a greater dispersion of the aqueous phase causing the separation time to become exponentially longer.

  • Stable emulsions can form in the mixing device resulting in massive carryover out of the separator vessel. Due to excessive carryover, expensive equipment such as knockout vessels, sand filters, and water wash units must be installed downstream to remove the dispersed aqueous phase from the treated product. Treatment is often interrupted if an emulsion develops.

The FIBER-FILM® Contactor Idea = Intimate Contact Without Dispersion

In a FIBER-FILM® Contactor, the aqueous phase adheres to (wets) the metal fibers and is continually renewed as it flows down the length of the fiber via a combination of gravity and interfacial drag between the two immiscible phases. Hydrocarbon also flows through the cylinder cocurrently and in between the aqueous-wetted fibers. The large surface area and tight packing of the metal fibers bring ultra-thin falling films of the aqueous phase into intimate contact with the hydrocarbon phase. The interfacial surface area produced is orders of magnitude larger than in conventional devices allowing impurities to easily diffuse between phases.

Additionally, emulsions and aqueous carryover are negligible occur since surface tension causes the aqueous phase to adhere to the metal fibers while the hydrocarbon phase flows freely between the wetted fibers. The result is a highly efficient mass transfer of impurities from one phase to the other with little to no emulsification, carryover, or high pressure drop.

The FIBER-FILM®Contactor technology offers numerous advantages:

  • Effective treating results — Achieves maximum removal of impurities from the hydrocarbon to meet today's stringent standards.
  • High mass transfer efficiency — The large interfacial surface area, the microscopic diffusion distance, and the continuous renewal of the aqueous phase combine to yield mass transfer efficiencies far greater than possible with conventional treatment.
  • Elimination of carryover — Because the aqueous phase adheres to the fibers in the FIBER-FILM® Contactor rather than being dispersed into the hydrocarbon phase, carryover is virtually eliminated.
  • Elimination of emulsion formation — Since effective phase contact occurs without dispersion, stable emulsions will not form in the FIBER-FILM® Contactor unit.
  • Reduced equipment size and cost — Since the FIBER-FILM® Contactor system does not depend on gravity settling or emulsion coalescence, processing vessels can be much smaller. In most cases, expensive downstream coalescers and other cleanup equipment are not required. With fewer pieces of smaller equipment, plant space is more efficiently utilized.
  • Simplified, easily operated equipment — By eliminating the clean-up stages, FIBER-FILM® Contactor systems are much simpler to operate and maintain than conventional treating equipment. In addition, Merichem's straightforward designs make automation and control easy.
  • Lower operating costs — High caustic strength and recycle capability reduces use of fresh caustic disposal as well as providing excellent turndown capability.

Flexible, adaptable system design makes FIBER-FILM® Contactor systems productive

Adaptable to Client needs – Merichem's FIBER-FILM® Contactor units are custom-designed to integrate with existing equipment to cost-effectively increase treating capacity and significantly reduce project schedules. These revamps typically increase capacity by 50–300%.

Future expansion capability — To meet projected expansion needs, FIBER-FILM® Contactor systems can be designed for economical capacity increase.

Modularized system availability — FIBER-FILM® Contactor systems can be modularized to reduce field fabrication and installation costs. This option also offers quicker implementation of grassroots systems, while Merichem's pre-shipment checkout significantly reduces start-up problems.

Further reading:
An Innovative Method for Amine Treating of Hydrocarbon Liquids

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