Project Synopsis

Design a modular process Vacuum Distillation Pilot-Plant to process heavy oil feed streams.

Project Summary

Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was contracted by the client, a modular process systems manufacturer, to produce a Vacuum Distillation Pilot-Plant design for the ultimate client, an international oil and gas company.  An Aspen HYSYS model was constructed with equipment capable of processing heavy oil feeds both with and without a residual component.

The vacuum distillation column was designed to have two column sections stacked on top of each other.  Between the upper and lower columns was a liquid draw tray with riser tubes which allowed vapor from the lower column (Heavy Vacuum Gas Oil – HVGO) section to enter the upper (Light Vacuum Gas Oil – LVGO) section.

Immersion heaters were utilized to preheat the column feed to flash off any naphtha present.  Then the feed was transferred to the vacuum distillation column.  If the feed had no residual component, the feed entered the column just below the riser tubes.  The residual from the bottom portion of the HVGO column section was reboiled and reintroduced below the main column packing, but just above metal grid packing at the bottom of the column.  If the feed had a residual component, the feed was introduced below the main column packing, but just above metal grid packing at the bottom of the column.

For each section of the column, gear pumps in combination with flow controllers and back-pressure regulators were utilized to control reflux and product flow rates.  The LVGO vapor went to a total condenser which was cooled using chilled glycol water, while the HVGO and residual product were cooled using thermal oil.

Deliverables to the client for this project included:  Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs), Heat & Material Balances, Piping & Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs), Process Controls Description, and Data sheets for each piece of equipment.

Industry Type

Petroleum Oil Refining


Utilized Skills

  • HYSYS process simulation
  • Distillation design
  • Modular skid process design.