Crude Oil Distillation-Column Design, Operation, Control & Troubleshooting

ICTD International Centre for Training and Development

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ICTD International Centre for Training and Development


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Who should attend

This course is intended for those who are involved in the design, operation, control and troubleshooting of such equipment in distillation-column. Process engineers, production engineers, operation engineers and maintenance engineers. The course is also recommended for technical support engineers from industry supplier companies.

About the course

The atmospheric and vacuum pipe stills are used to separate crude oil into fractions according to True Boiling Point ranges so that feed stocks will be available to meet the required specifications for downstream units. Crude oil fractionation is accomplished in two and up to four distillation steps. Typically, crude oil is fractionated by atmospheric distillation with the long residue being fed to the vacuum distillation portion of the unit. In initial design or revamps, it may be necessary to install a pre-flash column to reduce the load on the atmospheric column or furnace. Additionally, it may be economic to install a pre-flash vacuum column to unload the vacuum unit.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the delegates will be able to:

  • Design, operate, control and troubleshoot distillation-column in a professional manner
  • Apply and gain an in-depth knowledge on distillation technology
  • Identify the different distillation methods and implement distillation process involving the normal operation of bubble plate, vapor velocity and velocity distribution
  • Determine the factors influencing plate efficiency and explain the scope of distillation column including flash stages, process design basic reflux ratio
  • Demonstrate how tray works and explain types & function of reboilers
  • Discuss the features and use of condensers in the operation of distillation columns and apply instrumentation & control
  • Enumerate the importance of steam stripper and emphasize its efficiency
  • Discuss the purpose of pump around and become familiar with pump around heat removal, vapor flow and fractionation

Course Outline

Day 1

Overview of Crude Unit Design

  • Process Flow Scheme
  • Crude Oil Properties

Methods for Crude Oil Characterization

  • TBP Distillation / Crude Assays
  • Product Properties
  • Impact of Crude Oil Contaminants
  • Carbon and Metals Distribution

Day 2

Crude Unit Process Flow Scheme

  • Distillation: Atmospheric and Vacuum
  • Pre-flash / Heat Exchanger Networks

Impact of Crude Oil Types

  • Light, Medium, and Heavy Crude Oils
  • Product Yields and Heat Integration
  • Vacuum Gas Oil Carbon and Metals
  • Contaminants-Unit Metallurgy Requirements

Day 3

Major Equipment Design

  • Desalter
  • Pre-flash Column
  • Impact on Atmospheric Feed Composition
  • Atmospheric Column
  • Overhead and Pump around Systems
  • Fractionation - Product Stripping
  • Vacuum Column
  • LVGO / HVGO Fractionation
  • Wash Zone and Residue Stripping
  • Vacuum Ejector System
  • Fired Heaters
  • Pre-flash Vacuum Column

Process Control

  • Process Design Impact on Process Control

Operation, Monitoring and Troubleshooting

Refinery Crude Units

  • Desalter Impact on Distillation Efficiency
  • Overhead System Wash & Corrosion Control
  • Pre-flash Column
  • Foaming-Black Distillate
  • Heat Exchanger Network
  • Atmospheric and Vacuum Columns
  • Atmospheric Column Wash Zone
  • Atmospheric Residue Stripping
  • Vacuum Column Wash Zone Coking
  • Vacuum Column Stripping

Day 4

Opportunities for Revamp / Debottlenecking

  • Atmospheric Column
  • AGO Quality - Direct Control of Over-flash
  • Minimum Over-flash
  • Maximum Residue Stripping Efficiency
  • Vacuum Column
  • Increasing HVGO Cut point
  • Additional Pump around
  • Pump around heat removal
  • LVGO / HVGO Fractionation
  • Balancing Atm. / Vac. Column Cut point

Operating parameters of a distillation column:

Definition and signification

  • Relation between the different parameters involved in liquid-vapor equilibria: temperature
  • Pressure, composition, distribution coefficients and relative volatility
  • Material balance of the column: cut point, separation quality
  • Setting column pressure and pressure profile along the column
  • Heat balance - Reflux and re-boiling ratio
  • Flow rates, concentration and temperature profiles

Day 5

Separating power of an industrial distillation


  • Parameters related to the separating power:
  • Liquid-vapor flow rates, reflux and re-boiling ratio
  • Number of theoretical stages
  • Position of feedstock inlet
  • Separating power and energy consumption.

Process Control Parameters

  • Survey of operating disturbances; origins and causes.
  • Process control strategy and optimization targets.
  • External or internal reflux control, re-boiling control by means of flow rates or duty.
  • Material balance controls: sensitive tray, temperature control systems.
  • Optimization of the heat balance: additional energy through the feed or the reboiler, low pressure operation.
  • Implementation of control systems based on quality measurement.
  • Analysis of disturbances caused by the feed and systems for feed forward control.
  • Control of the multiple draw-off columns: quality tuning through material balance (temperature flow rate or level control).
  • Heat balance and optimization of pump rounds and vaporizing refluxes.

Course Methodology

A variety of methodologies will be used during the course that includes:

  • (30%) Based on Case Studies
  • (30%) Techniques
  • (30%) Role Play
  • (10%) Concepts
  • Pre-test and Post-test
  • Variety of Learning Methods
  • Lectures
  • Case Studies and Self Questionaires
  • Group Work
  • Discussion
  • Presentation

Videos and materials

Crude Oil Distillation-Column Design, Operation, Control & Troubleshooting at ICTD International Centre for Training and Development

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