The performance of a 4-bed/16-step vacuum swing adsorption cycle containing three pressure equalization (PE) steps has been analysed in order to understand the role played by the multiple PE steps in the process performance. The cycle was designed for CO2 capture from a feed gas mixture of 15 %CO2/85 %N2, with zeolite ×13 adsorbent from UOP (PSO2HP). Simulations were performed with the help of the commercial Aspen Adsorption simulator to help interpret the experimental results. It was found that CO2 loading decreased only slightly, but N2 loading decreased significantly and uniformly across the bed after each PE step. Thus, while CO2 working capacity remained almost constant, working selectivity and CO2 product purity increased with the number of PE steps. An experimental purity of 91.3 mol% CO2 could be obtained at a recovery of 77 % at 3 kPa desorption pressure, with a cycle containing 3 pressure equalisation steps. Specific energy consumption (calculated with a constant pump efficiency of 70 %) was calculated as 0.3 MJ/kg CO2, which was lower than the 1 and 2 pressure equalisation cycles. We evaluated 2-bed and 3-bed cycles containing one and two pressure equalisation steps respectively, by means of simulation in order to compare their performance with the base 4-bed 3PE cycle. For a constant recovery of 75–77 %, CO2 product purities increase by 7.4 and 4.2 % (relative) in going from 1PE, to 2PE and 3PE cycles respectively, at an evacuation pressure of 3 kPa. Specific energy consumption also decreased with the number of PE steps, owing to the lowering of the starting pressure for desorption and some savings in repressurization energy with the number of PE steps. The specific energy dropped by 13 % in going from 1PE to 2PE and 3PE steps. However, the extra beds and extra cycle time required for the 3PE steps led to a reduction in productivity by almost 33 % in going from the 2PE to 3PE cycles. The choice for including additional PE steps therefore relies on the tradeoff of capital and operating costs which is strongly location and project specific.
- CO capture
- Multiple pressure equalization
- Vacuum swing adsorption