Title:
Reflux condenser system for improved fluids separation
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved condenser system employing heat exchange tubes that are supported by rod-type baffles. The condenser system can be a reflux condenser positioned at the top of a distillation column and employing a generally upright U-tube bundle for cooling fluids exiting the top of the distillation column.



Inventors:
Gentry, Matthew C. (Bartlesville, OK, US)
Hovis, Keith W. (Bartlesville, OK, US)
Application Number:
10/156917
Publication Date:
12/04/2003
Filing Date:
05/28/2002
Assignee:
GENTRY MATTHEW C.
HOVIS KEITH W.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
165/158
International Classes:
B01D5/00; F28D7/06; F28F9/013; (IPC1-7): F28F9/02; F28D7/00; F28F9/22
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Primary Examiner:
MANOHARAN, VIRGINIA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RICHMOND, HITCHCOCK, FISH & DOLLAR (BARTLESVILLE, OK, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A condenser comprising: a main body defining a condensing zone; and a generally upright U-tube bundle disposed in the condensing zone and comprising a plurality of U-tubes and a plurality of rod-type baffles for supporting the U-tubes.

2. A condenser according to claim 1, said main body defining a condensing zone inlet fluidly communicating with the condensing zone and a condensing zone outlet fluidly communicating with the condensing zone, said condensing zone outlet being vertically positioned higher than the condensing zone inlet.

3. A condenser according to claim 2, said U-tubes extending at least partly between the condensing zone inlet and the condensing zone outlet.

4. A condenser according to claim 2, said condensing zone inlet presenting a minimum horizontal open area which is at least 50 percent as large as the maximum horizontal open area of the condensing zone.

5. A condenser according to claim 1; and a mist extraction pad disposed in said condensing zone and covering the condensing zone outlet, said mist extraction pad being operable to cause coalescence of at least a portion of a condensed liquid.

6. A condenser according to claim 1, said main body defining a cooling fluid manifold disposed vertically above and fluidly isolated from the condensing zone, said fluid cooling manifold including an inlet portion and an outlet portion fluidly communicating with one another via the U-tubes.

7. A condenser according to claim 6, said main body defining a cooling fluid inlet fluidly communicating with said inlet portion and a cooling fluid outlet fluidly communicating with said outlet portion, each of said U-tubes including a first open end fluidly communicating with the inlet portion and a second open end fluidly communicating with the outlet portion.

8. A condenser according to claim 1, said U-tube bundle including a plurality of vertically spaced baffle rings, each of said baffle rings being rigidly coupled to a respective baffle group of said baffles.

9. A condenser according to claim 8, said baffles of each respective baffle group extending substantially parallel to one another.

10. A condenser according to claim 9, said baffle rings and baffles being substantially horizontally oriented.

11. A condenser according to claim 10, said baffles of adjacent vertically spaced baffle groups extending substantially perpendicular to one another.

12. A condenser according to claim 8, said baffles of four adjacent vertically spaced adjacent baffle groups forming a positive four-point containment system for supporting the U-tubes.

13. A condenser according to claim 8, said baffle rings being positioned generally between the U-tubes and an upright side wall of the main body that defines at least a portion of the condensing zone, said baffle rings being operable to enhance the contacting between an upwardly flowing fluid and the U-tubes by at least substantially preventing bypass flow of the fluid between the sidewall and the U-tubes.

14. A distillation unit comprising: an elongated upright distillation column having a lower end and an upper end and defining a fractionation zone extending between the lower and upper ends; and a reflux condenser positioned above and rigidly coupled to the upper end of the column and defining a condensing zone fluidly communicating with the fractionation zone via a condensing zone inlet, said condenser including a heat exchange tube bundle disposed in the condensing zone and comprising a plurality of upright elongated heat exchange tubes and a plurality of rod-type baffles for supporting the heat exchange tubes.

15. A distillation unit according to claim 14, said condenser including a main body defining the condensing zone, the condensing zone inlet, and a condensing zone outlet fluidly communicating with the condensing zone, said condensing zone outlet being vertically positioned higher than the condensing zone inlet.

16. A distillation unit according to claim 14, said heat exchange tube bundle further comprising a plurality of vertically spaced baffle rings, each of said baffle rings being rigidly coupled to a respective baffle group of said baffles.

17. A distillation unit according to claim 16, said baffles of four adjacent vertically spaced baffle groups forming a positive four-point containment system for supporting the heat exchange tubes.

18. A distillation unit according to claim 14, said heat exchange tubes being U-tubes.

19. A distillation unit according to claim 18, said condenser defining a cooling fluid manifold disposed vertically above and fluidly isolated from the condensing zone, said cooling fluid manifold including an inlet portion and an outlet portion fluidly communicating with one another via only the U-tubes.

20. A distillation unit according to claim 19, said condenser defining a cooling fluid inlet fluidly communicating with the inlet portion and a cooling fluid outlet fluidly communicating with the outlet portion, each of the U-tubes including a first open end fluidly communicating with the inlet portion and a second open end fluidly communicating with the outlet portion.

21. A distillation unit according to claim 14, said condensing zone inlet presenting a minimum horizontal open area that is at least 50 percent as large as the maximum horizontal open area of the condensing zone.

22. An alkylation unit comprising: a reactor for contacting an iso-paraffin, an olefin, and an acid catalyst under reaction conditions sufficient to produce a reactor effluent comprising an alkylate, propane, and n-butane; a depropanizer fluidly communicating with the reactor and operable to substantially separate the propane and the alkylate; and a rectifier fluidly communicating with the depropanizer and operable to separate at least a portion of the n-butane from the alkylate and return the resulting separated alkylate to the depropanizer, said rectifier including an elongated upright distillation column and a reflux condenser, said condenser including a main body defining a condensing zone and a heat exchange tube bundle disposed in the condensing zone, said heat exchange tube bundle comprising a plurality of elongated heat exchange tubes and a plurality of rod-type baffles for supporting the heat exchange tubes.

23. An alkylation unit according to claim 22, said condenser being positioned generally above and rigidly coupled to the distillation column.

24. An alkylation unit according to claim 22, said heat exchange tube bundle being a generally upright U-tube bundle.

25. An alkylation unit according to claim 22, said distillation column defining a fractionation zone, said main body defining a condensing zone inlet for providing fluid communication between the condensing zone and the fractionation zone.

26. An alkylation unit according to claim 25, said main body defining a condensing zone outlet fluidly communicating with the condensing zone, said condensing zone outlet being vertically positioned higher than the condensing zone inlet.

27. An alkylation unit according to claim 22, said heat exchange tube bundle further comprising a plurality of vertically spaced baffle rings, each of said baffle rings being rigidly coupled to a respective baffle group of said baffles.

28. An alkylation unit according to claim 27, said baffles of four adjacent vertically spaced baffle groups forming a positive four-point containment system for supporting the heat exchange tubes.

29. An alkylation unit according to claim 28, said heat exchange tubes being U-tubes.

30. An alkylation unit according to claim 29, said main body defining a cooling fluid manifold disposed vertically above and fluidly isolated from the condensing zone, said cooling fluid manifold including an inlet portion and an outlet portion fluidly communicating with one another via the U-tubes.

31. An alkylation unit according to claim 30, said main body defining a cooling fluid inlet fluidly communicating with the inlet portion and a cooling fluid outlet fluidly communicating with the outlet portion, each of said U-tubes including a first open end fluidly communicating with the inlet portion and a second open end fluidly communicating with the outlet portion.

32. A process comprising the steps of: (a) fractionating a fluid mixture in an upright distillation column; (b) conducting a light fluid component of the fluid mixture to a reflux condenser rigidly coupled to the top of the distillation column, said condenser including a plurality of heat exchange tubes supported by a plurality of rod-type baffles; and (c) condensing a heavy fluid component of the light fluid component in the condenser, thereby providing a condensed liquid in the condenser.

33. A process according to claim 32; and (d) allowing the condensed liquid to flow downwardly from the condenser into the distillation column by gravitational force.

34. A process according to claim 32; and (e) passing at least a portion of the light fluid component through a mist extraction pad, thereby causing coalescence of liquid droplets of the heavy fluid component on the mist extraction pad.

35. A process according to claim 32; and (f) reacting an iso-paraffin and an olefin in the presence of an acid catalyst to thereby produce a reactor effluent comprising the fluid mixture.

36. A process according to claim 35; and (g) fractionating the reactor effluent in a fractionater.

37. A process according to claim 36; and (h) transporting the fluid mixture from the fractionater to the distillation column.

38. A process according to claim 37; and (i) transporting at least a portion of the condensed liquid from the distillation column to the fractionater.

39. A process according to claim 38, said reactor effluent comprising an alkylate, propane, n-butane, and iso-butane, said fluid mixture comprising the alkylate and n-butane, said condensed liquid comprising the alkylate.

40. A process according to claim 32, said condenser comprising a main body defining a condensing zone, said heat exchange tubes being disposed in the condensing zone, said heat exchange tubes having a generally upright orientation.

41. A process according to claim 40, said main body defining a condensing zone inlet fluidly communicating with the condensing zone and a condensing zone outlet fluidly communicating with the condensing zone, said condensing zone outlet being vertically positioned higher than the condensing zone inlet.

42. A process according to claim 41, said condenser further including a plurality of vertically spaced baffle rings, each of said baffle rings being rigidly coupled to a respective baffle group of said baffles.

43. A process according to claim 42, said baffles of four adjacent vertically spaced baffle groups forming a positive four-point containment system for supporting the heat exchange tubes.

44. A process according to claim 43, said heat exchange tubes being U-tubes.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates generally to condensers. In another aspect, the invention relates to reflux condensers employed at the top of distillation towers. In a further aspect, the invention relates to an alkylation unit employing an improved rectifier for separating n-butane from alkylate.

[0003] 2. Discussion of the Prior Art

[0004] For many years, reflux condensers have been employed at the top of distillation towers to condense high boiling point fluids mixed with the low boiling point vapors exiting the top of the tower. Referring to FIG. 1, a conventional reflux condenser 10 employed at the top of a distillation tower typically includes a condensing zone 12 having a lower condensing zone inlet 14 for receiving upwardly flowing fluids from the top of the distillation tower and an upper condensing zone outlet 16 for discharging gaseous fluids from the reflux condenser 10. A U-tube bundle 18 is disposed in the condensing zone 12. The open ends of the individual U-tubes 20 in U-tube bundle 18 fluidly communicate with a cooling fluid inlet 22 and a cooling fluid outlet 24 so that a cooling fluid can flow continuously through the U-tubes 20. When the upwardly flowing gaseous fluids from the top of the distillation tower contact the cool U-tubes 20 in the condensing zone 12, the high boiling point component(s) of the fluids condense.

[0005] In the conventional reflux condenser 10, the individual U-tubes 20 of U-tube bundle 18 are supported relative to one another via a plurality of horizontally disposed plate-type baffles 26. It has been discovered that the use of such plate-type baffles 26 in the reflux condenser 10 presents a number of drawbacks. For example, the velocity profile of the fluid flowing upwardly through the condensing zone 12 is non-uniform due to the configuration of the plate-type baffles 26. Further, the flat upper surfaces of the plate-type baffles 26 present areas where “pooling” of condensed liquids can occur. The pooled liquids from the flat upper surfaces of the plate-type baffles 26 can drip off of the plate-type baffles 26 and become entrained in the high velocity fluids flowing upwardly through the reflux condenser 10. The entrained liquids can then be carried out of the reflux condenser 10 through the condensing zone outlet 16. When a significant amount of the entrained, condensed liquids exits the reflux condenser 10 through the condensing zone outlet 16, the main function of the reflux condenser 10 (i.e., condensing and separating high boiling point fluids from low boiling point fluids) is frustrated.

OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] Responsive to these and other problems, it is an object of the present invention to provide a condenser which more efficiently condenses and separates high boiling point fluids from low boiling point fluids.

[0007] A further object of the present invention is to provide a reflux condenser employing tube-supporting baffles that present little or no flat upper surfaces where condensed liquids can pool.

[0008] Another object of the present invention is to provide a reflux condenser that allows for a substantially uniform velocity profile of the fluids flowing upwardly therethrough.

[0009] Still another object of the present invention is to provide a reflux condenser that minimizes the maximum velocity of upwardly flowing fluids so that condensed liquids do not become entrained in the upwardly flowing fluids.

[0010] Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a reflux condenser which separates liquids entrained in gaseous fluids flowing through the reflux condenser before the gaseous fluids exit the reflux condenser.

[0011] It should be noted that not all of the above-listed objects need be accomplished by the present invention, and other objects and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the written description and drawings.

[0012] Accordingly, in one embodiment of the present invention, a condenser is provided that comprises a main body and a generally upright U-tube bundle. The main body defines a condensing zone. The U-tube bundle is disposed in the condensing zone and comprises a plurality of U-tubes and a plurality of rod-type baffles for supporting the U-tubes.

[0013] In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a distillation unit which comprises an elongated upright distillation column and a reflux condenser. The distillation column has a lower end and an upper end and defines a fractionation zone extending between the lower and upper ends. The reflux condenser is positioned above and rigidly coupled to the upper end of the distillation column and defines a condensing zone fluidly communicating with the fractionation zone via a condensing zone inlet. The condenser includes a heat exchange tube bundle disposed in the condensing zone and comprising a plurality of upright elongated heat exchange tubes and a plurality of rod-type baffles for supporting the heat exchange tubes.

[0014] In still another embodiment of the present invention, there is provided an alkylation unit comprising a reactor, a depropanizer, and a rectifier. The reactor is operable. to contact an iso-paraffin, an olefin, and an acid catalyst under reaction conditions sufficient to produce a reactor effluent comprising an alkylate, propane, and n-butane. The depropanizer fluidly communicates with the reactor and is operable to substantially separate the propane and the alkylate. The rectifier fluidly communicates with the depropanizer and is operable to separate at least a portion of the n-butane from the alkylate and return the resulting separated alkylate to the depropanizer. The rectifier includes an elongated upright distillation column and a reflux condenser. The condenser includes a main body defining a condensing zone and a heat exchange tube bundle disposed in the condensing zone. The heat exchange tube bundle comprises a plurality of elongated heat exchange tubes and a plurality of rod-type baffles for supporting the heat exchange tubes.

[0015] In yet another embodiment of the present invention, a process is provided that comprises the steps of: (a) fractionating a fluid mixture in an upright distillation column; (b) conducting a light fluid component of the fluid mixture to a reflux condenser rigidly coupled to the top of the distillation column, wherein the condenser includes a plurality of heat exchange tubes supported by a plurality of rod-type baffles; and (c) condensing a heavy fluid component of the light fluid component in the condenser, thereby providing a condensed liquid in the condenser.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

[0016] Preferred embodiments of the present invention are described in detail below with reference to the attached drawing figures, wherein:

[0017] FIG. 1 is a partial sectional side view of a conventional reflux condenser, particularly illustrating the plate-type baffles that support the heat exchange tubes;

[0018] FIG. 2 is a side view of a distillation unit including an upright elongated distillation column and a reflux condenser coupled to the top of the distillation column;

[0019] FIG. 3 is a partial sectional side view of a reflux condenser constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention, particularly illustrating a U-tube bundle comprising a plurality of rod-type baffles for supporting the U-tubes;

[0020] FIG. 4 is a sectional top view of the reflux condenser taken along line 4-4 in FIG. 3, particularly illustrating the components of the U-tube bundle and the mist extraction pad positioned proximate the outlet of the reflux condenser;

[0021] FIG. 5 is a top view of a group of rod-type baffles coupled to a single baffle ring;

[0022] FIG. 6 is a partial isometric view of a segment of a single U-tube leg and four adjacent vertically spaced rod-type baffles, particularly illustrating the positive four-point containment system provided by the rod-type baffles; and

[0023] FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of an alkylation unit employing a rectifier that takes full advantage of the benefits provided by the novel reflux condenser described herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0024] Referring initially to FIG. 2, a distillation unit 100 is illustrated as generally comprising an elongated upright distillation column 102 and a reflux condenser 104. Distillation column 102 presents a lower end 106 and an upper end 108 and defines a interior fractionation zone extending between lower and upper ends 106, 108. Distillation column 102 includes an inlet 1 10 vertically positioned between lower and upper ends 106, 108 and fluidly communicating with the fractionation zone. In operation, a substantially gaseous heated fluid mixture enters the fractionation zone via inlet 1 10. In the fractionation zone, the fluid mixture is fractionated into various components and withdrawn from the fractionation zone according to the boiling point of the components. Generally, heavier (i.e., higher boiling point) fluid components condense toward lower end 106 of distillation column 102 while the lightest (i.e., lowest boiling point) fluid components do not condense in the fractionation zone and flow upwardly out of upper end 108 and into reflux condenser 104. Any heavy fluid components remaining in the light fluid component flowing through reflux condenser 104 are condensed in reflux condenser 104. The condensed liquids in reflux condenser 104 are then allowed to flow downwardly into the fractionation zone of distillation column 102 by gravitational force.

[0025] Referring now to FIG. 3, reflux condenser 104 includes a main body 112 and a generally upright U-tube bundle 114. Main body 112 defines a condensing zone 116 having a lower condensing zone inlet 118 which fluidly communicates with the upper end of the fractionation zone defined by distillation column 102 (shown in FIG. 3) and an upper condensing zone outlet 120 through which fluids exit condensing zone 116. Upright U-tube bundle 114 is disposed in condensing zone 116 and extends at least partly into the flow path of fluids flowing from condensing zone inlet 118 to condensing zone outlet 120 so that the fluids flowing through condensing zone 116 contact the outer surface of the plurality of individual U-tubes 122 of U-tube bundle 114. As used herein, the term “U-tube” denotes a continuous tube formed generally in the shape of a “U” and having a pair of open ends. As used herein, the term “upright U-tube bundle” denotes a group of individual U-tubes and a support system that supports the U-tubes in a manner such that the sides (i.e., legs) of the individual U-tubes are substantially upright and are open at their top ends.

[0026] Main body 112 of reflux condenser 104 further defines a cooling fluid manifold 124 which is positioned generally above, and fluidly isolated from, condensing zone 116. Cooling fluid manifold 124 is divided into an inlet portion 126 and an outlet portion 128. Inlet portion 126 receives a cooling fluid via a cooling fluid inlet 130 defined by main body 112. Outlet portion 128 discharges the cooling fluid through a cooling fluid outlet 134 defined by main body 112. Inlet portion 126 fluidly communicates with the open inlet ends of U-tubes 122 and outlet portion 128 fluidly communicates with the opposite open outlet ends of U-tubes 122. Inlet and outlet portions 126, 128 are fluidly isolated from one another, except for the fluid flow communication provided therebetween by U-tubes 122.

[0027] Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, U-tube bundle 114 generally comprises U-tubes 122, a plurality of rod-type baffles 134, and a plurality of vertically spaced, generally horizontally disposed baffle rings 136a-e (shown in FIG. 3). Baffle rings 136a-e and rod-type baffles 134 cooperate to rigidly support U-tubes 122 relative to main body 112. As used herein, the term “rod-type baffle” shall denote an elongated baffle member whose axial cross section shows an outer surface with no substantially flat portions. Generally, rod-type baffles 134 will be rods having substantially cylindrical or elliptical axial cross sections.

[0028] Referring now to FIG. 5, a group of laterally spaced, parallelly extending rod-type baffles 134a are associated with each baffle ring 136a. Preferably, the ends of baffles 134a are rigidly coupled to baffle ring 136a so that baffles 134a extend chordally across the open center baffle ring 136a. Referring to FIGS. 3-5, it is preferred for the separate groups of parallel baffles 134 that are coupled to adjacent vertically spaced baffle rings 136 (e.g., rings 136a and 136b) to extend substantially perpendicular to one another. Thus, the groups of baffles 134 that are coupled to every other vertically spaced baffle ring 136 (e.g., rings 136a and 136c) extend substantially parallel to one another. It is preferred for the groups of rod-type baffles 134 that are coupled to every other vertically spaced baffle ring 136 (e.g., rings 136a and 136c) to contact each U-tube 122 on generally opposite sides of U-tube 122, thereby forming a positive four-point containment system for supporting each U-tube 122.

[0029] Referring now to FIG. 5, the positive four-point containment system formed by four vertically spaced rod-type baffles 134a-d is illustrated as supporting a section of one leg of U-tube 122. As used herein, the term “positive four-point containment system” shall denote a system for supporting a heat exchange tube cooperatively employing at least four rod-type baffles that contact the tube and are axially spaced along the tube, wherein adjacent axially spaced baffles extend substantially perpendicular to one another and alternating axially spaced baffles contact generally opposite sides of the tube.

[0030] Referring again to FIGS. 3-6, employing rod-type baffles in such a positive four-point containment system provides reflux condenser 104 with minimal flow-induced U-tube 122 vibration, uniform fluid velocity profile in condensing zone 116, enhanced heat transfer due to turbulence caused by rod-type baffles 134, no flat baffle surfaces on which condensed liquids can pool, and reduced entrainment of condensed liquids due to low fluid velocities.

[0031] Referring again to FIGS. 3 and 4, a mist extraction pad 138 is preferably disposed in condensing zone 116 and covers condensing zone outlet 120. Mist extraction pad 138 is made of a porous material through which the gaseous fluids exiting condensing zone 116 may pass. Mist extraction pad 138 is preferably operable to cause coalescence of liquid droplets (i.e., mist) entrained in the gaseous fluids exiting condensing zone 116 on elements of mist extraction pad 138. The coalesced liquids can then drain downwardly from mist extraction pad 138, through condensing zone 116, and into distillation column 102 by gravitational force. Mist extraction pad 138 is preferably a commercially available wire mesh mist extraction pad such as, for example, the Metex Opti-Mesh™ mist eliminator available from Metex Corporation, Edison, N.J., U.S.A.

[0032] Referring again to FIGS. 2-4, during operation of reflux condenser 104, a cooling fluid (e.g., 40-125° F. water) continuously flows through U-tubes 122 while a light fluid component flows generally upwardly through condensing zone 116. When the light fluid component contacts and is cooled by U-tubes 122, a heavy fluid component of the light fluid component condenses in condensing zone 116. The condensed fluid then flows downwardly from condensing zone 116 into distillation column 102 via condensing zone inlet 118. In order to prevent the velocity of fluids flowing upwardly through condensing zone inlet 118 from being high enough to cause entrainment of the downwardly flowing condensed liquids therein, it is preferred for the minimum horizontal open area of condensing zone inlet 118 to be at least 50 percent of the maximum horizontal open area of condensing zone 116. As used herein, the term “horizontal open area” shall denote the total area of an opening taken along a horizontal cross-sectional line through the opening. Preferably, the minimum horizontal open area of condensing zone inlet 118 is at least 75 percent of the maximum horizontal open area of condensing zone 116, most preferably the minimum horizontal open area of condensing zone 118 is at least 80 percent of the maximum horizontal open area of condensing zone 116.

[0033] Referring now to FIG. 7, an alkylation unit 200 is illustrated as generally comprising a reactor 202, a catalyst regenerator 204, a depropanizer 206, and a rectifier 208. In reactor 202, an iso-butane stream and an olefin (e.g., butylene and/or propylene) stream are contacted in the presence of an acid catalyst (e.g., hydrofluoric acid) to thereby provide a deactivated acid catalyst and a reactor effluent. The deactivated catalyst can be cycled through catalyst regenerator 204 in order to reactivate the catalyst. The reactor effluent typically comprises an alkylate, propane, iso-butane, and normal-butane (n-butane). As used herein, the term “alkylate” denotes an alkylation reaction product primarily comprising C5+hydrocarbons that boil in the gasoline boiling range and have an end point between 375 and 450° F. The reactor effluent is sent to depropanizer 206 for separation of the propane and iso-butane from the alkylate. Depropanizer 206 can be any conventional fractional distillation tower typically used in alkylation units for separating propane from alkylate.

[0034] Rectifier 208 is fluidly coupled to depropanizer 206 and is operable to remove a “side draw” of fluid, primarily comprising alkylate and n-butane, from depropanizer 206. Rectifier 208 generally includes a distillation column 210 and a reflux condenser 212. Preferably, rectifier 208 is constructed in the same manner as distillation unit 100, described above with reference to FIGS. 2-6. In distillation column 210, substantially all of the alkylate is separated from the n-butane. In reflux condenser 212, any alkylate remaining in the upwardly flowing n-butane stream is condensed and drains back into distillation column 210 for return to depropanizer 206.

[0035] The preferred forms of the invention described above are to be used as illustration only, and should not be used in a limiting sense to interpret the scope of the present invention. Obvious modifications to the exemplary embodiments, set forth above, could be readily made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

[0036] The inventors hereby state their intent to rely on the Doctrine of Equivalents to determine and assess the reasonably fair scope of the present invention as pertains to any apparatus not materially departing from but outside the literal scope of the invention as set forth in the following claims.