Best Practices for Column Packing and Internal Installation

Conducting proper column packing and column internal installation are essential for maximal tower performance. It also helps form trouble-free startups and simple shutdowns. The performance of the packed column relies on the quality of its column internals. Therefore, improper installation can create operating issues and cause the column to fall short of the anticipated efficiency.

MACH Engineering is here to support you in learning more about how to install tower packing, as well as provide details about the column internal installation procedure.

Before You Install Tower Packing or Tower Internals

The first step before fabrication is to make sure you have all the correct parts. For example, you’ll want to check components and measurements like:

  • Tower internal diameter
  • Roundness
  • Tangent-to-tangent measurement
  • Wall clip locations
  • Support ring positions
  • Levelness of clips and rings
  • Verticalness of tower

If the tower is out-of-round by more than what’s within tolerance, you will find it difficult to install your packing and internals. This issue often occurs in the manways and nozzle areas. In such a case, you may need to make field modifications for the hardware.

If you’re working with an existing tower, it is good practice to utilize a tower packing installation checklist in case the roundness of the tower changed throughout the years of operation.

How to Ensure Successful Installation of Tower Packing

There are five essential elements within our tower packing installation tips, no matter if it’s structured or random packing. Both require you to check components like the support plate, distributor, packing, feed pipe and packing retainer.

  • Support plate: Support plates for random packing units are often multi-beam units, set on a continuous ring.
  • Packing retainer: A device that holds the random or structured packing still during turbulence
  • Packing materials: Can include random packing media like Tri-Packs or Pall Rings, or can be structured packing
  • Distributor: Distributors provide a regular flow of liquid across the top of the packed bed.
  • Feed inlet device or feed pipe: Delivers vapor and liquid to mass transfer devices, available in mixed-phase, intermediate and foam suppression types

When working with the support plate, the beams need to precisely fit the support ring. The rings keep the beams from becoming disconnected during vapor flow surges. MACH Engineering recommends clamping the support plate to the ring for extra stability. However, the levelness of the ring isn’t as vital because you can level the bed’s top to maintain enough distance between the top of the packing and liquid distributor.

The structured packing process has support grids with flat-bar-type units, as opposed to the random packing that has multi-beam units. The grid can be set on a ring or attached to the wall clips. If you choose the ring, make sure it’s level. Otherwise, it can cause system-wide issues. Liquid distributors are another critical component because they ensure an even flow of the scrubbing liquid. At MACH, we offer tower packing such as Tri-Packs that allow for better distribution during the packing installation process. There is almost no settling or nesting with Tri-Packs, making installation easier.

Guidelines to Ensure Effective Installation of Tower Internals

A lot of what you learned above can also apply to how you can correctly install column internals. How to install tower internals begins with knowing the industry, size and internal column requirements. Your column internal installation checklist starts with ensuring the levelness of the expandable tray rings, while also making sure the gasket seal rings are at the wall.

Install the seal tray ring in a way that prevents liquid on the tray from leaking to the one below. Commercial tower trays have seals welded to the tower wall already. All the trays must be level to support an unimpeded flow of liquid across the deck. If the system is uneven, it can compromise the efficiency. Try setting the trays outside of the tower in the right order before installation, so you know where each piece goes. Column internal installation best practices rely on levelness for accurate readings.

Other Precautions and Testing

Taking various precautions while installing the column packing and column internal mechanisms will result in the optimal tower performance. For example, structured vs. random packing necessitate different strategies. Structured metal packing comes in standardized blocks, making it straightforward to install through a manway. We recommend setting out each piece of structured packing before installation to ensure proper configuration. Try not to get particulates and dirt into the tower during the installation process, because contaminants can affect the liquid distributors once the tower is in operation.

The first step in installing structured tower packing is to orient the first layer of the support grid correctly to create the right backing. Then, rotate the other layers per the instructions. Install the bundles of packaging so there is no space between each, allowing them to meet the wall. We also suggest checking the bed height every so often and to not walk on the structured packaging. Instead, use plywood to spread the weight of the workers.

When using metal random packing, it will typically be poured into the tower. But cautious not to crush the packing into the support plate. There are guidelines regarding maximum heights that packing can be poured from. A best practice involves lowering the first packing onto the support until it covers the plate. Again, keep the system clear of dirt and other particles that can contaminate the tower.

After that, evenly fill the tower, avoiding void spaces that can lower the efficiency of the tower. Gently level the packing as you go by using brooms or other tools, again avoiding walking on the packing. For plastic random packing, use the same practice as metal, but make allowances for the material’s brittleness, such as using a lower drop height and more careful handling of the packing.

Once you properly install the tower packing and tower internals, prepare for flow testing. You will want to conduct a water test for the distributor after assembly because the liquid distributors come in sections, meaning leaks may be present at the gasketed joints. Level the distributor at a tight tolerance to make sure seep doesn’t occur.

MACH Engineering Solutions Support Your Needs

Our goal is to provide you with an exceptional combination of delivery and price with our customizable products. We tailor everything we do to meet your individual needs and application for a perfect fit. MACH Engineering is a full-service company that focuses our attention on providing tailor-made solutions and specialized services to our customers.

Whether you’re looking to replace the packing you already have, or already know what you need and want a bit more support, our professionals can engineer column internals at affordable prices to parallel your work. We deliver quality engineering, quick turnaround and guaranteed material quality. Our engineers can even oversee equipment installation for you.

Contact us online for further information about best practices for column packing and internal installation. Or, if you want to inquire about our products, our experts will be available to answer your questions.

MACH Engineering

MACH Engineering