Q & A > Question Details
How can I detect my reboiler leak from Column parameters? I have observed no pressure fluctuations during the leak. Why did the column pressure not increase to steam pressure?
13/05/2020 A: Eric Vetters, ProCorr Consulting Services, ewvetters@yahoo.com
Until a leak becomes large enough, you won't see any appreciable impacts on tower operation. The only way you will really see anything is with the water draw on the overhead accumulator, assuming there is a boot on the drum. If there is not normally any water in the feed, then you will have to start drawing water off of the boot. If there is some water in the feed, you will see an increase in the frequency of drawing water.

Steam in the column lowers the hydrocarbon partial pressure, so directionally it will lower the required reboiler and condensing temperatures. If the steam leak were large enough to materially impact these temperatures, then you would see a reduction in reboiler duty and reflux required to meet temperature control set points. By the time there was that much steam in the column, you would probably be seeing and increase in tower pressure drop from the steam. If you have a simulation of the column, you could try adding some steam to the bottom of the tower to see how much steam is required to make a noticeable difference in the simulation results.