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Calculating pressure in the LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas)

storage vessel
Description of the problem:
A metal vessel with volume V0 (air inside) has been filled with LPG (e.g. butane, isobutane,
propane). Depending on the mass of the butane (LPG) a part (or a whole amount) of it will
evaporate. Calculate the total pressure inside the vessel, considering the following conditions:
- due to the evaporation the LPG the liquid phase changes its volume
- the pressure of the air changes due to the change of gas phase volume (see picture below)
- the partial pressure of the butane is equal to its vapur pressure at the given temperature

Shematic representation of the process:

add butane
(or other LPG),
mass mp

inert gas (e.g. air):


V0, T, p0
Symbols:
VG, VL gas and liquid phase volume
p total pressure
V0, p0 initial volume and pressure

VG
evaporation

VL
equilibrium:
p, T

Motivation
Predicting the total pressure in vessels containing liquid gas can bring new possibilities for
improving the overall process performance in the industry. Some examples include
development of aerosol products for cosmetics or other markets e.g. lubricating oils,
aerosol paints, protective coatings, sealants for building industry etc.
Bulk storage of LPG is another example where the modelling results could be very helpful
regarding the practical usage of the vessels.

Governing equations (1)


Given variables are:
- initial pressure due to inert gas, resp. the amount of
inert gas p0, resp. ni = p0.V0 / RT
- added mass of LPG mp
- vessel volume V0 and temperature T
- vapour pressure (psat) at given temperature is known
Find:
- total pressure inside the vessel
- the evaporated part of the LPG
The critical amount of LPG at which it forms liquid phase is:

crit
p

p sat (T) V0
=
R T

Governing equations (2)


If np < npcrit
(only gas phase)

If np > npcrit
(gas and liquid phase)

p sat .V G
n =
R.T
L
n
p .M p
G
V = V0
p

n = np
G
p

G
p

V G = V0
p = p p + pi

p = p p + pi

n Lp = 0

n Lp = n p n Gp

pp =

n Gp .R.T
G

p p = p sat

V
n i .R.T
n i .R.T
p
=
i
pi =
G
VG
V
In both cases we have six equations and six unknown variables - the left-hand sides of
the equations. The algebraic system is to be solved using modified Newton method.
The index "p" states for LPG, and the index "i" for the inert gas (air).

Some results (1)

Pressure, bar(a)

Pressure inside the vessel, T=20C, Isobutane

14

total pressure

12

inert gas pressure

10
isobutane partial
pressure

8
6
4
2
0
0

100

200

300

400

500

600

Isobutane mass, kg

The picture shows how the total pressure depends on the amount of liquid gas filled
in vessel (volume 1 m3). After forming of liquid phase at ca. 7.5kg isobutane, its
vapour pressure remains constant, and only the inert gas pressure increases due to the
smaller volume available for the gas phase

Some results (2)


Percentage evaporated liquid, T=20C
100

% evaporated

80

60

40

20

0
0

100

200

300

400

500

Isobutane mass, kg

Here is shown how many % of the isobutane evaporates at different added amounts.

Some results (3)


Pressure inside the vessel, isobutane mass = 20kg
10
9

pressure, bar(a)

8
7
6
5

total pressure

vapour pressure
inert gas pressure

3
2
1
0
5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

55

Temperature, C

The picture shows the temperature dependencies of the pressures in the vessel at given
amount of isobutane added. The total pressure increases mainly due to the change of
the isobutane vapour pressure.