The synthesis problem of separation sequences that separate several multicomponent feed streams into several desired multicomponent product streams is addressed. A superstructure is proposed for this separation problem that has embedded all the alternative separation configurations of interest. This superstructure, which has as separator units the separation tasks that are defined for each separation breakpoint, involves options for series and/or parallel sequences, as well as stream splitting, mixing, and bypassing. Formulating and solving this superstructure as a nonlinear programming problem that has as unknowns the stream interconnections, results in an optimal separation sequence. This sequence, which may involve fewer separator units than those included in the superstructure, is shown to be a realistic and practical one. The synthesis approach is illustrated with four example problems.
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