Data on design and operation of trickle beds at elevated pressures are scarce. In this study the influence of the gas density on the liquid holdup, the pressure drop, and the transition between trickle and pulse flow has been investigated in a tricklebed reactor operating up to 7.5 MPa and with nitrogen or helium as the gas phase. Gas–liquid interfacial areas have been determined up to 5.0 MPa by means of CO2 absorption from CO2/N2 gas mixtures into amine solutions.
A comparison of the results from nitrogen as the gas phase to those of helium shows that at equal gas densities the hydrodynamic states are the same. The gas-liquid interfacial area increases when operating at higher gas densities. When the determined dimensionless interfacial areas agl/as are all within the range 0.25–0.8, the trickle-bed reactor is suggested to operate in the trickle-flow regime. The gas density has a strong influence on the liquid holdup. Due to the higher pressure gradients at elevated gas densities, the liquid holdup decreases noticeably. Besides, the boundary between the trickle-flow and pulse-flow regime shifts toward higher liquid throughputs: the region for trickle-flow operationg becomes larger. For the liquid holdup and the pressure gradient in the trickle-flow regime, correlations derived based on dimensionless numbers can be applied to high-prssure trickle beds.