# Gas Sweetening Processes

By Amines

Figure 15 Schematic of amine gas-sweetening process flow diagram.

4.4.3.3 Design Considerations
This lecture describes some design aspects for the major equipment used in both MEA and DEA systems.

4.4.3.3.1 Amine Absorber
Amine absorbers use countercurrent flow through a trayed or packed tower to provide intimate contact between the amine solvent and the sour gas so that the H2S and CO2 molecules can transfer from the gas phase to the solvent liquid phase. In tray columns, a liquid level is maintained on each tray by a weir usually 2 or 3 inches high. The gas passes up from underneath the trays through openings in the trays such as perforations, bubble caps, or valves and disperses into bubbles through the liquid, forming a froth. The gas disengages from the froth, travels through a vapor space, providing time for entrained amine solution to fall back down to the liquid on the tray, and passes through the next tray above.

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Schematic of Bubble Cap Trays Schematic of Valve Trays In packed columns the liquid solvent is dispersed in the gas stream by forming a film over the packing. providing a large surface area for CO2 and H2S transfer from the gas to the liquid solvent. 2 .

Use an amine velocity of 0. small-diameter towers use packing. Twenty valve-type trays (spaced 24 inches apart) or the equivalent height in packing column are common and are often a standard design.25 ft/sec in the downcomer. The cross-sectional area of the contactor (absorber) is sized for the gas and amine flow rates. Typically.14 It may be necessary to reduce the gas velocity by 25 to 35% to avoid jet flooding and by 15% to allow for foaming. whereas larger towers use stainless steel trays.5 . where the maximum gas superficial velocity is obtained from the Souders and Brown (1932) equation as: VSG = 0.Schematic of an Absorption/Desorption Cycle using Packed Column As Absorber The degree of sweetening achieved is largely dependent on the number of trays or the height of packing available in the absorber. 3 .25 [( amine−ρgas)/ρgas]0. ft/sec [(ρ 4.

700 psig) or high circulation rates (e. The amine booster and reflux pumps are centrifugal. MMscfd. all of the lean amine should. preferably in-line or horizontal.. Normally.3. which is often found in low-pressure MEA (monoethanolamine) systems. lb amine/lb solution.g. Absorbers will usually have multiple feed points. centrifugal pumps are used for low pressures (e. Selection of the circulation pump depends on the contactor pressure and the amine circulation rate. in general. For this purpose. However.g. Some contactors have a water wash consisting of two to five trays at the top of the absorber to minimize vaporization losses of amine.g. and an outlet knockout drum. WF is amine weight fraction. If carbon dioxide absorption is desired. gal/min. the following equation can be used: Q = [k(QG)(MF)] / [ρ(WF)(AG)] where 4. K is constant (112 for MEA system and 192 for DEA system). allowing the option of introducing the lean amine lower in the column or at multiple trays. thus utilizing all available stages. similar to the inlet separator for the gas feed. MF is total acid–gas fraction in inlet gas. 100 psig) and multistage horizontal centrifugal pumps for high pressures (e.. moles acid gas/mole inlet gas. lb/gal at 60◦F. QG is gas flow rate. In sizing and rating pumps use a low positive suction pressure of 3 to 10 psig. is provided to collect solvent carryover. The circulation flow rates for amine systems can be determined from the acid gas flow rates by selecting a solution concentration and an acid gas loading.2 Amine Pumps There are several different amine pumps in each of the processes..In most cases a mist eliminator pad is installed near the gas outlet of the absorber (the distance between the top tay and the mist pad is 3 to 4 feet) to trap entrained solvent. 300 gal/min).3. and 4 .4. be fed on the top tray. reciprocating pumps are preferred only if the absorber pressure is very high. 4.15 Q is circulation rate for amine systems. ρ is solution density.

is constant (201 for MEA system and 126 for DEA system).41 lb/gal = 0.% AG = 0.AG is acid gas loading. The rich solution acid gas loading depends on the acid gas partial pressure and corrosiveness of solution.028 mole MEA/gal 35% DEA = 8.16 The circulation rate determined with these equations should be increased by 10–15% to supply an excess of amine.52 lbmole acid-gas/lbmole amine for MEA and 0. 1999): Q = k. Equation (4-15) can be simplified to the following equation (Arnold and Stewart.5 mole acid gas/mole DEA For the recommended concentrations.73 lbmole acid-gas/lbmole amine for DEA systems. the densities at 60◦F are 20% MEA = 8. For design.45 to 0. (QG)(MF) where k.% AG = 0. Since the reboiler duty is almost always tied directly to the circulation rate. the following solution strengths and loading are recommended to provide an effective system without an excess of corrosion: MEA system: WF = 20 wt. lower circulation rates reduce the overall energy requirements.71 lb/gal = 0. 5 . mole acid gas/mole amine.029 mole DEA/gal Using these design limits.33 mole acid gas/mole MEA DEA system: WF = 35 wt. The normal range of this parameter is 0.43 to 0. Lower circulation rates also tend to increase the CO2 slip and can improve the quality of the feed to the sulfur recovery unit. 4.

4. allowing the lightest of the hydrocarbons to flash. which reverses the chemical reactions and drives off the acid gases. Schematic of a Thermosyphon Reboiler 6 .4. Because the hydrocarbons have a lower density than the aqueous amine. Two different reboiler designs are used in amine plants: thermosiphon and kettle. Therefore. a provision should be made to remove these liquid hydrocarbons.4 Amine Reboiler The amine reboiler provides the heat input to an amine stripper. but separate from the aqueous amine. Typically the flash tanks are designed for 2 to 3 minutes of retention time for the amine solution while operating half-full. forming a separate liquid layer.3. The heavier hydrocarbons remain as a liquid.3.3. 4. they form the upper liquid layer and can be skimmed off the top. Thermosiphon reboilers return the heated amine solution and steam to the regenerator tower by the same pipe.3 Flash Tank The rich amine solution from the absorber enters a flah tank.4.3. A small percentage of acid gases will also flash when the pressure is reduced.

and the makeup water to the temperature of the reboiler. The heat duty and transfer area of the amine reboiler can be determined as follows (Jones and Perry. Btu/min. (2) heat of reaction to break chemical bonds between the acid gas molecules and the amine. HR is heat duty of amine reboiler. 1973): HR = 432000 × Q A = 11. gal/min. (3) heat of vaporization of water to produce a stripping vapor of steam. Schematic of a Kettle Reboiler The reboiler heat duty includes: (1) sensible heat required to raise the temperatures of the rich amine feed.Kettle reboilers return the heated amine solution and steam to the regenerator tower in different pipes.17 4.18 The reboiler duty should be maintained as low as possible. but must be adequate to regenerate the amine solution sufficiently to meet the sweet gas requirements and to ensure that the CO2 loadings in the reboiler do not cause excessive corrosion. Higher reboiler duties do not reduce circulation rates to any degree and just consume energy. 4. 7 .30 × Q where Q is amine circulation flow rate. the reflux. and A is heat transfer area of reboiler. ft2.

the vapor rate equals the steam rate overhead plus the acid gas rate. The lean amine is removed at the bottom of the stripper and acid gases are removed from the top. The normal operating range for reboiler temperature is 225 to 260◦F for MEA and 230 to 250◦F for DEA systems. the amount of steam generated and thus the amount of water can be calculated.5 Amine Stripper Amine strippers use heat and steam to reverse the chemical reactions with CO2 and H2S. The steam overhead can be calculated from the steam generated in the reboiler by subtracting the amount of steam condensed by raising the lean amine from its inlet temperature to the reboiler temperature and the amount of steam condensed by vaporizing the acid gases. It is good practice to operate the reboiler at as low a temperature as possible. The steam acts as a stripping gas to remove the CO2 and H2S from the liquid solution and to carry these gases to the overhead. To minimize amine vaporization loss. The rich amine feed is introduced on the third or fourth tray from the top. and from the reboiler duty. flare/vent line back pressure. The lean amine circulation rate is known. The higher of these vapor rates should be used to size the tower for vapor. and/or residual CO2 content required. pressure. the stripper is either a tray or a packed column with approximately 20 trays or the equivalent height in packing.3. 4. Liquid flow rates are greatest near the bottom tray of the tower where the liquid from the bottom tray must provide the lean amine flow rate from the tower plus enough water to provide the steam generated by the reboiler.4. Like the absorber. 8 . At the bottom of the tower the vapor rate equals the amount of steam generated in the reboiler.3. and temperature.Reboiler temperature is dependent on solution concentration. The vapor flow rate within the tower must be studied at both ends of the stripper. there may be a water wash section at the top of the column with an additional four to six trays. Near the top of the tower.

3.3.6 Amine Condensers Amine-stripper condensers are typically overhead air-cooled and fin-fan exchangers.4. Fin-Fan Condenser (Top picture: Tubes.4. Bottom picture: Tubes assembled) 9 .

Air-Cooled Condenser (picture from ground floor) Air-Cooled Condenser (picture from platform) 10 .

and Q is amine circulation flow rate.5 ◦F/C and (∆P) pressure drops 2 to 5 psi.19 4.21 4.7 Lean/Rich Amine Exchanger The lean/rich amine heat exchanger: preheats the rich amine solution and reduces the duty of the reboiler.3. Both shell and tube and plate and frame exchangers are used.20 The reflux accumulator is a two-phase separator used to separate the acid gases from the condensed water.22 11 . The heat duty and transfer area of a shell and tube type amine exchanger can be determined as follows (Jones and Perry. which are usually made of stainless steel. 4. 1973): HC = 18 × 105 × Q A = 5. It also cools the lean amine and reduces the duty of the aerial cooler.4.3. Btu/min.5 ft/sec) to minimize corrosion. The water is accumulated and pumped back to the top of the stripper as reflux. The inlet temperature to the cooler can be found using the partial pressure of the overhead steam to determine the temperature from steam tables. 4. gal/min.25 × Q where 4. The cooler outlet temperature is typically 130 to 145◦F depending on the ambient temperature. 1973): HE = 27 × 105 × Q A = 11. with a low inlet velocity (2 to 3.20 × Q where HC is heat duty of amine reflux condenser. Typically (∆T) temperature change for both streams is 70/20 to 100/37. The heat duty and transfer area of an amine reflux condenser can be determined as follows (Jones and Perry.The amine reflux condenser is required to cool the overhead gases and condense the overhead steam to water. The rich solution is passed through the tubes.

which lowers the lean amine temperature before it enters the absorber.3. the impurities are removed but the MEA bonded to the salts is also lost. the lean amine temperature leaving the rich/lean exchanger and the sour gas inlet temperature. The temperature in the reclaimer is maintained such that the water and MEA boil to the overhead and are piped back to the stripper. Lower amine temperatures may cause the gas to cool in the absorber and thus condense hydrocarbon liquids. in most cases it is not practical.4. The heat-stable salts remain in the reclaimer until the reclaimer is full. Solution purification is maintained by mechanical and carbon filtration and by caustic or soda ash addition to the system to neutralize the heat-stable amine salts. Moreover. 4. MEA systems usually include a reclaimer. The lean amine entering the absorber should be approximately 10◦F warmer than the sour gas entering the absorber.3. When MEA is used in the presence of COS and CS2. or necessary to reclaim DEA solutions. DEA diethanolamine has a slow degradation rate. they react to form heat-stable salts. Higher temperatures would increase the amine vapor pressure and thus increase amine losses to the gas. Thus. The method of removing these using an amine reclaimer depends on the amine involved. Btu/min.3. Consequently. 12 .3.is HE is heat duty of amine heat exchanger. economical. gal/min. A is Heat transfer area. and Q is amine circulation flow rate. ft2. Therefore.9 Amine Reclaimer Due to side reactions and/or degradation.8 Amine Cooler The amine cooler is typically an air-cooled. The reclaimer is a kettle-type reboiler operating on a small side stream of lean amine solution.. Then the reclaimer is shut in and dumped to a waste disposal. The duty for the cooler can be calculated from the lean amine flow rate.4. fin-fan cooler. Diethanolamine (DEA) has a higher boiling temperature than monoethanolamines. 4. requiring other methods of reclaiming such as vacuum distillation in order to prevent thermal degradation of the amine. a variety of contaminants will begin to accumulate in an amine system.

The mixture is circulated through an absorber and a reactivator in the same way as ethanolamine is circulated in the Girbotol process. Moisture removal is necessary to prevent harm to anhydrous catalysts and to prevent the formation of hydrocarbon hydrates (e. the spent ethanolamine glycol mixture enters the reactivator tower..Moisture may be removed from hydrocarbon gases at the same time as hydrogen sulfide is removed.g. C3H8 18H2O) at low temperatures. the ethanolamine absorbs hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. The glycol absorbs moisture from the hydrocarbon gas passing up the absorber. The treated gas leaves the top of the absorber. 13 . A widely used dehydration and desulfhurization process is the glycol/amine process. in which the treatment solution is a mixture of ethanolamine and a large amount of glycol. where heat drives off the absorbed acid gases and water.