Ethane Liquefaction Process at NGL Recovery TurboExpander Plant by Installing Additional Heat Exchanger

Author: Yahya H. Al-Faifi

Saudi Aramco’s Berri Gas Plant recognized that ethane liquefaction is achievable within the ethane and NGL recovery turbo-expander plant by installing a new brazed aluminum heat exchanger. The objective of this exchanger is to utilize the available cryogenic conditions from the cold de-methanizer overhead and liquefy part of the ethane product with no major impact to plant operations. This initiative eliminates the existing ethane liquefaction process and increases the liquefaction rate by 25%.

Ethane liquefaction feed is taken from the main supply pipeline to the petrochemical plant during periods of excess ethane production. Stores of ethane liquid are vaporized and supply the petrochemical plant pipeline whenever the ethane production plant is down. The liquefaction plant includes all necessary equipment to dehydrate, liquefy, store, send out and vaporize the ethane product. The ethane product feed enters the plant and passes through the product feed inlet separator (D-101) to remove any free liquid or solid particles that may be present. Ethane gas from the D-101 is cooled in the intermediate pressure refrigerant evaporator (E-108), where the majority of the water is condensed and it is removed in the process gas water separator (D-105). The saturated gas is then directed to the dehydrators (D107A/B/C) to dry the gas to dew point — as low as 130 °F. The dry gas is passed through the dehydrator sieve filter (D-108) to remove any sieve material that might be carried with the gas. Then, gas is cooled in the economizer heat exchanger (E-105) and then is completely condensed in the low-pressure refrigerant evaporator (E-107). The liquid ethane from E-107 is passed through the flashback heat exchanger (E-106) and subcooled. Refrigeration for E-106 is provided when a portion of the subcooled stream is reduced in pressure and passed countercurrent to the liquid stream in E-106. The lowpressure flow exists at the top of the vertical flashback exchanger as a superheated vapor. Regeneration gas in the alternate dehydrator (D107B) is provided by directing the superheated vapor

from the top of E-106 to the economizer E-105. The cold, low-pressure vapors are passed countercurrent to the high-pressure ethane gas feed to be liquefied. The warmed vapors from E-105 are compressed in the recycle compressor (K-101). The hot discharge gas is cooled in K-101 and recycled after the cooler (E-102) and then passed through the K-101 recycle oil separator D-102 and the recycle oil absorber (D-104) where oil contaminants are eliminated. The clean, dry gas is heated in the regeneration heater (E-104A/B) and passed through D-107. The wet regeneration gas is cooled in the regeneration gas after the cooler (E-103) and passed through the regeneration water separator (D-106) where any condensed water will separate out. The regeneration stream then rejoins the plant ethane feed gas upstream of E-108. The pump flow is controlled by the level in D-109 and is provided with a recycle line to allow continuous operation at low liquefaction rates. The liquid ethane storage tank (T-101) stores 350,000 barrels of liquefied ethane at -130 °F and 15.8 psia. Vapor generated in the storage tank during liquefaction and holding is directed to the tank boil off flare. Refrigeration for the ethane liquefier is provided by a closed propane refrigeration loop. Propane refrigerant is compressed to 350 psia in the centrifugal refrigerant compressor (K-102). The hot propane gas is cooled and condensed in the refrigerant receiver (D-112). The liquid is reduced to an intermediate pressure as it flows to the recycle flash vessel (D-111). A portion of the liquid flashes to vapor as the pressure is reduced. These vapors are sent to the suction of K-102. The liquid for D-111 is divided between the E-108 and E-107. The liquid to E-107 is reduced in pressure to near atmospheric pressure with some flashing resulting. In addition, vapors are created by the condensing of the ethane load as it passes through E-107. These vapors are sent to the suction of K-102. The liquid to E-108 is reduced in pressure to an intermediate value, about 30 psig lower than the pressure in D-111. Vapors are again created by the reduction of the pressure and by the cooling of the ethane feed gas as it passes through E108. These vapors are withdrawn from E-108, reduced in pressure and combined with vapors from D-111 and E-107 before entering the K-102 inlet separator (D-113) and the suction of K-102, Fig. 1.



The liquid in D-109 is pumped by product pumps (G-101A/B) to the storage tank (T-101). Involvement of many instruments. 2. Existing liquefaction plant. THE NEW SYSTEM OVERVIEW The ethane and NGL recovery plant operates at cryogenic services. 2. . Fig. Fig. Simulating the new exchanger. A new ethane liquefaction process. THE NEW SYSTEM DESCRIPTION A new side stream of the NGL recovery plant ethane product (20 MMscfd to 25 MMscfd) is diverted to the new ethane liquefaction process.45 MMBtu/hr. It was decided to utilize the low temperature achieved at the ethane and NGL recovery plant system to liquefy the ethane instead of using the existing liquefaction plant system. 1. 3. The new exchanger is designed to liquefy and subcool 20% to 25% of the ethane product. Limiting plant capacity with a liquefaction rate of 20 MMscfd of ethane. The ethane gas (at 40 °F and 350 psig) is directed to SAUDI ARAMCO JOURNAL OF TECHNOLOGY SPRING 2012 the new heat exchanger to exchange heat with methane gas from the de-methanizer overhead at -155 °F and 240 psig. The total duty required for the exchangers is 20. 3. The ethane product is diverted to the new heat exchanger bypassing the whole cleaning and dehydration facilities at the existing ethane liquefaction plant since it has already been through the dehydrator at the NGL recovery plant dehydrators (C-625A-D). The outlet ethane will be liquefied and subcooled to -150 °F at 350 psig. Fig. Maintaining about 35 pieces of equipment at the ethane liquefaction plant. 200 MMscfd of methane gas is required to condense and subcool 25 MMscfd entering at 80 °F and 360 psig.Fig. Very low temperature is being achieved at the downstream system of the turbo-expander and gets as low as -160 °F. The subcooled liquid ethane from the new exchangers is flashed into the existing flash vessel (D-109) at the existing ethane liquefaction plant. INHERENT SYSTEM DRAWBACKS     Running and maintaining two old pieces of rotating equipment (K-101 and K-102). This stream will be taken upstream to the NGL recovery plant’s low-pressure feed/ethane product exchangers (E-508A-D) at a temperature of 40 °F and at a pressure of 360 psig. Fig. Methane gas leaving the new exchanger will be diverted upstream to feed gas coolers (E-124/224) at -42 °F and 235 psig. Ethane and NGL recovery plant. This can be achieved by drawing a side stream of each de-methanizer overhead at 240 psig and -155 °F to exchange heat with the ethane product from the de-ethanizer reflux drums.

MODIFICATIONS AT THE ETHANE AND NGL RECOVERY PLANT 1. Integration between the existing ethane and NGL recovery plants.4%.S. sulfur recovery units and utilities. and AOV for the new ethane slip streams for the de-methanizer overhead product from both the ethane and NGL recovery trains is new. CONCLUSIONS It is very cost-effective to liquefy ethane product by utilizing cryogenic conditions at the de-methanizer overhead gas stream instead of the existing liquefaction process. On the other hand. BIOGRAPHY Yahya H. Yahya’s experience includes his work at various processing units in the plant.96% to 1. it will reduce the maintenance and operating cost for the existing ethane liquefaction plant by maintaining and operating only one heat exchanger with the new process vs. Finally. The exchanger is designed to control the ethane outlet at a temperature of -105 °F by modulating methane gas inlet flow. Dhahran. focusing on NGL recovery. 4.4%. it is required from the ethane and NGL recovery plant to relax the ethane recovery to lower the value than the design figure (95%). Yahya is certified as an international associate value specialist. 4. Fig. Recently. Yahya received his B. EFFECT OF THE NEW PROCESS ON THE NGL RECOVERY PLANT By diverting about 75 MMscfd to 100 MMscfd of methane gas from each de-methanizer column. In 2002. The new exchanger resides at the ethane and NGL recovery plant with a design capacity of 25 MMscfd of ethane for the tube side. 2. the associated flow/temperature control valves. Consequently. Fig. and 200 MMscfd of methane gas for the shell side. There is a 14” line from the de-methanizer overhead from each train to supply 100 MMscfd of methane gas to the new heat exchanger. Al-Faifi started his career as Production Engineer in the petrochemical industrial prior to joining Saudi Aramco in 2007. This will contribute effectively to save electrical power and maintenance cost at the existing ethane liquefaction plant by keeping the propane refrigeration and recycle compressors on standby mode. the new modifications will increase the original ethane liquefaction capacity by 25% (25 MMscfd). 35 pieces of equipment for the existing ethane liquefaction. which will decrease the ethane product flow by 2 MMscfd with an ethane recovery of 94. Finally. degree in Chemical Engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). he was appointed as energy chairman to handle all energy activities and projects at Berri Gas Plant. There is a 6” line from the ethane upstream tie-in (E508A-D) to the new heat exchanger at the NGL recovery plant. He now works as a Process Engineer in Berri Gas Plant. Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia Section. ethane content on the de-methanizer overhead would be increased from 0. He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. during the low demand of ethane. 4. 3. SAUDI ARAMCO JOURNAL OF TECHNOLOGY SPRING 2012 .

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