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1998 AEA Technology plc - All Rights Reserved Nat Gas Lec 8_1.pdf


Refrigeration systems are commonly found in the natural gas processing industry. Refrigeration is used to cool gas to meet a hydrocarbon dewpoint specification and to produce a marketable liquid.

Learning Objectives
In this module you will learn about:

Typical refrigeration equipment Use of a P-H diagram in refrigeration systems

A heat exchanger in which the liquid refrigerant is vaporized by a process stream which is in turn cooled.

A heat exchanger in which the refrigerant is condensed by rejection of heat to a cooling medium.

"Liquefied petroleum gas". Predominantly propane or butane,either separately or in mixture, maintained in its liquid state.


Theoretical Foundations
The refrigeration process is used in gas plants to remove heat from certain process streams. One such application is to meet the hydrocarbon dewpoint as well as the water dewpoint specification for residue or sales gas. The temperature to which the gas is cooled depends firstly on meeting these dewpoint specifications. This would be the minimum cooling requirement. Cooling the gas to lower temperatures than the minimum temperature would have to be justified by the economics of LPG recovery. This requires a cost analysis of additional LPG recovery versus increased capital and operating costs.

Additional recovery of LPGs can be achieved by chilling the gas to colder temperatures, such as to - 20 to - 40 F, or by contacting the gas stream with lean oil in an absorption tower.

Refrigeration is basically pumping heat from one medium to another. Heat by itself can only flow from a higher temperature medium to a lower temperature medium. Thus refrigeration is a process that provides the cooling medium to which the gas is exposed.

Typical refrigeration equipment is shown in Fig. 14-3.

Section 14 of the Data Book provides the technical data that explains the refrigeration process. Fig. 14-3 shows the typical refrigeration equipment for natural gas cooling. Fig. 8-1 of these notes illustrates a refrigeration unit in more detail. The heat exchanger cools the incoming gas to the refrigeration unit by exchanging heat with the cold gas, which has been chilled to the design cold temperature in the chiller.

Fig. 8.1


Since the gas entering the refrigeration unit is normally saturated with water vapour, and since the temperature to which the gas will be cooled is substantially below the freezing point of water, some means of preventing ice or hydrate formation has to be instituted. As was discussed earlier, the formation temperature of hydrates at a given pressure can be suppressed by the addition of chemicals such as methanol or glycol. In refrigeration systems, the common chemical used for hydrate suppression is monoethylene glycol, usually referred to as ethylene glycol, EG, or simply glycol. Glycol has to be added to the natural gas being cooled at two points, namely at the inlet to the heat exchanger and at the inlet to the chiller. It is important that the glycol be evenly distributed in the gas stream, so that all gas is protected from freezing. This requires spraying the regenerated glycol evenly onto the tube sheet in these two vessels, so that some glycol travels through each tube with the gas.

Propane boils in the chiller at a very low, controlled temperature, removing heat from the gas stream, and thereby condensing a portion of this gas. The cold gas, condensate and glycol flow from the chiller to a three phase separator.

The condensate goes to a fractionation unit. The gas has been sufficiently cooled so that it meets both the hydrocarbon and water dewpoints. It exchanges heat with the incoming gas to the refrigeration process.

The rich glycol is separated from the hydrocarbon gas stream in a three-phase separator, and is routed to a regenerator. The concentration of the regenerated glycol is usually in the order of 75 % to 80 % glycol, with the balance being water. Sufficient glycol is injected at the two injection points to result in a mixture of water and glycol to depress the hydrate temperature to the required level, which for design purposes would be the refrigerant boiling temperature.


The amount of glycol to be injected requires a determination of the hydrate temperature depression and a calculation of the rich glycol concentration by the Hammerschmidt equation. The glycol injection rate can be determined by Eq. 20-6: Eq. 20-6 XR m H 2 O m r = -----------------------XL XR

As mentioned, the refrigeration effect is brought about by the vaporization of a refrigerant, such as propane, in the chiller. Propane is suited for this application, as it boils at temperatures near and below ambient temperatures. The vaporization of propane, or boiling, requires heat to effect the phase change from liquid to vapour, namely the latent heat of vaporization. By controlling the pressure at which the boiling of the propane takes place, the desired refrigeration temperature, down to about - 40 C, can be achieved.

The amount of heat or enthalpy to vaporize 1 kg of propane at various pressures can be obtained from pressure - enthalpy (P-H) diagrams. A P-H diagram for propane is provided in Fig. 24-27 of the Data Book. The use of this information is illustrated in Fig. 14-2, and is explained on pages 14-2 and 14-3 of the Data Book, and will be reviewed during the presentation in the course.


Problem 8-1
The gas coming off the sweetening absorber is at a temperature of 40 C and a pressure of 6700 kPa, and enters the heat exchanger ahead of the propane chiller. After coming out of the heat excahnger, the gas temperature is 0 C, and about 1 mole % of the flow has been liquefied. The gas and condensate then enter the propane chiller, where the gas is cooled to - 20 C. In the chiller, an additional 3 % of the gas is liquefied.

Determine the propane refrigerant flow required to cool the gas from 0 to - 20 C. Saturated liquid propane is available at 1400 kPa (abs), and is boiled in the chiller at - 25 C. Determine the total amount of ethylene glycol to be injected ahead of the heat exchanger and chiller to depress the hydrate temperature to - 25 C. The ethylene glycol available for injection has a concentration of 75 mass %, the balance being water.