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20TH, 21ST & 22ND SEPTEMBER 2006,


Pascal van Eck
Twister BV Process Engineer

Hugh D. Epsom BTech FIMechE
Twister BV - Sales Director

Rijswijk, the Netherlands


Twister is an innovative gas conditioning technology which has been developed for natural
gas applications. Condensation and separation at supersonic velocity is the key to some
unique benefits. Firstly, as an extremely short residence time device, prevents hydrate
problems and eliminates the need for chemicals and associated regeneration systems; hence
providing an environmentally friendly facility. Secondly, as a static device, there are no
rotating parts, enabling high reliability and availability; suited for unmanned operations.

Full scale testing has been completed at five gas plants in the Netherlands, Nigeria and
Norway, with varying gas compositions and operating conditions. The first commercial
offshore Twister application started-up in December 2003 on the Petronas/Sarawak Shell
Berhad B11 facility offshore East Malaysia.

Twister BV has now completed the development of an improved performance low pressure
drop version of the Twister Supersonic Separator. Details will be presented to describe the
development, testing and initial commercialisation. This unit also separates larger quantities
of hydrocarbons, down to LPG levels. Further developments are planned for potential future
separation applications, such as CO2, H2S and mercury removal, and sub-sea gas processing.


The Twister Supersonic Separator has similar thermodynamics to a turbo-expander,
combining expansion, cyclonic gas/liquid separation and re-compression in a compact, static,
tubular device. A turbo-expander transforms pressure to shaft power; Twister achieves a
similar temperature drop by transforming pressure to kinetic energy (i.e. supersonic velocity).
The Twister process is a simple, safe, environmentally friendly, quick start up, gas
conditioning system which enables chemical free, high availability and unmanned operation.
The compact and lightweight Twister system allows the platform size to be reduced which
results in an overall lower project cost for offshore applications. The ability to operate
unmanned also facilitates significant operating cost savings in allowing the de-manning of
offshore platforms.

This new gas conditioning technology can be used to simultaneously condense and separate
water and hydrocarbons from natural gas. Significant potential has been identified for future
application of this technology on various other gas processing separation applications
including deep LPG extraction, bulk removal of CO2 and H2S, mercury removal and sub-sea
gas processing.

Since 1998, Twister BV has obtained extensive full scale test experience with units in five
different gas plants in the Netherlands, Nigeria and Norway. These test units proved the
viability of gas conditioning to typical pipeline specifications as well as the practicality of
reliable, safe and unmanned operation.

In December 2003, Petronas and Sarawak Shell Berhad (SSB) successfully started up the first
commercial Twister system on the B11 offshore gas processing facility (see figure 1) to
dehydrate 600 MMscfd of non-associated sour gas fed to the onshore Malaysian LNG plant at
Bintulu, Sarawak, in order to control pipeline corrosion.

Figure 1 Petronas/SSB B11 Platform

The Twister system has two 60% parallel Twister dehydration trains each comprising six
Twister tubes mounted vertically around a Hydrate Separator (low temperature liquid
degassing vessel). The Hydrate Separator is a proprietary Twister BV design, based on
conventional LTX technology using heating coils to melt hydrates, which has a liquid
removal efficiency of over 98%.

Fig 2 Twister System on the B11 Platform

The produced hydrocarbon condensate is separately dehydrated and recombined with the
export gas. Produced water is re-injected offshore. See Twister Supersonic Gas Conditioning
First commercial offshore experience, GPA 2004, for further details.

The operation of a Twister system in a commercial greenfield environment provided the
opportunity to fully evaluate its performance under actual working conditions and this
successful large scale installation, has not only resulted in a significant first commercial
reference, but has also provided useful operational feedback. The experience gained on the
B11 facility has been invaluable and has instigated some significant further development
improvements including the decision to modify the Twister design in order to further reduce
the pressure drop. This decision resulted from the fact that the well head pressure is declining
faster than expected and there is a need to reduce the back pressure on the wells in order to
extend the B11 production capacity. For this reason, SSB requested Twister BV during 2004
to develop a reduced pressure drop Twister which will allow them to operate at a lower
nominal inlet pressure.

Improved Hydrocarbon Dewpointing/NGL stripping

During the early commercialisation of the Twister product a clear need was identified for the
improvement of the Twister HC dewpointing and NGL extraction performance. Twister BV
initiated a design study in 2003 in order to develop an improved performance Twister using
proprietary Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) 2-phase modelling techniques. This analysis
work was completed in 2004 and confirmed a step change performance improvement
enabling the development of a reduced pressure drop Twister design.

Twister BV developed and validated a customised CFD code built on Ansys CFX software.
This code is based on real gas equations of state and includes phase transitions. It incorporates
the ability to model multi-component gases including specific condensable components. It can
be used to determine the droplet number and density of nucleation and includes a growth
model to allow for change in droplet size through condensation and evaporation. The code
validation has been achieved by correlation with actual Twister full scale test results.

The prime design difference for the improved performance Twister is that the swirl is
generated at the inlet of the tube using static inlet turning vanes (see CFD image in figure 3
below). Principal improvements include enhanced separation efficiency due to the higher
radial velocity, concentric vorticity, minimisation of the effects of re-evaporation, as well as
the reduction of pressure losses. Detailed specifics are explained in the paper CFD for
Supersonic Gas Processing, NEL Multiphase Separation and Multiphase Pumping
Technologies Conference, 2005.

Figure 3 CFD Image of New Twister Tube

Apart from the inlet turning vanes, the new Twister design incorporates a reducing diameter
inner body which allows the principle of conservation of angular momentum to be harnessed.
CFD models indicate that the induced centrifugal force is greatly increased with this design.
The inner body also ensures that the vortex is concentric allowing the separation efficiency of
the vortex finder to be significantly improved. This results in a more stable flow and reduces
the risk of liquid entrainment to the primary outlet.

Figure 4 details the cross-section and key components of the low pressure drop Twister tube
design. The net result of this improved design is that Twister can now establish the same
separation and dewpoint performance at a much lower pressure drop or a significantly
improved hydrocarbon separation and NGL recovery performance at the same pressure drop.

Figure 4 Cross-section of the Low Pressure Drop Twister Tube

Extensive testing started during 2005 at the Gasunie Research Facility in Groningen,
Netherlands, with the assistance of third party Gasunie test operators. Initial testing took place
in April/May 2005 using a pressure let-down facility to the city of Groningen gas supply
system. This was quickly replaced with a closed loop system (see figure 5 below) to allow
better control of testing variables water and liquid hold-up, pressure and temperature. As the
Static Guide
Feed Gas
100 bar,20C
Dry Gas
75 bar,9C
(1088 psi,48F) (1450 psi, 68F)

Inner Body
Cyclonic Separator

Liquids +
75 bar, 7C
(1088 psi, 45F)
gas supply from the Gasunie network used to pressurise the loop was dry lean gas, water was
introduced in the casing of the multi-phase pump prior to pressurisation of the test loop. To
enrich the gas a buffer vessel was available at which any combination of liquid hydrocarbons
could be injected into the gas.

Figure 5 PFD of Test Loop

In the test loop a mixture of gas, condensate and water was circulated using a multi-phase
pump up to a pressure of 35 bar-g. The mixture was cooled to just above the hydrate
formation temperature and after liquid knock-out in the inlet separator, the wet gas was
processed by the Twister tube.

Extensive instrumentation allowed data acquisition for control and water dewpoint and gas
quality analysis purposes on a continuous basis. This included the use of Karl Fischer
analysers for water content measurement and online hydrocarbon content monitoring using
gas chromatographs.

The initial tests allowed the review and development of an improved nucleation model for
operation at lower pressures.

The results confirmed:

Very stable Twister operation
Reduction of pressure drop from 33% to 25%
Liquid separation efficiency over 90%
C5+ removal as predicted by CFD models
Water recovery as predicted by CFD models
Performance of the tube is not affected by liquid carryover from the inlet separator.

Hydrocarbon Recovery

The hydrocarbon recovery of components C1 to C12 which were measured during the closed
loop testing were compared with calculated values using simulation software and showed
good correlation with the predicted results. Figure 6 shows the comparison of measured
hydrocarbon recovery compared with the simulation model for a 30 bar(a) inlet feed. These
results also show an increase in recovery with carbon number which demonstrates the
improved NGL recovery performance.

C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6+ C6 C7 C8 C9 C10
28% dp Model
28% dp GC
40% dp GC
45% dp GC

Figure 6 Comparison of Measured HC Recovery with Simulation Model (feed 40 barg)

It should be noted that a 70% C6+ recovery, with a 28% pressure drop Twister, is equivalent
to a 90% liquid separation efficiency. Further testing confirmed that higher pressure drops
across the Twister tube further increases the liquid recovery. At 45% pressure drop the
recovery of the low boiling hydrocarbons was noticeably higher while the C6+ recovery
increased from 70% to 90%.

Comparison to JT valve

A Joule-Thomson (JT) system was tested in the same closed loop test system, replacing the
Twister tube. Figure 7 compares the true expansion lines between the two methods.

HC dew point curves Twister inlet (blue) & Twister outlet (green)
-40 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30
Temperature [C]

Inlet composition simulated
Inlet composition measured GC
Outlet composition simulated
Outlet composition measured
Twister expansion-recompression
JT expansion

Figure 7 True expansion lines of Twister system versus JT-LTS system

The improved condensate recovery of a Twister system is caused by a deeper and more
isentropic expansion compared to an isenthalpic expansion in a JT-LTS system at equal
pressure drop. The effect of the expansion efficiency on the condensate recovery performance
is especially visible in the lower pressure region were the tests were performed.

The shift of the phase envelopes from blue (inlet) to green (outlet) is due to the condensate
recovery performance of Twister. It is clearly observed that in this low pressure range a JT
expansion will not yield condensate production at all. A similar, albeit less distinct difference
between Twister and JT LTS will occur in the higher pressure range. It is furthermore
shown that the predicted hydrocarbon dew point lines (thin lines) are close to the measured
hydrocarbon dew point line (bold lines), confirming the validity of Twister design models.

The conclusion is that the Twister system achieves a much greater condensate recovery
performance compared to a Joule-Thomson (JT) system which clearly justifies the initial
Twister system investment cost - through an early payback from the incremental revenue
stream and increased product volumes.

Future applications

The benefits of Twister chemical free NGL extraction is projected to play an important role in
future gas plant optimisation projects. Other potential applications include:-

1. NGL stripping from field re-injection gas/lift gas
2. NGL recovery from flare-gas
3. LPG/NGL stripping from power plant fuel gas
4. NGL removal from reformer feed gas
5. NGL recovery from pipeline transmission lines at pressure reduction points

The low pressure drop Twister is expected to be installed in several new commercial
applications during 2007/8. A firm contract has been secured for one of these applications
from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for an onshore 120 MMscfd fuel gas
conditioning application at their new Okoloma Gas Processing facility. Twister BV are
supplying a single module containing a Twister Hydrate Separator , six Low Pressure Drop
Twister tubes, as well as all associated valves, piping, instrumentation and control. The
Twister system is expected to start up in late 2007.

Figure 7 Twister Module for the SPDC Okoloma Gas Plant

Several other opportunities have been identified for the early commercialisation of the low
pressure drop Twister and engineering study work is in progress.

This new design also offers the opportunity to extract LPGs from wet gas without the use of
chemicals (used for gas drying or hydrate inhibition) and in the longer term, to also be applied
to sub-sea gas processing and to other specific separation applications such as H2S, CO2 &
mercury removal.


Extensive full scale testing programme and over two years of commercial operation have
proved the benefits of Twister technology and operating experience to date has resulted in
new design criteria and the resulting development of a low pressure drop Twister.

Closed loop testing has confirmed that the low pressure drop Twister can, in addition to
achieving chemical free dehydration at a lower pressure drop without the use of moving parts,
also demonstrate a significantly improved hydrocarbon dewpointing and NGL recovery
performance. The latter enables a useful revenue stream which allows early payback of the
initial Twister system investment cost. This benefit is projected to make a positive
contribution to future gas plant optimisation projects.

The new Twister design will be installed on a fuel gas dewpointing application for the SPDC
Okoloma Gas Plant in Nigeria during mid 2007. We also expect the new Twister to be
installed on other commercial applications during 2007/8.


The achievements presented in this paper would not have been possible without valuable
input and support from many parties, most notably Gasunie Research (Gasunie Research is
part of Nederlandse Gasunie BV), Ansys Inc., SSB.


1. Job M. Brouwer, Gonneke Bakker, Huib-Jan Verschoof, Hugh D. Epsom, Twister
Supersonic Gas Conditioning First commercial offshore experience, GPA paper, 2004

2. Bart Prast, Peter Schinkelshoek, Bart Lammers, Marco Betting, CFD for Supersonic Gas
Processing, NEL Multiphase Separation and Multiphase Pumping Technologies Conference,


SSB : Sarawak Shell Berhad

CFD : Computational Fluid Dynamics