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Separator Sizing

The basic steps in separator design are listed next:
1. Estimate diameter and length on basis of liquid requirements. Considerations of design include drop size
removal, retention time, coalescers (e.g., plate packs), surge volume, levels and alarms, and motion.
2. Calculate the gas cross-sectional area and vessel length. Considerations of design include drop size,
removal, mist eliminator requirements, and velocity requirements.
3. Select vessel diameter and length to satisfy Steps 1 and 2.
4. Select inlet device and iterate.
5. Separators are typically sized by the droplet settling theory or retention time for the liquid phase. For the gas
phase, the settling theory or requirements of the demister are used.

Settling Theory
In gravity settling, the dispersed phase drops/bubbles will settle at a velocity determined by equating the gravity force
on the drop/bubble with the drag force caused by its motion relative to the continuous phase.
In horizontal vessels, a simple ballistic model can be used to determine a relationship between vessel length and
diameter. In vertical vessels, settling theory results in a relation for the vessel diameter.
Horizontal Separators. Droplet settling theory, using a ballistic model, results in the relationship shown in Eq. 2.6.
For liquid drops in gas phase


vessel internal diameter, in.;


drop diameter, m;


gas-phase space height, in.;


fractional gas cross-sectional area;


effective length of the vessel where separation occurs, ft;

operating temperature, R;


gas flow rate, MMscf/D;

operating pressure, psia;

gas compressibility;

liquid density, lbm/ft3;

gas density, lbm/ft3;

drag coefficient. (See Appendix A for calculation.)


For bubbles or liquid drops in liquid phase:



bubble or drop diameter, m;


continuous liquid-phase space height, in.;


fractional continuous-phase cross-sectional area;

dispersed liquid-phase density, lbm/ft3;

continuous liquid-phase density, lbm/ft3;

continuous liquid-phase flow rate, B/D.


For low Reynolds number flow, Eq. 2.7 can be further reduced to



continuous-phase retention time, minutes,

continuous-phase dynamic viscosity, cp,

specific gravity difference (heavy/light) of continuous and dispersed phases.


Vertical Vessels. Settling theory results in the following relationship. For liquid drops in gas phase,

For bubbles or liquid drops in liquid phase,

Assuming low Reynolds number flow, Eq. 2.10 can be further reduced to

Drop/Bubble Sizes. If drop or bubble removal is being used for sizing,.

Table 2.7

The oil drops to be removed from the gas stream also depend upon the downstream equipment. Flare scrubbers are
typically designed for removal of drops that are a few hundred microns in size.

Compressor scrubbers are typically designed large enough so that a mist extractor, which can remove 10- to 20-m
drops and smaller, can fit inside the shell. Because the gas has already been conditioned by passing through an
upstream separator containing a mist extractor, there is no need during normal operations to precondition the gas for
the scrubber mist extractor by removing large droplets. The scrubber serves as a safety function to trap slugs of liquid
that can occur as a result of failure (liquid carryover) from the upstream separator. Thus, the separator should be able
to separate a slug and provide a high liquid level, which will allow the compressor to shut down prior to ingesting
liquid. Normally, this is accomplished by sizing the vessel shell for a 300- to 600-m drop removal.

Retention Time
Horizontal Vessels. The relationship of vessel diameter and length is given by



oil retention time, minutes,


water-retention time, minutes,


oil flow rate, B/D,


water flow rate, B/D,

fraction of vessel cross-sectional area filled by liquid.


Vertical Vessels. Similarly for vertical vessels, the relationship of vessel diameter and liquid pad heights is given by



oil pad height, in.

water pad height, in.

Demister Sizing

As discussed previously, many types of demisters are limited by a maximum velocity given by



demister capacity factor, ft/sec and depends upon the demister type;


maximum velocity, ft/sec;

liquid density, lbm/ft3;

gas density, lbm/ft3.


For horizontal vessels, the required demister area (Ad) is given by

For vertical vessels, Eq. 2.1 is also valid. The vessel diameter is then obtained as

For demisters (horizontal or vertical vessels) sealed in a gas box, in addition to the demister area, some height must
be maintained between the bottom of the demister and the highest liquid level for the demister to drain. A pressure
drop exists across the demister. If the liquid level is too high, the demister will not drain, and liquid siphoning can
occur. A small hole is sometimes drilled into the drainpipe as a siphon breaker.
When using settling theory or demister sizing in horizontal vessels, one should also consider the gas velocity for reentrainment. Too high of a gas velocity will result in liquid re-entrainment from the liquid surface, which may flood the
demister and cause carryover. Typical gas velocities for re-entrainment are shown in Table 2.8.

Table 2.8

Seam-to-Seam Length
Horizontal Vessels. The seam-to-seam length, Lss, of the vessel should be determined from the geometry once a
diameter and effective length have been determined. Length must be allotted for inlet devices, gas demisters, and
coalescers. For screening purposes, the following approximations can be used.

The ratio of length to diameter is typically in the 3 to 5 range.
Vertical Vessels. The seam-to-seam length of the vessel should be determined from the geometry, once a diameter
and height of liquid volume are known. Allowance must be made for the inlet nozzle, space above the liquid level, gas
separation section, mist extractor, and for any space below the water outlet as shown in Fig. 2.31. For screening
purposes, the following approximations can be used, where d is the vessel diameter).

The ratio of height to diameter is typically in the 3 to 5 range for two-phase separators. For three-phase separators,
the ratio is in the 1.5 to 3 range.
Additional consideration should be given for installation of the internals as well as man-way access. In glycol
dehydration towers, a man-way is typically installed above the packing/trays and the demister. Access space must be
allotted for installation of the equipment.

Nozzle Sizing
Nozzles are generally sized by momentum or velocities. Table 2.9 gives guidelines that can be used for sizing
nozzles, where m is the bulk density and Vm the bulk velocity.

Table 2.9

In addition, the API RP14E[4] on erosion velocity should be included. This relationship is also given by an inlet
momentum criterion as mVm2 = C2, where C is given as 100 for continuous service and 125 for intermittent service.
The value of C can also vary with pipe material, solids loading, and service. See the chapter on Piping and Pipelines
in this section of the Handbook. Vortex breakers are generally required on the liquid outlets. These are typically
perpendicular plates, as shown inFig. 2.32.