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Separation&Separators

Separation&Separators
WrittenbyNorrie
Tuesday,26January201008:23

SEPARATORFUNCTIONS
ASEPARATORisavesselinwhichamixtureofimmisciblefluidsareseparatede.g.Crudeoil,Naturalgasand
Water.Aseparatormaybea'Horizontal','Vertical'or'Spherical'vesselandgenerallyconsistsofthefollowing:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Aprimaryseparationsectiontoremovethebulkoftheliquidfromthegas.
Sufficientliquidcapacitytohandlesurgesofliquidfromtheline.
Sufficientlengthorheighttoallowthesmalldropletstosettleoutbygravity(topreventundueentrainment).
Ameansofreducingturbulenceinthemainbodyoftheseparatorsothatpropersettlingmaytakeplace.
Amistextractortocaptureentraineddropletsorthosetoosmalltosettlebygravity.

Whereavesselissimplyseparatingtotalliquidfromgas,itiscalleda'TwoPhaseSeparator'Whentheprocess
requirestheseparationoftwoliquidsandagas,theseparatoriscalleda'ThreePhaseSeparator'.'TwoorThreePhase
separation',referstothenumberofstreamsleavingthevesselandnottheinletfluidstream.
Petroleumasproducedfromareservoirisacomplexmixtureofhundredsofdifferentcompoundsofhydrogenand
carbon,allwithdifferentdensities,vapourpressures,andotherphysicalcharacteristics.Atypicalwellstreamisahigh
velocity,turbulent,constantlyexpandingmixtureofgasesandhydrocarbonliquids,intimatelymixedwithwater
vapour,freewater,solids,andothercontaminants.
Asitflowsfromthehot,highpressurepetroleumreservoir,thewellstreamisundergoingcontinuouspressureand
temperaturereduction.Gasesevolvefromtheliquids,watervapourcondenses,andsomeofthewellstreamchanges
incharacterfromliquidtofreegas.Thegasiscarryingliquidmistdroplets,andtheliquidiscarryinggasbubbles.
Thefunctionoffieldprocessingistoremoveundesirablecomponentsandtoseparatethewellstreamintosellablegas
andpetroleumliquids,recoveringthemaximumamountsofeachatthelowestpossibleoverallcost.
Fieldprocessingofnaturalgasactuallyconsistsoffourbasicprocesses:
1. Separationofthegasfromfreeliquidssuchascrudeoil,hydrocarboncondensate,water,andentrainedsolids.
2. Processingthegastoremovecondensableandrecoverablehydrocarbonvapours.
3. Processingthegastoremovecondensablewatervapourwhich,undercertainconditions,mightcausehydrate
formation.
4. Processingthegastoremoveotherundesirablecomponents,suchasHydrogenSulphideand/orCarbon
Dioxide.

WELLFLUIDS&WELLCLASSIFICATION
Fluidflowfromawellcanincludegas,freewater,condensablevapours(waterorhydrocarbons),crudeoil,andsolid
debris(basicsediment).Theproportionofeachcomponentvariesindifferentwellstreams.
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Whenwaterisproducedwithcrudeoil,itismixedineitherorbothofthefollowingforms:
1. FREEWATER:Watermixedwiththeoilbutwillseparateeasilyintoaclearlayerwhenthemixtureis
allowedenoughtimetosettle.
2. EMULSION:Watercanalsobemixedwiththeoilintheformofverysmalldropletsofwatercoatedwithoil.
AmixturelikethisiscalledanEMULSION.
Waterinthiscasecannotbeeasilyseparatedfromoil.Asforthegas,itcanbefoundinthewellas:
1. SOLUTIONGAS:Gasdissolvedinthewellfluidsundertheeffectofpressureofthereservoir.Asthefluids
flowfromthereservoirintothewellanduptothesurface,thepressureofthefluiddecreases.Thecapacityof
theliquidtoholdgasinsolutionalsodecreasesandgasstartstoseparateoutoftheoil.
2. FREEGAS:GasthatisNOTheldintheoilunderreservoirconditions.
3. ASSOCIATEDGAS:Totalgasproducedwiththeoilinacrudeoilwell.
Wellsaregenerallyclassifiedaccordingtothetypeoffluidtheyproduceinthegreatestquantity.Themainthree
typesofwellare:
1. CRUDEOILWELL:Awellthatproducesmostlycrudeoilwithvaryingproportionsofwater,solutiongas,
possiblyfreegasandsomesoliddebris.
2. DRYGASWELL:Awellthatproducesmostlygaswithnocrudeoil(orliquidhydrocarbon).Theproduced
gascancontainsomewater.
3. GASCONDENSATEWELL:Awellthatproducesbothgasandlightliquidhydrocarbon(condensate)and
maybesomewater,butnocrudeoil.
Muchofthehydrocarboncondensateisverylight,andchangesfromliquidtovapouratnearatmosphericconditions.
Therefore,whentheyareproducedfromhighpressurereservoirstoasurfacelineatnearatmosphericpressure,they
vaporise.
Gas,whichisproducedfromawelltogetherwithoil,iscalled'CASINGHEADGAS'or'ASSOCIATEDGAS'.
Gasproducedaloneorwithwateriscalled'NONASSOCIATEDGAS'.Thisgasisproducedfrombothdrygas
wellsandgascondensatewells.
Thefollowingtableshowswellclassifications,fluidcompounds,andprocessingmethods.
CLASSOF
WELL
DRYGAS

FLUIDSINRESERVOIR
GAS,POSSIBLYWATER

GAS
GAS,POSSIBLYWATER
CONDENSATE
CRUDEOIL

CRUDEOIL,POSSIBLY
GASPOSSIBLYWATER

FLUIDSINFLOWLINE

PROCESSINGSTEPSWHICH
MAYBEREQUIRED

GAS,POSSIBLYWATER

SEPARATION,GAS
DEHYDRATION

GASCONDENSATE,
POSSIBLYWATER

SEPARATION,GAS&
CONDENSATE
DEHYDRATION

CRUDEOIL,POSSIBLY
GAS,POSSIBLYWATER

SEPARATION,GAS
DEHYDRATION

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Oilwellfluidsareproducednormallyintwophasesvapourandliquid.Thesetwophasesrequireentirelydifferent
handling,measuring,andprocessingmethods.Therefore,itisnecessarytoseparatethephasesassoonaspractical
afterleavingthewellhead.Thebasicequipmentusedforthispurposeisthe'OIL&GASSEPARATOR'.
Reservoirpressuresaregenerallymuchhigherthanatmosphericpressure.Aswellfluidsreachthesurface,pressureon
themisdecreased.Theliquidabilitytoholdgasinsolutiondecreases,andtheliquidsbegintorelease'SolutionGas'.
Lightfluidsbegintoseparatenaturallywhenthepressureonthemislowered.
ThesolutiongasreleasedasFreeGasisheldbythesurfacetensionoftheoil.
Thisfreegasisreleasedfromtheoilwhenthewellfluidsarewarmedtoreducethesurfacetensionoftheoil.Gravity
alonewilleventuallycauseheavycomponentstosettleoutandlightcomponentstorise.
Insummary,therearevariableswhichaidintheseparationofafluidstream.
1. Temperatureofthefluids.
2. Pressureonthefluids.
3. Densityofthecomponents.
Inadditiontousingtheforceofgravity,modernseparatorsmakeuseofotherforcestogetthebestpossible
separationofoilandgas.Thewayinwhicheachoftheseforcesisusedcanbebetterunderstoodbyfollowingthe
flowofamixtureofoilandgasthroughaseparator.

SEPARATORFUNCTIONS
Awellstreamseparatormustperformthefollowing:
1.
2.
3.
4.

CauseaprimaryphaseseparationoftheliquidhydrocarbonfromthosethatareGas.
Refinetheprimaryseparationbyremovingmostoftheentrainedliquidmistfromthegas.
Furtherrefinetheseparationbyremovingtheentrainedgasfromtheliquid.
Dischargetheseparatedgasandliquidfromthevesselandensurethatnoreentrainmentofoneintotheother
takesplace.

Ifthesefunctionsaretobeaccomplished,thebasicseparatordesignmust:
1. Controlanddissipatetheenergyofthewellstreamasitenterstheseparator.
2. Ensurethatthegasandliquidflowratesarelowenoughsothatgravitysegregationandvapourliquid
equilibriumcanoccur.
3. Minimiseturbulenceinthegassectionoftheseparatorandreducevelocity.
4. Controltheaccumulationoffrothandfoaminthevessel.
5. Eliminatereentrainmentoftheseparatedgasandliquid.
6. Provideanoutletforgases,withsuitablecontrolstomaintaintherequiredoperatingpressure.
7. Provideoutletsforliquids,withsuitableliquidlevelcontrols.
8. Ifnecessary,providecleanoutportsatpointswheresolidsmayaccumulate.
9. Providereliefforexcessivepressureincasethegasorliquidoutletsshouldbeplugged.
10. Provideequipment(Pressuregauges,Thermometers,andLiquidLevelgaugeassemblies),tocheckvisuallyfor
properoperation.
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Mostplatformshaveaseriesofproductionseparators,startingwithahighpressureseparator,whichseparatesthe
(HP)gasfromtheliquids.Liquidsarethenpipedtoamediumpressure(MP)separator,whichremovesmoregasand
thenpassestheliquidstoalowpressure(LP)separatorthatremovesevenmoregasandthenseparateswaterfromthe
oil.
Thewaterfromthelowpressureseparatorispipedtoaskimtankortoadrainpit,withtheoilbeingpipedtoa
meteringandpumpingstationtobepipedtootherprocessesorstoragetanks.
Wellfluidseparationdependsonthecompositionofthefluids,andontheirpressureandtemperature.
Thepressureofthefluidsiscontrolledbythebackpressureregulatorandthetemperaturemayberegulatedby
expandingthefluidsthroughachoke,byadditionofheatinafurnaceorbyheatingorcoolinginaheatexchanger.
Therefore,separatorscanbedesignedtohandlefluidsaccordingtothefluidcomposition.
Separatorsarebuiltinvariousdesigns,suchashorizontalandvertical.Theinternalstructuresofthevessel,toaidin
themechanicalseparationofthegasandliquids,areofasphericaldesign,dependinguponthemanufacturer.
Althoughmostseparatorsaretwophaseindesign,separatingthegasandtotalliquids,threephasevesselscanbe
builttoseparatenaturalgas,oilorotherliquidhydrocarbons,andfreewater.
Themainprinciplesusedtoachievephysicalseparationofgasandliquidsare:GRAVITYSETTLINGand
COALESCINGAnyseparatormayemployoneormoreoftheseprinciples,butthefluidphasesmustbe'Immiscible'
(cannotmix),andhave'DifferentDensities'forseparationtooccur.

GRAVITYSETTLING:
Duringtheseparationprocess,thegasismovinginanupwarddirectionintothevapoursectionoftheseparatorand
theliquidparticlesaretendingtofalltothevesselbottomundertheinfluenceofgravity.
Gaswillseparatemorequicklyfromaliquidwhenitisflowing'HORIZONTALLY'.Ina'VERTICAL'separator,the
gasismovingverticallyupwardsandtheliquiddroplets,duetogravity,arefallingverticallydownwards.Thecontra
flowofthetwofluidsthereforeinterfereswiththeflowpathsandseparationisslower.
Generally,becauseoftheabovefactors,thevapoursectionofaHorizontalseparatorwillbeofasmallervolumethan
thatofaVerticalvessel.

COALESCING:
Verysmalldropletssuchasfogormistcannotbeseparatedpracticallybygravity.However,theycanbecoalescedto
formlargerdropletsthatwillseparateout.
Coalescingdevicesinseparatorsforcegastofollowatortuouspath.Themomentumofthedropletscausesthemto
collidewithotherdropletsorwiththecoalescingdevice,forminglargerdroplets.Thesecanthenseparateoutofthe
gasphaseduetotheinfluenceofgravity.
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Wiremeshscreens,Vaneelements,andFiltercartridgesaretypicalexamplesofcoalescingdevices.
Separationvesselsusuallycontainfourmajorsections,plusthenecessarypressureandliquidlevelcontrols.These
sectionsare:
1.PrimarySeparationSection:
Forremovingthebulkoftheliquidfromtheinletstream.Forexample,freeliquids,slugsandlargedroplets.Thisis
usuallyaccomplishedbyachangeinthedirectionoffluidflow,eitherbybafflesordeflectionplatesneartheinlet
nozzleorbyusingatangentialinletnozzleasin'TangentialFeed'or'Cyclone'separatorswhichoperatebycentrifugal
forcebeingsetupwithinthevessel.
2.SecondarySeparationSection:
Forremovingthemaximumamountofsmallliquiddropletswithoutanelaboratedesign.Themajorseparation
principleinthissectionisbygravitysettlingoftheliquiddropletsfromthevapourstream.
3.MistExtractionSection:
Forremovingthemaximumamountoftinyliquiddropletsremaininginthegasstream.Themistextractormaybeof
theimpingementtype(meshpads)and/ormayusethecentrifugalforceprinciple(thevanetype).
4.LiquidAccumulationSection:
Forreceivinganddisposingoftheliquidcollected.Sufficientvolumeandproperlevelcontrolequipmentshouldbe
providedtohandlesurgesthatmayoccurduringoperations.
Thelengthofahorizontalseparatorhasagreatereffectoncapacitythantheheightofaverticaltype.Inthe
horizontalvesselthepathofanydropletideallyhasatrajectorysimilartothatofashellfromagun.Therefore,the
lengthrequireddependson:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Dropletsize.
Gasvelocity.
Dropletdensity.
Vesseldiameter.
Degreeofturbulence

Intheabovepicture,thesystemconsistsofthreeseparatorsallare3phaseseparationvessels.
The1ststageontheright,istheLowPressuresuctionKOdrumtoaLPcompressor,the2ndstage(inthemiddle),is
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theMediumPressureseparatordischargefromtheLPcompressorand,suctiontotheHPcompressor.The3rddrum,
ontheleft,isthefinalseparationstagefortheHPdischargegas.Coolingstagesareinstalledaftereachdischarge.
Separatedwaterisusuallydumpedtoadisposalpit.Thegascondensatewillthenbemeteredandpumpedtofurther
treatmentfacilitiesand,thegaswillbemeteredandgoontofurtherprocessingunits.
Thefollowingdiagramsdepictcommontypesofseparator.

TYPESOFSEPARATOR
1.GAS/LIQUIDSEPARATORS
A.ThesimplesttypeofHorizontalseparatorisshowninFigure:10.
Theyareusedtoseparateatwoorthreephaseinletfluidintoliquidsandgas.Thevesselinletandgasoutletnozzles,
consistofcurvedpipeswhichcauseachangeindirectionoftheinletflowandthegasoutlet.Theliquidparticlesfall
tothevesselbottombygravity,whilethegasrisestothetop.Thistypeofsimpleseparatorisnotveryefficient.
B.The'KnockOutDrum'isanothersimpletypeofseparatorasshowninFigure:11.
Itisusedtoseparateatwoorthreephaseinletfluidintoliquid(s)andgas.
Thevesselinletflowgenerallyhitsaninletdeflectorplatetobegintheseparationprocess.Betweentheinletandthe
gasoutlet,someformofdemistingelementmaybeinstalledwhichcanbeawiremesh'screen'or'pad'oranangled
vanetype.
Thedemisterconstructionpresentsalargesurfaceareatotheliquidmistentrainedinthegaswhichcausessmall
dropletsofliquidtocoalesceintolargerdropswhichfalltothevesselbottombygravity.Thegasoutletnozzleexits
thegasfromthevesselabovethedemisterscreen
HORIZONTALTYPE

Figure:10Separator

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Figure:11K.O.Drum

FACTORSAFFECTINGSEPARATION
Thefollowingtableshowssomeofthefactorsthataffectseparation:
SEPARATIONFACTOR

EFFECTOFTHEFACTOR

1.DifferenceinFluidDensities

Thegreaterthedifferenceindensities,theeasiertheseparation.

2.ResidenceTime

Thelongerthefluidsareintheseparator,thebettertheseparation.

3.CoalescingElementSurfaceArea Thegreatertheareaofthecoalescingelement,thebettertheseparation.

HORIZONTALSEPARATORS
Figure12,isafieldseparatorlabelledasanactualoperatingunittogetherwithcontrolsystems(The'M's'aretheinlet
manifolds).Afterseparationandmetering,theoilandgasarerecombinedandpipedtothemainproductionline
feedingtheplantGOSPfacility.Thisoperationsavestheneedfortwopipelinesgasandoiltothemainfacility
wheretheywillbeseparatedalongwithotherproducedwells.

Figure:12Typical,Singletube,3PhaseSeparatorandControlSystem.
Figure13,Showsatypicalhorizontal,Singletube,3phaseseparatorinternalarrangement.
Figure14,ShowsaDoubletube,2phaseseparatorinternalarrangement.
HORIZONTALSEPARATOR

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Figure:13TypicalHorizontal,Singletube,SeparatorInternals

Figure:14DoubletubeHorizontalSeparator
LEGEND:
A:FluidInlet.
B:PrimarySeparationSection.
C:SecondarySeparationSection.
D:LiquidDownpipestoLowerTube.
E:GasOutlet.
F.LiquidOutlet
VERTICALSEPARATORS

Figure:15TypicalKnockOutDrum(3Phase)
C.TheTangentialorCycloneSeparator(Figures:16&17).
Thistypeoperatesbycentrifugalforce.Itisusedtoseparateatwoorthreephaseinletfluidintoliquid(s)andgas.
Theinletflowentersthevesselsideatatangenttothecircumference.
Thiscausesthefluidstorotateathighspeedinsidethedrum.Thecentrifugalforceofrotationcausestheheavier
liquidparticlestobeforceddownwardswhilethelightergasesareforcedupwards.
Again,ademisterscreenmaybeinstallednearthevesseltoptocoalesceliquiddropletsfromthegasanddropthem
backintotheliquid.
Somedemistersconsistof'Packing'typematerialslike'RaschigRings','CeramicSaddles'orothersuitablematerials.
AsseeninFigure:17
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Note:Demisterscreenscanbecomefouledandloseefficiency.Fromtimetotime,itisnecessarytoshutdownthe
separatorandremovethedemisterforcleaningorrenewal.

Figure16:TangentialorCycloneSeparator

Figure17:TwoPhaseCycloneSeparator
Thetwomagnifieddrawingsindicate2typesofdemistersystemsthatmaybeusedinseparators.
A.Represents'ConicalImpingement'contactingdevices.
B.Showsapackedbedofloose'RaschigRings'.
Eachtypecoalescesthedropletsofmistentrainedinthegasand,astheyformlargerdroplets,theyfallintothe
bottomliquid.(Dropletsizeisexaggerated)

2.LIQUID/LIQUIDSEPARATORS
Thistypeofseparatorisreferredtoasa'Coalescer'andisusedtoseparatetwoimmiscibleliquidslikehydrocarbon
andwateremulsions.Tinywaterdropletsentrainedinthehydrocarbonliquidwouldtakealongtimetoseparateout
inaconventionalseparator.
TheCoalescervesselcontains'Filter'typeelements,generallymadeoffibreglass.Asthemixedliquidspassthrough
theelements,theheavier(moredense)waterdropletsaresloweddownandsticktothefibreglasssurfacesofthe
elementswhere,asmoredropletscollidewiththem,theycoalesceintolargerdropsandfalltothebottomofthe
vesselandflowintoa'Boot'inthevesselbottom.
Thelighterhydrocarbonliquidrisesto,andleavesbythetop,oftheCoalescer.
TheCoalescerisoperated'LiquidFull'and,shouldanygasesbereleasedduringtheprocess,theyareventedtoflare
orfuelsystembyautomatic'Venttrap'systemsinordertomaintaintheliquidfilledstateofthevessel.(Ifgaseswere
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allowedtobuildupinthevessel,theliquidlevelinthevesselwouldbeforceddownbythegas.Thiswouldgradually
decreasetheefficiencyoftheCoalesceroperation).(SeeFigures:18&18A)

Figure18:Coalescer

Figure18a:CoalescerwithControls

LOWPRESSURESEPARATION(RecoveryofNaphtharichGases)
Afterthe1stStage(HighPressureHP)and2ndStage(MediumPressureMP)separators(GOSPS),theliquids,
(oil&water)stillcontainsomeheavysolutiongasesrichinNaphthacompoundsPropane,Butane&heavier.
Theliquidsarepipedtofurtherseparationunitstorecoverthisheavygas.
Thefirstunitiscalleda'DegassingBoot'wheretheliquidsaredecreasedtoaLowPressure(LP)causingmostofthe
gastobereleasedfromtheliquidandpipedtoacompressorstation.
Theliquidsleavingthedegassingboot,isfinallypassedviaanOilBootintoa'SurgeTank'wherethepressureis
decreasedtojustaboveatmosphericcausingmostofthelasttracesofgastoleavetheliquidasVeryLowPressure
(VLP)gasthatisthenpipedtoasmallcompressorwhereitspressureisincreasedtothatoftheLPbootgasandadded
toit.
Thetotalgasstreamisthencompressedfurther,cooledandtheresultingcondensate(C3+Naphtha)isseparated,
meteredandputtootherprocesses.Thelightergasesinthesurgetank,theoilandwaterarealsoseparated.(A
demulsifyingagentisaddedtotheliquidsupstreamofthe
degassingsystemtospeeduptheseparationofthewaterfromtheoil).
Thewateristhenpumpedtoadeoilingstationanddrainedawaytoadisposalpit.
Theoilismeteredandpumpedtostoragefordistribution.
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Thefollowingdiagramsandpictureshowsuchadegassingsystem.
(Figures:19&20,&photo)
FOURSTAGESOFSEPARATION

Figure:19DegassingSystem

Figure:20

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