You are on page 1of 33

NATURAL GAS SPECIFIC COURSE

NATURAL GAS TREATMENT


2009

Eng./ ALy Nassr

1
Introduction.

The processing of wellhead natural gas into pipeline-quality dry natural


gas can be quite complex and usually involves several processes to
remove: (1) oil; (2) water; (3) elements such as sulfur, helium, and
carbon dioxide; and (4) natural gas liquids (see Box, Stages in the
Production of Pipeline-Quality Natural Gas and NGLs). In addition to
those four processes, it is often necessary to install scrubbers and
heaters at or near the wellhead. The scrubbers serve primarily to
remove sand and other large-particle impurities. The heaters ensure that
the temperature of the natural gas does not drop too low and form a
hydrate with the water vapor content of the gas stream. These natural
gas hydrates are crystalline ice-like solids or semi-solids that can
impede the passage of natural gas through valves and pipes.
The wells on a lease or in a field are connected to downstream facilities
via a process called gathering, wherein small-diameter pipes connect
the wells to initial processing/treating facilities. Beyond the fact that a
producing area can occupy many square miles and involve a hundred or
more wells, each with its own production characteristics, there may be
a need for intermediate compression, heating, and scrubbing facilities,
as well as treatment plants to remove carbon dioxide and sulfur
compounds, prior to the processing plant. All of these factors make
gathering system design a complex engineering problem.
In those few cases where pipeline-quality natural gas is actually
produced at the wellhead or field facility, the natural gas is moved
directly to receipt points on the pipeline grid. In other instances,
especially in the production of non-associated natural gas, field or lease
facilities referred to as skid-mount plants are installed nearby to
dehydrate and decontaminate raw natural gas into acceptable pipeline-
quality gas for direct delivery to the pipeline grid. These compact
skids are often specifically customized to process the type of natural
gas produced in the area and are a relatively inexpensive alternative to
transporting the natural gas to distant large-scale plants for processing.

2
SOURCES OF NATURAL GAS:
Conventional natural gas generally occurs in deep reservoirs, either
associated with crude oil (associated gas) or in reservoirs that contain
little or no crude oil (non-associated gas). Associated gas is produced
with the oil and separated at the casing-head. or wellhead. Gas
produced in this fashion is also referred to as casing-head gas, oil well
gas, or dissolved gas. Non-associated gas is sometimes referred to as
gas-well gas or dry gas. However, this dry gas can still contain
significant amounts of NGL components. A class of reservoirs, referred
to as gas condensate reservoirs, occurs where, because of the high
pressures and temperatures , the material is present not as a liquid or a
gas but as a very dense, high-pressure fluid.
There are many different theories as to the origins of fossil fuels. The
most widely accepted theory says that fossil fuels are formed when
organic matter (such as the remains of a plant or animal) is compressed
under the earth, at very high pressure for a very long time. This is
referred to as thermogenic methane. Similar to the formation of oil,
thermogenic methane is formed from organic particles that are covered
in mud and other sediment. Over time, more and more sediment and
mud and other debris are piled on top of the organic matter. This
sediment and debris puts a great deal of pressure on the organic matter,
which compresses it. This compression, combined with high
temperatures found deep underneath the earth, break down the carbon
bonds in the organic matter. The deeper under the earth's crust, the
higher the temperature. At low temperatures (shallower deposits), more
oil is produced relative to natural gas. At higher temperatures, however,
more natural gas is created, as opposed to oil. That is why natural gas is
usually associated with oil in deposits that are 1 to 2 miles below the
earth's crust. Deeper deposits, very far underground, usually contain
primarily natural gas, and in many cases, pure methane.
Natural gas can also be formed through the transformation of organic
matter by tiny microorganisms. This type of methane is referred to as
biogenic methane. Methanogens, tiny methane producing
microorganisms, chemically break down organic matter to produce
methane. These microorganisms are commonly found in areas near the
surface of the earth that are void of oxygen. These microorganisms also
3
live in the intestines of most animals, including humans. Formation of
methane in this manner usually takes place close to the surface of the
earth, and the methane produced is usually lost into the atmosphere. In
certain circumstances, however, this methane can be trapped
underground, recoverable as natural gas. An example of biogenic
methane is landfill gas. Waste-containing landfills produce a relatively
large amount of natural gas, from the decomposition of the waste
materials that they contain. New technologies allow this gas to be
harvested and added to the supply of natural gas.
A third way in which methane (and natural gas) is believed to be
formed is through a biogenic processes. Extremely deep under the
earth's crust, there exist hydrogen-rich gases and carbon molecules. As
these gases gradually rise towards the surface of the earth, they may
interact with minerals that also exist underground, in the absence of
oxygen. This interaction may result in a reaction, forming elements and
compounds that are found in the atmosphere (including nitrogen,
oxygen, carbon dioxide, argon, and water). If these gases are under
very high pressure as they move towards the surface of the earth, they
are likely to form methane deposits, similar to methane.

4
Fig( ):Schematic overview of natural gas industry.
5
Stages in the Production of Pipeline-Quality Natural
Gas and NGLs:
The number of steps and the type of techniques used in the process of
creating pipeline-quality natural gas most often depends upon the
source and makeup of the wellhead production stream. In some cases,
several of the steps shown in Figure 1 may be integrated into one unit
or operation, performed in a different order or at alternative locations
(lease/plant), or not required at all. Among the several stages of gas
processing/treatment are:
A) Gas-Oil Separators: In many instances pressure relief at the
wellhead will cause a natural separation of gas from oil (using a
conventional closed tank, where gravity separates the gas hydrocarbons
from the heavier oil). In some cases, however, a multi-stage gas-oil
separation process is needed to separate the gas stream from the crude
oil. These gas-oil separators are commonly closed cylindrical shells,
horizontally mounted with inlets at one end, an outlet at the top for
removal of gas, and an outlet at the bottom for removal of oil.
Separation is accomplished by alternately heating and cooling (by
compression) the flow stream through multiple steps. Some water and
condensate, if present, will also be extracted as the process proceeds.
B) Condensate Separator: Condensates are most often removed from
the gas stream at the wellhead through the use of mechanical
separators. In most instances, the gas flow into the separator comes
directly from the wellhead, since the gas-oil separation process is not
needed. The gas stream enters the processing plant at high pressure
(600 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) or greater) through an inlet
slug catcher where free water is removed from the gas, after which it is
directed to a condensate separator. Extracted condensate is routed to
on-site storage tanks.
C) Dehydration: A dehydration process is needed to eliminate water
which may cause the formation of hydrates. Hydrates form when a gas
or liquid containing free water experiences specific
temperature/pressure conditions. Dehydration is the removal of this
water from the produced natural gas and is accomplished by several
methods. Among these is the use of ethylene glycol (glycol injection)
systems as an absorption* mechanism to remove water and other solids
from the gas stream. Alternatively, adsorption* dehydration may be
used, utilizing dry-bed dehydrators towers, which contain desiccants
such as silica gel and activated alumina, to perform the extraction.
D) Contaminant Removal: Removal of contaminates includes the
elimination of hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, water vapor, helium,
and oxygen. The most commonly used technique is to first direct the
flow though a tower containing an amine solution. Amines absorb
sulfur compounds from natural gas and can be reused repeatedly. After
desulphurization, the gas flow is directed to the next section, which
contains a series of filter tubes. As the velocity of the stream reduces in
the unit, primary separation of remaining contaminants occurs due to
gravity. Separation of smaller particles occurs as gas flows through the
tubes, where they combine into larger particles which flow to the lower
section of the unit. Further, as the gas stream continues through the
series of tubes, a centrifugal force is generated which further removes
any remaining water and small solid particulate matter.
E) Nitrogen Extraction: Once the hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide
are processed to acceptable levels, the stream is routed to a Nitrogen
Rejection Unit (NRU), where it is further dehydrated using molecular
sieve beds. In the NRU, the gas stream is routed through a series of
passes through a column and a brazed aluminum plate fin heat
exchanger. Using thermodynamics, the nitrogen is cryogenically
separated and vented. Another type of NRU unit separates methane and
heavier hydrocarbons from nitrogen using an absorbent* solvent. The
absorbed methane and heavier hydrocarbons are flashed off from the
solvent by reducing the pressure on the processing stream in multiple
gas decompression steps. The liquid from the flash regeneration step is
returned to the top of the methane absorber as lean solvent. Helium, if
any, can be extracted from the gas stream through membrane diffusion
in a Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) unit.
F) Methane Separation: The process of demethanizing the gas stream
can occur as a separate operation in the gas plant or as part of the NRU
operation. Cryogenic processing and absorption methods are some of
the ways to separate methane from NGLs. The cryogenic method is
better at extraction of the lighter liquids, such as ethane, than is the
alternative absorption method. Essentially, cryogenic processing
consists of lowering the temperature of the gas stream to around -120

7
degrees Fahrenheit. While there are several ways to perform this
function the turbo expander process is most effective, using external
refrigerants to chill the gas stream. The quick drop in temperature that
the expander is capable of producing condenses the hydrocarbons in the
gas stream, but maintains methane in its gaseous form .The absorption*
method, on the other hand, uses a lean absorbing oil to separate the
methane from the NGLs. While the gas stream is passed through an
absorption tower, the absorption oil soaks up a large amount of the
NGLs. The enriched absorption oil, now containing NGLs, exits the
tower at the bottom. The enriched oil is fed into distillers where the
blend is heated to above the boiling point of the NGLs, while the oil
remains fluid. The oil is recycled while the NGLs are cooled and
directed to a fractionator tower. Another absorption method that is often
used is the refrigerated oil absorption method where the lean oil is
chilled rather than heated, a feature that enhances recovery rates
somewhat.
G) Fractionation: Fractionation, the process of separating the various
NGLs present in the remaining gas stream, uses the varying boiling
points of the individual hydrocarbons in the stream, by now virtually all
NGLs, to achieve the task. The process occurs in stages as the gas
stream rises through several towers where heating units raise the
temperature of the stream, causing the various liquids to separate and
exit into specific holding tanks.

8
9
Impurities in Natural gas :
The processing of wellhead natural gas into pipeline-quality dry natural
gas can be quite complex and usually involves several processes to
remove: (1) oil; (2) water; (3) elements such as sulfur, helium, and
carbon dioxide; and (4) natural gas liquids (see Box, Stages in the
Production of Pipeline-Quality Natural Gas and NGLs). In addition to
those four processes, it is often necessary to install scrubbers and
heaters at or near the wellhead. The scrubbers serve primarily to
remove sand and other large-particle impurities. The heaters ensure that
the temperature of the natural gas does not drop too low and form a
hydrate with the water vapor content of the gas stream. These natural
gas hydrates are crystalline ice-like solids or semi-solids that can
impede the passage of natural gas through valves and pipes. The non-
hydrocarbon constituents of natural gas are classified as diluents and
contaminants. Diluents include gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide,
and water vapor. Contaminants include hydrogen sulfide and other
sulfur compounds. The diluents are noncombustible gases that reduce
the heating value of the gas. The contaminants can damage production
and transportation equipment. If burned, the contaminants can also
cause environmental problems such as air pollution and acid rain. Acid
rain forms when sulfur compounds in natural gas and other fossil fuels,
such as coal, are burned and react with atmospheric moisture to form
sulfuric acid (H2SO4).

10
Heavy Hydrocarbon & condensates:
Some hydrocarbons are considered an "impurity" because heavy
hydrocarbons can form liquids at pipeline operating conditions. These
liquid slugs can reduce pipeline capacity, cause compressor failures,
increase corrosion, and causes flaring at the burner tip. Heavy
hydrocarbons can also cause the heating content of the gas to be too
high for the burner configuration. The non-hydrocarbon impurities can
be toxic, corrosive, or cause problems in processing, transporting, or
burning natural gas. These contaminants are discussed below.

Nitrogen :
Nitrogen acts as a dilutent in natural gas. Nitrogen is nontoxic,
noncombustible and non-corrosive .It is generally present in natural gas
streams and can vary in composition form low percentages (not
requiring treating) to concentrations in excess of 50 mol%. High
nitrogen reserves The main problem with nitrogen is that it has no
heating content and therefore it can affect burner performance. Another
problem with nitrogen is the additional transportation cost incurred by
pipelines. Since gas transportation cost is based on heating content ($/
MMBtu), pipelines do not receive direct payment for transporting
nitrogen present in the gas stream. Nitrogen can be removed through
cryogenic separation, absorption facilities or adsorption systems. The
rejected nitrogen can be vented to atmosphere, recovered for enhanced
oil recovery (EOR), or recovered for liquid nitrogen uses.

Helium
Helium is the kind of "impurity" that everyone wishes they had in
significant quantities. Helium is an inert, nontoxic, noncombustible,
noncorrosive fluid. Helium is used in the medical field, research,
manufacturing, commercial balloons, oil and gas exploration, and
defense industry.

11
Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide is also a dilutent in natural gas, but unlike nitrogen and
helium, carbon dioxide is corrosive (especially when liquid water is
present). When cryogenically processing natural gas, solid CO2 can
form (dry ice). When the concentration of CO2 is above 1%, CO2
freezing should be checked in the turboexpander plant design and
operations. Carbon dioxide specifications are established by the sales
gas pipeline and liquid products containing ethane. Essential all natural
gas contains some amount of carbon dioxide.

Hydrogen Sulfide and Trace Sulfur


Hydrogen sulfide and other trace sulfur components (mercaptans,
carbonyl sulfide, carbon disulfide, and elemental sulfur) must be
removed to low levels due to the toxic and highly corrosive nature (in
the presence of liquid water) of these compounds. Hydrogen sulfide has
a threshold limit between 10-20 PPMv (max) and a lethal concentration
of 600 PPMv.
Mercaptans are a strong smelling compound which is added in very
small quantities to "stench" natural gas and LPG used in residential
and commercial fuel applications. When mercaptans are present in
significant quantities, removal is required and generally performed with
the removal of the other sulfur compounds, but mercaptans removal are
more difficult and affects the process selection. Sulfur components will
distribute into the different products of a natural gas liquids stream
(NGLs). Carbonyl sulfide will typically be found in the ethane and
propane product. Methyl-mercaptans generally distribute in the ethane,
propane, and i-butane and the ethyl-mercaptans distribute in the
n-butane and gasoline .

12
Trace Elements

The most infamous of these is mercury (Hg), Elemental mercury is


generally found in gases that do not contain hydrogen sulfide. Mercury
attack is found in brazed aluminum (plate-fin) heat exchangers and
aluminum piping. The mercury induced cracks occur in the high
magnesium aluminum headers or pipe welds versus the core. The metal
corrosion does not proceed at a significant rate if the temperature is
maintained below -39C [-38'F], the freezing temperature of mercury.
Above this temperature corrosion may occur at very high rates.

Water

Water must be removed to prevent operational problems resulting from


hydrate formation and corrosion. It is also nontoxic and non
combustible, but the hydrate and corrosion issues seem to overshadow
these characteristics. Water is always present in produced gas, but the
gas may not be saturated with water by the time it reaches a gas
processing facility.

13
Removal of impurities in Natural gas :
Oil and Condensate Removal :
In order to process and transport associated dissolved natural gas, it
must be separated from the oil in which it is dissolved. This separation
of natural gas from oil is most often done using equipment installed at
or near the wellhead. The actual process used to separate oil from
natural gas, as well as the equipment that is used, can vary widely.
. In many instances, natural gas is dissolved in oil underground
primarily due to the pressure that the formation is under. When this
natural gas and oil is produced, it is possible that it will separate on its
own,. The most basic type of separators are known as a three phase &
slug catcher separator.
Three phase separator is a vessel that separates the well fluids into gas
and two types of liquids: oil and water. A three-phase separator can be
horizontal, vertical or spherical. This type of separator is commonly
called a free-water knockout separator because its main use is to
remove any free water that can cause problems such as corrosion and
formation of hydrates or tight emulsions, which are difficult to break.
A slug catcher is a vessel with sufficient buffer volume to store the
largest slugs expected from the upstream system. The slug catcher is
located between the outlet of the pipeline and the processing
equipment. The buffered liquids can be drained to the processing
equipment at a much slower rate to prevent overloading the system. As
slugs are a periodical phenomenon, the slug catcher should be emptied
before the next slug arrives.

14
Fig( ) : Typical three phase separator.

Fig( ) : Typical slug catcher

15
Nitrogen Removal from Natural gas :

Three basic methods are used for removal of nitrogen from natural gas:
Cryogenic distillation
Adsorption
Membrane separation
Cryogenic distillation is the most economical and can provide higher
nitrogen rejection at high gas throughput.

Mercury Removal :

Both regenerative and non-regenerative processes are available for the


removal of mercury from gas and liquid streams, and both types will be
discussed briefly. All of the processes take advantage of the reactivity
of elemental mercury for removal. Complete removal of all mercury
requires reduction of mercury compounds to elemental mercury.
Processes that use chemisorptions for removal may simultaneously
remove the organic mercury compounds through physical adsorption.

Non- regenerative Processes


These processes use sulfur impregnated on a support such as
activated charcoal or alumina to provide a large surface area. In this
process, the mercury reacts with the sulfur to form a stable compound
on the adsorbent surface .Some processes do not adsorb the organic
forms of mercury that are inert to metals, and some treat only the gas
phase.
Regenerative Process
That utilizes silver on molecular sieve to chemisorb elemental
mercury while providing dehydration at the same time. The advantage
of silver is that the amalgam it forms with mercury decomposes at
typical regeneration temperatures . The silver-impregnated sieve is
added to the standard molecular sieve dehydration bed, and the basic
dehydration process remains unchanged. Essentially, all of the mercury
condenses with the water on regeneration and forms a separate phase,

16
Removal of the mercury from the water requires an additional
adsorption step. After water and mercury removal, the regeneration gas
can be recycled to the front of the bed without additional treatment, or
it can be blended into the sales gas. If necessary, the regeneration gas
can be further treated with a non-regenerative mercury-removal process
to remove the last traces of mercury.

17
Sweetening of Natural gas (removal of both
Sulphur &CO2):
The sulfur compounds go with the light gases stripped in the stabilizer,
so that they can be removed in gas treating. Most of the H2S and CO2
will be removed along with COS, CS2, and mercaptans. (Mercaptans
are commonly used odorants in natural gas and propane.) To enhance
acid gas removal, sweet natural gas can be used as a stripping gas. This
process can reduce H2S levels to the 10 ppmv range.
Most of the sulfur compounds are stripped into the gas phase, which,
after any compression, typically goes to an amine treating Ideally, all
of the sulfur compounds would be removed in the gas treating step.
This step eliminates additional sweetening and additional dehydration,
The acid gases and sulfur compounds concentrate in the demethanizer
bottoms. Therefore, extremely low sulfur levels are required in gas
treating to meet the product specifications in the liquid.

Types of Sweetening processes :


1. Amine Treating

Amine treating of liquids is the same process used for treating gases.
Most remove only CO and H S. Two amines, DGA and DIPA will
remove COS, but not remove mercaptans. Amine treating is often used
upstream of caustic treaters to minimize caustic consumption caused by
irreversible reactions with CO2. Amine treating is usually conducted in
a packed tower, although sieve trays are effective as well. To avoid
vaporization, contactor operating pressure should be 100 psi (7 bar)
above the liquid bubble point, and the entire unit should operate
at least 50 psi (3.4 bar) above the bubble point .. Water wash is
recommended to both recover amine and protect downstream caustic
treaters.

18
Fig( ) : Typical DEA sweetening process

2. Adsorption

Adsorption is a commonly used method for sweetening NGL and LPG


streams. It has the advantage of being able to remove sulfur compounds
down to low levels when no water is present, which makes it attractive
for treating demethanizer bottoms. In contrast to the amine and caustic
wash, no potential downstream dehydration is required. Either
promoted alumina, 13X or 5A molecular sieve will remove H2S, COS,
and mercaptans from LPG. The larger pore 13X is usually
preferred because it has a higher .Hydrocarbon flow can be up or down

during adsorption. However, up-flow is preferred, if possible, so that


the regeneration can be down, to make recovery of all liquid from the
bed easier.

19
Dehydration:

Hydrate :

Gas hydrate is a crystalline solid that consists of a gas trapped in a ring


of water molecules (see figure). There is no chemical bond between the
gas molecule and the enclosing water molecules so the gas is
effectively caged within an ice lattice. when water is available in the
aqueous form. A nucleus of one hydrate crystal is formed and other
nuclei are formed around it. As the conditions are still in favor of
hydrate structures, more and more hydrate crystals are formed resulting
in blocking up the line, pipe or valve along the flow stream of the gas
thus stopping gas flow and damaging the gas treatment or transmission
process.
Hydrate resemble packed, wet snow flakes of density = 0.9 kg/dm3
having regular cubic structure in shape, only small gas molecules can
form hydrates (i.e: CH4,C2H6,C3H8,C4H10, CO2,H2S and N2),large
proportion of water (CH4.6H20 methane hydrate, Primary cause of
hydrate formation is in presence of liquid water ,temperature does not
exceed the water dew points specification .

Fig( ) : burning of gas hydrate in bottom of ocean

20
21
Hydrate formation inhibitors :
The formation of hydrates can be prevented by dehydrating the gas or
liquid to eliminate the formation of a condensed water (liquid or solid)
phase. In some cases, however, dehydration may not be practical or
economically feasible. In these cases, chemical inhibition can be an
effective method of preventing hydrate formation. Chemical inhibition
utilizes injection of thermodynamic inhibitors which utilizes injection
of one of the glycols or methanol into a process stream where it can
combine with the condensed aqueous phase to lower the hydrate
formation temperature at a given pressure. Both glycol and methanol
can be recovered with the aqueous phase, regenerated and re-injected.

1. Methanol:

Advantages:

Effective in case of polar products especially water.


Attractive due to low crystallization temperature, low viscosity.

Disadvantages:

Not economical
Volatile product
High losses of vaporization in gas

2. Ethylene Glycol

Advantages:

More preferred than methanol.


Used on intermittent basis as curative rather than preventive
measurement.
Important in drying natural gas.
Loss through vaporization in natural gas can be neglected

22
Glycol Absorption Dehydration:

Main principals &Parameters:


1
wet gas dehydrated by glycol in absorber
water contained glycol re-concentrated in regenerator
water removed from natural gas, recycled back at top of the
column
wet natural gas (NG) pass through separator
on leaving the separator, the gas is fed into bottom of absorber
lean glycol solution is fed on top of absorber
rich glycol expanded in expansion drum to degas the light
hydrocarbons, H2S and CO2
entering regenerator and reboiler to minimize risks of corrosion
exchanger is used to condense the regenerator reflux
the gas free water leaves the top of the column.

Glycol concentration has to be highly concentrated to lower the


dew point
The lower the dew point to be reached, the greater the degree of
regeneration of glycol required
The actual dew point reached in the absorber is bet. 6-10 deg C
higher the equilibrium dew point. The gap is called the
approach
cannot obtain directly by reboiling-rectification, need to
regenerate at high temperature (204oC)
high T can caused glycol breakdown and formed of corrosive
compound

23
Main Problems in the process

Foaming
Glycol has a tendency to foam when in contact with foaming
promoters such as liquid HC, solid particles (compound produced
by thermal degradation of glycol)
Develop in absorber, and can fill the entire column
Top of column no effect on foam
The onset of foaming in absorber reflected by increase pressure
drop in absorber

Glycol degradation
Thermal degradation of TEG at 206oC on wards
Produce highly corrosive organic acid
Glycol solution absorbs acid gases, lead to decrease pH
Corrosion occur caused by presence of salt water
Lead to give erosion-corrosion that caused by high rate of glycol
circulation in piping/bends.
Injection of a small amount of corrosion inhibitor, e.g. amines

24
25
Dehydration using solid on bed desiccant:
There are several solid desiccants which possess the physical
characteristic to adsorb water from natural gas. These desiccants
generally are used in dehydration systems consisting of two or more
towers and associated regeneration equipment. One tower is
on stream adsorbing water from the gas while the other tower
is being regenerated and cooled. Hot gas is used to drive off
the adsorbed water from the desiccant, after which the tower
is cooled with an unheated gas stream.
The towers are switched before the on-stream tower becomes water
saturated. In this configuration, part of the dried gas is used for
regeneration and cooling, and is recycled to the inlet separator.
Other streams may be used if they are dry enough, such as
part of the residue gas. Solid desiccant units generally cost more to buy
and operate than glycol units. Therefore, their use is typically limited to
applications such as high H2S content gases, very low water
dewpoint requirements, simultaneous control of water and hydrocarbon
dewpoints, and special cases such as oxygen containing gases, etc. In
processes where cryogenic temperatures are encountered, solid
desiccant dehydration usually is preferred over conventional methanol
injection to prevent hydrate and ice formation. Solid desiccants are also
often used for the drying and sweetening of NGL liquids.
Desiccants in common commercial use fall into one of three
categories:

Gels alumina or silica gels manufactured and conditioned


to have an affinity for water.

Molecular Sieves manufactured or naturally occurring


aluminosilicates exhibiting a degree of selectivity based on crystalline
structure in their adsorption of natural gas constituents. Molecular sieve
is not normally used for liquid dehydration because the required level
of water removal is usually moderate and the cost of molecular sieve is
considerably more than other types of suitable desiccants, such as
activated alumina. However, in extreme cases where the moisture
content of the liquid must be kept at an unusually low concentration,

26
molecular sieve should be considered. Molecular sieve may be used for
removing other undesirable compounds, such as H2S, COS,
mercaptans, etc., from liquid streams. Dehydration may be a secondary
benefit of using this type of treating method. Refer to the discussion of
molecular sieve for gas dehydration elsewhere in this Section for more
information.

Types of Molecular Sieves:

11-Type A zeolite
2With sodium cations has a pore width of 4 , called MS4A.
3Replacement of sodium by calcium cations leads to 5 pores, called
MS5A.
4Replacement of sodium by potassium leads to molecular sieve
MS3A.
5
6
7

8
9
10
11
12

27
132Type X Zeolite

14Gives pores of 10 and the calcium type corresponds to MS13X.

Activated Alumina
There are several types of alumina available for use as a solid
desiccant. Alumina is widely used for drying liquid product streams
following gas processing, treating, or fractionation. Most alumina
desiccants will produce a dewpoint below 100F if applied properly.
Alumina tends to adsorb heavy hydrocarbons which are difficult to
remove during regeneration. Alumina is alkaline and is subject to
reaction with mineral acids which are found in some well treating
fluids.

28
1Process Description :
2Using 2 columns called dryers packed with solid adsorbent
3Involve 2 phase: adsorption phase & regeneration phase

11.Adsorption Phase
4gas flow through drier from top to bottom
5adsorbent saturated with water
6halted phase first before reach breakthrough point
7polarity of water much stronger attraction on adsorbent
8ejects hydrocarbon molecules that is less stronger

2. Regeneration Phase

9regenerate bed of adsorbent


10performed operation by increasing in T (200-300 oC) or
lowering the P, or by a combination of both
11can be performed by heating bed of adsorbent
122 stage of regeneration of drier: heating phase & cooling phase
13Heating Phase: Hot air desorbs the water from the adsorbent
14Cooling Phase: Drier is cooled at the end of the heating phase to
the initial condition.

Molecular sieve dehydrators are commonly used ahead of NGL


recovery plants designed to recover ethane. These plants typically
operate at very cold temperatures and require very dry feed gas to
prevent formation of hydrates. Dehydration to a 150F dew point is
possible with molecular sieves. Water dew points less than 150F can
be accomplished with special design and strict operating parameters.

29
30
31
32
References
1. R. N. MADDOX , H. ERBAR , GAS CONDITIONING AND
PROCESSING , Campbell Petroleum Series (Jan. 1982).
2. "GPSA Engineering Data Book" Eleventh Edition.

33