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SPE 107293

Selection Slug Catcher Type

Moises Alfredo Vergara Contreras and Nicolas Foucart, Repsol YPF

Copyright 2007, Society of Petroleum Engineers

meters long. The finger type needs 16 field welds and
This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2007 SPE Latin American and Caribbean the weight is 80 tons. The equipment results in an easy
Petroleum Engineering Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 15–18 April 2007.
assembly, of simple operation, smaller and lighter that
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
facilitates transportation.
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at The Ex-Work delivery Cost and the equipment delivery
SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of
Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper
to the site favors the “finger type” over the “vessel type”.
for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is The installation cost for the vessel type is cheaper than
prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than
300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous the finger type but it is not enough as to favor the vessel
acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.
Box 833836, Richardson, Texas 75083-3836 U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.
type because if we add Ex-Work delivery and Installation
costs, the finger type saves 30%.. The vessel type does
Abstract not fulfill the savings the Margarita Field
Project (“onshore”).
Margarita field is one of the most important gas fields in
Bolivia, not fully developed yet. The field development is Additionally one more characteristic in favor for the finger
to be completed in the near future and as part of the type is the weight where the finger type does not risk
facilities to be constructed, it is included the installation transportation, where as the vessel type has
of a slug catcher. The slug catcher situated at the end of transportation risks because the existing roads have only
the pipeline is intended to separate the phases and to one lane that allows the passing of equipment less than
provide temporary storage for the liquid received. Slug 90 tons. The vessel type has 150 tons with a pressure
Catchers should be designed to take care of a slug. design of 2025 psig; and if the pressure design would be
1500 psig, the weight would be of 120 tons.
The selection between the “Finger Type” and “Vessel
Type” would be thorough the economical aspects and After taking in consideration all the points in favor of the
the characteristics of the equipment that best adapts to finger type (the multiple-pipe slug catchers), it is
the conditions of the site. recommended to be installed in the Gas Treatment Plant
The slug volume of the Margarita Field, calculated for a
gathering system of 13 wells, being the outermost 30 INTRODUCTION
Km. apart from the Plant, resulted in 26,35 m3 with a
design pressure of 2025 psig. The Margarita Project calls for a field development,
covering the flow lines, main header, slug catcher, gas
The “multiple-pipe” slug catchers (“Finger Type”) dehydration and dew point control, condensate
equipment is the most common equipment to handle stabilization, and water treatment. This system is known
slug volume, it is efficient and the operation is well as the Gas Treatment Plant (GTP), which shall produce
known, however the common practice recomends that a relatively gas stream and condensate.
for volumes less than 100 m3, it is better to use the
“vessel type” (this would be our case with 26,35 m3.) The gathering system of the Project consists of individual
According to the rule of thumb the selection should be flow lines connecting 13 wells with three headers at a
“Vessel Type”, where 18 MMsm3/d is considered the gas new gas plant. The three headers will directly combine
flow for the design, that results in a diamenter of 102 the well flow to the slug catcher or the individual well flow
inches by 14 meters long and a weight of 150 tons for to either the test separator or to the existing Margarita
the equipment size. plant.

The “finger type” design from the equipment The Gathering System considered the production facility
manufacturers could handle the same slug volume but consisting of 13 wells at ten sites in the Margarita field
the size is four fingers with a diameter of 40 inches by 10 connected by 120 km of new 8-inch gathering pipelines,
plus 30 km of existing 8-inch gathering pipelines.
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to be sized only to prevent carry-over arrivals which

A process simulation was conducting to model the occurs at lower flow conditions and when the slug
Gathering System and the slug size was calculated catcher may be nearly full. The result of the different
where the size was performed for the slug catcher. approaches will be that the section of primary bottles
required for liquid separation will be longer, compared to
The preliminary design of the Slug Catcher, to handle some older models, while the need for excessively large
the slug size, can be achieved by incorporating 180 gas risers can be avoided.
meters of 20-inch pipe in the liquid accumulation section
of a finger-type slug catcher. Three fingers, each 60 The multiple-pipe slug catchers (“Finger Type”) have the
meters long. following characteristics:

The present study tries to compare options for the slug • Economical way to catch large slugs.
catcher where the vessel type has a potential possibility
to simplify the construction and to save cost that could • Gives predictable particle separation in the 50
be technically and economically feasible. micron and up sizes.

The “Vessel Type” as Slug Catcher has the potential to • Predictable separation up to tens of thousands
reduce Capex compared to the finger type because the of barrels slug size.
recent experience has found that installation costs of the
vessel type are lower than the finger type for capacities • Shipping in pieces for field assembly with line
below 1000 bbl and in our case the volume is 26, 35 m3 pipe.
(165, 74 bbl). The installation vessel is cheaper, simpler,
and short time. • When slug size is large enough to justify the
logistics of field assembly, and B31.8 type
The present analysis reviewed the manufacturer’s construction allowed, the harp type
proposal for the finger type and for the vessel type that separator/slug catcher will be considerably
served as the basis of the comparison of different cheaper than vessels.
aspects in the technological and economical analysis.
The manufacture proposal for the finger type is shown in
The selection criteria used for comparison are the annex 1 and the scheme is shown in figure 1. The
following: biggest advantage of this design is the low weight that
facilitates transportation, but the disadvantage is that it
• Performance Quality needs too much work in the field.

• Capital Cost (Capex)

• Installation Cost

• Transportation aspects

• Technological risk associated

Quality Performance

The Finger Type.

The preliminary slug catcher recommendation was not to

take into consideration because the size was too large
(over 60 meters). The dimension required an area of 125
square meters, which needed to recondition a lot of land
and required more than 16 field welds.

This study reviewed the preliminary design and the

manufacturer’s proposal and found a design, which is a Figure # 1, the multiple-pipe slug catchers (“Finger
base in the investigation of liquid separation under high Type”)
velocity, conditions so that the reviewed design
requirements can be met. In the previous approach, the
gas risers had to be sized to prevent liquid carry-over at
the highest flow rate; with the new approach, they have
SPE 107293 3

The new equipment can handle 28, 65 m3 slug volume.

The size is 4 fingers in the diameter of 40 inches, the
length is 10 meters different from the original “finger
type” which was 3 fingers in diameter 20 inches, and the
length is 60 meters. The new finger type needs 16 fields
welding and the weight is 80 ton.

The Vessel Type

The vessel type proposal from the manufacture is shown

in annex 2 and the scheme, is shown in figure 2. The
main advantage is the high the quality to catch liquids As far as the Quality Performance is concerned:
and it is easy to install but the disadvantage is the weight
for transportation. • The vessel type catches the liquid better than
the finger type

• The square area required by the vessel type is

lower than the finger type.

• Maximum Slug Volume is better handled by the

vessel type than by the finger type.

• The finger type weight is lower than the vessel

type weight.

The mentioned aspects favor the vessel type that would

have better performance operation and it has more
guaranteed quality than the finger type. For this reason,
the vessel type won over the finger vessel in this

Capital Cost

Figure # 2, the vessel type slug catchers The Design Pressure has high weight in cost equipment
in the Vessel Type case. Table 2 shows the Budget
. The equipment characteristic is the flowing: Level Cost Estimate for both slug catcher types, based
on the cost estimate developed by the manufacturer in
• Can give small particle separation (10 microns) case of similar design pressure. The vessel type is more
where there is liquid and lower gas flow. expensive than the finger type by 34, 29%.

• It is possible to be used as a three-phase


• Becomes expensive and heavy when large sizes

are required.

• When the slug size is up to 5 - 700 bbls, the

separation performance is good.

Table N° 1 shows different characteristic to perform

where the vessel type has many aspects in favor than
the finger type. Table # 2

The manufactore presents an alternative case where the

design pressure is 1500 psig and the weight is less.
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equipment has to be split in two or more parts as much

The Installation Cost as possible in order to minimize work at Job site.

The vessel type slug catcher is an equipment that is The finger type parts weight over 51 tons and the length
entirely fabricated in workshops, it only needs to be is 10 meters. The finger type needs to be completed in
installed in its foundation and it is connected with the the field and it has easy assembly for different parts,
pipe. The installation schedule is estimated to be equal which facilitates transportation. For transportation, the
to 10 days. finger type won over the vessel type.

The finger type equipment is built in workshop but needs

to be assembled in the field. This equipment needs 16 Technological risk associated
field welds. The schedule estimate for installation is 30
days. Many suppliers are able to provide both equipments
which design is well known. The ex-works delivery time
The vessel type needs an area of 44 square meters, less for both types is approximately 8 months.
than the finger type, which requires 88 square meters.
The crew size required to install the finger type is bigger ANALYSIS
than for the vessel type.
TABLE 4 compares the selection criteria for the “Vessel
TABLE 3 summarizes main construction characteristic Type” and “Finger Type” Slug Catcher. We can declare a
for both slug catcher types. draw in the number of qualities won by the slug catcher

Table # 3
Table # 4
Transportation Aspects

The GTP location is not of easy access; the access road

is mountainous and has irregular sections, which are not
paved they are very narrow and about 113 km long, In cases the Design Pressure would be below the
presenting a transportation problem. Large trucks investment for slug catcher types is almost same and
carrying heavy loads can become stranded on sharp “Vessel Type” has clearly opportune to win over “Finger
turns due to the washouts. The roads have limit of load Type”, but this project development “onshore” where the
not greater to 120 Tons by 20 meters long. consideration space requires does not critical as in
“offshore” project and the transportation have more
The weight of the Vessel Type weighs over 120 Tons weight for take the decision.
and the size is of 3 meters x 16 meters. The weight
would be considered a problem, which requires
completing in the field. The design should consider the
road limitation and this could have an impact in the cost. From TABLE 4, it can be seen that the CAPEX
difference, including ex-works and installation costs,
between both types is 30%, meaning that the vessel
The design of the vessel type is very heavy and it shall type does not fulfill the savings expectations and the
prepare a constructability study in order to assure that “Vessel type” will make problem of the transportation or
the equipment can be transported from possible more activity to building in site.
fabrication sites. Where limitations are detected, the
SPE 107293 5


The recommended common practice to select the slug

catcher type is not applicable in our case. In the same ANNEX 1. FINGER TYPE
way that there are special situations in the “offshore”
project, it is necessary to consider different aspects that
affect the project execution.

Transportation conditions in our onshore project

establish some limitations in the equipment size or they
require more building in the field, thus the recommended
common practice does not need to be applied in this

The “Finger Type” is considered an easy design but it is

a good idea to consult The Finger Type Manufactures to
allow finding one design that reduces the number of
field’s welds and the required space that decreases the
installation cost.

The new design for the finger type is easy to install and
the finger type saves 30% compared to the vessel type,
based in the estimated cost from the manufacturer´s
proposal and the construction company.

The vessel type requires a diameter of 102 inches by 14

meters long with a weight of 120 tons, heavier than any
equipment transported so far in the area.

The Designer Pressure does not significantly reduce the ANNEX 2. VESSEL TYPE
size and weight of the vessel because the flow is still
maintained at 18 MMsm3/d and for a pressure design of
1500 psig the equipment weight will be over 120 tons.

For all the previous reasons, it is recommended to

consider the finger type for the Slug Catcher.


[1] Bechtel – Final Report. “Conceptual Engineering

Study for the Development of Margarita Field -
Bolivia”. June, 2005.

[2] Gas Process Suppliers Association (GPSA), 1994,

“Engineering Data Book”.

[3] Ingeniería de Instalaciones de Superficie - Bolivia

“Road Access & Logistics”. Project N° Document

[4] Kohl, A.L., and Riesenfeld,F.C., 1985, Gas

Purification, Gulf Publishing Company, Houston,