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"OIL AND GAS PROCESSING PLANT DESIGN 2002

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"DEHYDRATION PROCESSES " Page 1
DGEP/SCR/ED/ECP

"DEHYDRATION PROCESSES"

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CONTENT

SCOPE 5

REFERENCES 5

GENERAL 5

GLYCOL (TEG) DEHYDRATION AND SOLID DESICCANTS COMPARISON :


ADVANTAGES AND DISAVANTAGES 8
1. GLYCOL DEHYDRATION ADVANTAGES 8
1.1. Lower installation costs 8
2. GLYCOL DEHYDRATION DISADVANTAGES 9
3. SOLIDS DESICCANTS ADVANTAGES 9
4. SOLIDS DESICCANTS DISADVANTAGES 10

SCOPE 11

REFERENCES 11

GENERAL 12

BASIC GLYCOL DEHYDRATION UNIT DESCRIPTION 12


1. PROCESS DESCRIPTION 12
2. EQUIPMENT CHARACTERISTICS 13
2.1. Inlet separator 13
2.2. Outlet gas separator 14
2.3. Absorber 15
2.4. Flash drum 16
2.5. Filters 17
2.6. Still column 18
2.7. Reboiler 18

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2.8. Surge tank 19


2.9. Heat exchangers 19
2.10. Pump 20
2.11. Stripping column 20
2.12. Instrumentation 21
3. USUAL OPERATING CONDITIONS 21
3.1. Usual glycol unit operating temperatures 21
3.2. Usual glycol losses 21
3.3. Usual glycol circulation rate 22
4. OPERATING PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS 22
4.1. Dehydration temperature (in the absorber) 22
4.2. Glycol quality 22

PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE 25

DRIZO GAS DEHYDRATION PROCESS 29


1. GENERAL 29
2. TREATED GAS DEWPOINT 29
3. AROMATIC REMOVAL 30
4. ADVANTAGES OF DRIZO TECHNOLOGY 31
5. INSTALLATIONS 31
6. INFORMATION 31

IFPEXOL - IFP GAS DEHYDRATION PROCESS 32


1. GENERAL 32
2. INSTALLATIONS 32

SCOPE 33

REFERENCES 33

RECOMMENDATIONS 33

GENERAL 34

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TYPICAL SOLID DESICCANT PROCESS DESCRIPTION 34

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS 36
1. TEMPERATURE 36
2. PRESSURE 37
3. CYCLE TIME 37
4. GAS VELOCITIES 37
5. BED HEIGHT TO DIAMETER RATIO 38
6. PRESSURE DROP 38
7. MOISTURE CONTENT OF INLET GAS 38
8. DESICCANT SELECTION 39

EQUIPMENT CHARACTERISTICS 41
1. INLET SEPARATOR 41
2. ADSORPTION TOWER 41
3. REGENERATION HEATER 42
4. REGENERATION COOLER 42
5. REGENERATION SEPARATOR 42
6. SWITCHING VALVES 42
7. PIPING 42
8. DRY GAS FILTERS 43

APPENDIX

Figure VII-B1 - Glycol type gas dehydration unit - typical schematic flow diagram
Figure VII-C1 - Typical drizo unit - Typical schematic flow diagram
Figure VII-C2 - IFPEX 1 Process - Typical schematic flow diagram
Figure VII-D1 - Gas dehydration by solid dessicant dehydrator twin tower system - Typical
schematic flow diagram
Figure VII-D2 - Absorbent bed support
Figure VII-D3 - Mole sieve capacity corrections
Figure VII-D4 - Gas treater - Typical total cycle

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SCOPE

This section introduces the different gas dehydration methods encountered in gas processing units
and discusses the advantages and the disadvantages of glycol (TEG) dehydration units and solid
bed dehydration systems, the most common methods of dehydration used for natural gas.

REFERENCES

• Oil field Processing of Petroleum (1991)


Natural gas vol.1 - F.S. MANNING & R.E. THOMPSON
Pennwell Books Publishing Company - Tulsa - Oklahoma

• Surface production Operations


Design of Gas-Handling Systems and Facilities, Vol. 2 (1988)
KEN ARNOLD
Gulf Publishing Company - Book Division

• Gas conditioning and Processing


The equipment modules (vol. 2) - J.M. CAMPBELL
Campbell Petroleum Series, 1215 Crossroads Blvd
Norman, Oklahoma, 73069

GENERAL

At the wellhead, reservoir fluids always invariably contain water and natural gas is produced
saturated with water. So the two main reasons for dehydration natural gas are :

1. Natural gas combine with liquid or free water could form solid hydrates that can plug
valves, fittings or even pipelines.

2. If not separated from the produced water, the natural gas is corrosive, especially when
CO2 and/or H2S are also present.

Gas dehydration is the process of removing water vapor from a gas stream to lower the
temperature at which water will condense or hydrate or ice will appear from the stream at a given
pressure. This temperature is called the "water dew point" of gas.

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Most gas sales contracts specify a maximum value for the amount of water vapor allowable in gas.
Typical value is for the European Consortium (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France) :

-15 ° C at 6.9 MPa (69 bar).

These values correspond to a maximum amount of water vapor in the gas of approximately :

40 kg/106 Sm 3 (2.5 lb/106 Std cuft or about 40 ppmw).


Standard condition is 15° C, 101.325 kPa.

In terms of capital and energy, gas dehydration is often a minor part of the total plant. But proper
dehydration is nevertheless essential to the operation of the facility as a whole. On offshore
platforms, the dehydration unit is often the largest single processing unit and strongly effects
weight and layout requirements.

Natural gas can be dehydrated by several processes according to specifications to be reached :


pipeline transport, sales gas, NGL recovery, gas liquefaction. These processes can be ranged in
three groups :

• First group : gas dehydration by gas refrigeration and hydrate inhibition processes

Gas refrigeration may be produced by autorefrigeration using a J. T. expansion through


a valve or a polytropic expansion through a turbo expander. On another way gas
refrigeration may be produced by an external refrigeration (e.g. propane refrigeration
loop). Hydrate inhibition is performed by monoethylene (MEG) or by diethylene (DEG)
injection. In IFPEX 1 (IFP patented process introduced in section VII. C) hydrate
inhibitor is methanol.
In these processes a three phases cold separator is often used. The water and the
hydrocarbon dew point of the treated gas leaving the cold separator correspond to the
pressure and temperature values of the fluid in this equipment. They have the same
value. Due to the cold temperature hydrocarbon liquid and inhibited free water
separation is not easy. Emulsion often appears and to improve the separation it is
recommended to heat the liquid mixture before hydrocarbon liquid and free water
separation.
Another important problem due to this process corresponds to the losses of inhibitor in
the hydrocarbon liquid. If an important part of inhibitor remains in the free water and is
recycled through the regeneration section an incontrolled part of inhibitor is dissolved in
the hydrocarbon liquid causing sales problems. Inhibitors are oxygenate compounds :
they destroy the catalyst used in the processes of refinery treatment. This is why the
majority of refiners prohibite their presence in crude oils or natural gasoline.

• Second group : gas dehydration by physical absorption processes

A number of liquids possess the ability to absorb water from gas. Yet, there are few
which meet the criteria for a suitable commercial process : to be highly hygroscopic, do

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not solidify in a concentration solution, to be non corrosive, do not form precipitates


with gas constituents, to be easily regenerated to a high concentration, can be
separated easily, to be not very soluble in liquid hydrocarbons, and to be relatively
stable in the presence of sulfur compounds and carbon dioxide under normal operating
conditions.
Several of the glycols are very close to meet all or these criteria. Diethylene glycol
(DEG), triethylene glycol (TEG) and tetraethylene glycol (TREG) possess suitable
traits. However, almost 100% of the glycol dehydrators use TEG.
Compared to TEG, DEG is cheaper but has a large carry-over loss and offers less
water dew point depression due to the difficulty to obtain high concentration by
regeneration. For these reasons DEG is only used for hydrate inhibition, not for
physical absorption.
TREG is more viscous and more expensive than the other processes. The only real
advantage is its lower vapor pressure which reduces absorber carry-over loss. It could
be employed to dehydrate gases whose temperature exceeds about 50°C, but is not
possible to give industrial units examples.
Basic TEG dehydration unit is detailed in section VII-B. This kind of unit is used for
common applications where required water dew point depressions are in the order of
30°C to 70°C (average 50°C). When higher water dew point depression are required
(e.g. NGL recovery with ethane, propane, butane extraction) it is necessary to
regenerate the TEG to very high concentrations (99.990 to 99.999). This is achieved in
the patented DRIZO TEG dehydration unit introduced in section VII - C.
Licensor claims that water content of 1 ppmw of "dry" gas may be reached in some
conditions with this kind of process.
Another advantage of DRIZO process is the possibility to recover the gas aromatics
dissolved by TEG.

• Third group : physical adsorption processes

In adsorption water molecules from the gas are held on the surface of a solid by
surface forces.
Adsorbents may be divided in two classes : those which owe their "activity" to surface
adsorption and capillary condensation, and those which react chemically. Only the first
class of adsorbents is used in natural gas processing for dehydration called "physical
adsorption processes".

Adsorbent material has the following characteristics :

- large surface area for high capacity,


- mass transfer rate high,
- good activity retention with time,
- small resistance to gas flow (pressure drop low),
- high mechanical strength to resist crushing and dust formation,
- non-corrosive, non-toxic, chemically inert.

Activate alumina, silica gel, molecular sieves are materials which meet these
characteristics and are common in commercial use. Molecular sieves possess the

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highest water capacity and produce the lowest water dew point. For these reasons it is
today the most common desiccant used.
Molecular sieve dehydrators are commonly used ahead of NGL recovery plants where
extremely dry gas is required. Cyogenic NGL plants designed to recover ethane
produce very cold temperatures (around - 80°C) and require very dry feed gas to
prevent formation of hydrates. Molecular sieves are also used for the same reason in
natural gas liquefaction plants where liquefied natural gas (LNG) reach the temperature
of - 165 ° C at atmospheric pressure.

Dehydration to approximately 1 ppmw is possible with molecular sieves. Compare with


the other gas dehydration processes, molecular sieve is the most expensive.

Basic molecular sieve dehydration unit is detailed in section VII - D.

GLYCOL (TEG) DEHYDRATION AND SOLID DESICCANTS COMPARISON :


ADVANTAGES AND DISAVANTAGES

1. GLYCOL DEHYDRATION ADVANTAGES

1.1. Lower installation costs

Solid desiccant plants cost more (between 50 % for small units to 30 % for larger units).

1.2.

Glycol make-up is easily accomplished. Recharging solid desiccant towers is time-consuming and
sometimes requires interruption of gas sales.

1.3.

Glycol units require less regeneration heat per kilogramme of water removed thus lowering utility
costs.

1.4.

Glycol systems will operate in the presence of materials that would foul solid desiccants.
This point is particularly important for field units. Wellhead or flowline stream contains treating
chemicals and solids, e.g., sand, pipeline scale and rust (fine iron sulfide, etc...).

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1.5.

Glycols can dehydrate natural gas to about 8 kg H2O/106 Sm 3, but 4 kg H2O/106 Sm 3 can be
achieved with stripping gas and stripping column which is today a standard equipment.

2. GLYCOL DEHYDRATION DISADVANTAGES

2.1.

Glycol is susceptible to contamination.

2.2.

Glycol is corrosive when contaminated or decomposed.

2.3.

Glycol loss in case of foaming problem can be excessive and costly.

2.4.

Limited water vapor content of "dry" gas to about 4 kg H2O/106 Sm 3 with a limited water dew point
depression to a maximum of about 70 °C except for DRIZO process which allows to limit water
vapor content to 1 kg H2O/106 Sm 3 (1 ppmw).

3. SOLIDS DESICCANTS ADVANTAGES

3.1.

Water vapor content of 0.8 kg H2O/106 Sm 3 are obtainable.

3.2.

They are less affected by small changes in gas pressure, temperature or flowrate.

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4. SOLIDS DESICCANTS DISADVANTAGES

4.1.

Dessicant poisoning by heavy hydrocarbons, methanol, treating chemicals and solids.

4.2.

Mechanical breaking of desiccant particles.

4.3.

High space and weight requirements.

4.4.

High regeneration heat requirements and high utility costs.

4.5.

If regeneration gas cannot be used to fuel gas, a regeneration gas compressor is required and the
dehydration unit capacity shall be increased to take into account this regeneration gas (about 10 %
of the feed gas).

This summary indicates why glycol dehydration is preferred for field gas dehydration, solids
desiccants dehydration for cryogenic plant only.

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SCOPE

The dehydration of natural gas is the removal of the water that is associated with natural gases in
vapor form. Dehydration prevents the formation of gas hydrates and reduces corrosion.

A liquid absorbent suitable for the dehydration of natural gases must fulfill many requirements.
Among the more prominent requirements are :

• high affinity for water,


• low cost,
• non corrosiveness,
• stability during regeneration,
• ease of regeneration,
• low or moderate viscosity,
• low vapor pressure at contact temperature,
• low solubility for natural gases and hydrocarbon liquids,
• low foaming or emulsifying tendencies.

Triethylene glycol (TEG) fulfill all of these requirements to a satisfactory degree. This section
introduce several aspects of the basic glycol dehydration unit processing.

REFERENCES

• Gas Conditioning and Processing


The Equipment Modules (Vol.2), J. M. CAMPBELL
Campbell Petroleum Series, 1215 Crossroads Blvd, Norman, Oklahoma

• Method advanced for evaluating TEG Systems, R.A. Hubbard


Oil and gas journal, Sept. 11, 1989, P. 17

• Oilfield Processing of Petroleum (1991)


Natural gas (Vol. 1). F.S. MANNING and R.E. THOMPSON
Pennwell Books Publishing Company - Tulsa - Oklahoma

• Surface Production Operations


Design of Gas, Handling Systems and Facilities, Vol. 2 (1988), KEN ARNOLD
Gulf Publishing Company, Book Division

• G.P.S.A. SI Engineering Data Book


Gas Processes Suppliers Association, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103

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• Natural gas Engineering. Production and Storage


D.L. Katz and R.L. Lee
Mc. Graw Hill Publishing Company

• Specification for Glycol-type Gas dehydration Units


API Specification 12GDU, First Edition, déc. 15, 1990

• TEP General Specification - Glycol Package Unit - SP - ETP – 102

GENERAL

The more common liquids in use for dehydrating natural gas are triethylene glycol (TEG),
diethylene glycol (DEG) and tetraethylene glycol (TREG).

In general, glycols are used for applications where dew point depressions of the order of 30°C to
70°C (average 50°C) are required.

Compared to TEG, DEG has a large carry-over loss, offers less dewpoint depression and
regeneration to high concentrations is more difficult. For these reasons, it is difficult to justify a
DEG unit, although a few are built each year.

TREG is more viscous and more expensive than the other processes. The only real advantage is
its lower vapor pressure which reduces absorber carry-over losses. It may be used in those
relatively rare cases where glycol dehydration will be employed on a gas whose temperature
exceeds about 50°C.

TEG is the most commonly used glycol. Water dew point depressions range from 20°C to 70°C
(average 50°C) while inlet gas pressures and temperatures vary from 5 bar to 170 bar and from
15°C to 60°C, respectively.

BASIC GLYCOL DEHYDRATION UNIT DESCRIPTION

1. PROCESS DESCRIPTION

Figure VII-B1 illustrates a basic glycol dehydration system. Not any cooling equipment is shown,
ahead of the inlet separator, that may be a part of the dehydration processes. Cooling the entering
wet gas with air or suitable water ahead of the glycol dehydration unit is the least expensive form of
dehydration.

Lowering the capacity of the glycol dehydration unit allows to lower the investment costs.

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The entering wet (rich) gas, free of liquid water and liquid hydrocarbons, enters the bottom of the
absorber (contactor) and flows countercurrent to the glycol. Glycol-gas contact occurs on trays or
packing. Bubble cap trays have been used historically but structured packing is more common
today. The dried (lean) gas leaves the top of the absorber.

The lean glycol enters on the top tray or at the top of the packing and flows downward, absorbing
water as it goes. It leaves rich in water, so it is called "rich glycol".

The rich glycol leaves the bottom of the absorber and flows first to a reflux condenser at the top of
the regenerator still column, then to a glycol-glycol heat exchanger.

The rich glycol then enters a flash drum where most of the volatile components (entrained and
soluble) are vaporized.

Flash tank pressure is typically 300 to 700 kPa (3 to 7 bar) and temperatures between 60 and
90°C. Leaving the flash tank the rich glycol flows through the glycol filters and the rich-lean
exchanger where it exchanges heat with the hot lean glycol. The rich glycol then enters the
regenerator still column where the water is removed by distillation. This is where the glycol
concentration is increased to the lean glycol requirement.

The regeneration unit is designed to operate at prevailing atmospheric pressure, the reboiler to a
temperature very close to 204°C for TEG. This is the temperature at which measurable
decomposition for TEG begins to occur.

Steam generated in the reboiler strips water from the liquid glycol as it rises up the still column
packed bed.

The hot reconcentrated glycol flows out of the reboiler into the accumulator, then it is cooled by
heat exchange with rich glycol. Finally, the lean glycol is pumped back into the top of the absorber
through an cooler to control its inlet temperature in the absorber.

2. EQUIPMENT CHARACTERISTICS

2.1. Inlet separator

About half of all gas dehydration problems are caused by inadequate scrubbing of the inlet gas.

Five of the more common contaminants that impair the performance of the TEG are :

1. Entrained or free water.


This water increases the rich glycol recirculation, reboiler heat duty and fuel costs. If the
unit becomes overloaded, glycol can be carried over from the contactor and the still
column and the water dewpoint specification of the gas cannot be reached.

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2. Oils or hydrocarbon liquid.


Dissolved hydrocarbons (aromatic or asphaltic) reduce the drying capacity of the glycol
and, with water, cause foaming. Undissolved oils coke on the heat transfer surfaces in the
reboiler and increase the glycol's viscosity.

3. Entrained brine.
The salts, dissolved in the glycol, are corrosive to steels, especially stainless, and can
deposit on the fire tubes in the reboiler, causing hot spots and fire-tube burnout.

4. Downhole additives such as corrosion inhibitors, acidizing and fracturing fluids.


These materials cause foaming, corrosion and hot spots if they deposit on the fire tubes.

5. Solids (such as sand and corrosion products, e.g., rust or Fe S).


Solids promote foaming, erode valves and pumps, and eventually plug trays and packing.

Complete scrubbing of the incoming wet gas is absolutely essential for satisfactory
performance.
The inlet separator should have a high-liquid level shutdown.

A conventional separator (correctly sized), vertical or horizontal with a mist extractor or coalescing
vanes, works well in containing mist contaminants.

A filter separator may be needed if compressor oils or very fine solids or liquid droplets (for
example downstream an aircooler) are not sufficiently removed.
The inlet separator shall be located close to the absorber to prevent condensates forming in the
inlet separator - absorber line, due to ambient temperature effect (line shall be insulated).

The inlet separator could be integrated at the bottom of the contactor as shown of figure VII-B1,
without any problem if trays are installed in the contactor.

If structured packing is installed instead of trays it is not recommended to install an integrated


scrubber except if its diameter is larger than the packing section diameter, and correctly sized. In
any case this inlet separator may be a 3 phases separator.

2.2. Outlet gas separator

A filter separator installed on the absorber outlet gas stream can collect glycol carry-over. Glycol in
this separator is the first sign of foaming. If it is not contaminated, the collected glycol can be
reused as makeup.
The outlet separator protects downstream equipment from glycol contamination. Most of the time
this outlet separator is not installed, the problem being the high investment to install such separator
because the size should be big enough.

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2.3. Absorber

• As shown in figure VII-B1, the absorber (or contactor) consists of an integrated scrubber at the
bottom, a mass transfer or drying section in the middle and a mist extractor at the top.

Wet natural gas enters to the integrated scrubber and then passes through a wire-mesh mist
extractor that removes most of the remaining entrained liquid droplets.

The gas then flows through the chimney tray and contacts the glycol. The chimney tray is, of
course, required only if an integrated scrubber is installed.

• Bubble cap trays are preferred though they are less efficient (25 % versus 33 %), than valve
trays because they are suitable for viscous liquids and low liquid/gas flow ratios. Also, bubble
caps do not weep and turndown to as low as 16 to 20 % of design flow is achievable.

Tray spacing must be large enough to prevent splashing or entrainment of the glycol to the
overhead tray. Industry standard is 24 in.

Traditionally, the glycol absorber contains 6-12 trays to absorb water.

• One option to the trayed TEG contactor is the use of structured packing.

Before 1986, this packing had not been used in TEG dehydration and had not been utilized in
applications with extremely low liquid loadings.

Today, the structured packing is used worldwide in several applications.

Structured packing has been tested and shown to be superior to trayed columns providing
roughly twice the capacity and up to 50 % greater efficiency. The combination of high gas
capacity and reduced height equivalent theoretical plates (HETP) in comparison with trayed
contactors makes the application of structured packing desirable for new contactor designs and
existing trayed contactor capacity upgrades.

Structured packing was developed as an alternative to random packing to permit improved


control of mass transfer by the use of a fixed orientation of transfer surfaces.

The material is essentially a series of closely spaced corrugated sheet metal plates stacked
vertically on edge with corrugations at a 45° angle from horizontal. Flow passages direct the gas
and liquid countercurrent to each other. Packing sections are usually less than 12 in. high and
are stacked so the corrugations run at 90° orientation from the layers above and below.

• Structured packing is manufactured and sold by several vendors in the U.S.A and Europe
(SULZER (preferred manufacturer), GLITSCH, KOCH, NUTTER).

Packings are generally of the same geometry but each vendor has a different type of surface
treatment intended to enhance vapor-liquid contact.

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• At low gas rates the packing efficiency decreases because of a gas bypassing effect, with even
1-5 % gas bypass significantly reducing structured-packing efficiency. The bypassing is caused
by low liquid hold-up, leading to unsufficient contacting between gas and liquid because there is
less liquid surface available for gas contact. In dehydration service, however, the number of
theoretical contact stages required tends to decrease with increasing glycol flow rate. This
offsets efficiency loss and provides liberal turndown.

• A vane-type mist eliminator with 3-4 in. mesh pad face should be used with structured packing
in TEG contactors. This will reduce carry-over under normal operating conditions.

The design gas velocity in a tower which uses structured packing is approximately twice the
normal design velocity in a trayed contactor with a wire mesh mist eliminator. Glycol carry-over
is likely if a wire mesh mist eliminator is used in conjuction with structured packing.

• Structured packing are quickly plugged by solids contained in gas. To prevent this problem, a
special filter is recommended downstream the inlet gas separator, upstream the absorber.

• The top section provides space for the glycol to disengage from gas. Distance between the top
tray and the demister should be about 1.5 times the tray spacing.

The demister (mesh) or woven mist extractor reduces liquid glycol carry-over to less than
10.6 kg per 106 Sm 3 (0.7 lb/MMStd cuft).

2.4. Flash drum

The flash drum separates dissolved hydrocarbon gases from glycol. Removal of the flashed gas
from wet glycol reduces subsequent vapor flow in the still column.

TEG absorbs 7.5 10-³ Sm³ of natural gas per liter at 70 barg and 35°C.
Most of this gas evolves when the glycol flashes at 5 barg.

The amount of flash gas is less than 15.10-³ Sm³ per liter of TEG. However, the big part of
aromatic compounds and heavier hydrocarbons remains in solution in rich glycol.

Heavy hydrocarbons form stable emulsion and foams. These are broken at 65°C and a retention
time of 20 minutes.

When oil removal is desired, the rich glycol can be pre-heated in the glycol-glycol exchanger
before flashing. Heating reduces the viscosity and accelerates glycol-liquid separation. However,
increased temperatures increase the solubility of liquid hydrocarbons in the glycol (glycol should
not be heated over 90°C). The pressure in the flash separator must be sufficient to permit the exit
glycol stream to flow through all downstream equipment, i.e. the heat exchangers and the filters.

The flash drum is an horizontal three-phase separator with a 30 minutes liquid retention time
operating at 2 to 5 barg.

Better condensated glycol separation is obtained with horizontal flash drums ; however, vertical
separators require less platform area.

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2.5. Filters

Good filtration cannot be overstated.


Filtration includes the removal of solid particles and dissolved impurities.

• The solids content in the glycol should be kept below 0.01 weight percent to prevent pump
wear, plugging of the heat exchangers, fouling of the absorber trays and still packing, deposition
on the fire tube (which generates hot spots) and TEG foaming. A cloth fabric element that is
capable of reducing solids to about 100 ppm by weight is preferred. Paper and fiberglass
elements generally have proven unsatisfactory. Filter size in a properly operated glycol system
should be 5-10 µm. Larger sizes, 25-50 µm may be required during start-up and in dirty service.

It may be impossible to judge the effectiveness of filtration by color alone. Even well filtered
glycol will be black. But removal of most of the solids will reduce corrosion, plugging and
deposits in the reboiler, and may reduce foaming losses. Good filtration is critical for satisfactory
performance.

It is desirable to measure the pressure differential across the filter and change the element
when it reaches 0.7 bar.

On change out, do a visual inspection of the filter's core. If the element is still clean on the
inside, problems such as incorrect sizing or paraffin plugging are present.

Placement of the filter after the glycol-glycol heat exchanger exploits the reduced viscosity of
the rich glycol.

The full-flow type is preferred. Two filters in parallel, with no by-pass lines, so that full filtration
can be assured, is recommended in TEP General Specification. Glycol Package Unit.

• Activated carbon filters remove dissolved impurities, e.g., high boiling hydrocarbons,
surfactants, well treating chemicals, compressor lubricants and TEG degradation products.

Aromatic hydrocarbons are often present in the rich glycol entering the regenerator and will be
absorbed on the carbon filter. They will quickly reach equilibrium loading on the carbon filter
although it is likely they are eventually displaced (to some extent) by heavier hydrocarbons.

Because of his high aromatic content, changeout of carbon filters requires special precautions
to avoid unnecessary exposure of benzene and toluene to workers.

Coal-based activated carbon should be used because wood-based charcoal tends to break up
in use. This carbon can be placed in a metal canister or fill a vessel. In either case, good
screens are needed to prevent carbon loss into the system.Said carbon particles, much like iron
sulfide, tend to promote a stable foam.

The use of a carbon purifier downstream the solid particles filter is recommended. This will
produce essentially water-white glycol. Maintenance of this color has proven to be desirable

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because it tends to increase dehydration efficiency and minimum foaming, a major source of
glycol loss.

A carbon filter vessel handling minimum 15 % of the rich glycol flow rate is used. The length to
diameter ratio should be at least five. Granular, 8 to 30 mesh, 480 kg/m³ (30 lb/cuft), coal-based
carbon is recommended. The flowrate should be 4.9 to 7 m³/(h.m²), (2 to 3 gpm/ft²), of bed area.
A retention time of 15 to 20 minutes is recommended to obtain the full carbon capacity. The
carbon should be replaced when it no longer removes color from the glycol. New carbon should
reduce foaming and hydrocarbon content. Replace carbon on a regular planned maintenance
schedule.

• Glycol filters are only effective when used ! In especially dirty glycol systems, filters are often
bypassed to avoid frequent filter change-out. Problems with this should be obvious. If filter
plugging is excessive, try larger filter size and look for source of problem (e.g. poor inlet
separation, degradation, corrosion products, etc...).

2.6. Still column

Reconcentration of the glycol occurs in the still column and reboiler. Water separation from the
glycol is easy because there is a large difference in the boiling points and the relative volatility is
very high. Reconcentration requires three theoretical stages : the reboiler, the still column and the
reflux condenser.

The still column is a vertical pipe filled with a minimum of 1.20 m of stainless steel rings. In TEP
General Specification. Glycol Package Unit, ceramic saddles are prohibited. Trays are sometimes
used in very large units and the still is insulated.

Reflux should be controlled by installing a condenser in the top of the still column. Wet glycol flows
through the condenser and controls the temperature at the top of the still : 100°C with no stripping
gas. Glycol losses in the water vapor leaving the still are minimal with a reflux equal to 30 % of
effluent water vapor.

The still column condenser may be an integrated condenser for low capacity units (reboiler duty
lower than 1000 kW), and external condenser for larger capacity units (see TEP General
Specification. Glycol Package Unit).

2.7. Reboiler

The reboiler provides the heat necessary to boil the water out of the glycol.

Direct-fired heaters are often used, but they constitute an open flame hazard. In some locations,
such as offshore platforms, indirect heating with oil, steam or electrical resistance is required by
fire code and prudent practice.

TEG does not undergo significant thermal decomposition if the bulk glycol temperature is kept at
maximum 204°C, and the maximum outside fire-tube skin temperature does not exceed 221°C.

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To maintain proper skin temperature, prevent "hot spots" and obtain satisfactory fire-tube life, it
must have sufficient area. The following are recommended :
2
Maximum heat flux across fire-tube wall : 23 kW/m ,
2
Recommended heat flux for maximum life : 20 kW/m ,
2
Burner capacity : 30 kW/m .

Notice that the burner possesses extra capacity to obtain firing flexibility.
The typical heat balance will indicate a reboiler heat load of 390-450 kJ/liter of TEG circulated.
Experience has shown that extra heating capacity is desirable (20 % for electrical for electric
heaters, 10 % for hot oil or fire tube reboiler).

Extra capacity has be considered to take in account the vaporization of aromatics (BTEX)
absorbed by TEG. The same remark apply to the regeneration system (still column, reflux
system , ...).

Glycol level in the reboiler is controlled by a weir, or the height of the downcomer. In all cases, the
glycol level should be 15 cm over the top heat source (i.e. top tube).

2.8. Surge tank

The surge tank contains surges in the glycol flowrate without upsetting the operation, holds a
complete drain down of glycol from the absorber trays or structured packing and provides capacity
during start-up for the glycol to expand when heated from ambient to operating temperature.

During normal operation, the surge tank should be half full. A gas blanket is recommended to
prevent air contamination. The surge tank should have a level indicator, a low level shutdown and
insulation to protect operators and conserve heat.
In some cases condensate is accumulated on the glycol surface in the surge tank. Draining facility
of the accumulated condensate must be provided.

2.9. Heat exchangers

The heat exchangers in a glycol unit should be design to accomplish the following.

1. Supply the lean glycol to the absorber 5°C -10°C warmer than the dried gas leaving
the absorber.

Lean glycol should be cooled 5°C -10°C warmer than effluent gas from the absorber.
Otherwise, the top tray or the structured packing acts as a heat-exchanger and the gas
temperature on the top tray or the structured packing rises.

If there are not limitations on the gas pressure drop and the temperature of the treated
gas a dry gas/lean glycol heat exchanger (shell and tube), usually installed vertically on
the dehydration column (contactor), is a preferred solution.

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In other cases, a forced-draft air heat exchanger or a water-cooled shell and tube-heat
exchanger is installed.

This exchanger should be sized to cool the glycol to 5°C to 10°C above the gas
temperature. 10 % to the duty should be added to compensate heat transfer loss from
fouling and variations in the glycol circulation rate.
An automatic control system of lean glycol temperature is installed with air or water-cooled
heat exchanger to take in account temperature value of the gas entering the absorber.

2. Maintain the top of the still column at below 100°C (at sea level)

In some small units, the upper part of the still is bare and sometimes has vertical fins.
Atmospheric cooling provide the reflux. The serious drawback to this economical design is
that the amount of reflux is not controlled by the operator.

In large units reflux is controlled by installing an integrated condenser in the top of the still
column with a by-pass line, or an external condenser with a receiver drum and reflux
pumps.

3. Preheat the rich glycol entering the still column (by the heat recovery from the lean
glycol leaving the reboiler).

An approach of 25-40°C at the hot end is desirable in the rich/lean-glycol heat exchanger.

This exchanger has a large temperature cross ; that means the temperature of the exit
lean glycol is much lower than that of the exit rich glycol. This type of service requires true
counter-current flow. Double-pipe (finned tube inside) or plate-and-frame heat exchangers
are used. Two or more exchangers in series are often used in larger units to control the
temperature at which the rich glycol enters the flash drum.

2.10. Pump

Reciprocating pumps are generally used.

A full-flow standby pump minimizes downtime due to pump failure.


An in-line strainer should be included on the pump section.

Good flow control is desirable because excessive glycol circulation increases the reboiler duty.

Flow control is done either by varying the pump speed or with a bypass around the pump. The
bypass valve around the pump should discharge to the surge tank. Full flow around the pump
cools the pump packing and reduce leaks.

2.11. Stripping column

In the stripping method, a downcomer between the reboiler and the surge tank is packed with 1
bed of 1.2 meter high minimum of 316 stainless Steel random Pall rings or equivalent and the

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stripping gas is injected at the bottom of the downcomer. This counter-current contact reduces the
quantity of stripping gas required and produces glycol concentrations above 99.9 weight percent.

2.12. Instrumentation

(See TEP General Specification. Glycol Package Unit. SP-ETP-102)

3. USUAL OPERATING CONDITIONS

Pressure and temperature of the inlet gas control the water content and water amount to be
removed. High pressures and low temperatures are preferred for operating conditions because
they reduce water content, equipment size and fabrication costs.

3.1. Usual glycol unit operating temperatures

PROCESS LOCATION TEMPERATURE

• Inlet gas 25 - 40°C


• Lean glycol into the absorber 5 - 10°C (mean 5°C) warmer than gas
• Glycol into flash drum and filters 35 to 100°C (70°C preferred)
• Glycol to still 90 to 150°C (150°C preferred)
• Top of still <100°C without stripping gas
About 85°C with stripping gas
• Reboiler 180 to 204°C (204°C preferred)
• TEG entering pump Below 95°C (90°C preferred)

3.2. Usual glycol losses

Glycol losses can be defined as mechanical carry over from the contactor plus vaporization from
the contactor and regenerator and spillage. Process glycol losses shall not exceed 10 liters/106
Sm 3 (0.07 US GAL/10 6 Scf) for the contactor, and 4.1 liters/106 Sm 3 (0.03 US GAL/10 6 Scf) for the
regeneration skid.

This excludes leakage at valve and pump packing and spillage to drain system.

Excessive losses result from foaming in the absorber and/or regenerator (Anti-foam agents are
sometimes used), carry over at the top of contactor, losses at the top of the still column due to too
low reflux, leakage at valves and pumps gaskets and spillage to drain system.

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3.3. Usual glycol circulation rate

For ordinary pipeline water dewpoint control, the glycol circulation rate usually will be 15 to 35 liters
per kg water absorbed from gas. A circulation rate above this range can be justified economically
only in special applications from it results in excess utility consumption.

4. OPERATING PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

4.1. Dehydration temperature (in the absorber)

While TEG can dehydrate natural gas at operating temperatures from 20°C to 70°C, the preferred
temperature range is 20-30°C. Below 15°C, the glycol is too viscous. This reduces tray efficiency,
promotes foaming, and increases glycol losses. Above 30°C, the inlet gas contains too much water
and the drying ability of the glycol is reduced.

The inlet glycol temperature should be 5°C - 10°C higher than the inlet gas temperature. If the
glycol enters cooler than gas, the resulting chilling condenses hydrocarbons which, in turn,
promote foaming.

In very cold climates, heat losses through the contactor walls can lead to HC condensation.
Insulating and/or housing the contactor may be justified.

If the glycol enters more than 10°C above the effluent gas temperature, TEG vaporization losses
are increased unnecessarily.

4.2. Glycol quality

Many operating and corrosion problems are avoided when glycol is kept clean.

4.2.1. Oxygen in the system

Sources of oxygen include storage tanks without inert gas blankets, leaking pumps and, rarely, the
inlet gas.

A gas blanket consisting of a very small flow of fuel gas or nitrogen into the top of liquid storage
tanks will prevent air from entering the vessel. Excessively leaking pump packing glands are
another source and should be repaired promptly.

4.2.2. Thermal decomposition

Thermal degradation occurs when glycol is overheated. Overheating can be avoided by keeping
the reboiler temperature at maximum 204°C, using reboiler heat fluxes less than 23 kW/m², and by
checking the fire tube regularly for hot spots caused by deposits of tar and/or salt.

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Hot spots are observed at night ; if the flame is shut off, they continue to glow bright red.

4.2.3. Low pH

Solutions in a glycol unit that is not downstream of an amine unit become acidic and corrosive,
especially when the inlet gas contains H2S or CO2.

The optimum glycol pH is 7.0 - 8.5. A pH above 9 promotes foaming and emulsion formation.
Corrosive acids formed by glycol decomposition or oxidation or dissolved H2S or CO2 can be
neutralized by bases such as triethanol amine. These bases should be added slowly and in small
amounts, e.g. 1 kg of triethanol amine per 2 800 l of glycol, because excess base can precipitate
sludge.

Take care, adjustment of pH is proper but the cure can be worse than the disease if it is overdone.

Frequent filter replacement is required while the glycol is being neutralized.


The glycol pH should be checked weekly using narrow range pH test paper or a pH-meter.
Glycol make-up pH should be checked randomly.

4.2.4. Salt contamination

Salt deposits on the reboiler fire tube cause hot spots and fire-tube failures. The glycol should be
drained and the unit cleaned when the salt level exceeds 2,500 ppm weight.

Special equipment, such as a separate glycol reclaimer or ion-exchange resin bed, is required for
removing salt from TEG. Produced water should be prevented from entering the absorber by use
of an upstream filter separator.

4.2.5. Liquid hydrocarbons

Liquid hydrocarbons are either entrained with the inlet gas, are condensed by the lean glycol
entering the absorber colder than the sales gas or by retrograde condensation due to pressure
drop, or simply absorbed from gas by glycol.

Hydrocarbon contamination should be minimized by scrubbing the inlet gas, keeping the lean
glycol 5°C to 10°C warmer than the sales gas, adequately sizing the three-phase flash separator
and using carbon purification. Liquid hydrocarbons, if permitted to enter the stripper, flow down the
column and flash rapidly in the reboiler. This can blow liquid out of the still column.

4.2.6. Sludge accumulation

Dust, sand, pipeline scale, reservoir fines and corrosion products such as iron sulfide and rust are
picked up by the glycol if not removed by the inlet separator or the integrated scrubber. These
solids, together with tarry hydrocarbons, eventually settle out and form an abrasive, sticky black

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gum, which can erode the glycol pump and other equipment, plug the contactor trays and the
packing in the still and stripping columns, and deposit on the fire tubes.

Proper filtration of both the rich and lean glycol streams should keep the solids concentration below
0.01 weight percent.

4.2.7. Foaming

Foaming may be mechanical or chemical. Mechanical foaming is caused by excessively high gas
flowrates in the absorber. Contaminants such as solid particles, salts, corrosion inhibitors and
liquid hydrocarbons cause chemical foaming.

Foaming is best detected by monitoring the pressure drop across the contactor. Erratic readings
followed by a rapid increase of 0.2 to 0.3 bar are symptoms of foaming.

Chemical foaming can be detected by bubbling air through a sample of the glycol for five minutes
and observing the resulting foam height and stability.

If the pressure drop across the absorber suddenly increases by 0.3 to 0.6 bar and the chemical
foam test is negative, then suspect mechanical foaming or some other problem.
Foaming should be prevented by good front-end separation of contaminants, proper solution
filtration and by raising the temperature of gas and glycol above the dew point of the condensed
hydrocarbons.

Use of defoamers merely treats the symptom ; eliminating the cause is far better.
Careful monitoring, elimination of contaminants, carbon filtration, use of a three-phase flash
separator and maintenance of pH between 7 and 8 can extend glycol life to 5-10 years.
Vacuum distillation can recover up to 90 % of the remaining glycol from contaminated glycol. One
approach is to use a portable unit on a 200 to 600 liters per hour sidestream.

4.2.8. Aromatic absorption

The affinity for aromatics by TEG has long been recognized. The UDEX process was used for
many years in refineries and chemical plants to extract aromatic hydrocarbons from paraffins with
TEG.

In gas dehydration service, TEG will absorb limited quantities of aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene,
toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) from gas. These components are often abbreviated as BTEX.

Quantifying the absorption levels has become more important in recent years due to increased
restrictions on aromatic emissions from glycol units. To date, little published equilibrium data is
available.

Predicted adsorption levels for BTEX components vary from 5-10 % mol for benzene to 20-
30 % mol for ethylbenzene and xylene. Absorption is favored at higher pressures and lower
temperatures and increased TEG concentration and circulation rate.

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The bulk of absorbed aromatics will be vented with water vapor at the top of the regenerator. In
some cases, these aromatics can be condensed and recovered ; however the effectiveness of
condensation declines rapidly with increasing stripping gas rates.

In these cases, some operators use a partial condenser to condense water and to pipe volatile
hydrocarbons to an incinerator or to the reboiler as fuel. Back pressure on the regenerator could be
minimized by the use of an eductor which is often the fuel gas valve on the reboiler.

Another mitigation measure which looks promising is to strip the aromatics from the TEG with a
small stripping gas stream at the flash tank.

If aromatics content in TEG is high, their recovery with a DRIZO gas dehydration process may be
considered (see Section VII-C).

PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE

Preventive maintenance reduces operating costs. The goal is to repair equipment only when
needed ; early diagnosis of troubles is the best approach. Such diagnoses require thorough online
inspections, careful downtime inspections and servicing, and diligent record keeping.

Daily inspections should include :

1. check controls for proper operation,


2. replace broken thermometers and pressure gauges,
3. measure and record :

• sales flowrate and dew point (or water content),


• contactor temperature and pressure,
• pressure drop across trays or packing of absorber (to detect foaming problems)
• glycol circulation rate (pump strokes/min),
• glycol temperature at top of contactor (to be at + 5°C to 10°C above gas inlet
temperature),
• glycol temperature entering pump,
• reboiler bath temperature.

In addition, if required :

1. add glycol to surge tank. Note time and amount added,

2. replace filters when pressure differential reaches 0.7 bar for soft cartridges and 1.7 bar for
rigid cartridges,

3. replace strainers when plugged,

4. repair leaks.

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At least once a week, fill a quart jar with glycol from the drain top on the storage tank. Hold the jar
up to a light and check carefully for the following :

1. fine black particles which settle when shaken, this FeS and/or Fe3O4 precipitate indicates
ongoing corrosion and potential failure of the filters,

2. sniff sample carefully. A sweet, aromatic odor like burnt sugar or overripe bananas
suggests thermal degradation,

3. check the flow characteristics of the sample. A black, thick viscous solution indicates that
heavy hydrocarbons are being absorbed from the gas,

4. check for an oily layer floating on the glycol, which also indicates that heavy, non-volatile
hydrocarbons are being condensed.

Such evidence of glycol contamination should be confirmed by a complete glycol analysis.

5. estimate glycol loss (should be < 14.1 l/106 Sm 3 gas treated).

Every month, or sooner if contamination is suspected, the glycol should be sampled and analyzed
for hydrocarbons, water, solids, iron, chlorides, specific gravity, pH, if deemed appropriate, glycol
component analysis.

The following conclusions may arise from such a glycol analysis :

• low pH : glycol decomposition, corrosion,


• hydrocarbons present : flash tank, filter problem,
• low density, water present : reconcentrator problems,
• high solids : corrosion, glycol decomposition, filter problem, carry-over from inlet
separator,
• high iron : corrosion,
• high chloride : brine carry-over from separator, scrubber.

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Sample both the lean and rich glycol streams and compare with the optimum values in table as
follows :

Parameter Lean Glycol


pH 7.0 - 8.6
Chlorides (mg/l) < 600
Hydrocarbons (wt %) < 0.3
Iron (mg/l) < 15
Water (wt %) < 1.5
Suspended solids (mg/l) < 200
Foaming tendency Foam height, 10-20 ml, break time, 5 s.
Color and appearance Clear and light-colored to medium amber.

Remarks :

• pH usually lower on rich glycol due to acid-gas content ;


• hydrocarbon, iron and suspended solids may be different for lean and rich glycols,
depending on filter placement ;
• difference between lean and rich glycol water contents should be 2-6 %.

A check on surge tank and makeup glycol is worthwhile also.


Reclaimed glycol should be checked thoroughly before reuse.

Virgin glycol is recommended for makeup (+ 99 weight percent TEG with < 1 weight percent EG,
DEG, TetraEG) ; and buffered with pH 7-8.

Contaminated glycol should be checked for foaming and a suitable defoamer found. The defoamer
should be added until the source of the contamination has been identified and removed.

The ideal time for cleaning is when the unit is shutdown for repairs. A good cleaning job can
improve plant operation greatly. However, a poor job can severely contaminate the glycol for a long
time. The best approach is to sample the contaminant(s) and see what will dissolve the deposits.

Recommended solutions are :

• salt : hot water,


• rust and FeS : acids, followed by neutralization with caustic, or sodium carbonate in
hot water,
• tarry deposits : hydrocarbon solvents or acetone.

Temperature of 60-65°C and high circulation rates improve the cleaning process.

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Hot spots and subsequent burnout of reboiler fire tubes are caused by improper firing and/or
deposits on the outside of the tubes (often salt). Adjust burner controls monthly and clean the
reboiler thoroughly once a year.

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DRIZO GAS DEHYDRATION PROCESS

Due to its performances and advantages, DRIZO Technology appears to be competitive with
molecular sieves. The DRIZO system costs approximately 50 % less than a molecular sieve unit
with installation costs being more than 25 % less.

1. GENERAL

DRIZO Technology is a glycol (TEG) based gas dehydration by physical absorption process,
based on patented technology from the Dow Chemical Company, and licensed worldwide through
OPC Drizo, Inc in 1985.

DRIZO gas dehydration achieves very high concentrations of glycol purity. Lean glycol with
concentrations above 99.990 wt % to 99.999 wt % may be reached.

Gas dehydration for special situations can be achieved by the glycol enhancement technology of
the Drizo Process. Two applications are commercially viable and competitive with other glycol
technologies and solid dessicant dehydration.
These applications are for :

• achieving treated gas with water dew points of from - 40 °C to - 95 °C (dry gas with water
contents as low as 1 ppm H2O).

• removing and recovering benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX)


components absorbed by the glycol which otherwise might be vented with conventional
regeneration units (BTEX emissions from the regenerator vent are reduced by 95 % or
optionally to zero, with no vent vapor compression).

A process schematic of a Drizo unit is illustrated in figure VII-C1. The process uses technology
practiced for the past to achieve very high concentrations of glycol. Occasionally, the technology
can be retro-fitted into an existing glycol unit, but in general, it is preferable to incorporate various
modifications to conventional dehydration and install some new equipment. The following elements
would be added to a conventional glycol unit to convert to a Drizo system : solvent - water
overhead condenser, solvent-water separator, solvent pumps and solvent heater.

2. TREATED GAS DEWPOINT

Treated gas water dew points of - 40 °C to - 60 °C have been achieved in all Drizo designs.
Treated gas dew point temperature less than - 60 °C require a number of modifications to increase
the glycol concentration on a consistent basis.
Only three variables influence the treated gas dew point for a given inlet composition :

1. number of theoritical stages in the contractor,


2. glycol circulation and

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3. glycol concentration.

To achieve water dew points in the - 73 °C to - 95 °C region, the contactor will need 4 to 6
theoretical stages. The glycol circulation rate will need to be at a minimum 12.5 to 25 l/kg H20
removal. The bulk glycol concentration will need to be at a level of 99.9 wt % consistently,
preferably at 99.997 wt %.

3. AROMATIC REMOVAL

Glycol preferentially absorbs aromatics and naphtene components from the inlet gas over
paraffinic components. As the homologous series of glycols increases from ethylene to diethylene,
triethylene and tetraethylene the aromatics absorption by the glycol also increases. All
hydrocarbon and sour gas component absorption in glycol is contactor pressure and temperature
dependent.

Consistent data for hydrocarbon absorption in glycols at high concentration are inadequate and
deserve attention in light of the aromatic emission toxic qualities of the regenerator vent gas.

OPC Engineering, Inc., asserts have collected qualitative data in this area to permit estimates of
excess solvent or solvent consumed quantities.

This preferential absorption for aromatics in glycol has a curious property of beign either good or
bad. A conventional regeneration unit will exhaust all of the absorbed BTEX components with the
water vapor as a vent. If condensation of the vapors is attempted, BTEX components will
condense with the water vapor. However, if stripping gas is used, then the "sweeping" effect of the
imposed stripping gas will inhibit BTEX condensation and recovery.
Operational experience reflects this observation, confirmed by Hysim simulator runs.

The Drizo system uses an 80 to 100 mol wt hydrocarbon solvent to produce the azeotropic
distillation of glycol. Light stripping gas is not present. BTEX components absorbed by the glycol,
released in the reboiler vapors are collected as "excess" solvent. This has been experienced by
the North Sea unit and units in Canada.

Several other qualitative observations can be made about rich BTEX inlet gas sytems.

• The lean glycol-retained heavy hydrocarbons would be preferentially absorbed on the


carbon bed, rendering an adsorptive carbon filtration bed ineffective to remove glycol
reboiler degradation products. In that case the carbon bed filter is normally eliminated. It is
a waste of funds when BTX components are present in the inlet gas.

• Condensed water disposal from any regenerator overhead needs attention. A level of
BTEX components from 90 to 900 ppm may be present in the liquid water of a Drizo unit.

• Associated with BTEX components are heavy (> 204 °C boiling point components), which
accumulate in the glycol. These heavy components may be removed by a trap in the
solvent line or manually by a series of drawoffs on the glycol surge drum.

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• BTEX components may cause unstable operation of the glycol reboiler due to flooding of
the reflux/rich still column.
The Drizo system eliminates this operational concern.

4. ADVANTAGES OF DRIZO TECHNOLOGY

DRIZO Technology claims to achieve the same water content of "dry" gas as the one obtained with
a molecular sieve unit (1 ppmw).

DRIZO process represent a cost effective alternative to solid dessicants :

• Capital costs are comparable to plants using the standard TEG glycol process and far less
than plants utilizing solid dessicants.

• The regeneration and replacement costs for glycol are fare less than for solid dessicants.

• Molecular sieve regeneration facilities are eliminated (heating, possible blower, ...).

• Plot size, weight and total equipment size is reduced. This point is very attractive in
offshore use.

5. INSTALLATIONS

20 commercial installations in 1992.

6. INFORMATION

Following the assets change over, Proser Inc. in Houston has now been renamed OPC Drizo,
combining Drizo's technology with Proser's own systems for glycol dehydration, gas sweetening,
liquid hydrocarbon recovery, hydrocarbon dew point control, and molecular sieves.
OPC Drizo's technology is compatible with NAT's Cleanol + process, developed with IFP. This is a
patented glycol regeneration technique which recovers excess BTX liquids pumped from the three-
phase separator installed downstream of the overhead condenser. Under this process, the water-
hydrocarbon mixture is routed to a hydrocarbon drier. The water, once revaporized, is recycled to
the area upstream of the overhead condenser, while the BTX-rich hydrocarbons are vaporized by a
heater, then transferred to the regeneration stripping column.
Cleanol + is adaptable to existing glycol units.
Following the merger between Proser in Paris and NAT a new company now owned by
Framatome, PROSERNAT propose diversified oil and gas processes and services :

• floating production components and modules,


• environment friendly an glycol dehydration : Drizo, Cleanol, Progly, …
• natural gas processing,
• modularized downstream processes : catalyst regeneration, isomerisation and
hydrogenation of hydrocarbons, polishing of condensates, …

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PROSERNAT
Tour Framatome – 92084 Paris La Défense – France
Tél. : 33 1 47 96 01 80 – Fax : 331 47 96 02 50

USA fully owned subsidiary : OPC Drizo Inc.


12777 Jones Road, Suite 295, Houston, TX
Tel. : (281) 469 4925 – Fax : (281) 894 1024

IFPEXOL - IFP GAS DEHYDRATION PROCESS

1. GENERAL

IFPEXOL is methanol based gas dehydration process by gas refrigeration and hydrate inhibition,
patented by Institut Français du Pétrole.
This process treat natural-gas using methanol as a single, basic solvent to dehydrate, control dew
point, recover hydrocarbon liquids.

This process is only interesting when a gas water dewpoint and a gas hydrocarbon dewpoint are
required together.

In IFPEX-1 a small stream taken from the feed gas strips the solvent from the descending
water/solvent stream in the contactor, shown in figure VII-C2, to the point where water alone exits
the bottom. The overhead gas adds sufficient solvent to the main gas stream to prevent freezing
during cold processing where the water/solvent and condensable hydrocarbons are recovered.

IFP claims IFPEX.1 obtains hydrocarbon and water dew points from ambient to as low as - 100 °C.

2. INSTALLATIONS

7 commercial installations in 1996 :

6 3
• East Gilby plant (Petro-Canada, Alberta, Canada) : 1.4 x 10 Sm /d (C3 refrig. loop)
6 3
• Markham (Marathon oil Co, Texas, USA) : 0.2 10 Sm /d (JT expansion)
6 3
• Brazeau (Petro-Canada, Alberta) : 1.9 10 Sm /d (C3 refrig. loop)
6 3
• Dagand (Dagang Petroleum, China) : 1.1 10 Sm /d (Turbo expander)
6 3
• Sexsmith (AEC West, Canada) : 3.8 10 Sm /d (C3 refrig. loop)
6 3
• Yufutsu (Japex, Japon) : 2 x 1.2 10 Sm /d (C3 refrig. loop)
6 3
• Sexsmith 2 (AEC West, Canada) : 1.3 x 10 Sm /d (C3 refrig. loop)

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SCOPE

Adsorption (or solid bed) dehydration is the process where a solid desiccant is used for the
removal of water vapor from a gas stream. The solid desiccants commonly used for gas
dehydration are those that can be regenerated and, consequently, used over several adsorption-
desorption cycles.

Some solid desiccants, such as molecular sieves, can dehydrate gas to 1 ppm or less ; these
desiccants are widely used on feed streams for cyrogenic processing.

This section introduces several aspects of the basic adsorption dehydration unit processing.

REFERENCES

• Gas Conditioning and Processing


The Equipment Modules (vol. 2), J. M. CAMPBELL
Campbell Petroleum Series, 1215 Crossroads Blvd, Norman, Oklahoma

• G.P.S.A. SI Engineering Data Book


Gas Processors and Suppliers Association, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 74130

• Surface Production Operations


Design of Gas, Handling Systems and facilites, Vol. 2, KEN ARNOLD
Gulf Publishing Company, Book Division

• Oilfield Processing of Petroleum (1991)


Natural gas (Vol. 1) F.S. MANNING and R.E. THOMPSON
Pennwell Books Publishing Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma

RECOMMENDATIONS

Most adsorbents tend to adsorb heavy hydrocarbons, glycols and methanol, resulting in
contamination and a reduction in capacity. These components are difficult to remove during
regeneration. Therefore, for efficient dessicant performance and for a longer dessiccant life, the
inlet gas stream must be thoroughly cleaned to remove all liquids and solids.

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GENERAL

Adsorption is a surface phenomenon. All solid surfaces have some ability to adsorb, i.e., capture
and hold molecules from gases or liquids on their surfaces. Two types of gas (or liquid) adsorption
occur : chemical adsorption and physical adsorption. Physical adsorption is caused by Van der
Waals forces between the gas or liquid molecules and the surface thus forming multilayers of
adsorbate on the surface.

Solid bed dehydration systems work on the principle of physical adsorption.

The desiccant is a solid, granulated drying or dehydrating medium with an extremely large effective
surface area per unit weight because of a multitude of microscopic pores and capillary openings. A
typical desiccant might have as much as 800 square meter of surface area per gram.

The initial cost for a solid bed dehydration unit generally exceeds that of a glycol unit. However, the
dry bed has the advantage of producing very low dew points, which are required for a cryogenic
plant, and is adaptable to very large changes in flow rates.

Disadvantages are that it is a batch process, there is a relatively high pressure drop through the
system, and desiccants are sensitive to poisoning with liquids or other impurities in the gas.

TYPICAL SOLID DESICCANT PROCESS DESCRIPTION

Multiple desiccant beds are used in cyclic operation to dry the gas on a continuous basis. The
number and arrangement of the desiccant beds may vary from two towers, adsorbing alternatively,
to many towers.

Three separate functions or cycles must alternatively be performed in each tower. They are: an
adsorbing or gas drying cycle, a heating or regeneration cycle, and a cooling cycle.

Figure VII-D1 is a flow diagram for a typical two-tower solid desiccant dehydration unit.

The essential components of any solid desiccant dehydration system are :

• inlet gas separator,

• two or more adsorption towers (contactors) filled with a solid desiccant,

• dry gas filters,

• a high-temperature heater to provide hot regeneration gas to reactivate the desiccant in


the towers,

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• a regeneration gas cooler to condense water from the hot regeneration gas,

• a regeneration gas separator to remove the condensed water from the regeneration gas,

• a regeneration gas blower or compressor if the regeneration gas is recycled,

• piping, manifolds, switching valves and controls to direct and control the flow of gases
according to the process requirements.

In the drying cycle, the wet inlet gas first passes through an inlet separator where free liquids,
entrained mist, and solid particles are removed. Most adsorbents tend to adsorb heavy
hydrocarbons, glycols and methanol, resulting in contamination and a reduction in desiccant
capacity. These components are difficult to remove during regeneration. Therefore, for efficient
desiccant performance and for a longer desiccant life, the inlet gas stream has to be thoroughly
cleaned to remove all liquids and solids.

In the drying cycle, the wet inlet gas flows downward through the tower. The adsorbable
components are adsorbed at rates dependent on their chemical nature, the size of their molecules,
and the size of the pores. The water molecules are adsorbed first in the top layers of the desiccant
bed. Dry hydrocarbon gases are adsorbed throughout the bed. As the upper layers of desiccant
become saturated with water, the water in the wet gas stream begins displacing the previously
adsorbed hydrocarbons in the lower desiccant layers. Liquid hydrocarbons will also be adsorbed
and will fill pore spaces that would otherwise be available for water molecules.

For each component in the inlet gas stream, there will be a section of bed depth, from top to
bottom, where the desiccant is saturated with that component and where the desiccant below is
just starting to adsorb that component. The depth of bed from saturation to initial adsorption is
known as the mass transfer zone. This is simply a zone or section of the bed where a component
is transfering its mass from the gas stream to the desiccant's surface.
As the flow of gas continues, the mass transfer zones (M.T.Z.) move downward through the bed
and water displaces the previously adsorbed gases until finally the entire bed is saturated with
water vapor. If the entire bed becomes completely saturated with water vapor, the outlet gas is just
as wet as the inlet gas. Obviously, the towers must be switched from the adsorption cycle to the
regeneration cycle (heating and cooling), before the desiccant bed is completely saturated with
water.

At any given time, at least one of the towers will be adsorbing while the other towers will be in the
process of being heated or cooled to regenerate the desiccant.

When a tower is switched to the regeneration cycle, some dry gas (that is, the outlet gas
downstream of the adsorbing tower) is heated to temperatures of 230°C to 315°C in the high-
temperature heater and routed to the tower to remove the previously adsorbed water. As the
temperature within the tower is increased, the water captured within the pores of the desiccant
turns to stream and is adsorbed by the natural gas. This gas leaves the top of the tower and is
cooled by the regeneration gas cooler. When the gas is cooled, the saturation level of water vapor
is lowered significantly and water is condensed.

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The water is separated in the regeneration gas separator and the cool, saturated regeneration gas
is very often recycled to be dehydrated. This is done by recompressing the regeneration gas.

In some gas liquefaction plants the regeneration gas used is not outlet gas downstream of the
adsorbing tower but recompressed boil off produced in flash separator located just before liquefied
natural gas (LNG) storage tank.
This gas leaving the tower in regeneration is used as fuel gas.
In this case the regeneration cycle is performed at lower pressure (fuel gas pressure). This scheme
corresponds to an optimization of the power consumption of a liquefaction plant.

Once the bed has been "dried" in this manner, it is necessary to flow cool gas through the tower to
return it to normal operating temperatures (about 35°C to 50°C), before putting it back in service to
dehydrate gas. It is the cooling cycle.
The cooling gas is gas that has already been dehydrated. A hot tower will not sufficiently dehydrate
the gas.

The beds switching is controlled by a time controller that performs switching operations at specified
times in the cycle. The length of the different phases can vary considerably. Longer cycle times will
require larger beds, but will increase the bed life. A typical two-bed cycle might have an eight-hour
adsorption period with six hours of heating and two hours of cooling for regeneration. Adsorption
units with three beds typically have one bed being regenerated, on fresh bed adsorbing, and one
bed in the middle of the drying cycle.

Internal or external insulation for the adsorbers may be used. The main purpose of internal
insulation is to reduce the total regeneration gas requirements and costs. Internal insulation
eliminates the need to heat and cool the steel walls of the adsorber vessel (Saving up to 30 % of
the total regeneration heat). Normally, a castable refractory lining is used for internal insulation.
The refractory must be applied and properly cured to prevent liner cracks. Liner cracks will permit
some of the wet gas to bypass the desiccant bed. Only a small amount of wet, bypassed gas is
needed to cause freezeups in cryogenic plants. Ledges installed every few feet along the vessel
wall can help eliminate this problem. To eliminate this kind of problem, the best is to apply an
external insulation.

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

1. TEMPERATURE

Adsorption plant operation is very sensitive to the temperature of the incoming gas. Generally, the
adsorption efficiency decreases as the temperature increases.

If regeneration gas is recycled, i.e. mixed with the wet inlet gas, condensed liquids can appear
when the hotter gas stream is saturated with water and/or hydrocarbon during its cooling by the
colder stream, or when the gas mixture reaches its water and/or hydrocarbon dew point.

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The condensed liquids can shorten the solid desiccant life.

The temperature of the hot gas entering and leaving a desiccant tower during the heating cycle
affects both the dehydration unit efficiency and the desiccant life. To assure good removal of the
water and other contaminants from the bed, a high regeneration gas temperature is needed. The
maximum hot gas temperature depends on the type of contaminants and the "holding power" or
affinity of the desiccant for the contaminants. A temperature of 230°C to 315°C is normally used.

The desiccant bed temperature reached during the cooling cycle is important. The use of dry gas
for cooling, allows to cool the desiccant bed within a differential temperature of 5°C to 10°C of the
incoming gas temperature during the adsorption cycle. This maximize the adsorption capacity of
the bed.
The temperature of the regeneration gas in the regeneration gas scrubber should be low enough to
condense and remove the water and hydrocarbons from the regeneration gas without causing
hydrate problems.

2. PRESSURE

Generally, the adsorption capacity of a dry bed unit decreases as the pressure is lowered. If the
towers are operated well below the design operating pressure, the desiccant will have to work
harder to remove the water and to maintain the desired effluent dew point. With the same volum of
incoming gas, the increased gas velocity, occuring at the lower pressure, could also affect the
effluent moisture content and damage the desiccant.

3. CYCLE TIME

Most adsorbers operate on a fixed drying cycle time and, frequently the cycle time is set for the
worst conditions. However, the adsorbent capacity is not a fixed value ; it declines with usage. A
new desiccant has a very high capacity for water removal for the first few months of operation. A
moisture analyser is installed on the effluent gas, a much longer initial drying cycle can be
achieved. As the desiccant ages, the cycle time will be automatically shortened. This will save
regeneration fuel costs and improve the desiccant life, because fuel consumption and desiccant
ageing are also depending of the number of regeneration cycles.
The water content monitoring of each tower is recommended.
An exemple of cycle time is given in figure VII-D4.

4. GAS VELOCITIES

At lower actual velocities, drier effluent gases will be obtained. However, low velocities require
towers with large cross-sectional areas to handle a given gas flow, and allow the wet gas to
channel through the desiccant bed and not be properly dehydrated. Consequently, it would seem
desirable to operate at minimum velocities to fully use the desiccant.

In selecting the design velocity therefore, a compromise must be made between the tower
diameter and the maximum use of the desiccant. The table as follows, shows a maximum design
velocity. Smaller velocities may be required due to pressure drop considerations.

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Pressure (bar g) 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

maximum superficial velocity 26.8 20.7 17.7 15.2 13.4 12.5 12.2
(m/min)

5. BED HEIGHT TO DIAMETER RATIO

In its simplest form, a tower is normally a cylindrical tower filled with a solid desiccant. The depth of
the desiccant may vary from a 1 to 10 meters or more. The vessel diameter may be from a few
decimeters to 4.5 meters.

A bed height to diameter (L/D) ratio of higher than 2.5 is desirable.

Ratios as low as 1:1 are sometimes used ; however, poor gas dehydration, caused by non-uniform
flow, channeling and an inadequate contact time between the wet gas and the desiccant
sometimes result.

6. PRESSURE DROP

Towers are sized for a design pressure drop about 0.35 bar through the desiccant. A design
pressure drop higher than 0.55 bar is not recommended.

The pressure drop can be estimated by a modified Ergun equation :

∆P
= Bµv + C ρv2
L s S
where :

∆P : pressure drop (kPa),


L : length of bed (m),
µ : gas viscosity (mPa.s),
ρ : gas density (kg/m³),
vs : superficial gas velocity (m/min).

B and C are constants particle type depending.

Most designs are based on a ∆P/L of about 7 to 10 kPa/m.

7. MOISTURE CONTENT OF INLET GAS

An important variable that determines the size of a given desiccant bed is the relative saturation of
the inlet gas. This variable is the driving force that affects the transfer of water to the absorbent. If
saturated gas is being dried, higher useful capacities can be expected for most desiccants than

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when drying partially saturated gases. However, in most field gas dehydration installations the inlet
gas is saturated with water vapor and this is not a variable that must be considered.

8. DESICCANT SELECTION

No desiccant is perfect or best for all applications. In some applications, the desiccant choice is
determined primarily by economics. Sometimes the process conditions control the desiccant
choice. Many times the desiccants are interchangeable and the equipment designed for one
desiccant can often be operated effectively with another product. Table, as follows, illustrates the
most common desiccants used for gas dehydration and some conservative parameters to use for
initial design.

Summary of typical desiccants properties

Molecular Activited Silica gel


Property sieves Alumina
4A - 5A Grade 03

Surface area, m 2/g 650 - 800 210 750 - 830


Bulk density, kg/m 3 690 - 720 800 - 880 720
Specific heat, kJ/(kg.°C) 0.96 1.00 0.92
Design capacity
100 x (weight water/weight bed) 8 - 10 6-7 6-7
Regeneration temperature, °C 230 - 290 180 - 260 180
Dew points achievable, °C - 90 - 70 - 60
Water vapor content of effluent gas < 1 ppm weight < 1 ppm weight 20 to 110
kg/106 Sm 3
Heat of adsorption, kJ/kg 4 187

All desiccants exhibit a decrease in capacity (design loading) with increase in temperature.
Molecular sieves tend to be the less severely affected and aluminas the most affected by
temperature. Aluminas and molecular sieves act as a catalyst with H2S and CO2 to form COS.
When the bed is regenerated, sulfur remains and plugs up the spaces.

Liquid hydrocarbons also present a plugging problem to all desiccants but molecular sieves are
less susceptible to contamination with liquid hydrocarbons.

Silica gels will shatter in the presence of free water and are chemically attacked by many corrosion
inhibitors. The chemical attack permanently destroy the silica gels. The other desiccants are not as
sensitive to free water and are not chemically attacked by most corrosion inhibitors. However,
unless the regeneration temperature is high enough to desorb the inhibitor, the inhibitor may
adhere to the desiccants and possibly cause coking. The same phenomenon appears with the
C6+ hydrocarbons fractions.

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The activated aluminas, and molecular sieves are all chemically attacked by strong mineral acids
and their adsorptive capacity will quickly decline. Special acid resistant molecular sieve desiccants
are available.

Molecular sieves possess the highest water capacity, will produce the lowest water dew points.
They also are usually much more expensive.

Molecular sieves are commonly used ahead of LNG cryogenic section and NGL recovery plants
where extremely dry gas is required. Cryogenic NGL plants designed to recover ethane produce
very cold temperatures and require very dry feed gas to prevent formation of hydrates. Dehydration
to approximately 1 ppmw is possible with molecular sieves.

Molecular sieves are crystalline zeolites or metal alumino-silicates having a uniform, three-
dimensional interconnecting structure of alumina and silica tetrahedra.

These synthetic zeolite crystals are manufactured to contain interconnecting cavities of uniform
size, separated by equally uniform pores or narrower openings. The silica and alumina tetrahedra
form a sodalite cage or truncated octahedron having a silica or alumina tetrahedron each point.
Different crystal structures are obtained by varying the metal cation (Na, K or Ca) and the alumina
to silica ratio.

Two types of structures are commonly used in gas processing. In type A, the sodalite cages form a
simple cubic structure. When the metal cation is sodium, the pores are 4.2 angstroms (Å) in
diameter, and the mole sieve is called 4A. Replacing Na with K results in type 3A (pore size about
3 Å) and substituing Ca for Na yields type 5A (or 5 Å pores).

In type X, the sodalites cages are arranged in a tetrahedral structure. The sodium form, type 13 X
has a pore size of 10 Å.

Molecular sieves, Application guide

Application Type of mol sieve Remarks

Natural gas drying 4A Effluent with 1 ppmw of water in


natural gas can be obtained.

LNG plant feed pretreatment 4A, 5A, 13X Choice of system would depend on
specifics.
A typical system could be a main 4A or
5A bed for H20, C02 and H2S removal
A 13X trimmer bed for mercaptan
removal.

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In some plants the towers are filled with tow layers of molecular sieves of different type to
eliminate in the same tower the water and the sulphur compounds contained in the gas.

At the top a first layer is devoted to the water removal. Below, in the bottom part a second layer
with an other molecular sieve type allows the mercaptans and other sulphur compounds removal.

To have a good running of this layer below, it is necessary to have a very good water content
monitoring. If water reach this layer, sulphur compounds yet adsorbed by molecular sieves are
displaced by the water, and carried out the tower with the gas. In that case sulphur content
specification of the gas cannot be satisfied.

An other consequence is the deterioration of this layer, due to the water, during the regeneration
cycle. Therefore efficiency of this layer downs.

EQUIPMENT CHARACTERISTICS

1. INLET SEPARATOR

A separator is absolutely necessary to protect the desiccant from impurities such as free water, salt
water, compressor oils, adsorption oil, liquid hydrocarbons, paraffins, corrosion inhibitors, glycol,
amines, pipelines rouges (rust), iron sulfide, iron oxide, frac sands, drilling muds, pipeline scale,
element sulphur, etc... Water and other free liquids will "hammer" the desiccant and cause
breaking and powdering. Non-volatile liquids coat the desiccant and/or block pores, thus reducing
capacity. Solids can plug the bed, and the resulting increased pressure drop can crush the
desiccant particles.

The separator should be large enough to handle the most demanding conditions and should have
adequate surge capacity for free liquids and solids.

A high liquid level alarm and a high liquid level shutdown are desirable.

A filter-type separator or coalescer should be used when downstream of an amine unit or


compressor. All droplets larger than 10 µm and 99 % of droplets 0.5 to 10 µm should be removed.

2. ADSORPTION TOWER

As shown in figure VII-D2, the adsorption tower consists of a bed support, gas stream distributors
at both ends, adsorbent loading and removal connections, and a sample/moisture probe. The bed
support must withstand both dead load (weight of desiccant) and live load (flowing pressure drop).

One type of bed support is a stainless steel or monel screen (with openings 10 meshes smaller
than the desiccant particles) supported horizontally by I-beams and a welded ring. The screen
should be securely fastened while allowing for thermal expansion and contraction.

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The annular space between screen and vessel wall should be sealed to prevent desiccant loss.
Bed support balls normally consist of a 2 to 3 in layer of ¼ in. balls on top of a 2 to 3 in. lower layer
of ½ in. balls.

At the tower top, the inlet gas should be introduced radially at low velocity. A screen-wrapped
slotted pipe or perforated basket is recommended.
Also at the top, the desiccant bed should be protected by a 4 to 6 in. layer of ½ to 2 in. balls resting
on a retainer screen with ½ in. openings. This improves distribution of the inlet gas and prevents
desiccant damage due to swirling.

3. REGENERATION HEATER

Any type of heating (hot oil, steam, furnaces, gas turbine exhaust gases) is acceptable.
Undersizing the heater results in incomplete regeneration and thus reduces the performance of the
entire unit.

4. REGENERATION COOLER

While water can be used, ambient air is generally used to cool the regeneration stream to within 8
to 12°C of the air temperature.

5. REGENERATION SEPARATOR

A three-phase separator suitably sized to accomodate any surges is recommended. Dump valve
should be sized for four to five times the average liquid-removal rate to prevent the dump line plug
by desiccant dust and liquid mixture.

6. SWITCHING VALVES

Good quality valves will minimize operating problems. The most difficult service occurs where the
valves "see" hot (315°C) regeneration gas on one side and ambient (35°C) inlet gas on the other.

Usually three-way valves have more problems than two-way valves. Because low leakage is
mandatory, ball valves with metal seats are recommended.

7. PIPING

Regeneration piping is subjected to severe temperature cycle service. Follow ANSI B 31.3 Piping
Code when designing expansion loops and anchors (fixed and "floating").
Insulate any hot piping for personnel protection and heat conservation.

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8. DRY GAS FILTERS

Dry gas filters (cartridge type) are installed downstream the dehydration towers to eliminate the
molecular sieve powder generated by the molecular sieve erosion produced by the gas flow
through the molecular sieve bed.

These filters must be correctly sized and operated to prevent the plugging of the heat exchangers,
installed downstream, by the molecular sieve powder or the filter material due to cartridge
destruction.

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