Slug Catcher Conceptual Design as Separator for Heavy Oil | Petroleum | Viscosity

SPE 122829 Slug Catcher Conceptual Design as Separator for Heavy Oil

J. Marquez, C. Manzanilla, and J. Trujillo, PDVSA Intevep

Copyright 2009, Society of Petroleum Engineers This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2009 SPE Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference held in Cartagena, Colombia, 31 May–3 June 2009. 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 have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is 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 acknowledgment of SPE copyright.

Abstract The gas-liquid separation processes in the heavy and extra heavy oil fields are performed mainly with gravity conventional separators. However, the separation efficiency of these equipments depends on the operating conditions, the appropriate design and the properties of the fluids. Thus, in heavy and extra heavy oil fields, the separation efficiency is affected due to of the handle liquids of viscosity high, low pressures and low gas flow rate. Additionally, these conditions increase the probability of slug flow formation through pipelines that causes operational problems, mainly in the separation process. In response to this situation, arises the need to design a gas-liquid separator able to handle viscous liquid, reduce the effects of slug flow and perform an efficient separation. In this sense, there are different technologies that can help to improve the gas-liquid separation, among them is found the finger type slug catcher. This technology is usually used in gas fields or light and medium oil fields as conditioner flow and slug flow mitigator. However, this paper has changed this focus for considering a design for heavy oil. This paper presents an improvement in the methodology of Sarica et al. (1990) to predict the dimensions of finger type slug catcher to use in heavy oil fields. It is based on the effect from the transition of stratified flow to non-stratified flow when the liquid phase is viscous and only considers slug flow characteristics under normal flow. Based on the improvement the required diameter and length of the finger are determined. The improvement is used to design a finger type slug catcher for heavy oil field conditions in Orinoco Belt and an economic comparison against conventional separators is presented. The comparison demonstrated that the finger type slug catcher designed with the proposed method is less expensive than the conventional separator. Introduction The multiphase flow through pipelines in heavy oil fields is common everyday. In this scenario the slug flow pattern is promoted due to the high oil viscosity, the low pressure and the low gas flow. In fact, the envelope of slug flow in gas-liquid flow pattern transition maps is increased with the increase of the liquid viscosity or the liquid flow rate. Pipelines transport the production streams to the processing facilities where the separator is the first device to receive them. Separators could be affected by severe operational conditions caused by slug flow. Therefore, it is necessary to use a gas-liquid separator capable to mitigate the slug flow effects and perform an efficient separation. Although several gas-liquid separation technologies have been available for a long time, a study was led to identify the more suitable technologies for heavy oil applications. The study found that the conventional separator is widely used in heavy oil field developments. Also, there are pre-separators which can be used as flow conditioners to improve the separation. However, a pre-separator could be also used as a primary separator. Among the found technologies there are conventional separators, slug catchers, “T” junctions, ultrasonic equipments, etc. Among these technologies is selected the finger type slug catcher to make a conceptual design that considers the viscous liquid effects. The traditional design of conventional separators is based on a typical residence time depending on the oil density and not considering the viscosity liquid effects on the gas bubble rise velocity entrained in the liquid. Even considering the theory of

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