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Chapter 2

Choosing a process

This chapter explains how the various components

are combined into a production system.

The material is in no way meant to be all-inclusive.

Many things must be considered in selecting
components for a system and there is no substitute
for experience and good engineering judgment.

A process flowsheet is used to describe the system.

Figure 2-1 is a typical flowsheet that will be used as
an example for discussion purposes
Figure 2-1. Typical flowsheet
Figure 2-2. Common Flowsheet Symbols

Operation of a Control Valve- Control valves are used

throughout the process to control pressure, level, temperature,
or flow

This section focuses primarily on the functions of this

equipment. Figure 2-3 shows a very common single-port
globe body control valve.

All control valves have a variable opening or orifice. For a given

pressure drop across the valve, the larger the orifice the greater
the flow through the valve..
Figure 2-3. Typical single-port body control valve

In Figure 2-3 the orifice is

made larger by moving the
valve stem upward. This
moves the plug off the seat,
creating a larger annulus for
flow between the seat and the
Similarly, the orifice is made
smaller by moving the valve
stem downward.
Figure 2-4. Typical pneumatic actuator

Instrument air or gas applied to the actuator

diaphragm overcomes a spring resistance and
either moves the stem upward or downward.

The action of the actuator must be matched

with the construction of the valve body to
assure that the required failure mode is met.

In many pressure control situations, then the

spring must cause the stem to move in the fully
open direction

The hydrocarbon fluid produced from a well is made up of many

components ranging from methane, the lightest and most gaseous
hydrocarbon, to some very heavy and complex hydrocarbon

Because of this, whenever there is a drop in fluid pressure , gas is

liberated. Therefore, pressure control is important.

The most common method of controlling pressure is with a pressure

controller and a backpressure control valve.
Pressure controller- senses the pressure in the vapor
space of the pressure vessel or tank. By regulating
the amount of gas leaving the vapor space.

Backpressure control valve- maintains the desired gas

pressure in the vessel.

In most instances, there will be enough gas separated

or "flashed" from compensate for changes in liquid
level or temperature and etc.
This can cause a change in the number of molecules of gas
required to fill the vapor space at a given pressure.
However, under some conditions where there has been only
a small pressure drop from the upstream vessel, or where
the crude GOR (gas/oil ratio) is low, it may be necessary to
add gas to the vessel to maintain pressure control at all

"make-up" or "blanket" gas- Gas from a pressure source

higher than the desired control pressure is routed to the
vessel by a pressure controller that senses the vessel
pressure automatically, allowing either more or less gas to
enter the vessel as required.
Level Control

It is also necessary to control the gas/liquid interface

or the oil/water interface in process equipment.

This is done with a level controller and liquid dump

valve. The most common form of level controller is a
float, although electronic sensing devices can also be
used to supervise liquid level in vessels.

Temperature Control

In a heater, a temperature controller measures the process

temperature and signals a fuel valve to either let more or
less fuel to the burner.

In a heat exchanger the temperature controller could signal

a valve to allow more or less of the heating or cooling media
to bypass the exchanger.

Flow Control

It is very rare that flow must be controlled in an oil

field process.

Occasionally, it is necessary to assure that flow is

split in some controlled manner between two
process components in parallel, or perhaps to
maintain a certain critical flow through a

Wellhead and Manifold - The production system begins

at the wellhead, Most of the pressure drop between the well
flowing tubing pressure (FTP) and the initial separator
operating pressure occurs across this choke.

Initial Separator Pressure- the higher the pressure at
which the initial separation occurs, the more liquid will be
obtained in the separator.
If the pressure for initial separation is too high, too
many light components will stay in the liquid phase
at the separator and be lost to the gas phase at the
If the pressure is too low, not as many of these light
components will be stabilized into the liquid at the
separator and they will be lost to the gas phase.
This phenomenon, which can be calculated using
flash equilibrium techniques.
Figure 2-5 Effect of separator on stock tank liquid
Figure 2-5 deals with a
simple single-stage
process. That is, the fluids
are flashed in an initial
separator and then the
liquids from that
separator are flashed
again at the stock tank.
Figure 2-6 Stage Separation
Figure 2-6 shows a three-
stage separation process.
The liquid is first
flashed at an initial
pressure and then
flashed at successively
lower pressures
two times before entering
the stock tank.
As the number of stages approaches infinity, the lighter
molecules are removed as soon as they are formed and the
partial pressure of the intermediate components is
maximized at each stage.

The compressor horsepower required is also reduced by

stage separation as some of the gas is captured at a higher
pressure than would otherwise have occurred
Oil Treating
Figure 2-8 is an
enlargement of the
oil treater in
Figure 2-1. In this
case, a gas blanket
is provided to
assure that there is
always enough
pressure in the
treater so the water
will flow to water
At onshore locations
the oil may be
treated in a big
all tanks should
have a
valve with flame
arrestorand gas
blanket to keep
positive pressure in
the system
Figure 2-11 shows a typical flame arrester

The tubes in the device

keep a vent flame from
traveling back into the tank.

Flame arresters have a

tendency to plug with paraffin
and thus must be installed
where they can be inspected
and maintained.

Lease Automatic Custody Transfer (LACT)
In large facilities oil is typically sold through a LACT unit,
which is designed to meet API Standards and whatever
additional measuring and sampling standards are
required by the crude purchaser.

The LACT unit must not only measure the volume

accurately, but must continuously monitor the BS+W
content and take a sufficiently representative sample so
that the gravity and BS+W can be measured.
Figure 2-12. Typical LACT unit schematic.
Pumps- are normally needed to move oil through the LACT
unit and deliver it at pressure to a pipeline downstream
of the unit. Pumps are sometimes used in water treating
and disposal processes.

In addition, many small pumps may be required for

pumping skimmed oil to higher pressure vessels for
treating, glycol heat medium and cooling water service,
firefighting, etc.
Water Treating
Any liquids that may have come through the line are
separated at this point and the gas flows to the first
Compression heats the gas, so there is a cooler after
each compression stage.
Compressors in oil field service should be equipped with
a recyclevalve and a vent valve, such as shown in Figure
Figure 2-14. Three-stage Compressor
Two types of Compressor
Reciprocating compressors -compress thegas with a
piston moving linearly in a cylinder. Because of this, the
flow is not steady, and care must be taken to control

Centrifugal compressors -use high-speed rotating

wheels to create a gas velocity that is converted into
pressure by stators.
Gas Dehydrators

Removal of water vapor from the gas is required to

minimized hydrates formation and corrosion problems.

Most sales contracts in the southern United States call

for reducing the water content in the gas to less than 7
Ib/MMscf. In colder climates, sales requirements of 3 to
5 Ib/MMscf are common
Methods used in drying a gas
1. Cool to the hydrate formation level and separate the
water that forms.

2. Use a Low-temperature Exchange (LTX) unit designed to

melt the hydrates as they are formed.

3. Contact the gas with a solid bed of CaCl2. The CaCl2

will reduce the moisture to low levels, but it cannot be
regenerated and is very corrosive.
4. Use a solid desiccant, such as activated alumina, silica
gel or molecular sieve, which can be regenerated.

5. Use a liquid desiccant, such as methanol or ethylene

glycol, which cannot be regenerated.

6. Use a glycol liquid desiccant, which can be regenerated.

This is the most common type of gasdehydration system
and is the one shown on the example process flowsheet.
Figure 2-16. Typical glycol contact tower
Well Testing
The frequency with which wells must be tested and the
length of the test depend upon well properties, legal
requirements, requirements for special studies, etc.
Most oil wells should be tested at least twice a month for
4 to 12 hours.
Gas wells should be tested at least once a month.
Due to the need to put troublesome wells on long-term
tests, the need to repeat tests whose results might be
suspect, and the need to test several wells whenever
there is an unexpected change in total production
One test system can handle approximately 20 oil wells.
Offshore Platform Considerations

Modular Construction
Modules are large boxes of equipment installed in place and
weighing from 300 to 2,000 tons each.

Equipment Arrangement
The equipment arrangement plan shows the layout of all major
equipment. Each platform has a unique layout requirement
based on drilling and well-completion needs that differ from
installation to installation. Layouts can be on one level or
multiple levels.