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This guideline is intended to help with the design of demethanisers/deethanisers in LNG Plants only.

There are similarities with Gas Field demethanisers and Ethylene Plant demethanisers, however, LNG Plant demethanisers have some unique features, which are covered by this guideline. Some LNG Plants have Heavies Removal Columns, however, these are much simpler stripping columns to remove heavy components from imported methane and are not covered here.

Packing Selection- Background.

Koch Glitsch has had considerable, successful experience with the use of random packings in demethanisers, deethanisers, depropanisers and other high-pressure distillation columns. The use of structured packings in the debutaniser area has brought mixed success, while it has been reported that our competitors have had failures with structured packings in demethanisers. Please note that Koch Glitsch has successfully employed structured packing in a floating a LPG Absorber [demethanisers-type service] and a deethaniser. Hence, until more knowledge is available we should restrict our LNG Plant proposals to include only random packings.

IMTP Random Packing sizes 40, 50 and 60.

Koch Glitsch has experience with the use of FLEXIRING, CASCADE MINI-RINGS and IMTP random packing in LNG plants, however, IMTP packing should be proposed whenever possible.

1. Efficiency.
These columns usually include several packed beds and numerous operating conditions. In one project, the column had five beds with 6, 7, 5, 4 and 5 stages respectively. Another had six sections with 4, 1, 3, 3, 2 and 8 stages respectively; the lowest section was split into two packed beds by the client. Up to 7 design cases have been present on projects, reflecting the different operating modes. These columns operate at high pressure and are close to critical conditions. The separations are not of close boiling compounds and therefore involve higher relative volatilities than other separations of light hydrocarbons such as C2 and C3 splitters; LNG columns are primarily separating methane, ethane and propane. The packing efficiencies for stripping of light hydrocarbons from heavier ones tend to be lower than for fractionators separating hydrocarbons of similar molecular weight. Based on indications from similar plants, 1000mm (39 in.) has been selected for the HETP of IMTP 50 packing in these columns for pressure below 33 Bara (490 psia). At pressures above this, where the surface tensions and viscosities are very low and conditions nearer to critical, the HETP should increased to 1200mm (47 in.) so as to reflect the design uncertainties. All efficiency warranties in this service area should be avoided, since there is much uncertainty in the HETP values. Of course, all of this should be reviewed, if and when, more information is available from an operating plant. The following table summarized the HETPs that should be used for LNG plant fractionators.

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No.40 IMTP No.50 IMTP No.60 IMTP

HETP at 33 bara or less 750mm / 30 in. 1000mm / 39 in. 1200mm / 47 in.

HETP above 33 bara. 900mm / 35 in, 1200mm / 47 in. 1400mm / 55 in.

2. Capacity.
In separations at high pressure, the vapour density can be high enough to be a significant percentage of the liquid density. The buoyancy of the vapour phase can increase liquid hold-up in the packed bed. In addition, the liquid surface tensions are usually very low and some of the high-density vapour can be dispersed into the liquid phase. This in effect reduces the liquid density and increases its volume. The result is a reduction of the void space of the packing causing it to flood at lower vapour rates when compared to similar hydrocarbon separations at lower pressures. Historically, various techniques have been used throughout the company for de-rating packings in high-pressure service. Koch Glitsch has had no reported cases where packing capacity has been a problem issue, however, it is important that a global approach is adopted. The current KochGlitsch bilinear capacity model does include a term to account for the effect of liquid surface tension. Due to the uncertainty of the physical properties at conditions close to critical, however the towers should not be designed up to our normally accepted percent of capacity limit (87%). The agreed de-rating, for demethanisers/deethanisers in LNG Plants, is that the packing should be below 75 percent hydraulic capacity with a system factor of 1.0 based upon the KGHP program. If a customer wants to use a lower system factor, then this should be accommodated, however, the internal assessment should be based on the above criterion.

3. Pressure Drop.
The bed pressure drops cannot have any meaningful significance in such a high-pressure column and the calculated figure is most likely to be used by the customer to ensure that the packing does not flood. The suggested approach is to use the figures from the program so as to calculate the bed pressure drops, and then double them to get to the packed bed pressure estimates that are reported to the client. The correlations for packing pressure drop are very suspect in this operating regime due to the unusual physical properties. Koch Glitsch should avoid all pressure drop warranty issues, since the calculation is uncertain and the pressure drop measurement error is very high.

4. Internal Selection.
This section covers the selection of internals for static packed LNG columns at diameters above 1500mm.

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There are four main areas for discussion on these random packed columns: support plates and packing retention should be no issue (although Exxon Mobil require turn-up edges on the support plate sections and other customers may have additional special requirements).


Two-Phase Feed designs.

As with all two-phase feeds, the column height requirements may be considerable. There are basically two ways of dealing with this issue: A flash Box or launder assembly on an internal pipe, on to a Collector Tray, which then feeds the pre-distributors of a model 186 or 136 trough distributor below. A spin-around deflector on the feed nozzle which feeds on to a model 755 flashing feed gallery/model 116 deck liquid distributor combination.

In some projects, the main two-phase feed to the column has been very large (up to 1120mm [44 inches]). Since the column diameter could be above 7000mm (276 in.), there could also be a requirement to deal with large volumetric liquid flows. In this case the flash box/collector/model 186 (136) combination is the preferred option, however, the choice is not straightforward since we currently have no standards for the flash box-collector tray design and there are outstanding mechanical design issues for the model 136 centre sump. Some customers have also called for a collector tray above the flash box so as to aid the vapour distribution into the bed above. Both options require considerable distance from the entry nozzle to the items above. In the short-term, it is likely that the design of the two-phase feed entries would need to be carefully reviewed at the quotation stage and costed as special items. The advice of Global Champion should be sought on all enquiry and order stage designs. Perhaps the most important need is to ensure that there is sufficient height available within the column. Even when customers have considerable experience in this service area, there is often a need to do minor adjustments to packed bed heights at the detailed post order stage. Customers with little or no experience could considerably underestimate the overall column height needs.

4.2. Liquid distribution.

Some general distributor design points first. It is not unusual to have several design cases, with an operating range on each of those. Hence on a recent project, the customer had specified one liquid distributor with a stated flexibility of 6.125 to 1 and the given distributor trough height was 550mm (22 in.) with two levels of orifices (the final design was a model 136 with 450mm (18 in) high troughs, the maximum height we thought we could make, and 3 levels of orifices); another distributor in the same column had 1.87 to 1 flexibility with 350mm (14 in.) trough height. The liquid densities may be down to below 315kg/m 3 (20 lb/ft3) and the vapour densities up above 50kg/m3 (3 lb/ft3). The flexibility requirements imposed tend to favour the Model 136/186 route, however, even then the trough height may need to be above our standard range and 3 levels of orifices may be required. Multi-level orifice distributors exhibit instability ranges when the liquid

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levels are just above the upper level of orifices and therefore the number of levels should be minimized. The customer should be made aware that the distributor would not provide good liquid distribution throughout the design operating range. A Model 116 type, with orifices drilled into drip-tubes above the deck, could be utilised when the specific liquid rate is above 80m3/m2/h (33 gpm/ft2), however this is a more costly route and there is no levelling capability on the distributor. A FRI video from the 1990s indicated that the liquid jets emerging from orifices can disintegrate into a spray as the liquid surface tension and viscosity reduce to very low values. The danger is that there will be considerable entrainment of the liquid leaving the distributor. Hence the preferred solution would be to utilise a model 186 downpipe or attach a downpipe below any deck orifice, so as to take the spray further away from the high vapour velocity region of the distributor. The specific liquid rate is often above 50m3/m2/h (20 gpm/ft2) and the column diameters can be greater than 7 metres (23 ft.). There may be a requirement to water test the liquid distributors. If there is, then it further extends the design range, because of the need to handle the same volumetric flow of a fluid with widely different properties.

Most of the above points favour a Model 186 type distributor, since it is more cost-effective, however, if there are two or more parting boxes, then cross-connecting them through support beams can be difficult. In recent times, Exxon Mobil have indicated their preference for model 136 style liquid distributors, with an equalising central sump and two non-connected parting boxes. It is proposed that Models 186 or 136 are quoted in LNG column proposals, with a model 116 used as a fall-back solution. The low liquid density/high vapour density combination means that it will take much longer to disengage vapour from the liquid pool. The engineer must allow additional trough and parting box freeboard in the distributor design programs. It should ensured that, at the highest liquid rate given in the specification the approach to overflow rate for troughs and parting boxes is less than 80% on the liquid distributor design program. Note. Currently, Koch Glitsch has not been providing parting box overflow capability on designs for LNG columns. In the future this may need to be re-considered because of the possibility of unequal flows to parting boxes and the greater turbulence that exists there.


Vapour distribution.

There are usually several operating cases, and the bottom vapour rates can vary significantly. At the turndown rate of the lowest operating case, the vapour rate may not be high enough to provide sufficient pressure drop in the bottom of the packed bed to properly distribute the vapour. For this situation a Model 716 Vapour Distributor should be proposed below the bottom bed in order to ensure that the bottom bed provides the design efficiency. In most projects to date, a Collector Tray has been included and that gives some degree of vapour distribution for the reboiler vapour return.

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Some columns withdraw the liquid falling from the bottom bed to the reboiler and take the bottoms product from the column sump; it gives some additional separation. In this case, the tray is called a Model 611.


Collector Trays.

The Model 611 offers the features required, however, the items will need to be customised for gas riser height/feeds to pre-distributors/draw-off/Flash Boxes/etc. Some may be seal-welded while some may be bolted and gasketted.

Column Arrangement.
The attached drawing shows a typical LNG Plant Demethaniser/Deethaniser that is packed throughout. It indicates the equipment that may be required and the typical spacing between the items for a new column.

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