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Dehydration of Natural Gast

R. C. BUCHAN,*R. J. SULLIVAN,*
MILTON WILLIAMS,* AND H. H. SPAIN*
ABSTRACT
The dehydration of natural g a s in the field i s I Methods used for predicting trouble are presented.
discussed from the producers' standpoint. The need The three principal dehydration methods in use
which involve the use of line traps, wet-type units,
for reducing the water content of g a s to eliminate
and dry-t.we
- - - units are described: and the advan-
freezing in gas-lift systems and to meet the speci- tages and disadvantages of each method are dis-
fications imposed by g a s purchasers is winced out. cussed.

Dehydration of natural g a s h a s become a n e c e s - many c a s e s . In some isolated i n s t a n c e s , alcohol


s i t y in many fields in which high-pressure g a s i s injected into g a s l i n e s economically re vented
handled. When the water content of g a s is reduced clogging.
sufficiently, the clogging of l i n e s by hydrates and T h e first major ~ r o b l e m sin t h e Gulf C o a s t a r e a
i c e i s eliminated. Most g a s companies s p e c i f y a were in fields where g a s from g a s w e l l s operating
low maximum water content which requires that t h e a t p r e s s u r e s from 1,800 t o 2,000 p s i were produced
producer remove a s u b s t a n t i a l amount of t h e water into gas-lift s y s t e m s operating a t p r e s s u r e s from
naturally present. Oil producers using g a s for g a s 9 0 0 to 1,000 psi. H e a t e r s satisfactorily prevented
lift frequently find that i t i s e s s e n t i a l t o dehydrate freezing through chokes and regulator s t a t i o n s , but
s u c h gas. T h e c o s t of dehydration equipment h a s continuous trouble w a s experienced during four or
been high, but is being reduced as a r e s u l t of s t u d y five months of the year; and considerable labor w a s
by operators and equipment manufacturers. T h e required t o remove hydrates from t h e gas-lift s y s -
operating c o s t i s low. Dehydration, as d i s c u s s e d tems and to produce gas-lift wells. T h i s led t o the
in t h i s paper, i s defined a s the removal of t h e liq- installation of wet-type g a s dehydrators using di- ,
uid water a n d some of t h e water vapor, in order t o ethylene glycol as t h e absorbent.
reduce t h e dew point of t h e gas. In 1942 experimental work w a s s t a r t e d in Humble
F r e e z i n g of g a s l i n e s , regulators, a n d c h o k e s in Oil and Refining Company t o determine whether
the field h a s a l w a y s been a problem to s o m e extent. s u i t a b l e d r i p s could be designed for handling s u c h
When relatively low-pressure g a s s y s t e m s were problems. In many c a s e s s u c h d e v i c e s were found
used, trouble w a s usually encountered only during to b e f e a s i b l e and economical. L a t e r dry-type de-
very cold weather. A s the p r e s s u r e s u s e d in g a s hydrators were marketed ahd used, and provided a
s y s t e m s were increased to about 1,000 Ib, and a s third g e n e r a l method available t o producers.
w e l l s having tubing p r e s s u r e s in e x c e s s of about Predicting Trouble
1,500 Ib were produced, freezing troubles i n c r e a s e d
F i e l d experience showed' that h e a t i n g avoided
considerably. Until about s i x or s e v e n y e a r s ago,
trouble whenever the g a s temperature could be
freezing w a s prevented by heating t o keep t h e tem-
maintained above t h e hydrate point. T h i s w a s not
perature of the g a s above the hydrate-formation
practical where long l i n e s or numerous l a t e r a l l i n e s
point when p a s s i n g through regulators and chokes.
were in t h e s y s t e m , or where the g a s volumes
H e a t i n g did not prevent a l l freezing, particularly in
handled varied considerably, b e c a u s e in s u c h c a s e s
l i n e s downstream from regulator s t a t i o n s where the
the temperature of the g a s remote from t h e heater-
g a s approached ground temperatures which were of-
ten below the hydrate-formation temperature. Ljanu- approached t h e ground temperature which w a s fre-
a l l y operated drips for the removal of condensed quently below the hydrate-formation temperature.
water from low-pressure g a s l i n e s were frequently T h e factors pertinent t o the estimation of g a s
i n s t a l l e d and were s a t i s f a c t o r y operating a i d s in temperature a t a n y given point in a line are:
1. Temperature a t point of departure; i.e., a t t h e
*Humble Oil and Refin~ngCompany, Houston.
+presented by R . C . Buchan at the sprlng meeting of the South-
w e l l head o r e x i t of the heater, whichever i s ap-
western District, Dlvision of Production, Dallas, March 1950. plicable. F o r convenience, t h e point of departure
Fig. 1 - Minimum Ground Temperatures at a Soil Depth of 18 in.
Texas and Louisiana
DEHYDRATION O F NATURAL GAS 9

is a s s u m e d in t h i s d i s c u s s i o n t o be t h e w e l l head.
2. Temperature of ground a t line depth.
3. Rate of g a s flow.
Although t h e temperature of g a s produced from a
well may sometimes be estimated from t h e depth of
the well, t h e bottom-hole temperature, and t h e flow
rate, i t is usually a d v i s a b l e t o determine t h i s tem-
perature directly.
Fig. 1 i n d i c a t e s the minimum ground temperatures
t h a t can b e e x p e c t e d in T e x a s and L o u i s i a n a a t a
s o i l depth of 18 in. T h e d a t a upon which t h i s chart
i s based c o n s i s t e d of s c a t t e r e d measurements of
the a c t u a l ground temperature, supplemented by
atmospheric temperature d a t a , obtained from t h e
United S t a t e s Weather Bureau, combined with d a t a
on the relation of ground temperature t o atmospheric
temperature. T h e minimum ground temperature a t a
s o i l depth Af 36 in. i s ordinarily about 5 F. higher
than the temperatures indicated in Fig. 1.
After wellhead a n d ground temperatures have
been e s t a b l i s h e d , the g a s temperature a t a n y d i s -
t a n c e from t h e well head may be e s t i m a t e d by u s e of
F i g . 2. T h i s i s a chart which g i v e s t h e relation,
for various r a t e s of flow, between t h e g a s tempera-
ture a t a n y point along a line a n d the difference be-
tween g a s and ground temperatures. T h e r e l a t i o n s
-
utilized in Fig. 2 have been deduced from experi-
mental d a t a from various s o u r c e s which embrace
r e s u l t s o n line s i z e s from 2 t o 22 in. Surprisingly, Fig. 2 - Chart for Estimating Temperature Drop
Along Gas L i n e s
the line s i z e is not a n important factor. Although
the effect of line pressure i s disregarded in Fig. 2, ture and ground temperature a t line depth i s as-
pressure d o e s have a minor effect on the tempera- sumed t o b e 5 0 F., and in which t h e flow rate is
ture-distance relation. E s t i m a t e s made by u s e of assumed t o be 3 MMcf per day. From the point on
Fig. 2 a r e reasonably c l o s e for g a s p r e s s u r e s of t h e ordinate corresponding t o the temperature differ-
a b o u t 1,500 psi. At higher p r e s s u r e s t h e line tem- , e n c e , a dotted line is drawn parallel t o t h e guide
peratures e s t i m a t e d from t h e s e r e l a t i o n s may b e line for a r a t e of 3 MMcf per day. T h e dotted line
s l i g h t l y low, a n d a t lower p r e s s u r e s they may be s h o w s the relation between temperature difference
somewhat high. a t any point and d i s t a n c e from well head for the
T h e s o l i d l i n e s of Fig. 2 are intended only t o conditions assumed.
s e r v e a s guide lines. T o use the chart, a line par- Fig. 2 h a s been very useful for predicting tem-
a l l e l t o the guide line for t h e appropriate flow rate peratures in s y s t e m s and for s e l e c t i n g the s i t e of a
i s drawn through t h e point on the ordinate corre- dehydrator or h e a t e r s where a wide choice of loca-
sponding t o t h e e x p e c t e d or a c t u a l difference in tions i s possible.
temperature between wellhead g a s a n d ground a t F i g . 3 p r e s e n t s d a t a published by D. L. K a t z ' of
line level. If it i s n e c e s s a r y t o interpolate between t h e University of Michigan for the prediction of
t h e various flow r a t e s for which guide l i n e s a r e temperatures and p r e s s u r e s under which g a s e s of
shown, a linear interpolation may b e made between various d e n s i t i e s form hydrates. In t h i s graph the
'the i n t e r c e p t s on a n y grid l i n e s parallel t o the a r e a above- any particular curve r e p r e s e n t s t h e tem-
a b s c i s s a . T h e r e l a t i o n s of Fig. 2 a r e for s t a b i l i z e d ' perature-pressure region in which hydrates c a n
conditions of flow. It should b e borne in mind that e x i s t , provided there is sufficient water present,
a s much as s e v e r a l d a y s may b e required for s t a - and the a r e a below the curve r e p r e s e n t s the region
bilization of temperature. in which hydrates cannot exist. T h e d a t a u s e d in
T h e use of Fig. 2 is illustrated by a n example
in which the difference between wellhead tempera- 'References are at the end of the paper.
10 BUCHAN, SULLIVAN, WILLIAMS, AND SPAIN

p r e s s u r e for s e v e r a l different temperatures. T h e


water-vapor c a p a c i t y i s e x p r e s s e d in terms of gal-
lons of liquid water per million cubic f e e t of g a s at
s t a n d a r d conditions.
T o determine the water-vapor capacity of a g a s
a t a given pressure and temperature by the u s e of
Fig. 5, it i s n e c e s s a r y only t o l o c a t e t h e inter-
s e c t i o n of t h e l i n e s representing g a s p r e s s u r e and
temperature, then t o read the water-vapor c a p a c i t y
from t h e horizontal projection t o t h e ordinate of
t h i s point. T h u s , for example, the water-vapor
c a p a c i t y of a g a s a t 2,000 p s i and 100 F. i s found
t o be a b o u t 4.6 g a l per million cubic feet. U s u a l l y
more d e t a i l e d c h a r t s than Fig. 5 a r e used when
s t u d y i n g water content.
I t i s important t o distinguish between t h e water-
vapor c a p a c i t y of a g a s and i t s a c t u a l w a t e r con-
tent. T h e water-vapor capacity, as s h o C n previous-
ly, i s fixed by temperatures and pressure. T h e water
content, however, i s not. T h e water content may be:
1, e q u a l t o the water-vapor capacity of t h e g a s
when the g a s i s s a i d t o be a t i t s dew point; 2, l e s s
TEMPERATURE OF than the water-vapor c a p a c i t y when the g a s i s s a i d

Fig. 3 - Katr' C u r v e s for Predicting Hydrate


Formation
t o be undersaturated with r e s p e c t t o water vapor;
or, 3? greater than the water-vapor capacity. In the

making t h e s e c u r v e s were equilibrium d a t a and 10~000

take no cognizance of unstable conditions under 8 000

which hydrates f a i l t o form b e c a u s e of lack of agi-


6000
tation, or b e c a u s e of the a b s e n c e of other condi-
t i o n s conducive t o hydrate formation. 4000
Fig. 4 , from the paper b y D. L. Katz, s h o w s the
maximum reduction in pressure which c a n be taken
without freezing in choking g a s e s under various
2000
conditions of temperature and pressure. T h e d a t a Q
of Fig. 4 were derived from Katz' hydrate d a t a and a
VI

information on t h e reduction of temperature in g a s e s W


I
3
during choking. T h i s figure i s useful in t h e d e s i g n $ too0
Y
of mechanical dehydration installations, but should g 800

be u s e d only in those c a s e s in which the g a s i s J

choked or throttled.
; 600
Z
G a s may contain water as water vapor, or as 400
water vapor p l u s liquid water. T h e maximum amount
of water vapor which a g a s can contain i s c a l l e d
i t s water-vapor c a p a c i t y and d e p e n d s on t h e pres-
200 1 Flnd ontt801 pressure on ordlnote,
s u r e and temperature of the gas. T h e higher t h e f l n ~ lpre5.lure on absclo.lo
2 T e m p e r ~ t u r e corrsrpondmnq to tnot
temperature and t h e lower the pressure, t h e greater polnt 8s the rnlnlmum #ntllal
t e m p e r ~ l u r e l o prevent freerrnq
i s the water-vapor capacity. T h e composition of t h e
g a s may a l s o affect the water-vapor capacity, but 100
100 200 400 600 BOO I 0 0 0 2000
t h i s effect i s usually s m a l l and may b e neglected FINAL PRESSURE PSlA

in most c a s e s .
T h e dependence of water-vapor c a p a c i t y on pres-
s u r e a n d temperature is shown in Fig. 5. In t h i s
Fig. 4 -
Katz' C u r v e s for P e r m i s s i b l e Expansion
of a 0.6 Gravity Natural G a s without Hydrate
figure, t h e water-vapor c a p a c i t y is plotted a g a i n s t Formation
DEHYDRATION O F NATURAL GAS 11 ,

latter c a s e , the e x c e s s of water over t h a t corre-


sponding t o the water-vapor c a p a c i t y i s p r e s e n t as
liquid water.
After the g a s producer h a s determined the tem-
perature of g a s a t the w e l l or downstream from a
heater by the u s e of Fig. 1 through 5, he c a n pre-
d i c t whether a problem will develop; and, if s o ,
exactly the location and severity of the problem.
After a few hours of study, he should be a b l e to
s e l e c t a method of coping with s u c h a problem.
The U s e of Line Traps
T r a p s or d r i p s installed in g a s l i n e s t o c o l l e c t Fig. 6 - Experimental Gas-hydration Unit
liquid water have been in use for many years. De- a t wellhead pressure, then p a s s e s through a s e c o n d
trap where water which had condensed out during
t h e cooling procedure i s removed. T h e cool g a s i s
warmed somewhat by p a s s i n g through the s h e l l of
the first heat-exchange s e c t i o n , then i s expanded
through a choke to a pressure only slightly higher
than that prevailing in the g a s system. S i n c e the
water content of the expanding g a s i s low, no
freezing o c c u r s a t the choke. T h e cooling which
accomphnies t h i s expansion i s utilized t o cool
the incoming g a s by p a s s i n g the g a s emerging from
t h e choke through the s h e l l of the s e c o n d heat-
exchange section. From the s h e l l of the heat ex-
changer, the g a s p a s s e s through a regulator into
the g a s system.
T h e d a t a in T a b l e 1 show the normal operating
conditions and r e s u l t s obtained with t h i s type of
unit.
It i s evident from T a b l e 1 that the g a s processed
under the operating conditions shown w a s under-
s a t u r a t e d with r e s p e c t t o water vapor when i t en-
tered the field g a s system. T h e dew point of t h e
processed g a s w a s 40 F.
Table 1
Data on Experimental T r a p Installation
Water-
Fig. 5 - PRESSURE

Water-vapor
. .-
LBS PER SO IN

Capacity of Natural Gas vapor Water C o n t e n t


P r e s - Temper- C a p a c i t y (Gal per MMcf)
Polnt sure ature (Gal per , -A- ,
v i c e s for automatically bleeding the water from Cons~dered (PSI) (Deg F . ) MMcf) Vapor Liquid
t r a p s were first u s e d more than 50 y e a r s ago. A
Reservoir 1,900 127 9.8 9.8 0
relatively recent development i s t h e u s e of t r a p s ' Well Head 1,500 74 2.5 2.5 7.3
d e s i g n e d t o utilize the variation in water-vapor Entrance to
c a p a c i t y a t different p r e s s u r e s and temperatures t o first t r a p 1,500 70 2.2 2.2 7.6
effect dehydration. E x i t from
F i g . 6 i s a s c h e m a t i c diagram of a n experi- first t r a p 1,500 70 2.2 2.2 0
mental unit, which i l l u s t r a t e s how t h e s e differ- Entrance to
e n c e s c a n b e utilized. second trap 1,500 50 1.1 1.1 1.1
G a s i s flowed from well head t o a l i n e trap where E x i t from.
all water p r e s e n t a s liquid i s removed. L e a v i n g t h e s e c o n d trap 1,500 50 1.1 1.1 0
trap, t h e g a s p a s s e s thtough the heat e x c h a n g e r s Entrance t o
where i t i s cooled. T h e cold g a s , s t i l l practically field s y s t e m 875 60 2.4 1.1 , 0
12 BUCHAN, SULLIVAN, WILLIAMS, AND SPAIN
I
In order t o a d a p t t h e equipment t o fluctuating de- of the expanding g a s t o obtain optimum tempera-
mand and t o make i t s operation entirely automatic, tures in t h e trap. H e a t exchangers can b e used, a s
various controls were incorporated. A back-pressure and where needed, t o heat or cool the gas. In some
regulator w a s u s e d for throttling the g a s in lieu of i n s t a n c e s h e a t e r s located downstream from the
a positive choke, and a temperature limiter w a s in- trap, but a h e a d of the meters and regulator s t a t i o n s ,
s t a l l e d to prevent the temperature in the s e c o n d a r e needed to prevent freezing a t t h e s e points of
trap from becoming too low. When the temperature turbulence.
dropped below a n y d e s i r e d value, t h e b a c k-pressure Fig. 7 i l l u s t r a t e s one of t h e more r e c e n t t y p e s of
I
regulator w a s opened automatically, allowing the automatic line trap. T h e gas-liquid mixture e n t e r s
temperature in the trap t o r i s e t o normal operating t h e upper chamber a n d i s separated. T h e liquid
'
temperature. Liquid from t h e two t r a p s w a s dumped flows to the lower chamber where it i s s e p a r a t e d
automatically. into water and liquid hydrocarbons s o that the
T o obtain optimum r e s u l t s from traps, it i s de- water can be bled and the liquid hydrocarbons can
s i r a b l e that the pressure be a s high a s f e a s i b l e and be returned t o the g a s stream either immediately or
t h a t the temperature be a t , or near, the hydrate- downstream from the regulator or meter stations.
formation temperature in the line trap. T h i s particular device u s e s a highly s e n s i t i v e
If no e x c e s s i v e turbulence i s expected, p a s t means for bleeding the accumulated water. T h e
experience h a s indicated that the g a s temperature same device i s a d a p t a b l e for use in removing a l l
a t the trap may b e permitted to b e about 10 F. liquids that accumulate in the lower chamber. T h i s
below the hydrate point. T h e r e may be e x c e p t i o n s type of d e v i c e a l s o l e n d s itself t o an operation in
where g a s p r e s s u r e s a r e higher than 2,500 psi. G a s which t h e water i s removed ahead of the conven-
a t high pressure apparently f r e e z e s a t temperatures tional gas-oil separator and permits the operation
c l o s e r to the hydrate point than d o e s g a s a t mod- of the gas-oil separator a t very low temperatures in
erate pressures. order t o obtain gas-oil separations a t lower tem-
It i s good practice to avoid e x c e s s i v e turbulence peratures.
a t a l l points in the g a s system, both upstream and
downstream from the line trap. It i s often n e c e s s a r y
to heat the g a s which h a s been p r o c e s s e d by t h e
trap, if the g a s must undergo a n appreciable reduc-
tion in pressure s u c h a s that occurring in a choke
or regulator.
Wherever p o s s i b l e s w a g s and r i s e r s in the flow
line should be avoided. F i e l d experience s h o w s
that t h e e x i s t e n c e of s u c h s p o t s i s conducive to
freezing.
There i s some uncertainty a s t o the effect of t h e
amount of liquid water in a g a s on i t s tendency t o
form hydrates. Although there i s no obvious theo-
r e t i c a l r e a s o n t o account for it, some field experi-
e n c e h a s indicated t h a t t h e more liquid there i s in
a g a s , the more likely it i s to freeze a t low tern,
perature under high pressure. R e g a r d l e s s of whether
t h i s i s true or not, it i s s t i l l good practice t o re-
move a s much liquid water a s p o s s i b l e in order Fig. 7 - Automatic Line Trap
that, if freezing d o e s occur, the severity of the
T h e principal function of line traps is to remove
f r e e z e will be minimized.
t h e liquid water, but they can a l s o be used t o re-
After studying the individual problem, i t i s ap-
duce the amount of water vapor to obtain a n under-
parent that a n operator c a n adopt p r a c t i c e s and u s e
s a t u r a t e d condition of the g a s downstream.
-auxiliary equipment t o a i d in obtaining the optimum
from line traps. In some c a s e s w e l l s can be flowed Wettype Dehydrators
intermittently a t a higher rate t o make u s e of higher Until r e c e n t l y practically a l l wet-type dehy-
natural temperatures in the system. Where pressure drators were installed in conjunction with gasoline
conditions permit, w e l l s can be partially choked plants or in central locations where a relatively
ahead of the trap in order t o use the cooling effect large volume of gathered g a s i s processed. T a b l e 2
DMYDRATION O F NATURAL GAS 13
- ~

Table 2
Dehydration P lants

Rated Rated Volume Average Average Water


Working Capacity Operating Processed Operating Dew Point Content of
Pressure ( M M C ~ Pressure (MMcf Temperature Obtained Treated Gas Installed
Drying Agent (psi) per day) (psi) per day) (Deg F.) (Deg F.) ( L b per MMcf) Cost

Vet-type Dehydrators:
Diethylene glycol 900 100 830 50.0 94 24 6.0 $116,827
Diethylene glycol 1,200 12 960 11.O 93 34 8.0 26,550
D i e t h ~ l e n eglycol 1,500 20 805 22 .O 80 12 3.6 55,021
D i e t h ~ l e n eg l y c o l 1,000 50* 740 46.0 77 34 9.5 %,399
Dry-type Dehydrators:
F l o r i te 1,500 13 3.3 33,764
Florite 840 -5 1.9 39,642
Florite 1,500 16 3.4 47,264
Florite 500 8 6.4 48,002
Florite 800 15 4.4 49,914
A c t i v a t e d alumina 1,500 Not yet
determined
.... 38,387
Activated alumina 800 - 10 1.4 70,000
S i l i c a gel b e a d s 1,000 -10 1.3 30,100
T h i s plant i s d e s i g n e d in such a way that i t s c a p a c i t y c a n be i n c r e a s e d to 100 MMcf by an e s t i m a t e d additional i n v e s t m e n t of $30,000.

s h o w s some of t h e e a r l i e r wet-type p l a n t s i n s t a l l e d , be varied considerably and s t i l l g i v e s a t i s f a c t o r y


the operating conditions, and r e s u l t s obtained. r e s u l t s . It i s d e s i r a b l e t h a t the temperature of t h e
About a year a g o one manufacturer a d a p t e d t h e g a s t o be dehydrated be a s low a s p o s s i b l e ; the
p r i n c i p l e s u s e d in t h e s e p l a n t s t o the manufacture b e s t all-around operating temperature i s about 75
and operation of lower-capacity u n i t s t o handle
s m a l l e r volume^,^ with the r e s u l t that an i n c r e a s -
ing number of wet-type dehydrators a r e being in-
stalled.

-. ..:
2 .L
, ,.
..vrn/
:: rc
I., " I -I CL ,rr>.
,ma-

Fig. 8 - Glycol-type Gas-hydration U n i t


F i g . 8 i s a diagrammatic s k e t c h s h o w i n g the
method of operating a t y p i c a l wet-type dehydrator.
F i g . 9 i s a photograph of s u c h a plant which proc-
Fig. 9 - Wet-type Gas Dehydrator

e s s e s 20 to 25 hlMcf per day. T h e g a s t o be dehy- F. T h e a b s o r b e r p r e s s u r e i s a variable which af-


d r a t e d i s p a s s e d through the diethylene g l y c o l or f e c t s t h e r e s u l t s obtained. T h e optimum p r e s s u r e
other liquid a b s o r b e n t in the absorption tower. i s 700 t o 800 p s i when d i e t h y l e n e glycol i s u s e d ,
D i e t h y l e n e g l y c o l i s continuously c i r c u l a t e d through and a b o u t 1,000 p s i when triethylene glycol i s u s e d .
a heater a n d a tower to drive off the w a t e r and a n y At lower operating p r e s s u r e s , s u c h a s 250 p s i , t h e
absorbed g a s e s . T h e d e s i g n of t h i s dehydrator c a n w a t e r content of t h e treated g a s i s approximately
14 BUCHAN, SULLIVAN, VILLIAMS, AND SPAIN

2%t i m e s t h a t obtained a t 750 psi, a s s u m i n g a l l other one i s in operation, t h e other i s being regenerated.
v a r i a b l e s a r e kept constant. Increasing t h e p r e s s u r e Regeneration i s accomplished by beating a s m a l l
above the optimum d o e s not appreciably reduce the volume of g a s taken from the main stream, p a s s i n g
amount of water in the dehydrated gas. L i t t l e work i t through the tower, then through a heat e x c h a n g e r
h a s been done t o indicate the maximum p r e s s u r e and separator t o remove liquid water. T h e g a s u s e d
which i s f e a s i b l e in wet-type dehydrators, but it i s for regeneration i s then recombined a h e a d of t h e
probably above 1,500 psi. T h e rate a t which t h e absorption tower in operation a s the dehydrator.
absorbent i s circulated i s another variable that af- F l o r i t e , a c t i v a t e d alumina, and s i l i c a g e l have
f e c t s r e s u l t s , and the circulating rate usually u s e d b e e n u s e d a s drying agents. Activated alumina h a s
v a r i e s from 1 0 0 to 200 g a l per n ~ i l l i o ncubic feet. given s l i g h t l y better r e s u l t s with r e s p e c t t o capac-
T h e average dew point lowering obtainable in pre- ity, but F l o r i t e apparently w i t h s t a n d s attrition
s e n t ~ l a n t si s 4 0 t o 5 0 F. However, it h a s b e e n better. Neither i s s a t i s f a c t o r y for u s e where g a s
noted in individual c a s e s t h a t a better r e s u l t i s temperatures a r e above 1 0 0 F. In s u c h c a s e s s i l i c a
obtainable. T h e circulating rate and the heating g e l in t h e form of b e a d s i s recommended, and i t
f a c i l i t i e s used should be s u c h that the glycol in a p p e a r s p o s s i b l e t o allow t h i s mineral t o a b s o r b
the absorbent c o n t a i n s a s little water a s p o s s i b l e , about 7.5 percent water before regeneration. T h e
i.e., it should contain not more than about 2 per- time c y c l e of a b s o r b e r s in operation c a n be varied
cent water, e v e n though many plants operate s a t i s - provided i t s t a y s within the c a p a c i t y of e a c h tower.
factorily with a s much as 5 percent water. Dew p o i n t s a s low a s -10 F. a r e frequently ob-
Indirect h e a t e r s have been used in t h e s e p l a n t s , tained; and in t h i s r e s p e c t dry-bed type dehydrators
i.e., s t e a m or Dowtherm baths which provide tem- a r e outstanding. T a b l e 2 s h o w s some of the dry-
peratures in a range from 3 0 0 t o 4 5 0 F. Direct
heaters, some of which have the s t i l l mounted on
top, appear s a t i s f a c t o r y and a r e being used more
widely.
T h e installed c o s t of wet-type plants h a s been
fairly high, particularly in the larger plants. Re-
c e n t d e v e l o p n ~ e n t s indicate t h a t triethylene glycol
i s a much better absorbent than diethylene glycol
for this use.3 It i s probable t h a t by using triethyl-
e n e glycol p r e s e n t plants using diethylene glycol
c a n be improved considerably, and new installa-
t i o n s made in t h e future will be somewhat l e s s ex- Fig. 10 - Solid-dessicant Type Dehydration Unit
pensive a s a r e s u l t of the u s e of a better absorbent. bed u n i t s in u s e , the operating conditions, and t h e
Wet-type dehydrators used in the p a s t have done r e s u l t s obtained.
an a c c e p t a b l e job using d i e t h ~ l e n eglycol; and with Fig. 11 i s a photograph of a dry-bed unit oper-
improvement it i s p o s s i b l e that they could s a t i s f y a t i n g a t a compressor plant t o handle g a s which
a majority of the requirements where the u s e of originated a s low-pressure l e a s e g a s gathered and
traps d o e s not give sufficiently low dew points, or compressed to 9 5 0 psi. T h e temperature of t h e g a s
where extremely low dew points a r e unnecessary. leaving the compressors i s 220 F.; and a radiator-
B e s i d e s the u s e of better absorbents, current de- fan type g a s cooler i s u s e d t o reduce t h i s t o a
velopment work on absorber design and on s t i l l r e a s o n a b l e temperature. T h i s r e s u l t s in a g a s tem-
' perature varying from about 9 0 t o 110 F. It w a s
design should r e s u l t in better operation and higher
c a p a c i t i e s a t lower installation c o s t s . found that, when the g a s temperature w a s 1 1 0 F.,
6.5 LlLlcf per d a y could not be properly dehydrated
Dry-bed Type Dehydrator in the unit which had a rated c a p a c i t y of 1 0 RlMcf
In the p a s t s e v e r a l y e a r s dry-bed dehydrators per d a y a t 7 0 F. T h e a c t i v a t e d alumina bed w a s
have been a d a p t e d t o the oil-field problem. T h e replaced with s i l i c a gel beads. When treating 6.5
method used, shown diagrammatically in Fig. 10, hlhlcf per d a y a t 95 t o 1 0 0 F., a -10 F. dew point
c o n s i s t s of p a s s i n g g a s to be dehydrated through a g a s i s obtained by the u s e of the s i l i c a g e l bed.
bed of mineral having the capacity t o a b s o r b the T h e installed c o s t of dry-bed u n i t s i s approxi-
water v a p o r - p r e s e n t until the mineral h a s absorbed mately the s a m e or s l i g h t l y higher than the wet-
a n amount of water e q u a l to about 5 percent of i t s type dehydrator using diethylene glycol a s t h e ab-
weight. T w o absorption towers are used; and while sorbent. Dry-bed units lend t h e m s e l v e s readily t o
DMYDRATION OF NATURAL GAS 15

d e s i g n for p r e s s u r e s up t o 2,000 p s i and higher. g a s i s low enough to have adequate water-carrying


T h e s e u n i t s have not been in s e r v i c e long enough capacity.
to obtain a c c u r a t e operating c o s t s . However, i t A r e c e n t installation of rob able interest i s an
should be approximately 0.001 t o 0.002 c e n t s per operation in an E a s t T e x a s field. T h e production
thousand cubic feet, which includes replacement from e a c h condensate well is p a s s e d through a
c o s t of mineral a n d t h e fuel consumed for regener- corn bination water-knockout-gas-oil separator t o
ation. T h e mineral life will vary with conditions, divide t h e stream i n t o water, liquid hydrocarbons,
but i t should be from one to four years, provided a n d gas. T h e g a s , after metering, i s dehydrated for
t h e mineral i s not abused. transmission through a pipe line 8 miles long. T h e
Dry-bed u n i t s have reached a high level of de- liquid hydrocarbons from the separator are recom-
velopment, but i t i s thought that continued s t u d y bined downstream from t h e g a s dehydrator and a c -
a n d development a r e desirable to reduce t h e in- company the g a s to a g a s o l i n e plant located-in t h e
s t a l l e d c o s t of thib equipment and t o improve the s e c o n d field. T h i s s y s t e m w a s s e l e c t e d after con-
r e s u l t s obtained. One s u c h r e c e n t development i s a s i d e r a b l e study. In view of t h e f a c t that the oper-
radial-flow type absorber tower,4 which h a s a n ad- a t i n g conditions of the pipe line indicated that hy-
vantage over a conventional down-flow tower in that drate formations should be expected, t h e three-
a n y liquids entering the dehydrator can b e removed p h a s e separation a h e a d of the dehydrator w a s
s e l e c t e d to eliminate t h e n e c e s s i t y for pumping the
oil back into t h e line if t h e water and oil were bled
together and dehydrated t o pipe-line oil.
T h e knowledge gained in t h e g a s d e h y d r a t i n g
s c i e n c e i s being carried into the oil-treating and
gas-oil separation s c i e n c e . In some c a s e s it i s
f e a s i b l e to remove water in t r a p s operating a t well
p r e s s u r e s , then carry out gas-oil separation a t low
temperature. T h e low-temperature s e p a r a t i o n s in-
c r e a s e the relative volume of liquid hydrocarbons
recovered. Usually, t h e liquid in t h e bottom of t h e
s e p a r a t o r must be heated to insure proper function-
ing of liquid dump v a l v e s on the separator.

CONCLUSION
E a c h of the three general methods of dehydration
Fig. 11 - Dry-bed Type Gas Dehydrator d i s c u s s e d h a s a d v a n t a g e s and disadvantages, a n d
e a c h i s applicable t o certain problems. T h e line
before they have a harmful effect on the bed. Better
trap h a s the advantage of simplicity and low in-
dehydration and e a s i e r regeneration should be pos-
s t a l l a t i o n and operating c o s t s , but i t h a s a limited
s i b l e , a s w e l l a s reduction of pressure drops through
application. T h e wet-type dehydrator will usually
t h e mineral. T h e u s e of horizontal absorbers h a s
be cheaper to i n s t a l l and operate than the dry-rype
not been a d e q u a t e l y investigated. Some additional
unit; however, t h e wet-type unit may not reduce t h e
study is d e s i r a b l e t o improve the heating and cool-
water content sufficiently t o meet a l l s a l e s con-
ing procedures during regeneration. F a s t e r heating,
for example, may be t h e a n s w e r t o t h e problem of tracts. T h e dry-type dehydrator i s h i g h e s t in c o s t ,
exposing the mineral to liquid water during the re- but can obtain the lowest water content. T h e r e i s a
need for considerable further s t u d y t o provide better
generation cycle.
methods of dehydrating g a s , a s well a s to develop
Combination Units better d e s i g n s of equipment to utilize the present
In some i n s t a n c e s combination u n i t s may have methods. E a c h dehydration -problem should be
advantages. F o r example, if a dry-bed unit is in- s t u d i e d carefully before s e l e c t i n g a method and
s t a l l e d a n d t h e volume of g a s t o be dehydrated ex- equipment. T h e major factors which must be taken
c e e d s t h e capacity of the installation, some of the into account a r e volume, pressure, temperature, and
g a s can by-pass the dehydration plant, if liquid the dew point required in view of the local tempera-
water i s removed, and be recombined with dehy- ture conditions or requirements imposed by g a s
drated g a s provided the dew point of t h e dehydrated purchasers.
16 BUCHAN, SULLIVAN, WILLIAMS, AND SPAIN

ACKNOWLEDGMENT p s i and a temperature of 70 F. T h e d e s i c c a n t mate-


T h e kind permission of t h e Humble Oil and Re- r i a l u s e d in both units w a s a c t i v a t e d alumina. In-
fining Company t o publish t h i s paper i s appreciated. direct-type steam-bath heaters a r e u s e d for h e a t i n g
t h e regeneration gas. T h e installed c o s t of t h e
REFERENCES smaller unit w a s $19,551, a n d the c o s t of the
larger $41,189. T h e s e c o s t s s e e m to be somewhat
Katz, D. L: Prediction of Conditions for Hydrate For- l e s s than t h o s e for u n i t s of comparable c a p a c i t y
mation in Natural Gases, T r a n s . A m . I n s t . M a n a n g M e t .
Engrs. (Petroleum Development and Technology),lbO, and working pressure l i s t e d by the authors.
140-149 (1945). T h e 10-hlilcf per d a y unit h a s been in s e r v i c e
Lawrence, L. L - and Reid, L. S: Gas Dehydration at for a period of approximately 19 months without a n y
the Well Head, W o r ld O t 1 , 129 [2], 156, 158-159, June apparent operating trouble. Average g a s dew points
(1949). of 0 F. or lower a r e s t i l l being obtained. T h e unit
Porter, J. A. and Reid, L. S: Vapor-llquid Equilibrium h a s operated a t r a t e s varying from 1.75 Mklcf per
Data on the System Natural Gas-water-triethylene glycol d a y t o 8.5 ~ ~ c f ' day, ~ e butr h a s never b e e n loaded
at Various Temperatures and Pressures, (T.P. 2 8 4 8 )
over i t s rated capacity.
Trans. Am. Inst. Manrng Met. Engrs. (Petroleum D e -
v e l o p m e n t a n d T e c h n o l o g y ) 189, 235-240 (1950). T h e 35-i\.lhlcf c a p a c i t y unit h a s been operated a t
4 r a t e s varying from approximately 1 3 hlhlcf per day
Francis, A. W., Jr.; and hlaher, J . L: Automatic Pack-
age Ilnits for Gas Dehydration, presented at meetlng of to a maximum of 3 7 RIXIcf per day. It operated con-
Natural Gas Association of Amerlca, Amarillo, Texas, tinuously a t t h e 37-MMcf rate, which i s s l i g h t l y in
December 9, 1949. e x c e s s of i t s rated capacity, for a period of 3
w e e k s during J u l y 1949. In November 1949, a f t e r
DISCUSSION
the unit had been in s e r v i c e for approximately 1 5
B. Re Koehler (Sun Oil Company, Beaumont, months, i t became n e c e s s a r y t o replace the d e s -
T e x a s ) : T h i s paper i s of timely importance. T h e i c c a n t because of e x c e s s i v e l y high dew points.
authors have done an e x c e l l e n t job in i t s prepara- Water content as high a s 15 t o 18 Ib per million
tion. cubic feet w a s being obtained toward t h e end of the
T h e information presented regarding the method drying cycles. T h e s p e n t d e s i c c a n t w a s removed
of predicting temperatures in g a s l i n e s i s very in- and replaced with new d e s i c c a n t material. New
, teresting. It should offer a useful method for e s t i - a c t i v a t e d alumina w a s placed in one tower and
mation of temperatures in g a s s y s t e m s , for predict- F l o r i t e in the other. D a t a a r e being accumulated in
ing hydrate trouble, or for s e l e c t i n g locations for order to e s t a b l i s h the efficiency and relative merits
h e a t e r s or traps. However, i t a p p e a r s that it could of a c t i v a t e d alumina a n d F l o r i t e for u s e a s drying
be s u b j e c t to considerable error a s s u c h factors a s agents. T h e water removed from e a c h tower during
kind of s o i l , moisture content of the s o i l , and type each regeneration L ycle i s dumped into a tank where
of line coating a r e not considered. i t is measured. A record is kept of the amount of
T h e information presented on the use of line water recovered from e a c h tower. Such a record,
traps and the u s e of wet- a n d dry-type units to de- kept over a period of time, should e n a b l e u s t o
hydrate g a s i s good and i s well summarized. e v a l u a t e t h e different materials as d e s i c c a n t s . Also,
T h i s d i s c u s s i o n will be concerned with the dry- i t e n a b l e s u s t o e s t i m a t e the water content of the
bed or solid-desiccant type of dehydration unit by p r o c e s s e d g a s to check a g a i n s t t h e content deter-
relating Sun Oil Company's experience. with u n i t s mined by dew-point t e s t a p p a r a t u s . T h i s i s p o s s i b l e
of t h i s type installed in i t s Gulf C o a s t division. s i n c e t h e water content of t h e g a s entering the de-
In August 1948, our company p l a c e d i n s e r v i c e hydrator can be determined fairly accurately b) u s e
two dry-bed dehydration u n i t s in difierent a r e a s of water-capacity c u r v e s s u c h a s t h o s e mentioned
south of Beaumont, T e x a s on s y s t e m s delivering by the authors.
g a s for s a l e t o a pipeline operating a t a pressure Over the p a s t two months the water recovery on a
of 700 t o 800 psi. T h e purchaser required dehy- per million cubic foot b a s i s from the towers con-
dration of the g a s t o 7 Ib of water per million cubic taining t h e different d e s i c c a n t materials h a s been
feet of gas. e s s e n t i a l l y the same.
T h e dehydration u n i t s are automatic packaged Laboratory t e s t s run on t h e s p e n t d e s i c c a n t mate-
t y p e s and a r e rated a t 1,000 p s i working pressure. r i a l s removed from t h e unit indicated that i t s maxi-
T h e smaller unit h a s a rated capacity of 1 0 hlhlcf mum absorptive c a p a c i t y w a s s l i g h t l y l e s s than 2
per day, a n d the larger one a rated capacity of 35 percent of i t s dry weight. Washing with various
MMcf per d a y , when operated a t a pressure of 8 0 0 agents, s u c h a s carbon tetrachloride, ether, ben-
DEHYDRATION O F NATURAL GAS 17

zine, methanol, or dilute hydrochloric a c i d , and from 3 4 0 F. t o 3 8 0 F.


s u b s e q u e n t regenerating a t temperatures ranging Since the v a l v e s have been changed and the
from 3 5 0 to 6 0 0 F. failed to r e a c t i v a t e t h e d e s i c -
h e a t e r capacity increased, i t h a s been p o s s i b l e to
c a n t materially. It i s our opinion that the l o s s of
keep t h e water content of t h e dehydrated g a s down
absorptive capacity w a s due, to fouling of the d e s -
to a maximum of 2.5 to 3.5 Ib per million cubic feet
i c c a n t c a u s e d by an increasing amount of high
even when p r o c e s s i n g a t r a t e s s l i g h t l y in e x c e s s
boiling point hydrocarbons being l e f t on the d e s i c -
of the rated c a p a c i t y of t h e units.
c a n t surface after e a c h s u c c e s s i v e regeneration.
Soon after replacing the d e s i c c a n t in t h e dehy- Our u n i t s have not been in s e r v i c e long enough
drator, i t w a s found n e c e s s a r y to do certain other for u s to obtain a c c u r a t e operating and maintenance
c o s t s , but experience t h u s far i n d i c a t e s t h a t t h e
remedial work on the unit in order t o keep the dew
e s t i m a t e s given in the authors' paper a r e reason-
point of the g a s low enough t o meet s a l e s quali-
able. It is quite interesting to note that the value
fications. T h e 4-in. double-seated motor v a l v e s con-
of the'liquid hydrocarbons being recovered by our
trolling t h e flow of g a s from one tower t o the other
dehydration units i s approxinlately 0.0005 c e n t s
by a time-cycle controller were replaced with &in.
per thousand cubic feet of g a s , and t h i s will offset
high-capacity single-seated v a l v e s of a new type.
a portion of the operating c o s t s .
T h e double-seated v a l v e s had been leaking, there-
by allowing some of t h e hot regeneration g a s , In summarizing, it can be s t a t e d that we feel the
which w a s very high in water content, to leak into principal difficulties experienced in the operation
the dried g a s stream leaving the dehydrator. of our packaged dehydration unit have been d u e t o
A t the s a m e time t h e v a l v e s were changed, t h e leaky control valves, fouling of the d e s i c c a n t by
s i z e of the s t a c k on t h e regeneration heater w a s in- t h e accumulation of high boiling point hydrocarbons,
c r e a s e d in diameter from 8 t o 12 in. and the pop p o s s i h l e overloading of the units, and lack of suffi-
valve w a s replaced with one of higher pressure cient heat to reactivate the d e s i c c a n t material
s e t t i n g in order that the heater could be operated a t properly.
i t s full rated working pressure of 3 0 0 psi. Enlarg- We certainly agree with the authors in their con-
i n g the s t a c k and r a i s i n g the operating pressure of clusion that there i s need for considerable further
t h e regeneration g a s heater i n c r e a s e d i t s output study of t h e dehydration problem. Such study should
from approximately 500,000 Btu per hour t o 600,000 result in better d e s i g n s of equipment, should re-
Btu per hour; and i n c r e a s e d the temperature of the duce t h e i n s t a l l e d c o s t s , and should provide better
regeneration g a s entering the dehydrator towers dehydration a t lower operating costs.

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