Gas and oil production separators are pressure vessels that separate the fluid constituents of a gas or oil well into liquid and gaseous constituents. Separators are used in numerous applications, including downstream and upstream compressors, gasoline facilities, and trapped liquid in transmission lines. Sometimes, they’re also found on gas-sweetening units, dehydration units, and other kinds of equipment filled with desiccant.
Separators can be installed on both offshore and onshore platforms without hassle. You’re likely to find separators on gas or oil fields and processing facilities more than other types of equipment. Also known as slug catchers, scrubbers, centrifuges, and FWKOs, among other names—all of them have the same central goal of separating free liquids and gas or oil.
We can further classify separators into two primary configurations according to the vessel’s orientation and the fluid quantity that needs to be separated. The position of the vessel can either be two-phase or three-phase. Not sure which one to choose? Experts at CNPS are here to help!
Classification of Different Types of Oil and Gas Separators
#1- Horizontal Separator
These are vessels are used in various applications where gas pressure or gravity is inadequate for effective separation. In shape and design, horizontal separators are like vertical contactors, with a surge drum, tray packs, and collection system. These vessels are available in varying diameters, mostly between 1m or 3ft to 5m or 15ft. The height also ranges from 5m or 15 ft to 37m or 120 ft.
Horizontal separators are suitable for liquid/gas ratios up to 160 bbl/scfm when equipped with inner tray packs. In certain instances, these vessels can handle liquid/gas flow rates as high as 8 MMscf/ 1 MMSCFD. You can find horizontal separators in a broad array of pressure ratings with options that can be armed with additional features like weirs, trays, and more, as necessary.
#2- Vertical Separators
These contactors can handle diverse liquid and gas flow rates. These separators are very popular for onshore platform production but are also common in many onshore applications with insufficient gravitation to separate gas from liquids. These vessels have a differential pressure of two-phase across the body to allow more even liquid distribution on the bottom and top surfaces.
A collection system is used to collect liquids in the surge drum whenever there’s a surge. The level must be maintained in the drum so that it remains below the tray level at all times to avoid re-entrainment of liquids into the air or steam vapor.
Since the vertical distance between the gas outlet and liquid level is higher, there’s far less chance of the tendency for the liquid to re-vaporize into gasses. These separators are more expensive and difficult to ship and fabricate in skid-mounted configurations. They often require a larger separator diameter for any gas capacity than the horizontal ones. Moreover, they also take up more space than their spherical counterparts and need more piping for connection.
#3- Spherical Separators
These are relatively compact and inexpensive vessel arrangements. Spherical separators can handle high liquid and vapor loads easily. They’re particularly suitable for the removal of slug load, sand, and medium to large diameter streams up to 12 in. They’re simple to operate, low in cost, compact, and offer many other benefits. The bargain comes in the form of reduced efficiency at low liquid/gas ratios, so they’re less common now.
Phase Categories of Separators
Multiple-effect systems comprise different discrete vessels connected series-wise with single or multiple vapor extractions between every vessel. Every stage is equipped with a down-comer line and an overhead steam line to enable liquid from the prior stages to enter the separator section. It also has a steam trunk that supplies heat during the last phase. Phase categories of separators can generally be grouped into two main types.
#1- 2-Phase Separators
Double-effect contactors or two-stage separators utilize two vessels connected series-wise. The first one separates liquid from vapors that come from the previous vessel. The liquid is then used to strip the 2nd phase. Such vessels have a discrete vapor line at an advanced elevation than single-phase units to provide space for the purging vapors.
#2- 3-Phase Separators
These separators utilize a vertical swift stripping action to recover gas from an intricate mixture of vapors, solids, liquids, and gases. Three-stage separators comprise two vertical chambers separated by an annulated area with mounted radial plates.
Steam of a high-velocity stream is passed through the vanes in the lower chamber for jet entrainment. Stripped crude oil gets collected in the chamber underneath, whereas the gas enters the upper chamber through open slots.
These separators are more suitable when used in conjunction with vessels containing only liquid or only gas. It allows the three-phase separator to fully separate all fluids. This type of vessel is often connected between 2 two-phase vessels to serve as water, solid, and oil separation equipment with minimal stripping at high velocity.
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