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# Upstream Engineering Centre

## Gravity Separator Design:

Theory vs. Practice
Mike Power,
Separation Subject Matter Expert,
BP UEC Sunbury
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Agenda

Separation Design Methods

Theory vs. Practice

Upstream vs. Downstream

BP Approach to 3 Phase Separator Sizing

Separator Internals

Inhibitors to Gravity Separation

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Separation Design Approaches

Residence Time
e.g. API, GPA
Oil Relative Density Retention Time (min.)
< 0.85
> 0.85 > 100
o
F
80 100
o
F
60 80
o
F
3 5
5 10
10 20
20 30
Stokes Law Cut Point
Typical Guidelines:
Good Separation 150 m
Bulk Separation 500 m
Separability
e.g. Bottle Tests
In 1851, George Gabriel
Stokes derived an expression
for drag force in laminar flow
& so solving the generally
unsolvable Navier-Stokes
equations.
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Stokes and Residence Time
Settling velocity according to
Stokes Law:

Example:
How long does it take for a
500m droplet to settle through
a distance of 1 meter ?
Water Density: 1000 kg/m3
Oil Density: 760 kg/m3
Oil Viscosity: 4 cP
Settling time = 2 minutes

( )
g
d
v
o w
settle

=
q

18
. 1000
2
However:
If the oil had a higher density and viscosity,
e.g:
Oil Density: 900 kg/m3
Oil Viscosity: 50 cP

Settling time = 60 minutes
Residence Time Approach takes no account of viscosity
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Stokes Law Approach
Typical Literature Criteria
Good Separation 150 m
Bulk Separation 500 m

Typical Required Specifications
<15% Water in Oil
<1000ppm Oil in Water
<0.1 USG/mmSCF Gas
Typically the sizing is
based upon removal of
150 micron diameter
droplets.
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
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Droplet Size, Microns
A
c
c
u
m
u
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a
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i
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e

V
o
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u
m
e

%
Water in Oil
Oil Flow rate Rate = 50 mbpd
Water Flow Rate = 50 mbpd
WiO Spec Required = 15% Vol
15% Water = 9/(50+9)

9 mbpd = 18% of Total Water (50mbpd)
Cut Point Required = 325 micron
However,
sizing 3 phase separators for 150 m can lead to >50m t/t
(without coalescing internals)
consistent representative DSD samples generally unavailable
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Downstream Services:
typically constant flows, operating conditions, known
compositions of liquids and gases
where liquid contain immiscible components, typically
maximum of three phases
internals kept to a minimum as conditions in
separators well defined and controlled
sizing criteria for separator readily accommodated by
well established design rules

Upstream Services:
typically wide range of flows, gas/liquid ratios, fluid
compositions, flow regimes (slug, mist, annular etc.)
flowrates and compositions highly dependent on
operation of field & production profiles of wells
flow to separators generally highly turbulent
separators typically deal with six phases: oil, water,
gas, emulsion, foam and solids
good functioning of the separator highly dependent
upon good choice of internals
FPSO movement may also need to be accounted for
Upstream versus Downstream
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Current Design Approach
W
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i
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O
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V
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%

Stokes Cut Point, m
100 1000
25
2.5
Generic Description
Separator operating performance.

Performance compared against Stokes
Law theoretical Cut Point.

Extrapolated to provide Cut Point versus
Performance for new designs.

Internals provided in vessel to produce
flow regimes in vessel to bring about
theoreical Stokes Law type behaviour.

Challenge:
Assumed valid for Oils < 10cP
Applicability for Oils > 10cP?

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Intent often lost on the journey
What the FEED said What the design
contractor designed
What the fabrication
contractor built
What the construction
contractor installed
What the commissioning
team commissioned
What the Operator
wanted
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Three Phase Separation: Theory vs. ?
What the operator got!
What the Designer Imagined
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Essential Internals
10
Separator Arrangement
Critical Internals for Separation:
1) Inlet Distributor
2) Baffle Plate
3) Demisting Device
4) Vortex Beaker
Other internals as required:
sand removal facilities,
overflow weir for 3 phase
separation
Challenge:
Are current Design Limitations (V
2
, inlet/outlet velocities
etc.) applicable for HP/HT Operation
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Structured Packing & Longitudinal Baffles
Internals greatly simplified:
Packing Removed,
Longitudinal Baffles Opened,
Perforated Baffled,
Vane Type Inlet, Cyclonic Demister

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Vessel Inlet Devices
Open Vane Type
Cyclonic Type
Many Inlet Device Designs available

Preferred Inlet Device for typical services:
Open Vane Type

Except for Foaming Services:
Cyclonic Type

Both types require baffle plate immediately
downstream to assist reducing turbulence

Experience of inappropriate selection and
installation
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Gas Outlet Demisting Devices
Wire Mesh:
Clean Basic Services
Vane Pack:
High Spec < 30bar
Cyclonic Device:
High Spec > 30 Bar
3 Common Types
Downcomers require
well positioned and be
free-flowing
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Vertical Separators

Souders Brown Equation (1934)

U = Maximum superficial gasvelocity (m/s)
k = 0.107 wire mesh demister
= 0.061 no wire mesh
= 0.400 vane pack

l
= liquid density (kg/m3)

g
= gas density (kg/m3)

HHLL
HLL
D
LLL
FEED NOZZLE
OUTLET
150 mm
MIN
0.85 D
- 150 mm
600 mm MIN
FEED NOZZLE
600 mm
1 MIN
1 MIN
1 MIN
300 mm MIN
600 mm (DRY DRUM)
600 mm MIN
0.6 D
1200 mm MAX
DRY DRUM
Vortex Breaker if Continuous Flow
to Pump or Control Valve
5 . 0
|
|
.
|

\
|

=
g
g l
k U

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Vessel Diameter: Impact of k
5 . 0
|
|
.
|

\
|
=
g
g l
k U

Souders- Brown Equation:
Vertical G/L Separator Design
Stream Properties
Temperature: 40
o
C
Pressure: 160 kPa
Gas Flow: 50,000 kg/hr
Gas Density: 2.9 kg/m
3
Liquid Flow: 9800 kg/hr
Liq. Density: 690 kg/m
3

Demister Type: - Mesh Vane ?
K Factor 0.06 0.11 0.4 0.6
Vessel Diam. 2.6m 2.0m 1.1m 0.9m

Challenge: Are the K factors valid for HP/HT
and Viscous Oil Operation
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CFD Modelling of Flow Distribution
For separators in critical services, (slugcatchers, HP /LP separators, Flare
KO drums) CFD analysis performed on the vessel, as well as the first two
inlet piping upstream bends, to identify possible unpredicted fluid flow
behaviour, including FPSO movement.
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Inhibitors to Stokes Law behaviour
Turbulence
Stokes Law not applicable
Inlet to Separators typically highly turbulent
May be increased by vessel internals

Emulsions
Inhibits/prevents oil/water separation
May lead to formation of growing rag layer

Sand
Reduces separation capacity
Plugs internals
Particle stabilised emulsions
Pump & valve wear/damage/blockage
valve/pipeline/equipment erosion/corrosion
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Emulsions: Impact of Water Cut

Emulsion inversion point:
- below 30-60% water cut oil is
the continuous phase,
-above 30-60% water cut water
is the continuous phase

BP Experience:
Continuous Water generally
better than Continuous Oil

Typically, Separators perform
better at higher watercut
regimes
Gas
Water
Sand
Foam
Oil
Emulsion
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Emulsion Breaking Strategies

Heat
reduces viscosity & promotes coalescence

Residence Time with Sedimentation
Promotes Gravity Settling

Centrifugal Force
enhances settling velocity

Coalescence
utilise plates or vane packs
electrostatics

Chemical Injection
droplet surface forces destabilised
coalescence promoted
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Sand Removal Systems
Sand fluidisation and removal from separators
Jetting System
Cyclonic Devices
Hybrid System
Jetting nozzles
1. Start of jetting
2. End of jetting
Original sand layer
Fluidised sand particles
Suction point
Nozzle fluidisation flow
Nozzle
Nozzle
Cyclonic Device
Challenge: Are current technologies adequate for increasingly
viscous sand prone reservoirs?
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Foam? Homework?
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Gravity Separator Design: Theory vs. Practice
22
Thanks for Listening
Questions?