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Chapter 2

Characterization of Natural Gas and Its Products


As indicated in Chapter 1, the conditioning of natural gas
for transportation and sale involves two process objectives:
1. Separation of the natural gas from free liquids (crude
oil, brine) and entrained solids (sand),
2. Removal of impurities from the natural gas and any
condensate formed to meet sales/reinjection
specifications while observing all environmental
regulations.
Sales specifications can be described most readily in terms
of the composition and properties of the produced
hydrocarbons. Also, the selection, design, and operation
of the processes required to separate gas from liquid and
to remove impurities depend on the wellstream properties.
Accordingly, natural gas and its products are discussed
using the following topics: spectrum of produced
hydrocarbon fluids, natural-gas constituents, natural-gas
compositions, heating values, analysis of natural gases,
sampling, and product specifications.
SPECTRUM OF PRODUCED HYDROCARBON
FLUIDS
The desirable constituents of crude oil and natural gas are
hydrocarbons. These compounds range from methane (CH
4
)
at the low-molecular-weight end all the way up to paraffin
hydrocarbons with 33 carbon atoms and poly nuclear
aromatic hydrocarbons with 20 or more carbon atoms (Hatch
and Matar, 1977). Natural gas is principally methane. Crude
oil is principally liquid hydrocarbons having four or more
carbon atoms.
There is a tendency to regard crude oil as a liquid and
natural gas as a gas and to consider production of the two
phases as separate operations. However, in the reservoir,
crude oil almost always contains dissolved methane and
other light hydrocarbons that are released as gas when the
pressure on the oil is reduced. As the gas evolves, the
remaining crude-oil liquid volume decreases; this
phenomenon is known as shrinkage. The gas so produced
is called associated or separator gas or casinghead gas.
Shrinkage is expressed in terms of barrels of stock-tank
oil per barrel of reservoir fluid. Crude-oil shrinkage is the
reciprocal of oil formation volume factor (FVF).
Similarly, natural gas produced from a gas reservoir may
contain small amounts of heavier hydrocarbons that are
separated as a liquid called condensate. Natural gas
containing condensate is said to be wet. Conversely, if no
condensate forms when the gas is produced to the surface,
the gas is called dry.
A spectrum of well fluids is actually produced, as noted
by McCain (1973) and summarized in Table 2-1. The type
of fluid produced depends on the phase diagram of the
reservoir fluid and the reservoir temperature and pressure,
as will be discussed in Chapter 3, Phase Behavior of Natural
Gas.
Figure 2-1 depicts a typical gas-oil separation sequence
(including incidental water and sand removal). Table 2-1
lists the five common types of wellstream fluids and
summarizes typical yields and liquid properties. When crude
oil is separated from its associated gas during production,
the total gas evolved while reducing the oil to atmospheric
pressure divided by the volume of the remaining crude oil
is called the gas-oil ratio or GOR. The GOR is expressed
as the total standard cubic feet of gas evolved per 60F
barrel of stock-tank or atmospheric-pressure oil (scf/bsto),
in English engineering units and standard cubic meters of
gas per cubic meter (or metric ton) of 15C oil in SI or
metric units. Standard conditions for natural gas are 60F
and 1 atm (English engineering units) and 15C and 1 atm
(SI or metric).
The total GOR depends on the number of stages used
in the separation sequence, as well as the operating pressure
of each stage. For three or more stages, the GOR approaches
a limiting value. Optimization of the separation sequence
usually involves either maximizing crude-oil yield or