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May and June 1994

Reduce amine plant solvent losses
Parts 1 &2
A systematic technical approach will identify and
quantify losses into five categories
E.J. Stewart and R.A. Lanning
GAS/SPEC Technology Group
INEOS LLC
As part of a Federal Trade Commission mandated remedy to the merger of The Dow Chemical Company and the Union Carbide Corporation,
INEOS plc was able to purchase both Dow’s Ethanolamines and GAS/SPEC MDEA-based specialty amine businesses. This purchase became effective on
February 12, 2001.
INEOS LLC was set up as the newly acquired company, which includes the GAS/SPEC Technology Group. All the key Ethanolamines and GAS/SPEC personnel
were retained by INEOS LLC. All GAS/SPEC products, technology and know-how became the exclusive property of INEOS on a global basis.
Reprinted from HYDROCARBONPROCESSING
®
, May 1994 issue, pages 67-81 and June 1994 issue, pages 51-54.
Copyright© 1994 by Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, Texas. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING 3
E. J . Stewart and R. A. Lanning, Dow Chemi cal Co.,
Freeport, Texas
A
systemati c approach to ami ne pl ant sol vent-l oss
reducti on begi ns wi th an accurate measurement
of current pl ant l oss rates. To do thi s, l ook at l ong-
term i nventory and al kanol ami ne sol vent purchases and
cal cul ate ami ne l osses on a dai l y or hourl y basi s versus
pl ant producti on, i .e., l b ami ne l oss/MMscf of gas treated.
I f l ong-term data are not avai l abl e, makeup rates and ves-
sel levels can be trended daily to determine loss rates. Once
a good esti mate of total l oss rate i s found, categori ze i ndi -
vi dual l osses.
Next, gather pl ant data for char acter i zi ng l osses i n
each major category:
• A compl ete l aboratory anal ysi s of the treati ng sol vent
i ncl udi ng heat stabl e sal t and degradati on product l evel s.
• Pl ant desi gn drawi ngs
• Oper ati ng condi ti ons and pr ocedur es, i .e., f i l ter
change-out procedures, absorber overhead temperatures,
absorber pressures, treated gas/l i qui d fl ow rates and sol -
vent concentrati ons.
An appr oxi mati on shoul d be made for l osses due to
vapor i zati on, sol ubi l i ty, entr ai nment and degr adati on.
The di fference between esti mated l osses and actual cur-
rent pl ant l oss rates i s attri buted to mechani cal l osses.
I ndi vi dual mechani cal l osses are i denti fi ed by a thorough
pl ant i nspecti on and revi ew of operati ng procedures. The
fi ve categori es of l osses shoul d
then be ranked from hi ghest to
l owest l oss area. Thi s ranki ng
establ i shes order of i mportance
for equi pment and operati onal
changes.
The most common ranki ng of
l oss categori es from hi ghest to
l owest i n a gas treati ng pl ant i s
mechanical, entrainment, vapor-
i zati on and degradati on. How-
ever, when a l i qui d tr eater i s
part of the process, the ranki ng
becomes mechani cal , l i qui d en-
trainment and solubility as high-
l oss ar eas. Smal l er l osses ar e
due to gas entrai nment, vapor-
i zati on and degradati on.
An important loss-reduction consideration is that current
system l osses are provi di ng a purge for the ami ne system.
As l osses are reduced, thi s bui l t-i n purge i s removed and
contami nant l evel s i ncrease. By mai ntai ni ng peri odi c sol -
vent anal yses, bui l dup of con-
tami nants i n an ami ne system
can be monitored and controlled
whi l e reduci ng l osses.
VAPORIZATION
These l osses are associ ated
wi th al l al kanol ami ne tr eat-
ment of gas streams. They are a
di r ect r esul t of al kanol ami ne
vapor pressure i n the treati ng
sol uti on on the contacted gas
stream. The amount of vapor-
phase alkanolamine is governed
by over head oper ati ng condi -
ti ons of the absor ber, str i pper
and fl ash tank vent. These are
the three mai n areas of vapor
PART 1
Reduce amine plant solvent losses
A systematic technical approach
will identify and quantify losses into
five categories
A
m
i
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e

l
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,

l
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a
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M
M
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c
f
1
1 0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
1 0 0
1 , 0 0 0 1 0 0
P re ssu re , p sia
1 0
0
1 M E A 1 0 % , 1 0 0   F
2 M E A 1 5 % , 1 0 0   F
3 M E A 2 0 % , 1 0 0   F
4 M E A 1 0 % , 1 2 0   F
5 M E A 1 5 % , 1 2 0   F
6 M E A 2 0 % , 1 2 0   F
7 M E A 1 0 % , 1 4 0   F
8 M E A 1 5 % , 1 4 0   F
9 M E A 2 0 % , 1 4 0   F
Fig. 1. M E A va p o riza tio n lo sse s.
A problem and solution . . .
S o lve n t lo sse s in a lk a n o la m in e g a s a n d liq u id tre a tin g
p la n ts a re a b o u t 9 5 M M lb /yr in th e U . S . Wh ile so m e lo ss
is e x p e c te d in a ll o p e ra tio n s, e x tre m e lo sse s c a n n e g a -
tiv e ly im p a c t e c o n o m ic s o f o p e ra tin g a n y a m in e u n it.
U n d e rsta n d in g a n d c o n tro llin g a m in e lo sse s is a n im p o r-
ta n t a sp e c t o f su c c e ssfu l p la n t o p e ra tio n .
1
To re d u c e a m in e s o lv e n t lo s s e s in a lk a n o la m in e g a s
tre a tin g p la n ts , a s y s te m a tic a p p ro a c h is v ita l. A m in e
lo ss ra te s h a ve b e c o m e a m o re im p o rta n t e c o n o m ic fa c -
to r i n o p e ra ti n g g a s o r li q u i d tre a ti n g p la n ts d u e to
in c re a se d d isp o sa l c o n c e rn s a n d c h e m ic a l c o sts.
A m in e p la n t lo sse s ste m fro m va p o riza tio n , so lu b ility,
m e c h a n ic a l, d e g ra d a tio n a n d e n tra in m e n t. To c u t lo sse s,
ta rg e t th e la rg e st lo ss a re a s a n d fo c u s tro u b le sh o o tin g o n
d e sig n a n d o p e ra tio n a l c h a n g e s to re d u c e lo sse s.
PROCESS TECHNOLOGY
l osses i n al kanol ami ne treati ng systems.
Parameters that govern the amount of vapori zed ami ne
are temperature, pressure and ami ne concentrati on. These
parameters establ i sh an equi l i bri um between the ami ne
vapor pr essur e i n sol uti on and the par ti al pr essur e of
ami ne i n the gas stream. As temperature i ncreases and/or
pr essur e decr eases, the amount of gas-phase ami ne
i ncr eases due to hi gher vapor pr essur e exer ted by the
al kanol ami ne on the gas. Because treated gas i s conti n-
uousl y bei ng r epl aced by new gas movi ng up the tower,
addi ti onal ami ne must move i nto the gas phase vi a vapor-
i zati on to mai ntai n equi l i bri um.
Ami ne vapori zati on l osses can be cal cul ated for each
sol vent based on vapor-pressure data of the speci fi c ami ne
and the gas stream temperature and pressure. Fi gs. 1 to 3
demonstr ate ami ne vapor i zati on l osses pr edi cted for
monoethanol ami ne (MEA), di ethanol ami ne (DEA) and
methyl di ethanol ami ne (MDEA). These wer e devel oped
from pure-component vapor-pressure data assumi ng i deal
solution behavior (Raoult’s Law). Since the graphs are equi-
l i bri um based, actual l osses wi l l be l ower than predi cted.
Esti mated l osses per MMscf of gas tr eated by an
absorber operati ng at 700 psi a and 120°F are i n Tabl e 1.
Losses ar e shown for each sol vent at typi cal oper ati ng
concentr ati ons. Thi s shows that MEA i s much mor e
vol ati l e than DEA and MDEA. Usi ng the graphs and spe-
ci fi c pl ant condi ti ons, an esti mate of ami ne l osses can be
obtai ned for the absorber and fl ash tank vent. Gas fl ow
from the fl ash tank vent may be esti mated i f a di rect mea-
surement cannot be made.
Because the refl ux water returned to the system typi -
cal l y contai ns 1% to 5% ami ne, aci d gas exi ti ng the stri p-
per i s water washed. I n addi ti on, fl ow of aci d gas i s usual l y
a smal l rati o of the absorber gas rate. Therefore, vapor-
i zati on l osses from the stri pper are usual l y smal l . An esti -
mati on of ami ne l osses can be made from Tabl e 2 for stri p-
per ami ne vapori zati on l osses.
To reduce vapori zati on l osses i n any ami ne system, con-
di ti ons of the car r yi ng gas/sol vent equi l i br i um must be
mani pul ated to return ami ne to the l i qui d phase. Major
parameters to work wi th are temperature, pressure and
ami ne concentrati on. Treated gas cool ers are commonl y
used to return water to the ami ne system and to reduce
l oad on gas dehydrati on uni ts. The cool er returns onl y a
porti on of the vapori zed ami ne to the mai n ci rcul ati on sys-
tem. However, by usi ng a water-wash system, ami ne con-
centr ati on i s l ower ed and much mor e of the vapor i zed
ami ne can be recovered. The water wash has a l ow con-
centr ati on of ami ne and a l ow ami ne vapor pr essur e.
Ami ne parti al pressure i n the gas establ i shes a new equi -
l i bri um by forci ng ami ne i nto the water phase.
The two most typi cal water-wash desi gns are a set of
trays above the l ean ami ne feed poi nt i n the absorber pl us
a separate tray, or a packed water-wash vessel downstream
4 HYDROCARBON PROCESSING
A
m
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e

l
o
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s
,

l
b

a
m
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/
M
M
s
c
f
0 . 0 0 1
0 . 1
0 . 0 1
1
1 , 0 0 0 1 0 0
P re ssu re , p sia
1 0
0 . 0 0 0 1
1 D E A 1 0 % , 1 0 0   F
2 D E A 2 0 % , 1 0 0   F
3 D E A 3 0 % , 1 0 0   F
4 D E A 1 0 % , 1 2 0   F
5 D E A 2 0 % , 1 2 0   F
6 D E A 3 0 % , 1 2 0   F
7 D E A 1 0 % , 1 4 0   F
8 D E A 2 0 % , 1 4 0   F
9 D E A 3 0 % , 1 4 0   F
1
2
4
3
5
6
7
8
9
}
Fig. 2. D E A va p o riza tio n lo sse s.
1 M D E A 3 0 % , 1 0 0   F
2 M D E A 4 0 % , 1 0 0   F
3 M D E A 5 0 % , 1 0 0   F
4 M D E A 3 0 % , 1 2 0   F
5 M D E A 4 0 % , 1 2 0   F
6 M D E A 5 0 % , 1 2 0   F
7 M D E A 3 0 % , 1 4 0   F
8 M D E A 4 0 % , 1 4 0   F
9 M D E A 5 0 % , 1 4 0   F
1
2
4
3
5
6
7
8
9
A
m
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e

l
o
s
s
,

l
b

a
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/
M
M
s
c
f
0 . 1
1
1 0
1 , 0 0 0 1 0 0
P re ssu re , p sia
1 0
0 . 0 1
Fig. 3. M D E A va p o riza tio n lo sse s.
Table 2. Amine loss estimation
M E A < 0 . 1 lb a m in e /M M sc f a c id g a s
M D E A < 0 . 0 1 lb a m in e /M M sc f a c id g a s
D E A < 0 . 0 0 1 lb a m in e /M M sc f a c id g a s
R e flu x d ru m o p e ra tio n a t 1 2 0   F a n d 2 5 p sia
Table 1. Estimated vaporization losses at 700
psia and 120°F
1 5 % M E A 0 . 5 4 lb /M M sc f
3 0 % D E A 0 . 0 0 4 lb /M M sc f
3 0 % M D E A 0 . 0 3 5 lb /M M sc f
5 0 % M D E A 0 . 0 6 1 lb /M M sc f
of the contactor. Fi gs. 4 and 5 show these systems. Si nce
the ami ne system water bal ance often l i mi ts makeup
water, stri pper refl ux can be used as an i nternal source
of l ow-ami ne wash water. However, i n H
2
S systems, use
cauti on because sour refl ux water may affect the treated
gas speci fi cati on.
2
A gas treati ng survey compl eted i n 1990 of West Texas
al kanol ami ne pl ants showed an average ami ne l oss rate
of 3 l b ami ne/MMscfd tr eated gas for MEA, DEA and
MDEA products. Al most al l of these pl ants operate at el e-
vated pressures, maki ng vapori zati on l oss a smal l fracti on
of the total l oss r ate. Thi s i ndi cates that even though
some vapor i zati on l osses wi l l al ways occur, the bul k of
ami ne l osses occur i n other l oss categori es. One area of
hi gh l oss si mi l ar to vapor i zati on i s ami ne sol ubi l i ty i n
l i qui d hydrocarbons.
SOLUBILITY
These losses are associated with any alkanolamine treat-
i ng of l i qui d hydrocarbons. Si mi l ar to vapori zati on l osses,
an equi l i bri um between ami ne i n the hydrocarbon phase
and the al kanol ami ne i n aqueous sol uti on i s establ i shed.
Ami ne i n the l i qui d hydrocarbon phase i s governed by
temper atur e, pr essur e and ami ne concentr ati on at the
exi ti ng i nter face of the two l i qui ds. These par ameter s
establ i sh the ami ne equi l i bri um between the two phases.
I n general, as temperature increases or pressure decreases,
more ami ne i s carri ed by the hydrocarbon. As the hydro-
carbon at the i nterface i s repl aced wi th new hydrocarbon
movi ng up the tower, more ami ne moves i nto the hydro-
carbon and i s removed from the system. I n l i qui d/l i qui d
ami ne treaters, temperature and pressure typi cal l y oper-
ate wi thi n narrow l i mi ts to mai ntai n the hydrocarbon as
a l i qui d. The most i mportant parameter to control i s ami ne
concentrati on.
Ami ne sol ubi l i ty i n hydrocarbon can be esti mated from
physi cal properti es to determi ne ami ne l oss rates. Fi gs.
6 and 7 show sol ubi l i ty of ami ne i n propane and butane.
These graphs were devel oped usi ng theoreti cal l i qui d/l i q-
ui d equi l i br i a based on Uni ver sal quasi -chemi cal func-
ti onal gr oup acti vi ty coeffi ci ent (UNI FAC) par ameter s.
The theoreti cal predi cti ons correl ated cl osel y wi th l abo-
r ator y data. These gr aphs wer e devel oped wi th typi cal
l i qui d treater condi ti ons of 300 psi a and 77°F.
3, 4
The graphs show the strong effect ami ne concentrati on
has on ami ne sol ubi l i ty i n hydrocarbons. For a l i qui d pol -
i shi ng uni t oper ati ng i ndependentl y fr om gas tr eater s,
oper ati ng at a r educed ami ne concentr ati on i s nor mal
si nce ami ne-aci d l oadi ng i s l ow and sol ubi l i ty l osses can be
reduced. I n l i qui d treaters operati ng wi th a regenerati on
system i n common wi th a gas tr eati ng uni t, a ver y l ow
ami ne strength may cause hi gh l oadi ng or gas absorber
ci rcul ati on probl ems. I n thi s case, a compromi se must be
Tre a te d g a s o u tle t
Wa sh wa te r in le t
R ic h a m in e o u tle t
L C
L e a n a m in e in le t
G a s in le t
Fig. 4. I n c o rp o ra te d wa sh tra y d e sig n .
Tre a te d g a s o u tle t
Tre a te d g a s in tle t
  fro m a b so rb e r
Tra ys o r
p a c k in g
A m in e wa sh
re tu rn to syste m
  < 3 . 0 % a m in e )
F re sh wa te r m a k e u p
o r strip p e r re flu x
Wa sh wa te r
in le t
L C
Fig. 5. S e p a ra te g a s wa te r-wa sh syste m .
1 0 0
1 0 0
M E A
D E A
M D E A
2 0 3 0
A m in e c o n c e n tra tio n , wt%
E q u ilib riu m a t 7 7   F a n d 3 0 0 p sia
A
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s
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y
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p
p
m
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4 0 5 0 6 0
2 0 0
3 0 0
4 0 0
5 0 0
6 0 0
7 0 0
8 0 0
9 0 0
1 , 0 0 0
0
Fig. 6. A m in e so lu b ility in p ro p a n e .
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING 5
made. For sol vents that typi cal l y operate at 50% concen-
trati on, such as MDEA and di gl ycol ami ne (DGA), we rec-
ommend a concentrati on of 40%. Operati ng l i qui d treaters
above 40% resul ts i n substanti al sol ubi l i ty l osses.
I n addi ti on to reduci ng operati ng ami ne concentrati ons,
sol ubi l i ty l osses i n l i qui d-tr eati ng systems can be con-
trol l ed by water-wash systems. As wi th water-wash sys-
tems on gas treaters, the concentrati on of ami ne i n equi -
l i bri um wi th the treated hydrocarbon i s reduced. Ami ne i n
the hydrocarbon phase establ i shes equi l i bri um wi th the
water-wash phase. Thi s new equi l i bri um moves the ami ne
back i nto sol uti on for return to the mai n system.
The counter-current, water-wash vessel desi gn (Fi g. 8)
and the co-cur r ent, water-i njected, i n-l i ne stati c mi xer
desi gn (Fi g. 9) are both successful i n reduci ng sol ubi l i ty
losses. The counter-current water-wash vessel has a hydro-
carbon retenti on ti me of 2 to 3 mi n. The outl et ami ne con-
centrati on i n the wash i s l ess than 3 wt%. A si mi l ar ami ne
concentr ati on can be r ecover ed i n the stati c-mi xer sys-
tem. The type of system chosen i s cost dependent on the
hydrocarbon fl owrate and operati ng system pressure. I ni -
ti al equi pment cost can be recovered from ami ne savi ngs.
Wi th vapori zati on and sol ubi l i ty l osses, the amount i s
set by the ami ne type and pl ant oper ati ng condi ti ons.
Some l osses i n these two ar eas wi l l al ways be pr esent.
Vapori zati on l osses are rel ati vel y l ow unti l l ow-pressure or
hi gh-temper atur e condi ti ons ar e pr esent. However, l i q-
ui d tr eater sol ubi l i ty l osses ar e typi cal l y hi gh. Contr ol
systems for both l osses ar e water-wash systems. Whi l e
vapori zati on and sol ubi l i ty l osses are set by the physi cal
properti es of the ami ne and operati ng condi ti ons, entrai n-
ment, degradation and mechanical losses center around the
equi pment, operati ons, condi ti ons and contami nants.
ENTRAINMENT (GAS TREATERS)
These l osses can be defi ned as the physi cal carry-over
of ami ne sol vent i nto treated or aci d-gas streams. Entrai n-
ment can be descri bed as a mi st or spray, dependi ng on
dropl et si ze for l i qui d-i n-gas di spersi on. I t can be descri bed
as foami ng for gas-i n-l i qui d di sper si on. Thi s i s str i ctl y
rel ated to gas and l i qui d hydraul i cs i n the absorber. Foam-
i ng typi cal l y resul ts from a combi nati on of contami nati on,
sol i ds and gas hydraul i cs i n the absorber or stri pper.
Liquid-in-gas dispersion (entrainment). Thi s resul ts
fr om the for mati on of smal l ami ne dr opl ets. Di ameter s
fr om 0.1 to 5,000 mi cr ons ar e typi cal l y for med and car -
ri ed by the gas up the col umn. Opposi ng forces acti ng on
the dr opl et ar e gr avi ty ver sus upwar ds gas pr essur e
agai nst the dr opl et’s sur face. As the ami ne-dr opl et vol -
ume decr eases by r adi us cubed (r
3
), the sur face ar ea
decreases by radi us squared (r
2
). At some dropl et si ze, i ts
wei ght i s i nsuffi ci ent to overcome the force of gas movi ng
up the tower. Therefore, at smal l er dropl et si zes, the gas
vel oci ty must be reduced to prevent entrai nment.
5
There are several symptoms of heavy entrainment losses
i n gas systems. Fi r st i s over l oadi ng of downstr eam gas
knockout vessel s. Even though the knockout vessel i s
desi gned to remove a normal amount of entrai ned ami ne,
hi gh l evel s of entrai nment wi l l overl oad the knockout sys-
tem. Second, i f knockout equi pment i s damaged or dropl et
si ze i s smal l , entr ai ned ami ne wi l l move past knockout
devices and collect in dehydration equipment and low places
i n gas transmi ssi on l i nes. Dehydrati on contami nati on can
be checked in glycol units by pH and solvent analysis. These
ar e al l common symptoms of a hi gh amount of entr ai n-
ment, but i denti fyi ng the source i s i mportant. Tabl e 3 l i sts
typi cal entrai nment sources i n gas treaters.
To control these entrai nment l osses, mai ntai n l ow gas
6 HYDROCARBON PROCESSING
1 0 0
1 0 0
M E A
D E A
M D E A
2 0 3 0
A m in e c o n c e n tra tio n , wt%
E q u ilib riu m a t 7 7   F a n d 3 0 0 p sia
A
m
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n
e

s
o
l
u
b
i
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i
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y
,

p
p
m
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4 0 5 0 6 0
2 0 0
3 0 0
4 0 0
5 0 0
6 0 0
7 0 0
8 0 0
9 0 0
1 , 0 0 0
0
Fig. 7. A m in e so lu b ility in b u ta n e .
Tre a te d h yd ro c a rb o n liq u id s o u tle t
Tre a te d h yd ro -
c a rb o n
liq u id s in le t
  L P G o r N G S
fro m tre a te r
Typ ic a lly
p a c k e d
A m in e wa sh
re tu rn to syste m
  < 3 . 0 % a m in e )
F re sh wa te r m a k e u p
o r strip p e r re flu x
Wa sh wa te r
in le t L C
Fig. 8. C o u n te r-c u rre n t wa te r-wa sh syste m .
Table 3. Typical entrainment sources
• U n d e rsize d to we r d ia m e te r fo r g a s flo w
• O p e ra tio n o f to we r b e lo w d e sig n p re ssu re
• Tra ys o p e ra tin g a t o r a b o ve flo o d in g
• P lu g g e d o r d a m a g e d tra ys
• U n d e rsize d o r p lu g g e d a m in e d istrib u to r
• D a m a g e d m ist e lim in a to r p a d
• D a m a g e d k n o c k o u t ve sse l
vel oci ti es where onl y smal l dropl ets can be carri ed by the
gas. Smal l dropl ets wi l l not remove a great vol ume of sol u-
ti on from the system. Hi gh entrai nment l osses are often
attri buted to operati ng an absorber above desi gn gas rates
or bel ow desi gn pressure. The Sauders-Brown equati on
(Eq. 1) can be used to eval uate superfi ci al gas vel oci ty for
separati on of entrai ned l i qui d i n a 5-ft separati on space
above the top tray or wi th a mi st el i mi nator. The di ameter
desi gn equati on (Eq. 2) uses thi s superfi ci al vel oci ty for
eval uati ng tower desi gn.
5–7
where V = superfi ci al gas vel oci ty, ft/s
D = vessel di ameter, ft
G = gas fl ow rate, ft
3
/s
r
L
= ami ne densi ty, l b/ft
3
r
g
= gas densi ty, l b/ft
3
K = empi ri cal factor, 0.167 for 5-ft space above top
tray or 0.35 for wi re mesh separator.
I n addi ti on to gas vel oci ty, tray desi gn shoul d be eval -
uated to deter mi ne per cent fl oodi ng and sl ot vel oci ti es.
Oper ati ng tr ays near or above f l oodi ng can cause an
i ncreased formati on of dropl ets. Tray desi gn eval uati ons
ar e suppl i ed by the vendor. Ami ne di str i butor desi gn
shoul d al so be checked as a possi bl e sour ce of mi st for -
mati on. I f mi st el i mi nator or knockout equi pment i s pre-
sent, thei r capaci ty and desi gn shoul d al so be veri fi ed.
7, 8
Mechani cal damage to a wel l -desi gned system i s a com-
mon source of spray. Equi pment i nspecti on can best deter-
mi ne i f damage or pl uggi ng has occurred to trays or di s-
tr i butor s causi ng the for mati on of a spr ay or mi st. I n
addi ti on, any damage to the mi st el i mi nator and knockout
equi pment can cause nor mal l y-handl ed entr ai nment to
become a hi gh-l oss probl em.
Normal equi pment sol uti ons to l i qui d-i n-gas di spersi on
take advantage of dropl et mass and tower gas fl ow force.
The most common solution is to insert mist-eliminator pads
i n the tower ’s top and i nstal l separate downstream knock-
out vessel s. The basi c pri nci pl e of these pads i s to provi de a
tortuous course for the gas to travel and a l arge surface
area for dropl et i mpi ngement. Forward momentum of the
dropl ets i s used to carry them onto the mi st-el i mi nator sur-
face as the gas makes a turn. Ami ne col l ects on the surface,
formi ng l arger drops that fal l back onto the trays or the
bottom of the knockout vessel . A few exampl es of these sep-
arati on devi ces are shown i n Fi g. 10. Wi re-mesh mi st pads
are the most common, but are normal l y desi gned for a nar-
row range of gas flows. I f absorber gas rates change, consider
repl aci ng the mi st pad for the new gas fl ow.
Gas-in-liquid dispersion (foaming). Thi s resul ts from
the formati on of stabl e bubbl es that bui l d to a foam. The
sur face ar ea to wei ght r ati o for these stabl e bubbl es i s
hi gh, al l owi ng the gas to carry the foam overhead. A cer-
tai n amount of foam or fr oth on each tr ay i s nor mal i n
al kanol ami ne tr eati ng. But thi s foam i s not stabl e and
qui ckl y br eaks down i nto sol uti on. A foami ng i nci dent
occur s when a stabl e foam bui l ds on one tr ay up to the
bottom of the next tray. Thi s foam wi l l move up the tower
and carry over i nto downstream equi pment.
Tabl e 4 summari zes symptoms that i denti fy a foami ng
probl em. Foami ng can be veri fi ed by an onsi te shake test
or by a r i gor ous bubbl i ng test of 200-ml sol vent wi th
methane/ni trogen through a bubbl i ng stone. I n both tests,
foam hei ght and ti me requi red for the foam to break down
i nto sol uti on are measured.
Foami ng can be attri buted to three mai n parameters
i n al kanol ami ne systems:
• A contami nant acti ng as a foami ng i ni ti ator
• Sol i ds stabi l i zi ng the foam
• Hi gh gas vel oci ty formi ng the foam.
One or more of these parameters i s needed for foam-
i ng. Ami ne contami nants such as condensed hydr ocar -
bons, organi c aci ds, water contami nants and wel l -treat-
i ng chemi cal s can be checked by l aboratory anal yses. I ron
sul fi de parti cl es and other sol i ds are foam stabi l i zers.
9
Remedi es for el i mi nati ng foami ng focus on i denti fyi ng
and preventi ng sol uti on contami nati on, and fi l trati on to
Then (2) D
G
V
=






4
1 2
π
/
V K
L g
g
=
− 







ρ ρ
ρ
1 2 /
(1)
Table 4. Foaming symptoms
• O ve rlo a d in g d o wn stre a m k n o c k o u t e q u ip m e n t
• H ig h o r e rra tic d iffe re n tia l to we r p re ssu re
• D e c re a se in o u tle t C O
2
• S o lu tio n le ve l b o u n c in g in to we r
• S o lu tio n le ve l b o u n c in g in fla sh ta n k
• E rra tic strip p e r fe e d
F re sh wa te r
m a k e u p
Tre a te d h yd ro c a rb o n
liq u id s in le t   L P G o r
N G S fro m tre a te r
F ro m re flu x
a c c u m u la to r
I n -lin e sta tic
m ix e r
  c o -c u rre n t
wa te r wa sh )
S e p a ra to r
1 5 m in . re te n tio n tim e fo r L P G
2 0 m in . re te n tio n tim e fo r wa sh
A m in e wa sh
re tu rn to syste m
  < 3 . 0 % a m in e )
L C
Fig. 9. C o -c u rre n t wa te r-wa sh syste m .
G a s flo w
G a s flo w G a s flo w
C . Wire -m e sh m ist e lim in a to r
A . Wa ve p la te im p in g e m e n t
se p a ra to r
B . Va n e -typ e im p in g e m e n t
p la te
Fig. 10. E x a m p le s o f m ist/sp ra y e lim in a tio n d e vic e s.
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING 7
mai ntai n sol uti on qual i ty. Tabl e 5 l i sts some typi cal foam-
i ng agents and sources.
Many process uni t operati ons have been successful i n
pr eventi ng contami nants fr om enter i ng an ami ne sys-
tem. Several refi neri es use water-wash systems on i nl et
gas str eams to r emove or gani c aci ds for med i n cr acker
uni ts. Porous-medi a fi l ters on i nl et gas streams are used
for i ron sul fi de removal i n sour-gas systems. Often, the
process contami nant can be removed by repai r or modi -
fi cati on of exi sti ng equi pment. Oxygen can enter a feed-
gas str eam thr ough vapor-r ecover y uni ts and thr ough
ami ne storage wi thout a gas bl anket. By modi fyi ng oper-
ati on or equi pment, oxygen contami nati on can be greatl y
reduced.
I n addi ti on to separati on systems to prevent contami -
nati on, ami ne sol uti on qual i ty shoul d al so be mai ntai ned
by mechani cal and carbon fi l trati on. An acti vated-carbon
fi l ter wi l l remove many foami ng agents i n an ami ne sys-
tem, l i ke condensed hydr ocar bons, ami ne-degr adati on
products and organi c aci ds. However, the carbon fi l ter can
al so i ntroduce sol i ds to the system i n the form of carbon
fi nes. I n a normal desi gn, a mechani cal fi l ter i s i ncl uded
on the outl et to r emove any fi nes befor e they can enter
the ci rcul ati ng sol uti on. A common desi gn for a carbon-
fi l ter system i s shown i n Fi g. 11.
Carbon-fi l trati on systems can be pl aced ei ther on the
ri ch or l ean ami ne l oop. They usual l y handl e from 10% to
100% of the ci rcul ati ng sol uti on. Pl acement of the carbon
fi l ter on the r i ch si de i s ai med at r emovi ng heavy con-
tami nati on before the ami ne can foam i n the stri pper and
degrade i n the reboi l er.
10, 11
Mechani cal fi l trati on i s used to remove sol i ds. Sol i ds
are not general l y foami ng agents, but wi l l stabi l i ze a foam
once it is formed. An amine system may have a foaming ini-
ti ator present but the foam breaks down i nto sol uti on too
qui ckl y to cause operati onal probl ems or l osses. However,
when sol i ds are i ntroduced to thi s system, the foam sta-
bi l i zes, causi ng treati ng and l oss probl ems. A hi gh l evel of
sol i ds can al so cause erosi on damage to equi pment i n hi gh
velocity areas. Mechanical filters from 0.5 to 25 microns are
used to handl e 25% to 100% of the ci r cul ati ng sol uti on.
These fi l ters can be pl aced i n l ean or ri ch servi ce areas.
Some hi gh-l evel system contami nati ons can not be
ful l y control l ed by mechani cal and carbon fi l trati on. Anti -
foam agents ar e then used to contr ol foami ng. The most
common types of agents ar e pol ygl ycol or si l i con based.
Hi gh mol ecul ar wei ght al cohol s al so per for m wel l i n
ami ne systems. Anti -foam changes the ami ne’s sur face
tensi on to i nhi bi t bubbl e formati on. Typi cal l y, anti -foam
has a two-ended mol ecul ar desi gn. One end i s attr acted
to the aqueous phase, the other to the hydrocarbon phase.
Thus, oper ati on of the anti -foam at the sol uti on’s sur -
face i s mai ntai ned.
12
Next month: Part 2 of a two-part seri es. How to i denti fy
and prevent losses caused by entrainment in liquid treaters,
degradati on and mechani cal l eaks. Al so i ncl uded are two
case hi stori es to demonstrate the method’s effecti veness.
LITERATURE CITED
1
Gurul e, R. A., and M. Tashi ro, Chemical Economics Handbook, Ethanol ami nes, SRI I nter-
nati onal , Menl o Park, Cal i f., 1989.
2
Kohl , A. L., and F. C. Ri esenfel d, Gas Purification, 5th Ed., Gul f Publ i shi ng Co., 1985.
3
Magni ssen, T., P. Rasmussen, and A. Fredensl und, “UNI FAC Parameter Tabl e for Pre-
di cti on of Li qui d-Li qui d Equi l i bri a,” I ndustrial & Engineering Chemistry Process Design
Development, Vol . 20(2), pp. 331–339, 1981.
4
Aspen Technol ogy, Aspen Pl us, Aspen Technol ogy, I nc., Cambri dge, 1988.
5
Perry, R. H., and C. H. Chi l ton, Chemical Engineers’ Handbook, 5th Ed., New York,
McGraw-Hi l l , 1973.
6
Barker, W. F., “Eval uati ng Separator Performance for Hydrocarbon Streams,” Oil & Gas
J ournal, pp. 186–192, Dec. 27, 1982.
7
Campel l , J. M., Gas Conditioning and Processing, Campbel l Petrol eum Seri es, 1 V,
Norman, Okl a., 1979.
8
Schel man, A. D., “Si ze Vapor-Li qui d Separators Qui cker by Nomograph,” Hydrocarbon
Processing & Petroleum Refiner, Vol . 42(10), pp. 165–168, 1963.
9
Pearce, R. A., S. Grosso, and D. C. Cri ngl e, “Ami ne Gas Treati ng Sol uti on Anal ysi s: A
Tool i n Probl em Sol vi ng,” Conference Proceedi ngs from 59th Annual GPA Conventi on,
Houston, Texas, March 17–19, 1980.
10
Keaton, M. M., and M. J. Bourke, “Acti vated Carbon System Cuts Foami ng and Ami ne
Losses,” Hydrocarbon Processing, August 1983.
11
Bri ght, R. L., and D. A. Lei ster, “Gas Treaters Need Cl ean Ami nes,” Hydrocarbon Pro-
cessing, December 1987.
12
Travi s Chemi cal s, “Foami ng Probl ems and Remedi es for Gas Processi ng Sol uti ons,” Cal -
gary, Al ta, Travi s Chemi cal s, I nc.
8 HYDROCARBON PROCESSING
The authors
Erik Stewart is a senior research engineer for the
Dow Chemical Co., Texas Operations. He has
five years of experience with acid gas treatment
technologies in the natural gas, ammonia and
refining industries. Mr. Stewart has worked exten-
sively on developing environmental technolo-
gies for SO
2
and NO
x
removal. He holds a BS
degree in chemical engineering from the Uni-
versity of Washington.
Al Lanning joined the Dow Chemical Co. in
1982 and worked in engineering and production
before moving to the GAS/SPEC Technology
Group in 1987. He currently works in GAS/SPEC
sales for Dow, Houston, Texas. Mr. Lanning has
written several papers on H
2
S treatment using
liquid redox systems, been deeply involved in the
successful introduction of the SulFerox process
and has worked extensively on geothermal H
2
S
abatement technology. He graduated with a BS
degree in chemical engineering from Lamar University in 1982.
C a rb o n
filte r
1 0 m ic ro n
m e c h a n ic a l
filte r
L e a n
a m in e
To
a b so rb e r
L e a n a m in e
c o o le r
C ro ss
e x c h a n g e r
R ic h
a m in e
5 m ic ro n
m e c h a n ic a l
filte r
Fig. 11. L e a n a m in e c a rb o n filte r sc h e m e .
Table 5. Foaming agents and sources
O rg a n ic a c id s C ra c k e d h yd ro c a rb o n
I n le t g a s
M a k e u p wa te r
C o n d e n se d h yd ro c a rb o n s R ic h n a tu ra l g a s
L e a n a m in e c o o le r th a n in le t g a s
Wa te r c o n ta m in a n ts P ro c e ss o r c ity wa te r
I ro n su lfid e so lid s In le t g a s fro m so u r we ll fo rm a tio n
A m in e d e g ra d a tio n p ro d u c ts H ig h re b o ile r te m p e ra tu re
O x yg e n c o n ta m in a tio n
E. J . Stewart and R. A. Lanning, Dow Chemi cal Co.,
Freeport, Texas
A
systematic approach to reducing amine plant solvent
l osses begi ns by measuri ng current l oss rates and
ranki ng them accordi ng to l oss category. The fi ve
areas of l osses are: vapori zati on, sol ubi l i ty, degradati on,
entrai nment and mechani cal . Part 1 di scussed the method
to systemati cal l y r educe al kanol ami ne l osses. I t al so
i ncl uded secti ons on how to i denti fy and reduce l osses due
to entrai nment (gas treaters), vapori zati on and sol ubi l i ty.
ENTRAINMENT (LIQUID TREATERS)
Thi s has the same concepts as gas entrai nment but i s
descri bed as an emul si on. Because the hi gher densi ty l i q-
ui d hydr ocar bon can exer t a gr eater for ce on ami ne
dr opl ets, for mati on of smal l dr opl ets wi l l cause much
hi gher l osses i n l i qui d tr eater s. Consequentl y, tr eater s
ar e desi gned for l ow vel oci ti es for both phases to avoi d
smal l ami ne-dr opl et for mati on. A common symptom of
entrai nment l osses i s the presence of ami ne i n l ow pl aces
i n l i qui d l i nes or i n downstream equi pment, such as fi l -
ters. An obvi ous emul si on ‘rag’ l ayer between hydrocar-
bon and ami ne phases i n the l i qui d contactor i s an i ndi -
cati on of smal l -dropl et formati on.
Tabl e 6 l i sts gener al l i qui d-tr eati ng desi gn vel oci ty
parameters. I mportant parameters i n ami ne entrai nment
are ami ne-di stri butor ori fi ce vel oci ti es, redi stri butor ori -
fi ce vel oci ti es and superfi ci al vel oci ti es for both phases.
13
Sol vi ng entr ai nment l oss i n l i qui d-tr eater systems
requi res a careful eval uati on of treater desi gn speci fi ca-
ti ons and i nspecti on of i nternal s. Hi gh contactor vel oci -
ti es due to poor desi gn or damage shoul d be corrected. I f
entrai nment persi sts, downstream separati on equi pment
for l i qui d hydrocarbons i s requi red. Si nce the l i qui d den-
si ty i s cl ose to the ami ne, i mpi ngement devi ces are effec-
ti ve onl y on l arge dropl ets. Gravi ty separati on of l i qui d
entrai nment i s much more successful .
Gravi ty separati on i s commonl y used wi th a 10 to 20
mi n. hydr ocar bon r etenti on ti me at l ow vel oci ti es. Thi s
occurs ei ther above the absorber i nterphase or i n a sepa-
rate downstream vessel . A coal escer can work wel l i n tan-
dem wi th a l ow-vel oci ty separator to i mprove gravi ty sep-
arati on of l arger ami ne dropl ets. Coal escer pads provi de a
l ar ge sur face ar ea for the ami ne dr opl ets to col l ect and
dr op out of sol uti on. Separ ator s/coal escer s wi th shor t
hydrocarbon retenti on ti mes are not as effecti ve because
the ami ne dr opl et momentum al ong a tor tuous path i n
the coal escer does not di ffer gr eatl y fr om the hydr ocar -
bon. Fi nal l y, the water-wash systems used for sol ubi l i ty
l osses are very useful i n removi ng entrai ned dropl ets as
wel l . Fi gs. 8 and 9 show a good separ ati on scheme for
removi ng entrai ned and sol ubl e ami ne from a treated l i q-
ui d hydrocarbon stream.
PART 2
Reduce amine plant solvent losses
A systematic technical approach
will identify and quantify losses into
five categories
Tre a te d h yd ro c a rb o n liq u id s o u tle t
Tre a te d h yd ro -
c a rb o n
liq u id s in le t
  L P G o r N G S
fro m tre a te r
Typ ic a lly
p a c k e d
A m in e wa sh
re tu rn to syste m
  < 3 . 0 % a m in e )
F re sh wa te r m a k e u p
o r strip p e r re flu x
Wa sh wa te r
in le t L C
Fig. 8. C o u n te r-c u rre n t wa te r-wa sh syste m .
Table 6. General liquid treating design
parameters
Design parameter Design criteria
C o lu m n d ia m e te r 1 5 g p m /ft
2
m a x .   to ta l flo w)
P a c k in g m a te ria l S te e l o r c e ra m ic
A m in e d istrib u to r
o rific e ve lo c ity 1 7 0 ft/m in m a x .
A m in e su p e rfic ia l
ve lo c ity 6 0 ft/h r m a x .
H yd ro c a rb o n su p e rfic ia l
ve lo c ity 1 3 0 ft/h r m a x .
H yd ro c a rb o n d isp e rse r
o rific e ve lo c ity 1 . 0 0 to 1 . 2 5 ft/s
PROCESS TECHNOLOGY
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING 9
10 HYDROCARBON PROCESSING
Esti mati on of entrai nment l osses i n gas and l i qui d sys-
tems i s di ffi cul t. I f knockout equi pment i s present, carry-
over caught by the equi pment can be determi ned by cl os-
i ng the dump-system val ves and measuri ng l evel versus
ti me. Detai l ed fi el d anal yses of entr ai nment i n gas can
be made usi ng portabl e gas-testi ng l abs, but a sl i p-stream
water-wash system can be used for rough esti mati ons. By
taki ng a measured sl i p stream of the treated gas or l i q-
ui d thr ough a water wash, the ami ne col l ected per vol -
ume of gas/l i qui d can be measured by ti trati on. Thi s val ue
wi l l be a combi nati on of entrai ned and vapori zed/sol ubl e
ami ne. The rati o of each type of ami ne can be determi ned
by usi ng the previ ous graphs.
DEGRADATION
Ami ne-degradati on l osses are di ffi cul t to defi ne i n most
al kanol ami ne systems. A broad defi ni ti on of degradati on
i s the chemi cal change of acti ve al kanol ami ne. Ami ne does
not l eave the system but i s no l onger avai l abl e for remov-
i ng CO
2
and H
2
S. Si nce degradati on woul d i ncl ude chem-
i cal breakdown of the ami ne i nto mol ecul es that can and
cannot car r y aci d gas, not al l degr adati on i s an acti ve-
ami ne l oss. These degr adati on l osses ar e often har d to
determi ne because the al kal i ni ty ti trati on for ami ne con-
centrati on counts al l basi c materi al i n sol uti on as ami ne.
Heat-stabl e-sal t (HSS) formati on i s another form of acti ve-
ami ne l oss. The ami ne and an aci d form a sal t that cannot
be regenerated i n the stri pper.
14, 15
Determi nati on of exact l evel s of degradati on and HSS
products requi res a l aboratory anal ysi s of the operati ng
sol uti on. Var i ous test methods can be used. Gas chr o-
matography wi l l determi ne ami ne-degradati on products
and concentrati ons. HSS ti trati on wi th i on chromatogra-
phy wi l l determi ne the concentrati on and type of ami ne
ti ed up as a non-regenerabl e sal t.
The chemi cal r eacti ons of HSS for mati on have been
wel l documented. The basi c pri nci pl e i s a reacti on of aci d
wi th ami ne to form an ami ne sal t i n sol uti on whi ch cannot
be regenerated under normal stri pper operati on. H
2
S and
CO
2
, by contrast, form ami ne sal ts i n sol uti on that can be
r egener ated i n the str i pper. Tabl e 7 shows a number of
HSS speci es that are commonl y found i n ami ne systems.
A rough speci es bal ance on the ami ne system i s suffi -
ci ent to esti mate how fast acti ve ami ne i s degr aded or
compl exed as an HSS. Wi th current l evel s of degradati on
products and HSS i n the operati ng sol uti on, assume that
current system l osses are provi di ng a purge at the rate of
formati on. Then, from actual l oss rates obtai ned by i nven-
tory anal yses, acti ve ami ne l oss by degradati on i s cal cu-
l ated from the purge rate. For exampl e, i f 2 wt% HSS and
degradati on products i s mai ntai ned i n the system wi th a
1 l b/hr sol uti on l oss rate, then 0.02 l b/hr degradati on i s
occurri ng to the acti ve ami ne.
Sol uti ons for chemi cal degradati on focus on two areas.
Fi r st, pr eventi ng the contami nant fr om contacti ng the
ami ne by upstream separati on or contami nant reducti on
at the source. For exampl e, mechani cal troubl eshooti ng
of vapor-r ecover y uni ts can si gni fi cantl y r educe oxygen
l evel s i n feed gas str eams. Oxygen contami nati on wi l l
cause hi gh degr adati on i n al l al kanol ami nes. Another
exampl e i s the removal of organi c aci ds, typi cal l y a refi n-
er y pr obl em, wi th water -wash uni ts on the i nl et gas
str eams. By r educi ng the or gani c aci ds contacti ng the
ami ne, HSS formati on decreases.
Even wi th separ ati on techni ques, some ami ne con-
tami nati on wi l l conti nue. The choi ce of ami ne and recl ai m-
i ng opti ons becomes i mportant for each appl i cati on. MEA
systems typi cal l y requi re thermal recl amati on. Thi s boi l s
the ami ne overhead and concentrates sal t i ons i n a sl udge
to be purged. Because DEA and MDEA are hi gher boi l -
i ng-poi nt ami nes, they cannot easi l y be ther mal l y
recl ai med wi thout degradi ng the ami ne. For MDEA sol -
vents, preferenti al removal of HSS from the ami ne sys-
tem i s done wi th technol ogi es i ncl udi ng i on exchange
resi ns, el ectrochemi cal cel l s and vacuum di sti l l ati on uni ts.
I n each case, much of the compl exed ami ne i s r estor ed
and returned to the system. However, i n cl ean natural gas
servi ce, recl ai mi ng DEA and MDEA i s not requi red.
16, 17
Caustic treatment of amine has been used for HSS prob-
l ems, but thi s i s onl y a temporary sol uti on. By addi ng a
stronger base than the ami ne, causti c substi tutes i n the
HSS and frees the ami ne. However, thi s method can cre-
ate many addi ti onal probl ems. The causti c treatment can
form sodi um sal ts, some wi th l ow sol ubi l i ti es, and some
very corrosi ve. These sal ts may deposi t as sol i ds through-
out the system. Therefore, onl y one or two appl i cati ons of
causti c treatment can be done before the ami ne sol uti on
must be di sposed of and repl aced.
I n addi ti on to HSS formati on and chemi cal degrada-
ti on, ther mal degr adati on of al kanol ami ne can r educe
treati ng capaci ty. Because al l treati ng al kanol ami nes show
accel erated degradati on above 350°F, thermal degrada-
ti on resul ts from hi gh ski n temperatures on reboi l er tubes
or ther mal -r ecl ai mi ng tubes. We r ecommend a r eboi l er
operati on wi th an ami ne bul k temperature bel ow 260°F.
Wi th hot oi l and steam heati ng systems, ri sk of thermal
degr adati on i s l ow si nce the heat medi a i s usual l y not
Fig. 9. C o -c u rre n t wa te r-wa sh syste m .
F re sh wa te r
m a k e u p
Tre a te d h yd ro c a rb o n
liq u id s in le t   L P G o r
N G S fro m tre a te r
F ro m re flu x
a c c u m u la to r
I n -lin e sta tic
m ix e r
  c o -c u rre n t
wa te r wa sh )
S e p a ra to r
1 5 m in . re te n tio n tim e fo r L P G
2 0 m in . re te n tio n tim e fo r wa sh
A m in e wa sh
re tu rn to syste m
  < 3 . 0 % a m in e )
L C
Table 7. HSS species common in amine systems
N itra te N O
3
N itrite N O
2
F o rm a te C H O
2
O x a la te C
2
O
4
A c e ta te C
2
H
3
O
2
S u lfa te S O
4
S u lfite S O
3
P h o sp h a te P O
4
T h io su lfa te S
2
O
3
T h io c ya n a te S C N
operated at hi gh temperatures. However, i n fi red-reboi l er
operati on, the temperature of ami ne on the tube’s surface
can easi l y exceed 350°F.
I n fi r ed r eboi l er s, for ced ci r cul ati on i s often used to
mai ntai n l ow ski n temperatures. The rul e of thumb i s to
mai ntai n ami ne ski n temper atur es between 300°F and
325°F, and not exceed 350°F. For these temper atur es a
conservati ve desi gn heat fl ux of l ess than 8,000 Btu/ft
2
of
tube area i s recommended. I f thermal degradati on i s sus-
pected i n a f i r ed r eboi l er, car eful l y eval uate f l ui d
hydraul i cs and heat fl ux i n the reboi l er to determi ne the
cause and l ocati on of hi gh ski n temperatures.
MECHANICAL
I n the sampl e ranki ng of a natural gas and l i qui d-recov-
er y pl ant, mechani cal l osses wer e the l ar gest sour ce of
ami ne l oss. Mechani cal l osses are defi ned as the physi cal
removal of sol vent from the cl osed ci rcul ati on l oop i n the
ami ne system. Thi s occurs at the sol vent operati ng con-
centrati on. Therefore, operati on of hi gher-concentrati on
sol vents wi l l i ncur hi gher ami ne l osses unl ess the vol ume
of mechani cal l oss i s r educed. Symptoms of mechani cal
l osses ar e vi si bl e as a dr i p or a spr ay fr om equi pment.
Tabl e 8 shows a par ti al l i st of equi pment ar eas wher e
mechani cal l osses can occur.
Loss esti mati on i n thi s categor y i s the di ffer ence
between actual pl ant l osses and the esti mati on of vapor-
i zati on, sol ubi l i ty, entrai nment and degradati on l oss. I ndi -
vi dual mechani cal l osses must be i denti fi ed by a pl ant
i nspecti on and operati on procedure revi ew. Measurements
of these l osses are made by bucket and stopwatch or by
ti trati on and sump-fl ow measurements.
Remedi es for mechani cal l osses focus on equi pment
correcti on. They shoul d be addressed by engi neeri ng and
pl ant per sonnel or the equi pment vendor. Oper ati onal
changes i ncl ude r ewr i ti ng job pr ocedur es for methods of
r etur ni ng ami ne to the mai n system. For exampl e, al l
fi l ter change-outs shoul d i ncl ude a drai n of the fi l ter cas-
i ng for return of ami ne to the mai n system. The sol uti on
fl ush for pump seal s shoul d al so be returned to the ami ne
system. Thi s i s often accompl i shed wi th a dedi cated
ami ne sump.
Case study 1. Thi s i s based on a l i qui d treati ng faci l i ty
i n Canada desi gned to process 22,000 bpd of ethane l i q-
ui ds. Current operati ng l osses are esti mated at 2.8 gpd
on a 100% MDEA sol vent basi s. The l ow l oss l evel s ar e
due to a downstream water-wash system for the treated
l i qui d str eam. Thi s system i s si mi l ar i n desi gn to that
shown i n Fi g. 9.
By compl eti ng a speci es bal ance for the wash system,
recovered amine from entrainment and solubility in the liq-
ui d contactor can be cal cul ated. Water-wash oper ati ng
condi ti ons are i n Tabl e 9.
The ami ne r ecover ed at the 22,000 bpd r ate i s about
126.8 l b/d, i .e., 14.4 gal of 100% ami ne. Thi s l oss i n a wel l -
desi gned new pl ant gi ves an i ndi cati on of the hi gh l evel s
of entrai nment and sol ubi l i ty l osses a l i qui d treater can
have. For oper ati on at 27,000 bpd, ami ne r ecover y
increases to 169.1 lb/d because a greater amount of entrain-
ment occurs at the hi gher hydrocarbon rate.
Most of the r emai ni ng 2.8 gpd l oss i s attr i buted to
mechani cal l oss, such as pump seal fl ushes. On a yearl y
basi s, the water wash system reduces ami ne pl ant l osses
from 53,004 to 8,624 l b/yr. For a l i qui d treati ng pl ant, thi s
l evel of l oss control i s excel l ent.
Case study 2. Thi s i nvol ves a l arge Loui si ana refi nery.
Thi s refi nery i s an i ntegrated system wi th mul ti pl e gas
absor ber s and a l i qui d-tr eati ng uni t. Hi stor i cal sol vent
losses with MEA and MDEA were both in excess of 600,000
l b/yr. Conversi on to MDEA i ncreased the operati ng cost
associ ated wi th thi s l evel of ami ne l oss.
The i ni ti al l oss ranki ng i denti fi ed entrai nment for both
l i qui d and gas treaters as the l argest l oss category. Mi st
el i mi nator s wer e pl aced i n each absor ber and a water-
wash system was i nstal l ed on the treated l i qui d stream.
The l oss rate was reduced from 640,000 l b/yr to 175,000
l b/yr. The water wash recovered much of the ami ne l oss
due to sol ubi l i ty i n the l i qui d hydrocarbon stream.
End of series. Part 1, May 1994, p. 67.
LITERATURE CITED
13
DuPart, M. S., and B. D. Marchant, “Natural Gas Li qui d Treati ng Opti ons and Expe-
ri ences,” Conference Proceedi ngs from 39th Annual Laurance Rei d Gas Condi ti oni ng Con-
ference, Norman, Okl a., March 6–8, 1989.
14
The Dow Chemi cal Company, Gas Conditioning Fact Book, Mi dl and, Mi chi gan, The Dow
Chemi cal Company, 1962.
15
Kennare, M. L., and A. Mel sen, “Mechani sms and Ki neti cs of Di ethanol ami ne Degra-
dation,” I ndustrial & Engineering Chemistry Fundamentals, Vol. 24(2), pp. 129–140, 1985.
16
Bacon, T. R., J. V. Krohn, J. A. Lewno, and R. A. Wol cott, “Al ternati ve Economi c Sol uti ons
for Ami ne Recl ai mi ng,” Proceedi ngs of GPA Regi onal Meeti ng, Dal l as, Texas, 1986.
17
Bacon, T. R., S. A. Bedel l , R. H. Ni swander, S. S. Tsai , and R. A. Wol cott, “New Devel -
opments i n Non-thermal Recl ai mi ng of Ami nes,” Proceedi ngs of the 38th Annual Lau-
rance Rei d Gas Condi ti oni ng Conference, Norman, Okl a., 1988.
The authors
Erik Stewart is a senior research engineer for the
Dow Chemical Co., Texas Operations. He has
five years of experience with acid gas treatment
technologies in the natural gas, ammonia and
refining industries. Mr. Stewart has worked exten-
sively on developing environmental technolo-
gies for SO
2
and NO
x
removal. He holds a BS
degree in chemical engineering from the Uni-
versity of Washington.
Al Lanning joined the Dow Chemical Co. in
1982 and worked in engineering and production
before moving to the GAS/SPEC Technology
Group in 1987. He currently works in GAS/SPEC
sales for Dow, Houston, Texas. Mr. Lanning has
written several papers on H
2
S treatment using
liquid redox systems, been deeply involved in the
successful introduction of the SulFerox process
and has worked extensively on geothermal H
2
S
abatement technology. He graduated with a BS
degree in chemical engineering from Lamar University in 1982.
Table 8. Mechanical loss areas
• P ip e fla n g e /g a sk e t c o n n e c tio n s
• P u m p se a l flu sh e s o r le a k s
• P re ssu re g a u g e /sa m p le lin e p u rg e
• F re q u e n t filte r c h a n g e -o u ts
• F ilte r c a rtrid g e e le m e n ts
• O ve rh e a d fa n c o o le r tu b e s
• Wa te r c o o le r tu b e s
Table 9. Water-wash operating conditions
E th a n e ra te s 2 2 , 0 0 0 b p d 2 7 , 0 0 0 b p d
Wa te r-wa sh ra te 4 4 g p m 4 4 g p m
A m in e c o n c e n tra tio n 0 . 3 wt% 0 . 4 wt%
F re sh m a k e u p ra te 3 . 5 2 g p m 3 . 5 2 g p m
HYDROCARBON PROCESSING 11
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