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Material Selection for the

Propane systems CS or ITCS?


J.C. Kuo, P.E.
Chevron Energy Technology Company
1400 Smith Street
Houston, TX 77002
Phone Number: 713-372-7048
Fax Number: 713-372-1800
Email: JKuo@chevron.com

Presentation at the AIChE 2010 National Spring Meeting


LNG Technology Session
March 21 - 25
San Antonio, Texas USA
Copyright@ J.C. Kuo/Chevron
February 08, 2010

1. Executive Summary
Standards and specifications used by specific projects will dictate the material of construction. If
a project is using US based standards like ASME, most of the propane system can be constructed
out of carbon steel. The exception is the equipment relating to the lowest pressure stage (heat
exchanger, suction vessel, piping, etc) and the de-inventory pump. This equipment must use
impact tested carbon steel due to the operating pressure near atmospheric and the potential of
vacuum transient conditions. Under European and Australian based standards, the material
dictated is all impact tested carbon steel in the propane system.
Most of the equipment in the propane refrigeration system can use normal carbon steel, with the
exception of E-1, V-1 and P-1, as they are located at the lowest stage suction of the propane
compressor where the normal operating temperature is below -30oC. The pressure may
temporarily drop below atmospheric depending on the operation of the compressor. ITCS must
be used for this equipment. All other equipment (E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, V-2, V-3, V-4, V-5 and P-2)
can use regular carbon steel. The equipment can be operated at lower temperature (-45.6oC)
during depressurization as long as the stress level is not exceeded. The same conclusion can be
applied to the depropanizer system.
The difference in material cost for a nominal 5 MTPA LNG plant with the majority of equipment
using carbon steel, and only the equipment at the lowest suction stage using ITCS when
compared to the case with all equipment using ITCS is around 1-2 MM US$. Since the cost
impact is minor compared to the total cost of the project, ITCS could be used for the entire
propane refrigeration and depropanizer systems.
The impact of using impact tested carbon steel in the propane refrigerant system is minimal, and
the materials of construction will be dictated by standards and specifications utilized by specific
projects.

2. Introduction and Objective


2.1 Introduction
Modern day propane refrigeration systems and/or propane fractionators (depropanizers) require
emergency shutdown and depressurization systems for fire prevention. The design codes
(ASME) dictate the procedure(s) for material selection, carbon steel (CS) or Impact Tested
Carbon Steel (ITCS) used for process equipment and piping.
Since propanes boiling point temperature is -42oC (design for -46oC) at atmospheric conditions
after depressurization, the selection of the design temperature (DT) and design pressure (DP) can
influence the material selection and related cost. Moreover, the issue of cold repressurization
and startup can impact the plant operability and availability.

2.2 Objective
The purpose of this study is to analyze the impact of material selection for a typical propane
refrigeration system and propane fractionation system corresponding to a nominal 5.0 MTPA
(million tons per annual) LNG liquefaction plant.

3. Basis and Assumptions


3.1 Basis
The cost estimate was developed in accordance with the following bases and assumptions:

1. General

Project LNG Capacity is nominally 5.0 MTPA

2. Scope of facilities include carbon steel process piping Propane Refrigeration Facility

Scope of Piping includes:


o

pipe, fittings and valves materials are per Reference Project materials quantities

standard factored costs for welding rods at 1% of piping materials costs

standard factored costs for bolts and gaskets at 5% of piping materials costs.

Scope excludes:
o

fabrication labor for shop fabricated piping

all field fabrication and installation labor

Control systems valves (control valves, relief valves, etc.

permanent plant equipment

piping specialties items

all other bulk materials, such as insulation, concrete, civil, site work, steel, field
painting, pipe supports

standard factored costs for: hangers & supports, materials handling labor, scaffolding
labor, scaffolding materials, testing and inspection

3. Direct Costs

Piping material quantities are based on the Reference Plant quantities.

Piping material pricing is based on the Reference Plant unit pricing, which is 1st
Quarter 2006.

4. Indirect Costs

All indirect costs are excluded, such as freight, construction indirect costs,
commissioning & startup, home office services, insurances, etc.

5. Escalation/Contingency/EPC Costs

Escalation beyond Reference Plant pricing (current-day 1st Quarter 2006) is excluded.

Contingency is excluded.

EPC Contractor Overhead, Risk, Fee is excluded.

3.2 Assumptions, Clarifications, Exclusions


1. Cost estimates are for piping materials costs only and do not represent a total installed cost.
Note that a significant cost has not been considered by excluding spool pipe fabrication,
installation labor and indirect costs
2. Materials unit pricing is based on vendor quotations received for Reference Plant cost
estimate of 1st Quarter 2006 for the specific location, scope and specifications.
3. Pipe fabrication costs have been excluded, which vary from project to project, and could
impact overall spool piping materials costs.
4. Installation labor has been excluded.
5. Materials quantities are based on specific Reference Plant quantities. This could change
depending on specific site layouts.

4. Process Description
4.1 Typical Propane System
Please refer to the process flow diagram (Figure 4.1.1-1) for a description of a typical propane
refrigeration system used in the production of LNG with a nominal production rate of 5 MTPA.
The system will generally consist of one or two compressor trains in parallel with gas turbines as
the drivers. Propane refrigeration can be provided at three levels:

High level (HP) at 17.7oC and 7 barg

Intermediate level (IP) at -3oC and 3.3 barg

Low level (LP) at -35.6oC and 0.3 barg.

The discharge from the third stage propane compressors is desuperheated and condensed by
ambient air-cooling in the Condenser (E-4). A Propane Accumulator (V-4) is provided and is
equipped with a refrigerated refluxed purge column for the removal of light components (C1 and
C2). Propane is condensed at 13.4 barg and 41oC by ambient air at 27oC. Propane liquid from V4 is sub-cooled first in the Subcooler (E-5) and then flows into the shell side of the HP STG
Chiller (E-3). Vapor from E-3 flows to the HP Suction Drum (V-3) before being fed to the
suction side of the third stage compressors. Propane liquid from E-3 flows into the shell side of
IP STG Chiller (E-2). Vapor from E-2 flows to the IP STG Suction Drum (V-2) before being fed
to the suction side of the second Stage Compressors. Propane liquid from E-2 flows into the shell
side of LS Chiller (E-1). Vapor from E-1 flows through the LS Suction Drum (V-1) before being
fed to the suction of the1st Stage Compressor.
A Propane De-inventory Pump (P-1) is provided to de-inventory from the shell side of the chillers
to the Refrigeration Storage Tank (V-5). A charging pump (P-2) is provided to fill the system by
pumping liquid from the Refrigeration Storage Tank to the Accumulator (V-4).
4.1.1

Typical Material

There are essentially two design pressure levels for the system. The high pressure level is set at
22.4 barg and includes equipment E-4, V-4, E-5, and P-2. The equipment E-3, E-2, V-2, V-3, and
V-5 are designed at 17.24 barg. All of the above-mentioned equipment and piping are designed
with carbon steel.
ITCS is used for E-1, V-1 and P-1, which are also designed at 17.24 barg. The normal operating
temperatures of these equipment and associated piping are below -30oC and are located at the low
stage compressor suction. The pressure may decrease into a vacuum condition and the associated
temperature may drop below -45oC. Therefore, ITCS must be used for these items of equipment.
The minimum design temperature for E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, V-4, V-3, V-2, V-5 and P-2 is -45.6oC.
This temperature only occurs when the equipment is depressurized to atmospheric pressure.
Since the pressure under this condition is much lower than the operating pressure, calculations

indicate that the equipment still operates below the allowable stress level with regular carbon
steel material. Therefore, normal carbon steel can be used for those items of equipment.

4.2 Material Required for Very Cold Plant


Locations
In certain areas, such as Arctic locations, where the minimum ambient temperature is lower than 45oC (-49oF), ITCS shall be used for the entire system.

Figure 4.1.1-1: PFD of Propane Refrigerant System

4.3 Typical Depropanizer System


Please refer to Figure 0-1 which depicts a typical depropanizer system. This system takes feed
from the bottom of the previous distillation tower, usually the bottom of a deethanizer operated at
30 barg and 105oC. This feed stream is introduced to the middle of the depropanizer (T-1), where
propane and lighter components are distilled to the overhead of the tower and are totally
condensed by an air cooled condenser (E-6). A reflux drum (V-6) and reflux pumps (P-3A/B) are
equipped to send the reflux back to the top tray of the depropanizer and the propane product to
storage. The overhead product primarily consists of 95 mol% propane when the condensing
temperature is 52oC, and the depropanizer is operated at 17.8 barg. A reboiler is located at the
bottom of the column where heat is normally supplied by hot oil. The design pressure of the
column, condenser, reflux drum and reflux pumps is 20.7 barg, and the minimum design
temperature is -45oC. The reboiler is designed at 22 barg and the minimum design temperature is
-29oC.

4.3.1 Typical Material


Although the minimum design temperature is -45oC for certain equipment, it only occurs when
the equipment is depressurized to atmospheric pressure. Since the pressure under this condition
is much lower than the operating pressure, calculations indicate that the equipment still operates
below the allowable stress level with regular carbon steel material. Therefore, normal carbon
steel can be used for those items of equipment.
The entire system uses regular carbon steel, unless the minimum ambient temperature is lower
than -45oC (-49oF). ITCS shall be used for the entire system in certain Arctic locations.

Figure 0-1: PFD of Depropanizer System

5.0 Material Selection


The Materials of Construction selected for equipment and piping are based on information shown
on the Process Flow Diagram (PFD) and Heat and Material Balance.
In the case of the Propane Refrigeration System, the gas being processed has no contaminants,
which could cause corrosion and has gone through dehydration, so the only concern is the
temperature limitation. The PFDs generally reflect operating temperature whereas design
pressure temperatures (DP, DT) are done later on. Material selection is based on operating
temperature with a suitable margin. In certain cases, based on the plant location where the
minimum atmospheric temperature is 45oC (-49oF) or lower, ITCS shall be specified.
ASME Codes for both Vessels and Piping have guidelines for use of non-ITCS. In the case of
piping, Appendix A of B31.3 specifies minimum temperature limitations. In an LNG plant,
usually A 106 Grade B seamless, or A 672 Grade 70 welded is specified. A 106 Grade B is good
to 29oC (-20oF) with a maximum thickness of 0.5 inch, whereas in the case of A 672, based on
thickness and heat treatment material can be used below 29oC (-20oF) without any impact
testing. Materials are classified as A through D. Paragraph 323.3 covers guidelines for materials
where impact testing is required.
ASME Figure 323.2.2A has curves plotted for materials classified as A through D with nominal
wall thickness and minimum design temperatures. Materials in Curve D are considered the best
option when temperatures are anticipated to drop below 29oC (-20oF). Classification of these
materials is based on the steel making process and subsequent heat treatment. Based on industry
data, killed steels1 that are normalized exhibit the best Charpy values. Table 323.2.2A has tabular
values based on types of materials as well as thickness. To satisfy B31.3 requirements, it is
preferable to use A 106 Grade B down to -29oC (-20oF) with a maximum thickness of 0.5 inch
and switch to A 672 for thicknesses exceeding 0.5 inches.
Another option would be to verify each pipe class for maximum thickness and minimum
temperature. This could result in various pipe classes with each having restrictions on
temperature/thickness. For this approach, Charpy impact testing of regular carbon steel would be
required based on thickness/temperature, resulting in long term planning and extra field
management procedures.
In the case of pressure vessels, ASME Section V111 has similar guidelines for selection of
material as the B31.3 piping code. Industry practice is to specify A 516 material for vessels
classified as fine grain steel, which is suitable down to 46oC in normalized steel up to 4 inch
thickness. For vessels, it is more cost effective to get the vessel designed and stamped with full
pressure and lowest design temperature (-46oC). The only associated cost is normalizing the
plates, impact testing of plates and welding procedures qualifications. UG-20 of ASME Section
V111, gives guidelines for the selection of carbon steel materials for low temperature
applications.

J.C. Kuo ( aka Chen Chuan J Kuo) is a veteran of the Gas


Processing, Gas Treating and LNG industry, with 35 years of
experience in these fields.
As senior advisor for Chevrons. Energy Technology company,
he has served as the Process Manager/Process lead for many projects,
including the Wheatstone LNG, Gorgon LNG, Delta Caribe LNG,
Casotte Landing and Sabine Pass LNG terminal projects. He has also
served as the Technical Process Reviewer for Angola, Olokola, Algeria and Shtokman LNG
projects.
Before working with Chevron, J.C. was the Technology Manager for IPSI/Bechtel and
served as the Process Manager/Process lead for the Pemex Catarell offshore project, the
Egyptian LNG (Idku) train 1/2, China Shell Nan Hai, Chevron Venice gas plant de-bottleneck
Tunisia NRU and Australian SANTOS Projects.
The Egyptian LNG train 1 was delivered more than 3 months ahead of an aggressive
schedule of 36 months, passed the performance test, and was in full operation in two months.
Train 2 was delivered 9 months ahead of schedule. Not only did he help Train 1 and 2 avoid up to
150 Million dollars in schedule penalties and another 150 Million dollars in performance penalties,
both trains actually made bonuses.
J.C. is a frequent speaker and presenter to the international conference such as AIChE,
Gas Processing/Treating Conferences, and LNG summit. He has contributed to the gas
processing and LNG technology improvements through a patent, a book, and many papers. He
has also served as co-chair of the AIChE LNG sessions for the Topical conferences on natural
gas utilization. He is a member of the steering committee for the North American LNG summit.
His degrees include a BS from Chung Yuan Christian University, Taiwan, a MS from the
University of Houston, both for Chemical Engineering, and a MS in Environmental Engineering
from Southern Illinois University. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Texas and a
member of AIChE. He is the president of the 99 Power Qi Qong Texas divisions.