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such as heat exchangers, cooling towers, and refrigeration, are also used.

the final analysis, it is really the economics that determines whether the
wellstream should be cooled, the extent to which it should be cooled, and
the cooling method applicable.

Separator Design

The design aspects encountered by a petroleum engineer only involve

choosing the correct separator size for a given field installation. Separator
sizing is essentially quoted in terms of the gas capacity, and the liquid capac-
ity of the separator. Other parameters, such as pressure drop through the
separator, are specified for a given design by the manufacturer and are be-
yond the scope of the present discussion.

102 Cal Production Engineering

Separator Design Using Basic Separation Principles

Cal Capacity

The Souders-Brown relationship (Equation 4-6) has been traditionally

used for calculating the gas capacity of gas-liquid separators:

where vll allowable gas velocity at the operating conditions, fllsee

PI - liquid density at the operating conditions. Ibm/ft'
PI - gas density at the operating conditions. Ibm/ftl
K - separation coefficient

The separation coefficient, K, is an empirical constant given as follows

(Craft et a1., 1962; Sivalls, 1977):

Most commonly used

Separator type Range of K K value
Vertical 0.06 to 0.35 0.117 without mist extractor
0.167 with a mist extractor
Horizontal 0.40 to 0.50 0.382 with a mist extractor
Spherical 0.35 with a mist extTaetoT

Besides calculating the diameter of the separator required for a given gas
capacity, the Souders-Brown relationship can also be used for other designs
such as bubble cap or trayed towers for dehydration and desulfurization
units, and for sizing mist eliminators. The K values given by Sivalls (1977)
for these are as follows:

Wire mesh mist eliminators K - 0.35

Bubble cap trayed columns K "" 0.16 for 24 in. spacing.
Valve tray columns K ,. 0.18 for 24 in. sp acing.

Using Equation 4-6, the gas capacity at operating conditions, CIg, in

ftl/sec is given by:

q, - Av, - (./4)(D')K ((PI - pJ/P.I" (4-9)

The gas capacity of spherical separators ill based upon the capacity of the mist extractor.

Ga., and Liquid Separation 103

where A - cross-sectional area of the separator,

D _ internal diameter of the ft

Note that the gas velocity v. is based upon total separator area , and it is
lly therefore more appropriate to refer to it as the superficial gas velocity. The
gas capacity at standard conditions (14.7 psia and 60 F) , qg,." re-
ported in units of MMscfd (million standard cubic feet per day), is thus
given by:

2.40D'Kp(PI- pJ'.' (4-10)

<lgsc "" Z(T +

where <u:s<- - gas capacity at standard conditions, MMscfd

p ,. operating pressure, psia
ws T ... operating temperature. OF
Z _ gas compressibility factor al the operating conditions

Equation 4-9 or 4-10 can be used to calculate the separator diameter re-
quired to handle a given gas rate, or to calculate the gas rate that a separator
tor of a given size can handle. The area of the mist extractor required, Am. can
r be obtained as follows:

where v", is the gas velocity through the mist extractor, determined using
gas Equation 4-6 with K _ 0.35 for mist extractor (wire mesh type).
on Liquid Capacity
The liquid capacity of a separator depends upon the volume of the separa-
tor available to the liquid, and the retention time of the liquid within the
separator (Sivalls, 1977):

W - 1440V LIt (4-12)

where W - liquid capacity, bbl/day

V L - liquid settling volume. bbl
t _ retention time, min (1440 is the conversion factor to convert
-9) bbllday into bbl/min)

The liquid settling volume, V L , can be calculated as follows:

r. VL - 0.1399D2h for vertical separators

"" Cal Production Engineering

VL - O.1399i)2(U2) for horizontal si.ngle-tube separators

VI - O.1399IYL for horizontal double-tube separators
VI. - O.04660l(D/2)O,S for spherical separators-
where h - height of liquid column above the bottom of the liquid out1et in
the vertical separator, ft
L - separator length (height), ft

For good separation, a su fficient retention time, t. must be provided.

From field experience. the following liquid retention times ha .... e been sug-
gested by Sival1s (1977):

Oil-gas separation 1 min.

High pressure oil-water-gas separation 2 to 5 min.
Low pressure oil-water-gas separation 5 to 10 min. at > lOO F
10 to 15 min. at goOF
15 to 20 min. at BOoF
20 to 25 min. at 70 F
25 to 30 min. at 60 F

Some of the basic factors that must be considered in designing separators

are (Lockhart et aI. , 1986):
1. The length to diameter ratio, LID, for a horizontal or vertical separa-
tor shou1d be kept between 3 and 8, due to considerations of fabrica-
tion costs, foundation costs, etc.
2. For a vertical separator, the vapor-liquid interface (at which the feed
enters) shou1d be at least 2 ft from the bottom and 4 ft from the top of
the vessel. This implies a minimum vertical separator height Qength)
016 ft.
3. For a horizontal separator, the feed enters just above the vapor-liquid
interface that may be off-centered to adjust for a greater gas (or liquid)
capacity as needed. The vapor-liquid interface, however, must be kept
at least 10 in. from the bottom and 16 in. from the top of the vessel.
This implies a minimum horizontal separator diameter of 26 in.
In practice, novel design techniques violate these rules of thumb by pro-
viding additional features. Therefore, standard vertical separators less than

Spherical separators are generally operated at half-full of liquid conditions; the relationship
mentioned assumes this cue. Also, the \'olume is increased by a factor of (0,2)0$ because
spherical separators have greatet rurge capacity due to their Ulape.

Cas arid Liquid Separation 105

6 ft and standard horizontal separators of diameter less than 26 in. are avail-
able and have been used successfully.
High-pressure separators are generally used for high-pressure, high gas-
liquid ratio (gas and gas condensate) wells. In this case, the gas capacity of
in the separator is usually the limiting factor. Low-pressure separators, used
generally for low gas-liquid ratio at low pressures, are subject to the opposite
constraint-they require a high liquid capacity. The separator chosen must
satisfy both the gas as well as liquid capacities. Also, the liquid discharge (o r
d. dump) valve should be designed for the pressure drop available and the liq-
g- uid flow rate (S ivalls. 1977).
Note that as the gas-liquid ratio (C LR) increases, the retention time t de-
creases. The volume of the separator occupied by gas, V c, is given by:

Vc - V - VI.. - V - Wt

because VI.. - Wt by Equation 4-12.

where V - total separator volume

vc is also given by:

Vc = cut - W,CLRt
a- W,CLRt,. V - Wt
On rearranging:
h) t

Thus, for a fixed separator volume V and liquid capacity W, as CLR in-
pt creases, retention time t decreases.
E:ram,lJe 4-1. A separator, to be operated at 1,000 psi a, is required to han-
o- dle a wellstream with gas flow rate 7 MMscfd at a GLR - 40 bbllMMscf.
an Determine the separator size required, for: (1) a vertical separator, (2) a hor-
izontal single-tube separator, and (3) spherical separator. Assume a liquid
(oil + water) density of 52 Ibm /ft3, ideal gas with gravity ., 0.80, an oper-
use ating temperature equal to 110 F', a retention time t - 3 min., and 112 full of
liquid conditions.

106 Ca, Production Engineering


Cas density, P, - pM/ZRT - (lOOO)(2B.97)(0.8)/(I)(JO.73)(570) _ 3.789

From Equation 4- 10:

D' _ q,.Z(T + 460)p1' (7)(1)(570)(3.789''')

2.40Kp(p, PJ" K(2.40)(IOOO)(52 - 3.789)"

- 0.466065 K

For a retention time t of 3 min., the liquid settling volume required for each
separator type is (Equation 4-12):

v, - WtlI440 - (40)(7)(3)/1440 0.583 bbl

1. For a vertical separator with mist extractor, K - 0.167. Therefore, the

diameter of the vertical separator required is:

D - [0.466065/0. 167? , 1.67 ft 20 in.)

The liquid capacity, VL.t< O.1399IJ2h '"' 0.583

Therefore. h - 0.583/[(0.1399)(1.67 2)] = 1.49 ft. Thus, the minimum
separator length of 6 Ct should be used. The LID ratio .. 6/1.67 .. 3.6
So, a vertical separator of size 20 in. x 6 ft is required.

2. For a horizontal separator with mist extractor, K .. 0.382. Therefore.

the diameter of the horiwntal separator required is:
0 .. [0.466065/0.382]03 .. 1.10 ft ( .. 13.20 in.). Thus, the mini-
mum separator diameter of 26 in. ( ,., 2.17 (t) should be used.
The liquid capacity, VL . . 0.1399!)2(Ll2) .. 0.583
The,efore, L - _ 1.77 ft. The LID ,,_
tio .. 1.77/2.17 - 0.816, which does not satisfy design criteria. For a
minimum LID ratio .. 3, separator length required .. 3 X 2.17 .. 6.5

So, a horizontal separator of size 26 in. x 6.5 ft is required.

3. For a spherical separator with mist extractor, K .. 0.35. Therefore. the

diameter of the spherical separator to handle
Cas andtheLiquid
required gas capacity
Separation 107

D - [0.466065/0.35?' - 1.15 ft

9 The liquid capacity. VL - O.0466IY(D/2)O!l - 0.583

Therefore, D .. 3_.5 .. 2.27 ft based upon liquid ca-
pacity requirements.
So, a spherical separator of diameter 2.27 t ( .. 27 in.) is required.

Sepa rator Design Using Actual Separator Performance Charts

The Souders-Brown relationship provides only an approximate approach.

A better design can usually be made using actual manufacturers' field test