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Solids Handling for Upstream Oil & Gas Industry: Step 1 - Separation (B-FSM035)

ASME 900# Duplex Stainless Steel Multiphase Desander (Twin-System) Employed in Danish Sector of North Sea to protect a Printed Circuit Heat Exchanger

The first step of solids handling in the upstream oil & gas industry is Separation. Specifically, this refers to solid-fluid phase separation. At facilities conditions the solids are dilute dispersed particles while the fluid (oil, water, gas, or mixture) is continuous.

Separation is the process to partition (direct) solids contained in flow stream to one location and fluids (gas, oil, water) to another. Typically, solids go to a static collection location while fluids flow continuously.

The solids must be separable – inorganic, insoluble, discrete particles which have a higher density than the continuous fluids.

Focus on the methodology – not a piece of equipment.

Unit Processes for Separation

Solids may separate on their own in low velocity zones or with enhanced forces.

  1. Low Velocity Zones
  • Bottom of production separator
  • Dead leg or end-run on pipe (good sample collection place)
  • Any quiescent/still spot in a tank, treater, or vessel
  1. Enhanced Separation
  • Cyclonic: Multiphase (Wellhead/Wellstream) or Produced Water Desander
  • Flotation: Attached to oil droplets
  • Impact w/ Retention: Filters or screens

Sand separation equipment is the smallest…compared to oil-water-gas separation.

Separation Examples

The three unit process examples below show separation equipment employed in the upstream oil & gas industry – these are 10K multiphase sand screen-filter, 5K multiphase desander, and 150# produced water desander.

References

  1. Rawlins, C.H., “Sand Management Methodologies for Sustained Facilities Operations,” paper 164645-MS, North Africa Technical Conference & Exhibition, Cairo, Egypt, Apr. 15-17, 2013.
  2. Rawlins, C.H., and Wang, I. I., “Design and Installation of a Sand Separation and Handling System for a Gulf of Mexico Oil Production Facility,” SPE Production and Facilities, paper 72999, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2001, pp. 134-140.

The next article will detail Step 2 on Collection. 

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