Liquid Product Recovery is an important metric to assess the quality of Gas and Oil Separation plant design and is required to be achieved at minimum CAPEX & OPEX to improve the overall economics. This paper presents a structured approach for an optimal solution to minimize loss of valuable components to the gas phase, thereby maximizing liquid recovery.

Ideal Liquid Recovery is defined as the theoretical maximum liquid recovery possible by successively separating the lightest components from the well-fluid until the crude oil specifications are met, i.e. separating all the Methane (C1) and Ethane (C2), just the right proportion of Water, Propane (C3) and H2S to meet the specifications. In real life separation systems, however, such sharp separation is unachievable, i.e. some amount of intermediate and heavier components are likely to migrate to the gas phase and some of the lighter components may end up in the liquid phase. Accordingly, %Liquid Recovery is defined as:
%Liquid Recovery=Actual Liquid RecoveryIdeal Liquid Recovery×100

Oil and gas production is a complex process wherein many equipment and systems are closely coupled and interdependent. The art of designing an optimal process for Gas and Oil Separation plants lies in rigorous selection of appropriate process configurations and operating conditions. The design largely depends on several factors such as fluid compositions and properties, product specifications, etc. There is no single configuration or set of process conditions that can be the solution under all scenarios; thus each case requires to be analyzed independently.

This paper uses a structured approach to evaluate the impact of each parameter individually as well as collectively, to select the optimum process configuration for separation and stabilization of the crude oil. A Gas and Oil Separation plant with multiple stages and a stabilizer column is used to demonstrate that the liquid recovery for a specific well-fluid composition can be maximized by varying separator operating conditions, column operating parameters and process configurations. The focus of the paper is on the ‘Design Process’ to achieve and assure an optimal design as well as understand its limitations.

The suggested design approach demonstrates that liquid recovery values in excess of 95% can be achieved in comparison to typical liquid recovery values of around 93% for low GOR oil production plants. Even two percent increase in liquid recovery is quite significant, as on a 100,000 STBOPD plant it translates to 2,000 STBOPD production gain which is equivalent to more than US$ 33 million per year in additional revenue at crude oil price of US$ 50/bbl. This should be read with a caveat that incremental absolute revenue will be lower in a smaller capacity unit and hence, additional CAPEX, if any, should be evaluated accordingly. Higher liquid recovery also contributes to improvement in API gravity of the crude, and thus further adds to its value.

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