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CONTROL SYSTEM TO SELF REGULATE ADSORPTION & DESORPTION PROCESSES

FOR SOLID DESICCANT DEHYDRATION UNIT

ABSTRACT:
Raw natural gas mostly carries significant amount of water contents due to existence of connate
water in cavities of sedimentary reservoir rock. Hence, the natural gas must be treated to meet
the gas sales contract and to supply high quality dry and clean natural gas to consumers. Various
gas dehydration technologies are employed in industries which include liquid desiccant
absorption and solid desiccant adsorption. If cryogenic conditions are envisaged in LPG/LNG
units downstream of dehydration where significantly lower water content is required, solid
desiccant dehydration units are the first preference. Most solid desiccant dehydrators operate in a
preset sequence based on fixed cycle time. As the capacity of the desiccant decreases with the
passage of time, hence fixed timer based dehydration units may result in poor dehydration that
could be a potential hazard to downstream cryogenic equipments. In this research a self-
regulating control system is designed for optimizing the solid desiccant dehydrators by
continuously monitoring internal health of the unit. Implementation of the proposed system will
yield in efficient removal of water contents from natural gas along with more reliable operation
and extended life of the desiccant.
As mentioned above a significantly lower water contents is required if cryogenic conditions are envisaged in units downstream of dehydration.
This is to prevent the risk of damaging the cryogenic unit equipments (e.g. turbo expander) as a result of ice or hydrate formation [5].

Several natural gas dehydration technologies are employed but the two main steady state options available in industry to perform dehydration
is liquid desiccant absorption and solid desiccant adsorption [6]. Both liquid & solid desiccants are selected to have affinity towards the water
molecules in the gas phase, causing the mass transfer of water to the desiccant. Irrespective of the selected technology, the dehydration
process performance is favoured at a high pressure & low temperature [7]. Different dehydration technologies mentioned above are explained:

Presently all the sequences of molecular sieve adsorption process is controlled based on timers, hence ignoring the role of real time control,
including switching valves operation for successful and sustainable adsorption process. The switching of valves in molecular sieve dehydration
plays an important role in directing the inlet/outlet stream of gas between the columns, hence switching the columns from an adsorption phase
into regeneration & cooling phase in a preset sequence. Each of the columns has several switching valves. These valves are sometimes called
sequencing valves. Cycling frequency may vary depending upon the molecular sieve adsorption system. In hydrocarbon processing, these valves
cycle typically three to four times a day depending on the properties and condition of the desiccants. The water removal capacity of the adsorbent
decreases with the passage of time, hence the operation of valves based on a fixed cycle time (timer based) will result in poor dehydration that
can be a potential hazard to the downstream cryogenic equipments. Hence, control of the switching valves through real time process parameters
will support the use and development of more economical and cleaner process that is very critical for achieving required dehydration

The purpose of this study is to develop self-regulating control system for optimizing the solid desiccant based dehydration unit. Development of
proposed system will yield in efficient removal of water contents from the natural gas along with reliable operation and extended life of the
dehydration unit.