Middle East at the forefront of sour technology
Region will have to find increasingly innovative ways to process gas
With some of the sourest fields in the world, the Middle East will have to find increasingly innovative ways to process its gas supply as local demand soars
Among the key challenges facing sour gas processors in the Middle East today is that of efficient amine management. Amines are a chemical compound used to treat sour gas, removing the harmful hydrogen sulphide (H2S) from the useable gas.
Amines work best in cool environments. To facilitate this, amines are often cooled using thin fan coolers or chillers, which adds a substantial cost to the sweetening process.
Dow will be implementing a solution to this challenge at a project in Saudi Arabia later this year.
The new technology aims to remove the cost of cooling amines during the gas sweetening process.
“The Middle East is at a confluence of very sour gas fields and a really warm ambient temperature.
Typically in amine treatment, the systems work really well when the amine temperature is cold. Well, we’re in the Middle East and it’s hot,” said Ajay Badhwar, market manager for Dow Oil, Gas & Mining.
“One of the technologies we are rolling out works even when ambient temperatures are hot, you can still achieve deep H2S removal at high temperatures,” he said.
During the normal sweetening process, sour gas enters the absorber unit at close to ambient temperature, as it is fed in through a series of massive pipeline networks.
The new amine management technology allows the amines to work efficiently at a higher temperature, removing the need for cooling.
Processors of sour gas will be faced with a Capex/Opex trade off as the technologies continue to be developed, whereby the capital expenditure of installing the technology will be outweighed by the operational expense of continuing to cool the gas.
According to research carried out by Shell, the capital expenditure of the sour gas treating section can sometimes amount to more than 50% of the total Capex in developing a sour-gas field. Reducing this amount is clearly an important prerogative for gas processers.
“Ultimately, that is energy that could otherwise be used for sales. We are talking about more value from your hydrocarbons with less waste. It means you have to produce less gas and you can sell more. It all boils down to less capital, less operating expense, more gas out the door,” he said.
Badhwar believes that the rest of the world will take its lead from the Middle East as cutting edge sour gas technologies continue to make their global debut in the region.
“The Middle East will be conventional for a long time. The regions gas reserves are highly sour and technologies are evolving to deal with this… In the past, you rolled out new technology in either North America or Europe. Now we are seeing new technologies being installed here in the Middle East first,” he said.
Badhwar believes that this is due to local investment as well as the research and development projects that are going on in the region.
“I’m excited about the Middle East. I’m responsible for our technology on a global basis and I can honestly say that the Middle East is a very exciting region,” he said.