Oil & Gas and RPME Awards to recognise sour gas and sulphur management projects

The main driver for the development of sour gas projects in the Middle East is a desire for national energy security to meet growing energy demands, coupled with a trend toward switching from heavy fuels to cleaner natural gas for power generation.

Because of the huge quantities of sour gas currently being produced in the Middle East, the region is becoming the new epicentre for sulphur knowledge-sharing and expertise.
Because of the huge quantities of sour gas currently being produced in the Middle East, the region is becoming the new epicentre for sulphur knowledge-sharing and expertise.

The Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East 2017 Awards will have a new category this year for the 'Sour Gas & Sulphur Management Project'.

The world’s sulphur supply is primarily determined by involuntary production of elemental sulphur during the processing of oil and gas, as we endeavour to meet the world’s growing energy needs, while continually reducing SOx emissions.

The Middle East is currently producing nearly 25 percent of the world’s elemental sulphur and this figure may reach as much as 30 percent within the next ten to 15 years. Because of the huge quantities of sour gas currently being produced in the Middle East, along with expected increases in the future, the region is becoming the new epicentre for sulphur knowledge-sharing and expertise.

Over the past several decades, governments world-wide have adopted increasingly strict clean air regulations on sulphur emissions from processing facilities, with a current industry benchmark of approximately 99.9 percent minimum recovery efficiency.

However, this figure is on the rise with a greater number of facilities designing for higher sulphur removal rates, as evidenced by the World Bank standard SO2 emission specification, which currently sits at 150 mg/Nm3 (equivalent to approximately 99.98 percent recovery efficiency).

“While striving for increasingly lower sulphur emissions may be beneficial, it does not come free of cost. As sulphur recovery efficiency increases, the energy required to remove each additional kilogram of sulphur escalates,” remarked Angie Slavens, managing director, UniverSUL Consulting, Abu Dhabi, UAE, in the cover story of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East magazine’s March 2017 issue.

“As energy consumption increases, the CO2 footprint of the facility grows, which is an undesirable outcome in a time when carbon emissions reduction is among the top objectives for corporate environmental management programmes. Not only is the environmental impact of CO2 familiar and visible to the public, but also carries a high potential for future regulations,” remarked Slavens.

“The main driver for the development of sour gas projects in the Middle East is a desire for national energy security to meet growing industrial and domestic energy demands, coupled with a trend toward switching from heavy fuels to cleaner natural gas for power generation. Near-term projections show fairly steady population growth rates for most Middle Eastern countries and therefore sour gas demand is expected to continue increasing at a similar rate in the near future,” observed Slavens.

In many cases, associated gas from oil fields may be somewhat lower in H2S content but the rate at which associated gas can be produced is completely dependent on oil production rates. In order to meet the country’s energy needs independent from oil export demand, non-associated gas fields must be developed.

“In any case, it is not expected that national oil companies will make decisions on whether to produce sour gas reservoirs due to the state of the sulphur market. Their first priority will be to meet the nation’s energy needs and the resulting sulphur product will be managed accordingly,” concluded Slavens.

Some of the key challenges related to sour gas processing include the high levels of contaminants such as H2S and CO2, as well as the presence of organic sulphur and BTEX. Additionally, fields which do not contain significant liquids (condensate and / or oil) can face challenges related to elemental sulphur precipitation leading to plugging of wells, gas gathering systems and / or processing facilities.

Many of the technologies used in the Middle East to address these challenges are also employed elsewhere around the world; but the mega-scale of Middle Eastern facilities makes them unique. Having said that, every gas plant is different and requires a tailor-made approach for its specific composition. With the current low oil price situation, technologies which can achieve superior technical performance, while also minimising cost (CapEx and OpEx), are of the highest interest.

Some examples include hybrid solvents and integrated acid gas removal / tail gas treating designs. Some operators are even considering converting a portion of their H2S to sulphuric acid, due to the energy benefits provided when increasing the oxidation state to H2SO4.  However, the logistics of getting sulphuric acid to market requires careful consideration.

The eighth annual Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East Awards ceremony is slated for 12 September 2017 in Dubai, UAE. The online nomination process for the awards is open now and will close on 20 July 2017.

The Sour Gas & Sulphur Management Project of the Year will be selected for the award based on the value addition to the company’s balance sheet, the degree of environmental compliance and how it has helped create a local sulphur product industry.

If you think your sulphur management project fulfils the above-mentioned standards, please send in your nomination, citing why your project should be considered for the award.

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