Natural gas processing

Natural-gas processing is a complex industrial process designed to clean raw natural gas by separating impurities and various non-methane hydrocarbons and fluids to produce what is known as natural gas.

Raw natural gas typically consists primarily of methane (CH 4 ), the shortest and lightest hydrocarbon molecule. It also contains varying amounts of; heavier gaseous hydrocarbons, acid gases, other gases like: nitrogen and helium, water, liquid hydrocarbons and in some cases mercury.

The actual practice of processing natural gas to pipeline dry gas quality levels can be quite complex, but usually involves four main processes to remove the various impurities:

  • Oil and Condensate Removal
  • Water Removal
  • Separation of Natural Gas Liquids
  • Sulfur and Carbon Dioxide Removal

There are a great many ways in which to configure the various unit processes used in the processing of raw natural gas. The block flow diagram below is a generalized, typical configuration for the processing of raw natural gas from non-associated gas wells. It shows how raw natural gas is processed into sales gas pipelined to the end user markets. It also shows how processing of the raw natural gas yields these byproducts:

  • Natural-gas condensate
  • Sulfur
  • Ethane
  • Natural-gas liquids (NGL): propane, butanes and C5+.

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