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Acid gas sweetening units are used to remove the Hydrogen Sulphide (H 2S) and Carbon Dioxide (CO 2) which comes with
associated gases obtained from offshore oil & gas field. Acid Gas Removal Unit (AGRU) uses 30-35 per cent concentration of
Methyldiethanol Amine (MDEA) solution for absorption of H 2S and also CO 2 till certain limit. Indian offshore is having sour
field in Heera-Panna Bassien block of Bombay offshore, about 60-90 km towards west coast of Mumbai. These fields are of
marginal nature having high H 2S & moderate CO 2 content. Due to unavailability of sour gas treatment facilities at offshore,
it was not possible to exploit these sour fields (as transportation of sour gases is economically not feasible and also not
recommended considering HSE factors). As the concentration of H 2S is high (upto 28000 volppm) in associated gas, it is
also not possible to release such high concentrated acid gas in atmosphere which separates during regeneration of amine.
To overcome such a problem, Acid Gas Disposal Unit (AGDU) is used in offshore platforms to incinerate H 2S gas converting
into SO 2, which is then scrubbed in seawater scrubber (with constant caustic dosing) to avoid emission of toxic gases in the
atmosphere. The Gas Sweetening Unit (GSU) unit with above specification was successfully commissioned for the first time
in Indian offshore by our team. Being first system of this kind, many problems occurred during commissioning and start-up.
In this present paper, we are also going to discuss the problems faced during commissioning phase with their solutions. Also
safe commissioning guidelines are mentioned.

ecent years have demonstrated that for an increasing number of countries

it may be difficult to meet their future local gas demand and gas export
commitments [1]. India is the 13 th largest consumer of natural gas in the
world and domestic demand is increasing due to increasing population, higher
living standards and development of new energy intensive industries such as
Petrochemical, Metal Smelters etc. Additionally gas injection is applied more
frequently to boost the life time of oil producing fields. In order to fulfill the future
gas demands, resource owners are forced to develop more complex gas fields
like sour gas fields which were previously regarded as economically unattractive.
Figure 1.1 shows the increase in gas demand and supply over past few years.

The development of a sour gas field has many challenges, not only Health, Safety
and Environmental (HSE) aspects, which need to be reflected in the design of the
surface facilities, but also challenges related to the continuous drive to minimise
the environmental footprint from the surface facilities.
This results in stringent Sulfur Dioxide (SO 2) emission targets and corresponding
ultra-high Sulphur Recovery Efficiency (SRE) requirements. In order to meet
these requirements, sophisticated technologies need to be applied to develop
sour gas fields [3]. These challenges are combined with high availability targets,
large uncertainties in feed gas compositions, fluctuating and limited availability
of skilled labour for construction.
A key aspect of sour gas field development is the selection of the disposal method
for sulphur containing molecules. From a cost perspective, reinjection of sour
gas molecules back into a field can be an attractive option. This is typically
only acceptable when empty and disconnected fields are available in close
surroundings. This removes the risk of field contamination which needs to be
avoided to meet the sour gas field life time. For this reason, sour gas reinjection
is not widely applied in the industry [3].

Figure 1.1: Domestic demand and supply Projection of gas in India (in MMSCMD)

India has sour gas fields at Mumbai offshore Bassein region, called as B series
marginal fields. These fields are of marginal nature, with high H 2S and moderate
CO 2 content. ONGC Ltd has recently implemented sour gas treatment facilities in
this region so as to utilise these sour fields, this is Indias first offshore facility to
have sour gas treatment unit along with an acid gas disposal unit. This facility
was commissioned in June 2014, which is taken as a case study in this paper.
Increasing energy costs and growing demand for natural gas have driven the
development of sour gas fields around the world. About 40 per cent of the worlds

Offshore World | 22 | October - November 2015

natural gas reserves are in the form of sour gas where H 2S and CO 2 compositions
exceed 10 per cent volumetric of the raw produced acid gas. In some cases, the
acid gas composition in these reserves is very high and economics of producing
pipe line quality gas are marginal.
Sour Gas Treatment (Acid Gas Removal Process)
There are many treating processes available. However, no single process is ideal
for all applications. The initial selection of a particular process may be based
on feed parameters such as composition, pressure, temperature, and the nature
of the impurities, as well as product specifications. The second selection of a
particular process may be based on acid/sour gas percent in the feed, whether all
CO 2, all H 2S, or mixed and in what proportion, if CO 2 is significant and reduction
of amine unit regeneration duty [4].

Acid Gas Processing/Disposal Methods

Acid gas leaving from gas sweetening unit (Figure 2.1) contains very high
concentration of H 2S and CO 2 gases which are very harmful for environment
and human health. This waste gas can be sent for further processing to recover
elemental sulfur, to produce some other useful industrial products such as
sulphuric acid or it can be sent to a disposal unit.

Final selection is ultimately based on process economics, reliability, versatility,

and environmental constraints. Clearly, the selection procedure is not a trivial
matter and any tools that provides are liable mechanism for process design is
highly desirable [4].
Available gas sweetening processes [9]:
Chemisorption with regenerative solvent (using amines, glycol amines,
K 2CO 3 etc)
Non-regenerative chemical process (scavenger process)
Molecular sieves
Dry sweetening process (Iron Sponge:Iron Oxide)
Chemisorption with regenerative solvent is most widely used process for
sweetening of sour gas in refineries as well as offshore facilities. Chemical solvents
react with the acid gas components to form loosely-bonded chemical complexes.
On heating at reduced pressure, these complexes dissociate and release the acid
gas from the solvent.The choice of solvent is based on the gas composition,
expected sweet gas specifications, requirements of the acid gas processing unit,
etc. Figure 2.1 shows a typical chemisorption type sour gas sweetening process.
The most widely used chemical solvents for the removal of acid gases from
natural gas streams are alkanolamines (referred to generally as amine solvents),
employed as aqueous solutions. These chemical solvent processes are particularly
applicable when acid gas partial pressures are low and/or low levels of acid gas
are desired in the residue gas. Because of the low hydrocarbon solubility in the
aqueous solution, these processes are particularly effective for treating gases
rich in heavier hydrocarbons. Some alkanolamines can be used to selectively
remove H 2S in the presence of CO 2.
The basic chemical reactions involved in this process are as follows:

Figure 2.1: Typical chemisorption gas sweetening process

Below are the processes which can be used depending upon the requirement
and economic factors:
3.1 Sulphur Recovery Unit (SRU)
3.2 Wet Sulphuric Acid Process (WSA)
3.3 Reinjection in Wells
3.4 Acid Gas Disposal Unit (AGDU)/ Seawater Scrubbing process
3.1 Sulfur Recovery Unit (Claus Process):
The Claus process is the most significant gas desulphurising process, recovering
elemental sulphur from gaseous hydrogen sulphide. H 2S removed in the gas
sweetening process is sent to the sulphur recovery unit (SRU) as acid gas. SRU
recovers H 2S as elemental sulphur through the Claus reaction.
Reactions occur in two stages:
Flame reaction stage or thermal stage:

Catalytic reaction stage:

Offshore sulphur recovery was considered as an alternative for acid gas handling.
After preliminary review of the option, it was determined that it was not
economically feasible due to the size of the platform required for the process
and the logistics of handling the sulphur product.
Where R denotes an alkanol group and R and R can be alkyl or alkanol groups,
hydrogen, or a mixture of the two depending on whether the amine is primary,
secondary or tertiary. H 2S & CO 2 are termed as acid gases.

3.2 Wet Sulphuric Acid Process (WSA):

The wet sulphuric acid process (WSA process) is one of the key gas
desulphurization processes on the market today. Since the Danish catalyst

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company Haldor Topsoe introduced and patented this technology in the late
1980s, it has been recognised as an efficient process for recovering sulphur
from acid gas in the form of commercial quality Sulphuric Acid (H 2SO 4), with
simultaneous production of high pressure steam. Figure 3.2.1 shows basic flow
of a WSA process.

wet sulphuric acid process; in this process acid gas from regenerative solvent
type gas sweetening unit, is sent to an incinerator operating at temperature 760830C, to convert it to a mixture of SO 2, H 2O (vap) & SO 3 in presence excess of air.

The flue gas flows downward through a refractory lined nozzle with a Venturi
shaped quencher (evaporative cooler). The gas expands and flows past a high
pressure spray into the quencher where it encounters further liquid contact to be
cooled to its dew point. The flue gas is saturated with water vapor which causes
it to cool down to its adiabatic saturation temperature. Saturated flue gas from
the quench venturi is next ducted to the seawater SO 2 scrubber. SO 2 scrubber
consists of two different sections (seawater scrubber & caustic scrubber) to ensure
complete absorption of toxic gases viz. SO2, SO 3, H 2S & CO 2. Lower section is called
seawater scrubber where flue gas is brought in contact counter-currently with
seawater, this section removes upto 95 per cent of toxic gases. Upper section
of SO 2 scrubber is called caustic scrubber where aqueous solution of NaOH is
dosed to absorb remaining toxic gases exiting from seawater scrubber section,
this ensure 98 per cent removal of toxic gases from flue gas.The cleaned flue
gas passes through a demister pad and is ducted to the atmosphere through an
extended portion of ducting. The stack is mounted directly above the caustic
scrubber. NaOH also helps to neutralise the acids formed in absorption process.

Figure 3.2.1: Block diagram of Wet sulphuric acid process (WSA)

The main reactions in the WSA process [5]:

Reaction taking place in SO 2 scrubber:

Effluent discharge from scrubber bottom majorly contains acids and sodium

Again this method is not economically feasible for offshore facilities due to the
size of platform required. Also health and safety concerns are very high due to
handling and transportation of acid. WSA process is most suitable for refineries
and onshore facilities only.
3.3 Reinjection in Wells:
One other approach to avoid acid gas emission to atmosphere is by injecting it to
an empty field which is nearby. Acid gas re-injection is attracting much attention
as an environmentally-sound and cost-effectiveapproach that can avoid the cost
of traditional H 2S processing and the problems of handling theelemental sulphur
product, particularly for very sour natural gas streams. In this process, the acid
gasesseparated are compressed and injected into the disposal reservoir through
a special well, in amanner similar to the disposal of produced water. The disposal
zone can be either ahydrocarbon reservoir or a saline aquifer [2].

salts. Approximate pH turns out to be around 2-3 which exceeds allowable limits
of effluent discharge. To overcome this problem an Effluent neutralisation unit
(ENU) is installed. ENU consists of a static mixer where effluent discharge stream
is diluted with large quantity of seawater to maintain the pH up-to allowable
limit and then it is discharge to sea. Figure 3.4.1 shows basic block diagram of
seawater scrubbing process.

By far this method is considered best for disposal of acid gas as it reduces chance
of emission of toxics in environment but this method is economically not feasible
(as it cannot be applied to facilities with high amount of acid gas and also it is
not suitable for long time operation) andit also has some other limitations such
as, we must have an empty or disconnected field nearby to avoid contamination
in field, high risk & safety factors as we are dealing with high pressure acid gas.
Hence this method is not widely used in most of the industries.
3.4 Acid Gas Disposal Unit (AGDU)/Seawater Scrubbing Process:
Acid gas disposal unit or seawater scrubbing process is quite similar to that of

Figure 3.4.1: PFD of Seawater scrubbing process

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Process Advantages: This process has many advantages over other conventional
acid gas processing & disposal techniques for offshore facilities.
This is a very simple process.
The plant is highly reliable because of its simplicity.
SO 2 is washed out of the flue gas in a once-through operation, i.e., there will
not be any clogging problems.
This is very compact unit, so platform size is not an issue.
There are no critical levels or other process parameters to control.
No expensive chemicals are required.
The process uses only seawater and air, hence operating costs is low.
No land disposal is needed.
The absorbed SO 2 is converted to sulphates, a natural constituent of seawater.
This is considered safe for aquatic life.
It is a safe choice.
Economical Impact
In India, supply and demand gap of oil & gas are gradually increasing every
year, which results increase in market value of this commodities.Indias demand
for oil and gas has been increasing significantly in recent years boosted by its
rapid economic growth. By 2013, India had become the worlds fourth largest
oil consumer, consuming 3.7 million barrels a day (mb/d). It is forecast to reach
4.4 mb/dby 2018, when it will overtake Japan as the third largest consumer of
oil. This growthin oil demand has also made India the fourth largest oil importer
since 2011, importingaround 3.5 mb/d of crude. Indias limited oil production has
been slowly declining andis expected to continue declining, thereby increasing
its dependence on imports andallaying its concerns over energy security[15]. One
of the solutions to overcome this declining behavior is to exploit the sour fields
present in offshore locations.
Nearly 40 per cent of the worlds gas reserves contain sour gas that poses obstacles to
development. Overcoming those obstacles is a key challenge for oil companies. B&S
region of Mumbai offshore is having many sour fields; these fields are of marginal
nature with high H 2S and moderate CO 2 concentration. Due to unavailability of sour
gas treatment facilities at offshore, it was not possible to exploit these sour fields (as
transportation of sour gases is economically not feasible and also not recommended
considering HSE factors). First Indian offshore facility with sour gas treatment and
acid gas disposal (AGDU) units was commissioned at Mumbai offshore in 2014 by
us; giving an opportunity to ONGC to exploit these sour fields. It has a great impact
on economics and it helps us reducing supply and demand gap.
Indias first platform with sour gas treatment units is designed to handle 25000
BOPD and 1.1 MMSCMD natural gases; its in operation from last 18 months.
Considering 70 per cent capacity of operation below is a workout to show the
impact on economics:
Oil production/day on 60% capacity = 0.7*25000

= 17500 BOPD
Total production in 18 months

= 17500*18*30
= 9.45*106 Barrels

Gas production/day on 60% capacity = 0.7*1.1

= 0.77 MMSCMD

Total Gas production in 18 months = 0.77*18*30

= 415.8 MMSCM
Thus, using this technology it was possible to achieve above mentioned
production of oil & gas. And there is more potential in these fields.
The following case study is used to demonstrate the effectiveness of sour gas
treatment units at offshore facilities.
The case study is taken of Indias very first offshore platform with gas sweetening
unit and acid gas disposal unit (AGDU); it has regenerative solvent type sour gas
sweetening process and SO 2 seawater scrubbing process for acid gas disposal.
This offshore platform is located in B&S region of Mumbai offshore which
belongs to ONGC Ltd.; this field is having 28000 ppm of H 2S concentration and
7-8 vol% of CO 2.
This offshore platform was commissioned by UPCEM Engineering & Consultancy
Pvt Ltd in 2014. With addition of sour gas processing units this platform became
more complicated than normal offshore platforms. Commissioning of this
platform was a challenging job because of sour environment and non-awareness
of acid gas disposal unit in Indian offshore.
Below mentioned are the problems faced during commissioning of acid gas
disposal unit (AGDU):
Air Fuel Ratio Adjustment in Incinerator: Maintaining air to fuel ratio in
incinerator was quite a difficult task which ultimately affects the temperature
of incinerator and can cause process shutdown. Calorific value of H2S gas is very
high hence it plays important role sudden rise of incinerator temperature, thus
control philosophy allows more quench air into incinerator. Also there was no
moisture monitoring or removal unit for combustion air; it also has an impact
on incinerator temperature which ultimately disturbs air/fuel ratio (as air/fuel
ratio was controlled by temperature in control philosophy).
Damages in Expansion Bellow: Thermal shock across the quench venturi is
very high and to avoid any kind of expansion in metallic part a fabric expansion
bellow is installed. This bellow helps compensate all kind of expansions and
contractions taking place inside the system. Due to improper design of this
expansion bellow it was unable to withstand such high a thermal shock and got
damaged; which was a very risky situation. Better designed quality expansion
bellow was then installed to overcome this problem.
Equipment Failure: Many equipment failures occurred due to non-awareness
of such kind of system at Indian offshore, such as burner, blowers, high flow
submersible pumps, expansion bellow etc. But with expertise knowledge and
extended commissioning experience of UPCEM, these problems were rectified
and tackled easily.
Non-availability of pH Control: Effluent discharge from acid gas disposal
unit (AGDU) contains very high amount of sulphates, and according to
environmental norms effluent discharge should be of pH 7-8. But there was no
online pH monitoring system was available for continuous monitoring of effluent

Offshore World | 25 | October - November 2015

quality. This modification needs to be implemented to avoid any acidic effluent
release to the sea which can be very dangerous to aquatic life as well as it can
cause corrosion on platform legs.
Health & Safety Guidelines during Commissioning
Hydrogen Sulphide or acid gas (H 2S) is a flammable, colorless gas that is toxic
at extremely low concentrations. It is heavier than air, and may accumulate in
low-lying areas. It smells like rotten eggs at low concentrations and causes you
to quickly lose your sense of smell. Many areas where the gas is found have been
identified, but pockets of the gas can occur anywhere.
Commissioning is a complex and sophisticated technical specialty, which may be
considered as a specific and independent engineering discipline, as important
as the more traditional ones; it requires sharp skills, vast knowledge and good
experience. Commissioning of a sour gas handling platform can be a difficult
task because it involves very high risk of Health Safety and Environment (HSE).
Many accidents takes place during commissioning phase due lack of knowledge
and non-seriousness of the situation, but due to UPCEMs extensive experience
in commissioning field, Indias very first sour gas handling platform was
commissioned with zero accident rate.
Below are some guidelines which are to be strictly followed for safe
commissioning of a sour gas field:
Skilled Manpower: It is absolutely necessary to have skilled manpower for
sour field jobs and every individual should have awareness about H 2S gas hazard
and they must go through H 2S safety training.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Every personnel entering H 2S zone
must wear personal protective equipment such as self-contained breathing
apparatus, safety goggles, safety gloves, safety shoes, safety helmet etc. all the
Detectors: Every individual must carry a H 2S detector with him while working
in H 2S areas. And also H 2S detectors need to be installed at different locations
on platform with F&G system.
PTW: Special permits needs to be taken to work in H 2S zone where a safety
officer should analyze all the risk. These type of permits fall under confined space
permit category.
Medical Emergency Team: Emergency medical team should always be there
with the team working in H 2S.
Evacuation Plan: Evacuation plan should be ready in case of H 2S leak and
every member should be informed about the plan.
H 2S Muster Area at Elevation: Muster station for H 2S leakage should be
defined and as H 2S is heavier than air, muster station has to be on an elevation.
Daily toolbox meeting to be carried out.
Induction training about H 2S safety needs to be conducted periodically.
Standard Procedure to be followed for particular task.
Risk Assessment/Hazard Analysis report to be made before starting the task.
All personnel should be aware of the H 2S safe shelters available on platform.

commissioned. This technique helps us reducing the supply & demand gap
by utilizing sour fields. It has also given exposure to Indian people about this
technology thus increasing individual competency in international market.
Therefore, this technique should be implemented in other sour fields as we have
experienced many advantages on economy, personnel development, environment
etc. As this technology is new in Indian offshore, further improvements are also
in process.
(The authors would like to acknowledge M/s Sime Darby Sdn Bhd and M/s ONGC Ltd
for providing us the opportunity to commission this platform.)
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Development, June-2014.
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Strategies for Sour Gas Field Developments
5. H. Rosenberg, Haldor Topsoe A/S, Lyngby, Denmark, Topsoe, Wet gas sulphuric acid (WSA)
technology-anattractive alternative for reduction of sulphur emissions from furnaces and converters,
The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2006.
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7. Goran B. G. Nyman, Arvid Tokerud, ABB Flakt, Oslo, Seawater Scrubbing Removes SO2 from
Refinery Flue Gases
8. G.K Sarda, Natural Gas: Present Scenario & Future Prospects, Raw material & Fuel Sub-committee
9. Sour Gas Sweetening, Petrowiki,
10. Current Environmental Issues and Challenges by Giacomo Cao, Roberto Orr, 2014.
11. John J. Carroll, James R. Maddock, Gas Liquids Engineering Ltd., Design Considerations for Acid
Gas Injection, Laurance Reid Gas Conditioning Conference, Feb 1999.
12. Pam Boschee, Taking on the Technical Challenges of Sour Gas Processing, Oil& Gas Facilities,
December 2014.
13. Acid and Sour Gas Treating Processes by Stephen A. Newman, 1985.
14. Acid Gas Injection and Related Technologies by Ying Wu, John J. Carroll, 2011.

Case study of Indias first offshore platform with sour gas treatment facility has
demonstrated that the challenging opportunity was accepted and successfully

Offshore World | 26 | October - November 2015

Mehtab Shaikh
Managing Director
UPCEM Engineering & Consultancy Pvt Ltd
V K Gajinkar
Head - Process & Commissioning
UPCEM Engineering & Consultancy Pvt Ltd
Amjad Khan
Process & Commissioning Engineer
UPCEM Engineering & Consultancy Pvt Ltd
Melwin Raj
Process & Commissioning Engineer
UPCEM Engineering & Consultancy Pvt Ltd