Debottlenecking: What It Is and How It Can Help Optimize Downstream Processes

Debottlenecking: What It Is and How It Can Help Optimize Downstream Processes

Aug 21, 2014 | Midstream

In any gas processing operation, improving efficiency and increasing throughput are critical to maximizing profitability.

Debottlenecking is the process of identifying specific areas and/or equipment in oil and gas facilities that limit the flow of product (otherwise known as bottlenecks) and optimizing them so that overall capacity in the plant can be increased.

The first step in a debottlenecking process generally involves examining the overall operating conditions of a facility. In many instances this means comparing current operating parameters and system settings (flow rates, pipe diameters, pressures, etc.) with the design specifications of process equipment.

In some situations, eliminating a bottleneck can be as simple as changing system parameters to match recommended design values. Other times, however, the solution may require a bit more time and effort, such as replacing an entire piece of equipment or retrofitting it to better match the needs of the facility.

Understanding the limitations of a facility is also a critical step in the debottlenecking process. While increasing throughput to some degree can be accomplished in nearly every refining process, it should never be done at the expense of safety.

In many cases, relief systems will dictate the maximum capacity of a plant. Even though other pieces of equipment may be capable of handling higher volumes, they cannot be increased if it means a safety hazard will be created. The most common causes of bottlenecks in refining plants include control valves, choke valves, compressor capacity, pipe velocity, heat exchangers, and rotating equipment.

Audubon offers a wide range of engineering services and solutions that are designed to eliminate bottlenecks and maximize productivity in oil and gas refining facilities, including: debottlenecking studies, conceptual and FEED studies, feasibility assessments, layer of protection analysis, relief and flare system design, pipe stress analysis, hazard assessments, and control system design (among others).

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