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Consider a Modular Approach to Constructing Condensate Splitters

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S. SENF, VICE PRESIDENT OF DOWNSTREAM Audubon Engineering Solutions Consider a modular approach to constructing condensate splitters Although the 1975 ban on crude oil exports remains in place, US oil producers have found more opportunities in shipping condensate both domestically and internationally. This practice is possible due to condensate splitters, which provide a workaround solution by separating crude oil into lighter byproducts (i.e., diesel, naphtha, jet fuel, kerosine and residual fuel oil). Because these lightly refined byproducts can be exported, investment in new condensate splitter capacity has grown. Demand. To keep up with condensate demand in the Asia- Pacific and other international markets, the new focus is how to design condensate splitters for quick assembly and revenue generation. At present, condensate splitters are being built near unconventional oil and gas resources and proximate to port or terminal facilities to facilitate shipping byproducts such as naphtha. For example, in Texas, these splitters are constructed along the US Gulf Coast (USGC) with major hubs at Corpus Christi and the Houston Ship Channel. Condensate from the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin shale plays is processed by local splitter units and shipped elsewhere. Building condensate splitters is less complex through local environmental permitting than constructing a grassroots refiner y. Condensate splitters require careful construction, as these units process hydrocarbons. Additionally, skilled construction labor may be in tight supply locally, particularly regarding craft workers. Importing construction personnel can be difficult and expensive, requiring costly accommodations, such as travel allowances. Due to these variables, using reliable design and experienced personnel are essential for accurate construction, as well as for cost management. Modular design. Consider the option of constructing condensate splitters in a central location with controlled plant conditions and using personnel who have the right skills. Modular construction is such an approach; it also reflects the exact design intent and specifications for the splitter. Rather than designing and installing an onsite, "stick- build" approach, the modular method involves designing the unit so that each part of the whole can be built in discrete pieces. Each of the pieces is designed and sized to facilitate transport to the installation site. The blocks are fabricated on a plant floor and then moved by barge or truck to the site. Modular construction offers many advantages, but there are also some considerations. Faster construction. Building modular systems in a controlled environment offers better construction quality management. With parts and supplies readily available, there are fewer work stoppages due to lack of pipes, valves or other components. There is less need to build weather delays into the timeline. Modular systems significantly reduce site disruptions and vehicular traffic; such methods also improve overall safety and security. Faster construction also gives the operating company the flexibility to benefit from changing circumstances, such as a rise in gas prices or a demand surge for some NGL products. It can also lower financing costs. The operating company can start generating returns on the investment much sooner than with stick-build construction. Better quality. Having a well-organized work area on the plant floor means that there is less chance of having quality assurance (QA) and control issues with modular construction. For instance, on the USGC, weld reject rates have increased by 50% over the past 15 years due to a shortage of skilled labor. In plant fabrication, even a weld reject rate of 1% is considered unacceptable. With modular units, ever ything is prefabricated much like on an assembly line, thus minimizing the risk of defects. It is also easier to test the installation and catch errors before the equipment FIG. 1. Modular-built condensate splitters meet the rising demand for condensates and their byproducts. Source: Audubon Companies. Project Management Originally appeared in: June 2015, pgs 25-26. Used with permission. HYDROCARBON PROCESSING JUNE 2015

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