MIDLAND, Texas—Since the shale boom, midstream vendors have shifted focus from treating natural gas to processing out its treasure. This transition revolves around recovering valuable products from natural gas as opposed to converting it to marketable product.

Leaving the basic practices behind, Linde Engineering North America Inc. has advanced its technologies to adhere to the processing market.

During Hart Energy’s Midstream Texas conference in June, Linde Engineering’s president of natural gas and refining division, Carlos Conerly detailed the company’s new ROC technology. Linde’s development is an upgrade from both gas subcooled process (GSP) and recycle split vapor (RSV) plants.

“Lots of technology providers are looking at new processing approaches, however, most of those remain secret as the developers hope to capitalize on their efforts if, and when their processes come to market,” he said.

According to RBN Energy LLC’s 2017 mapping of operational gas processing plants, there are still a large number of plants built with basic GSP processing technology—a majority residing in the Permian Basin.

Conerly said, however, several midstream operators and process technology providers have been scoping out ways to convert their current traditional plants.

Converting a basic GSP to an enhanced RSV plant, he said, requires “diverting a small portion of the residue gas recycled to the front end of the plant where it is flashed, condensed and then added to the reflux in the demethanizer tower.”

A plant-by-plant evaluation is needed for each upgrade to confirm the capacity of existing equipment and additional residue compression horsepower, he added.

(Image Source: Linde Engineering)

Going a step ahead of RSV, Linde’s ROC technology is an enhanced oil recovery process that eliminates the need for a conventional mechanical refrigeration system in the plant. The new refrigeration unit upgrade downsizes the plot size, yielding lower installation cost, while also reducing the plant’s footprint by about 33%, according to Conerly.

“On the front end, we are expecting capex reductions in the 10%-to-15% range for the total installed cost being a combination of equipment and installation cost savings,” he said. “Once in operating mode, we expect opex to drop by $2 million per year due to lower electrical energy consumption and the lower cost of maintaining the ROC system as compared to the mechanical refrigeration system.”

Linde’s design features Core OpEx, which allows the plant to have a higher performance than an RSV but with lower total horsepower requirements; the Core Operational Flexibility for using residue horsepower to select higher capacity or higher recoveries; and a heat curve that reduces thermal stresses on plate-fin exchangers.

Overall, Conerly said the processing industry will continue to work on breakthrough technologies and he expects Linde’s ROC technology to be at the forefront benefiting both the midstream sector and producers in the future.

Mary Holcomb can be reached at mholcomb@hartenergy.com.