Acid Gas Treating #1

In addition to heavy hydrocarbons and water vapor, natural gas often contains other contaminants that may have to be removed. Carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and other sulfur compounds such as mercaptans are compounds that may require complete or partial removal for acceptance by a gas purchaser. These compounds are known as “acid gases.” H2S combined with water forms a weak form of sulfuric acid, while CO2 and water forms carbonic acid, thus the term “acid gas.”

Natural gas with H2S or other sulfur compounds present is called “sour gas,” while gas with only CO2 is called “sweet.” Both H2S and CO2 are undesirable, as they cause corrosion and reduce the heating value and thus the sales value of the gas. In addition, H2S may be lethal in very small quantities. Table 7-1 shows physiological effects of H2S concentrations in air.

At 0.13 ppm by volume, H2S can be sensed by smell. At 4.6 ppm the smell is quite noticeable. As the concentration increases beyond 200 ppm, the sense of smell fatigues, and the gas can no longer be detected by odor. Thus, H2S cannot always be detected by smell. Even if H2S cannot be smelled, it is possible that there is sufficient H2S present to be life threatening. At 500 ppm, H2S can no longer be smelled, but breathing problems and then death can be expected within minutes. At concentrations above 700 to 1,000 ppm, death can be immediate and without warning. Generally, a concentration of 100 ppm H2S or more in a process stream is cause for concern and the taking of proper operating precautions.

Gas sales contracts for natural gases will limit the concentration of acid compounds. In the United States, typically, gas sales contracts will permit up to 2 to 3% carbon dioxide and 1A grain per 100 scf (approximately 4 ppm) of hydrogen sulfide. The actual requirement for any sales contract may vary, depending upon negotiations between seller and purchaser.


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