Gas dehydration is the process of removing water vapor from a gas stream to lower the temperature at which water will condense from the stream. This temperature is called the “dew point” of the gas. Most gas sales contracts specify a maximum value for the amount of water vapor allowable in the gas. Typical values are 7 Ib/MMscf in the Southern U.S., 4 Ib/MMscf in the Northern U.S. and 2 to 4 Ib/MMscf in Canada. These values correspond to dew points of approximately 32°F for 7 lb/ MMscf, 20°F for 4 lb MMscf, and 0°F for 2 Ib/MMscf in a 1,000 psi gas line.
Dehydration to dew points below the temperature to which the gas will be subjected will prevent hydrate formation and corrosion from condensed water. The latter consideration is especially important in gas streams containing CO2 or H2S where the acid gas components will form an acid with the condensed water.
The capacity of a gas stream for holding water vapor is reduced as the stream is compressed or cooled. Thus, water can be removed from the gas stream by compressing or cooling the stream. However, the gas stream is still saturated with water so that further reduction in temperature or increase in pressure can result in water condensation.
This section discusses the design of liquid glycol and solid bed dehydration systems that are the most common methods of dehydration used for natural gas. In producing operations gas is most often dehydrated by contact with triethylene glycol. Solid bed adsorption units are used where very low dew points are required, such as on the inlet stream to a cryogenic gas plant where water contents of less than 0.05 Ib/MMscf may be necessary.