By Sam Stewart
On an average day, the purpose of the separator vessel is to remove moisture solids and prevent debris, often referred to as carryover, from escaping the separator vessel and pooling downstream.
When you install a quality separator, you can expect the following:
- High-efficiency liquid removal
- Prevention of carry-over pooling downstream
- A good customizable solution for 3-phase flow applications
- The ability to retain large volumes of liquid
You can expect something very different on a day where a wild pig somehow evades the basket strainer and gets into your vessel. (For more insights on Separators, check out: Making Sense of New Separators vs Retrofits.) In this case, you can pretty much expect the internals are going to get chewed up. There is no one solution to fix it because, as most operations managers know, the separator vessel has many parts that make up the internals. Any one or a combination of them can be damaged.
First, let’s look at what makes up “the internals”, the parts inside the separator vessel:
- Knockout baffles
- Vanes – chevrons
- Corrugated plates
- Mesh pads
- Dry Scrubbers
When a wild pig wreaks havoc, even the seasoned operations managers jump to the conclusion that it means a capital expenditure. The fact is, a new separator isn’t always necessary. It can be expensive and time-consuming, so I think the alternative is worth a look.
What you can expect from a retrofit:
1. A retrofit of one or more internal parts has some advantages
a. No recertification is necessary, although that decision is made by the local code inspector. In my 30 years, I’ve only seen that happen once.
b. Generally, a retrofit is a quicker less-expensive fix.
c. Often, the internals can be fixed in the field if the housing isn’t damaged.
d. It’s best to have the damaged separator inspected in the field before it’s taken out of the line. DOT can sometimes present challenges whenever you get into transporting equipment down the road, so I find there are multiple benefits to having your damage assessed in the field.
2. Involved retrofits are disassembled, transported and fixed in the shop. It’s still less expensive than a new separator and probably quicker to fix even though the lead time is longer than one fixed in the field.
Anytime I see the housing damaged, and there’s erosion, corrosion, or pitting, then I generally recommend looking at purchasing a new vessel.
So, the main point of this blog is not only to clarify the purpose of your separator but to let you know that when it gets damaged, that you’ve got options that might save you some time or dollars. It’s like going to the doctor when you get hurt. It’s worth having an expert come out to evaluate the issue, give you the best options to fix the issue. You can then decide what is best for your organization.
Feel free to send me an email if you would like to discuss this topic further, or if you are dealing with another issue that you would like me to address in a future blog. Also, please feel free to post this to your LinkedIn or Twitter feed for others who may be dealing with this, or similar challenges.