Separator Design

Christoph Martin Flicker

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the same counts for the petroleum industry with its upstream, midstream and downstream sectors. Every process in the entire lifecycle has to be fully understood in order to optimize it as much as possible. Within that project, the design and sizing of oil and gas separators, which represent the last component of the so-called petroleum production system, have been examined. This thesis is an explanation and a guideline for the design of a separator from scratch. Laboratory measurements and pressure volume temperature (PVT) analysis to determine the characteristics, composition and fluid properties of the crude petroleum, which are crucial input parameters at a later stage, are the first step and hence are explained in detail. Further, the basic separator type selection and vessel configuration for the present number of phases, right application and operating conditions is advised. The four functional sections in a separator are then illustrated and the equations, which describe the physics behind the phase separation processes, are fully derived for a better understanding. The description of the sizing itself, which is based on the droplet settling theory and retention times, results in the final dimensions of the pressure vessel and the appropriate gas and liquid capacities. To prevent, avoid and counteract any possibly occurring issues, the wide variety of internals is presented and explained. Health, safety and environment (HSE) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) requirements have been analyzed and considered as well. A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation of a horizontal three-phase separator with some internals has been done in OpenFOAM and is presented at the end of the thesis. Within that, a multiphase solver for incompressible and compressible phases has been used, which has not been found for separators in the literature up to this point. Geometry and mesh grid have been created in SALOME while the post-processing has been done in ParaView for visualization purposes.
Translated title of the contributionSeparatorauslegung
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Montanuniversität
  • Vita, Petr, Co-Supervisor (internal)
  • Hofstätter, Herbert, Supervisor (internal)
  • Langbauer, Clemens, Co-Supervisor (internal)
Award date20 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

no embargoed


  • Separator
  • Separator Design
  • Gas Capacity
  • Liquid Capacity
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics Simulation
  • OpenFOAM
  • ParaView

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