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Condensate Stabilizer Units Explained

Condensate stabilization units are an important tool in making condensate from natural gas streams
easier to manage. Designs vary, but the goals of implementing a stabilization unit are usually the
same: increase recovery of hydrocarbons, remove corrosive components, and create transport-
ready product. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide corrode transport infrastructure, and lighter
hydrocarbons like methane in the condensate are more dangerous to handle. Removing these while
optimizing recovery of constituents like methane and propane means safer product and more
profitable operations.

Raw natural gas liquids (NGLs) are introduced into the stabilization unit at a high pressure through
a shutdown valve and preheated to a specific temperature. Afterwards, the pressure of the liquid
feed is dropped via a control valve, creating both a liquid and gas phase. At this point water can be
flashed out and removed from the stream, while any light gasses that escape can be flashed off or
recovered. The remaining hydrocarbon liquids are then heated through a bottom exchanger before
entering into a contactor or stabilizer tower. Tower designs can vary from tray to packed column,
but the idea is generally the same: a reboiler heats the hydrocarbon liquid, causing two separate
phases again. Lighter hydrocarbons with lower boiling points rise up the tower as a gas, while the
heavier hydrocarbons contact the trays or packing in the column, collect, and stream down to the
bottom of the tower as a liquid. Using either flash drum liquids or another technique, the NGLs are
cooled and routed to a pipeline or storage facility. The vapor that rose through the tower may be
flashed off in a downstream flare (if permitted by regulations) or routed to an NGL recovery skid
designed to compress and store the lighter hydrocarbons for later processing or use.

Modern designs of condensate stabilizer units have several advantages. They are increasingly
designed to be of a pretested, skid-mounted, modular design for rapid installation and start-up.
These modular units can be ordered based on specific needs, from low BPD well-site recovery to
high BPD midstream NGL processing. Hot or heat medium oil systems help reduce emissions, while
compression cycles can be optimized with digital control systems. Additional equipment can be
added or modified for special-case scenarios as well.