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Gas Processors Association Annual Meeting retrospect

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The Gas Processors Association (GPA) Annual Conference took place 17 – 19 September in Madrid.  International experts from a wide range of gas processing companies presented technical papers at the conference. These offered valuable insights into operations and processes that hold the potential to optimise process performance in a variety of applications. Presentations dealt with innovation and the latest technological advancements. Effective plant design and cost minimisation in respect to operation were recurring themes.

Keynote speech

The keynote speech at this year’s event was delivered by Mary Pax Adán of Enagás and was titled: ‘The Spanish Gas System: How it has developed and where it is going’.

Enagás is the technical manager of the Spanish Gas System and the main carrier of natural gas in Spain. The paper addressed Spanish gas system development and its key drivers, before moving on to discuss some anticipated future challenges to system operation.

The main drivers were identified as:

  • Exponential growth of natural gas demand.
  • Liberalisation process towards an open market.
  • Isolation of Iberian Peninsula and lack of indigenous production.
  • Renewables integration.

New challenges include:

Economic recession

The economic recession has pushed the Government to develop new energy reform.

Energy policies in power generation

Currently, power generation based on gas is the last technology of the energy mix.

European integration

The pending problem in this are is increasing interconnection.

Iberian Gas HUB creation

A gas HUB is one of the main priorities of the Spanish government and Spanish infrastructure is prepared to support it. A working group with the main stakeholders involved has been created by the Ministry and Spanish and Portugese regulators have launched a public consultation about the different alternatives for Iberian market creation.

Spread prices between different markets

High prices in the Asiatic Basin have changed the traditional natural gas chain. From 2010 to 2013 an import increase in LNG reloading capacity has been develop in order to accommodate this change.

Alternative fuels market

There is now new demand for natural gas as a fuel. Future plans for the gas system must take this into account.

Despite these challenges, the Spanish gas system has strong security of supply, source diversification, balance between market integration and supply guarantee, LNG operation, single technical management, accurate demand forecast tools, successful management of system variability in natural gas/LNG, flexible operation. Hence, it can face the future with confidence.


The first key theme to emerge among the presentations was the processing of carbon dioxide rich gas. As Fluor’s technical paper explained, the gas processing industries are striving to develop high CO2 low value gas fields in remote and offshore locations, which require unconventional gas treating processes.

While in many offshore locations the CO2 content in gas can range from 20 mol% to 60 mol%, which poses a challenge for gas producers, demand for clean natural gas is mandated to replace coal burning power plants. Hence, developers are refocusing on the low value gas fields, which could be attractive if an economical gas treating process can be developed for CO2 removal.

Fluor’s paper proposed solvent processes for the effective removal of CO2. The Fluor Solvent process involves the use of propylene carbonate for both CO2 and H2S removal from natural gas and synthesis gas streams.

Both ExxonMobil and Costain presented papers on the same subject. However, ExxonMobil chose to highlight the operational experience of the Controlled Freeze Zone technology. Meanwhile, Costain discussed the suitability of Ryan Holmes fractionation.

Another key theme that emerged at the conference was sour gas treatment. The use of amine treatment units was a particular focus. Optimized Gas Treating presented an interesting paper on the concept of ‘pinch’; explaining that if a column is incorrectly designed operations conditions can result in the column showing a bulge pinch. Failure to recognise bulge pinching in the design phase may result in failure of the plant to treat properly.

Energy Recovery discussed energy recovery in gas sweetening. Their paper proposed that energy is commonly wasted in depressurising the rich amine exiting the contactor. Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) can recover the energy dissipated in depressurising the rich amine in the level control vale and return it to the process by partially pressurising the lean amine.

Mercury removal was also a recurring topic of discussion at the meeting. IFP Energy Nouvelles highlighted the usefulness of mercury adsorbents, prepared via the dispersion of copper sulfide within the porosity of alumina carrier supports. Axens also addressed the benefits of new technology focused on engineered alumina based products.

KBC Process Technologies described in their presentation how simulation software can be used to determine the mercury distribution in a natural gas plant . Multiflash with Petro-SIM can provide information about where in the process mercury problems are expected and how these can by solved.

Finally, the topic of monoethylene glycol (MEG) reclamation was raised by both Prosernat and BHS Sonthofen. Prosernat’s paper specifically focused on the successful configuration of a MEG recovery unit. BHS Sonthofen proposed the inclusion of a filtration step in the process, with the aim of preventing divalent salts, pipeline debris and oxidation products ending up in heat exchangers and jeopardising performance.


Young Professional Adam Jones, a Process Engineer with Costain, was the proud recipient of the Aungier Award at this year’s event. The award was made by Dawn Hartwell, daughter of the  originator of the award Bob Aungier, who was tragically killed in a car crash. The award is given annually for a Young Professional or student who presents an excellent paper discussing new developments in natural gas processing.

Jones commented on his achievement: “I am very proud of winning the Aungier award; it’s really satisfying to have the hard work of myself and my colleagues at Costain acknowledged by the wider industry.

“Presenting to an experienced group of industry colleagues can be a nerve wracking experience, particularly for Young Professional! It’s great that the GPAE choose to recognize the work of young professionals through its award; it provides a real incentive for young professionals to contribute to the development of both the industry and their own skills by writing and presenting technical papers.

“The GPAE is actively trying to encourage more young professionals into the industry and the Aungier award is a key part of this initiative, along with the organisation of specific young professional focused events”.

Looking forward

Next year’s Annual Meeting will be held in Florence on 16 – 18 September 2015. For more details contact

Written by Emma McAleavey.

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