Condensate Refining

The need for condensate refining capacity for both petrochemical and splitter pre-treatment units is on the increase. A condensate is one of the two groups making up natural gas liquids. Initially, the condensate trade was a specialty commercial affair, but today it has shifted to the mainstream of refining and base petrochemicals. Refining on the other hand is the process of making a substance, in this case, the natural gas, pure. A condensate splitter is a distillation tower that allows the light materials to move to the top of the tower while the heavy ones to remain at the bottom.

Note that there will always be lights in the heavy stream and no lights in the light stream, although the amount of light will be determined by how the condensate refining tower is designed and how the operator is operating it. Reasons for having a condensate refining splitter are equally determined by how you wish to use it. Perhaps you have a vapor pressure spec on the natural gas and want to draw off some of the light products to attain the required specification.

Note that this is also determined by where you wish to transport the end product to. Natural gas can be used as a feedstock for a reformer to refine gasoline. A reformer will typically function well using heavy materials, since lighter ones just use up space in the system which can be utilized by the heavy materials. As such, one may want to get rid of the natural light materials off the natural gas to increase the resulting total production of gasoline from the refinery.

As mentioned, because condensate is a by-product of natural gasoline, once condensate refining process is complete, it has to be marketed and sold either separately or if Crude is available, it can be sold as a spike product. The same way crude is different, so is condensate, hence condensate refining processes may vary. Some refiners use ethylene crackers and don't split it, while others utilize their own unique refining scheme.

A condensate refiner that has a condensate splitter will not need any secondary treatment unit unless one is using very low sulfur diesel. In most cases, condensate refining splitters will produce Naphtha for a petrochemical refining plant by refining little amounts of feed compared to when crude distillation takes place in the crude distillation column. Be advised though that Naphthas from condensate refining can be very paraffinic.

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