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Efficiency and heat losses of indirect water bath heater


installed in natural gas pressure reduction station;
evaluating a case study in Iran

1.Ebrahim Khalili, 2. Esmaeil Heybatian

1. Researcher of National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC)
2. General director of Shahrekord Gas Company
Corresponding Author E-mail:khalili@nigc-chbgas.ir




Abstract
Indirect fired water heaters are typically used to raise the temperature of fluids such
as natural gas. Without heaters, gas freezing (because of Joule-Thomson effect) can
occur, while it is passing through the pressure reduction installation, damaging valves
and instrumentation, or even causing gas supply interruption.
At present, water-bath heater is widespread used for gas industry to heat the natural
gas. Its large size, the need for water reposition, its low thermal efficiency and large
heat losses from flue gas (exhaust) are the main operational problems of the
traditional equipment.
In this paper energy calculations in all parts of a typical heater have been considered.
Then main energy losses, specially from chimney was calculated and then the heater
efficiency was obtained.
As a case study, one city gate station (CGS) located in Shahrekord city with nominal
capacity of 120,000 SCMH has been considered. Based on statistical data collected
from station during one year, calculations showed that more than 38% of combustion
energy will be lost through the stack and into the ambient. It also has been observed
that about 2% of losses is from the heater surfaces. The heater efficiency of this test
case is less than 47%. The total energy losses from stack and surfaces in the year
under study were 4667Gj and overall gas consumption for burners was 411000m
which approximately costs about 137000$.

Keywords: Energy losses, gas pressure reduction station, Stack losses, efficiency









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Fig.1: Typical configuration of water bath heater


Fundamental of combustion and heat losses
The process of the combustion in the fire tube heater is supposed to be a steady
state process at a constant pressure and all gases are ideal. Natural gas is a
complex multi component mixture of a number of saturated hydrocarbons: methane,
ethane, propane, and butane and its isomers. Nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, helium,
argon, water vapor, and other components are contained in small amounts in natural
gases. The analysis of natural gas from the test case location is shown in table 1
[1,2].

Table 1: Volumetric Analysis Of Natural Gas (Shahrekord Station-Iran)
Constituent Percent by volume
Methane (
4
CH ) 89%
Ethane (
2 6
C H ) 4.1%
Propane (
3 8
C H ) 1.2%
Nitrogen (
2
N ) 5%
Carbon dioxide
2
CO 0.7%

Considering above compositions, gives us a density of 0.717 kg/m and the heat
value of 8400 kcal/m for natural gas in the station. By thermo-dynamical calculations
we determined the exact value of the constant-pressure specific heat of natural gas,
as a function of temperature[3]:
Pmix i p i
c = X c

(1)
Where parameter
i
X represents the mass fraction of constituent and
p i
c is its specific
heat. Substitution the related values for fuel gives:
-3 -7 2 -10 3
( / . ) 1.07 3.22 10 3.89 10 - 5.55 10
P
c kj kg K T T T

= + + (2)
where T varies from

250 K<T<1200 K.

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To ensure complete combustion, even modern equipment with many features must
operate with excess air. Also for simplicity we supposed the methane as combustion
fuel so the general equation of combustion reaction of this hydrocarbon fuel and air is
written as[3]:
a b 2 2 2
2 2 2 2
C H +A(a+b/4)(O +3.76N +4.761.61H O)
b
aCO +[ +4.761.61A(a+b/4)]H O+(A-1)(a+b/4)O +3.76A(a+b/4)N
2

(3)
Where parameter A represents equivalence ratio shows the percentage of excess air
with respect to the theoretical air. The parameter is the amount of humidity ratio of
the ambient air (combustion air). Excess air wastes energy by carrying heat up the
stack. Regarding the 50% excess air and the humidity ratio of 0.005 (based on site
condition), the equation of combustion will be:
4 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
CH +3O +11.28N +0.1149H O CO +2.1149H O+O +11.28N (4)

Again for determining the specific heat for combustion product (flue gases) we have:
2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
P CO CO H O H O N N O O
c =X Cp +X Cp +X Cp +X Cp (5)

With substitution exact value of mass fractions and specific heats the above formula
is rewritten as:
-4 -7 2 -10 3
( / . ) 1.085 1.722 10 6.67 10 - 3.11 10
P
c kj kg K T T T

= + (6)

In a water bath fired tube heater, the main losses are: dry flue gas loss,
stack
E

and
radiation or surface convection loss,
surf
E

[4].
Considering the water bath heater as a control volume, the energy conservation law
is:
Fuel losses NG stack surf NG
E E E E E E = + = + +

(7)

Where
NG
E

is the amount of heat absorbed by the natural gas to increase its


temperature.

Required energy for heating the natural gas
To determine
NG
E

, using the first law of thermodynamic neglecting the potential and


kinetic energies, we use the following relation:
( )
out
in
T
NG NG out in NG P
T
E m h h m c dT = =

(8)
Where:
NG
m = mass flow rate of natural gas through the station (kg/s)
h = enthalpy of the natural gas at the inlet and outlet of the heater (kj/kg.K)

Stack Losses for Natural Gas
Calculating stack losses for heater using natural gas containing no sulfur and fired
with negligible CO and hydrocarbons, was done. In the process of combustion the

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hydrogen content of the fuel is converted to H2O which normally leaves the stack as
water vapor carrying with it the heat required to convert it from liquid to vapor [5].
If a sulphur-free fuel gas is used with uninsulated stacks, a minimum exit flue gas
temperature of 250F should be maintained to avoid internal stack corrosion [6]. The
stack losses is calculated as:

( )
,
, ,
( )
m o
T T
Stack products out in products P P
Tm i Tm o
E m h h m c dT c dT

= = +

(9)

Where
products
m refers to mass flow rate of combustion products and
, m i
T ,
, m o
T stands
for the mean temperature at the inlet and outlet of the stack. Using formulas related
to the internal flow (inside the stack pipe) and external flow (outside the stack pipe),
the dependence of other parameters is shown bellow [8]:

,
,
exp
m o S
m i p
T T UA
T T mc

| |
= |
|

(10)
Where:
2 1
2 1
( / ) 1 1 1
2 2 2
t
w i S
Ln r r
R
r Lh k L r Lh UA

= = + +

(11)
and:
T

= ambient temperature
, m i
T = mean temperature of flue gases at the stack entrance
, m o
T = mean temperature of flue gases at the stack outlet
m = flue gases (combustion product) flow rate
p
c = specific heat of flue gases (combustion product)
L= stack height

Also for external flow over the stack wall (outside the stack pipe), the Nusselt
Number based on Churchill and Bernstein formula is [8]:

4/ 5
5/ 8
1/ 2 1/ 3
1/ 4
2/ 3
0.62Re Pr Re
0.3 1
282000
0.4
1
Pr
D D
D Nu
(
| |
= + + + (
|
\
( (

| |
+
(
|
\
(

(12)
Where Re and Pr stand for Reynolds and Prandtl Numbers respectively.

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Fig. 2: Schematic chimney stack internal and external flow

Surface losses from heater vessel
To obtain the heat losses from heater walls (
surf
E

), the internal heater wall


temperature was supposed to be equal to the water bath temperature [7] so the
equation will be:
-
1
w amb
surf
steel wool Al
steel steel wool wool Al Al air heater
T T
E
x x x
K A K A K A h A
=
+ + +

(13)

Where:
x =thickness (m)
k = conductivity ( / w mK )
A= surface vertical to the heat transfer direction (
2
m )
h = heat transfer coefficient (
2
/ w m K )
w
T =the temperature of water bath (inner wall of heater)
amb
T =the ambient temperature of air ( C ).
Since Shahrekord Station is considered as a case test so related parameters are [1]:
steel
t =1cm,
steel
k =43w/mK,
wool
t =3cm,
wool
k =0.039w/mK,
Al
t =1mm,
Al
k =250w/mK.
Based on the climate condition, the average wind velocity at the station is about 6m/s
and the convection heat transfer coefficient (external flow) was calculated 23 w/mK.
The efficiency of the water bath heater is based on bellow formula [7]:
( )
fuel losses fuel surf stack
NG
heater
fuel fuel fuel
E E E E E
E output
input E E E

+
= = = =


(14)






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Results and Discussion
Considering the above mentioned relations and assumptions, a case study namely
Shahrekord CGS was considered. It should be noticed that during a year, some
statistical parameters has been measured from the heater by installing appropriate
devices such as thermometer, pressure gage and gas flow meter. These parameters
are: station gas flow rate, heater inlet and outlet temperatures, burner flow rate, stack
inlet temperature and ambient temperature.
Fig.4 shows the monthly gas flow rate variation in one year in this station. Also Fig.5
shows the stack losses and also required energy to heat the gas before reducing its
pressure from nominal pressure 1000 psi to 250 psi. During hot months (from May till
August) the heater will be off. Other details and results of the calculations are shown
in Table 2. The results shows the maximum temperature as 476C from heater output
(stack inlet) which severely wastes the energy. The efficiency of the heater is
averagely less than 47% which isnt remarkable. Nowadays there is more than
90000 MMSCM (Million Standard Cubic Meter) gas consumption in domestic division
in Iran that contains one-third of total consumption. Also there are a thousands
indirect water bath heaters that operate with low efficiency. It should be profitable to
install high efficiency heaters to achieve the goal without wasting a lot of energies.
The common problem of these heaters is that their efficiency is low between 30% to
60% [4,5]. Stack losses can be minimized by reducing excess air which reduces the
quantity of flue gas that is heated to exhaust temperature and by reducing the
exhaust temperature. The latter can be accomplished by adding heat exchange
surface such as economizers and air heaters. The former can be accomplished by
improving burner performance through burner design or precise combustion controls
[7].

Fig.3: Indirect water bath heater located in Shahrekord Station, Iran






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Fig. 4: Monthly gas flow in Shahrekord gas reduction station (MCM= Million Cubic Meter)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
1600
1800
E
n
e
r
g
y

(
G
j
)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Gas Preheating
Stack Losses

Fig. 5: Comparison between required energy for gas preheating and the stack losses

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Table 2: Case study results of gas heater located in Shahrekord City Gate Station
Month
Station gas
flow (m)
heater inlet
temperature
(C)
heater inlet gas
pressure (psi)
heater outlet
temperature
(C)
burners
gas flow
(m/h)
Stack inlet
temperature
(C)
preheating
( )
NG
E Gj


Stack
losses
( )
stack
E Gj


Surface
losses
( )
surf
E Gj


Heater
Efficiency
(%)
Average
Ambient
Temp.
(C)
Jan 39,720,000 8 702 35.7 115 367 1609 768.5 72.34 52.0% 10.3
Feb 37,800,000 6.8 694 38.7 158 476 1766 1416.3 83.82 43.2% 8.5
Mar 23,142,000 7.1 707 35.1 74 438 946 560.2 29.27 48.8% 13.7
Apr 14,880,000 11 718 32.0 36 427 456 303.7 14.29 47.2% 15.2
May 9,393,000 15 725 21.0
Jun 5,889,000 18.2 728 27.5
Jul 5,068,500 17.3 731 29.6
Aug 4,929,000 19.4 737


25.4
Sep 5,053,000 19.6 780 29.8 11 453 76 54.4 1.42 46.4% 14.2
Oct 7,110,000 14 763 31.4 20 471 181 161.6 5.22 41.6% 12.8
Nov 22,560,000 12 740 33.5 55 398 710 439.5 15.10 48.8% 8.9
Dec 32,850,000 10 720 36.3 94 381 1266 702.3 40.18 50.4% 5.1













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References
[1] Data Sheets, taken from Shahrekord Gas Pressure Reduction Station
[2] Statistical Reports, National Iranian Gas Company, www.nigc.ir
[3]R.E. Sonntag, C. Borgnakke, G.J.Van Wylen, Fundamental Of
Thermodynamics, Six Edition, 2002
[4] W. Angelo, M. H. Mantelli, F. H. Milanez; Design of a heater for natural gas
stations, 14th International Heat Pipe Conference; Florianopolis, Brazil, 2007
[5] Hang-Yen Fang; Development and performance measurement and
modelling of packed-bed fire tube heater; A dissertation in chemical
engineering submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Texas Tech University, for
the degree of doctorate; 1984
[6] Specification for Indirect Type Oilfield Heaters; API Specification, 12K,
eight edition, October 2008
[7] Measurement and augmentation of burners at indirect water bath heater in
gas city gate stations; National Iranian gas companys reports; 2010
[8] Frank P. Incropera, David P. De Witt, Introduction to heat transfer, third
edition, 2001