Air drying is used after dewatering to dry a pipeline or piping facility before commissioning it with natural gas. This process typically involves blowing dehydrated air through the pipe sections until they are determined to be suitably dry. The question addressed in this paper is: how dry is dry? A common metric used to judge the pipe section’s dryness is the drying air’s outlet water dew point. Typically, air drying continues until a suitably dry low water dew point, such as −40°C, is measured at the outlet of the pipeline or facility. However, there is currently a lack of understanding of how this final outlet water dew point relates to the remaining water and thus the subsequent start up of the pipeline or facility. If the outlet water dew point is higher than required, issues may arise upon start up; e.g., hydrates could form along the pipeline or at downstream facilities. Conversely, if the outlet water dew point is lower than required, unnecessary time would have been spent in drying, and hence higher cost.
This paper advocates an approach to determine when air drying is complete that considers the start-up phase. The approach consists of two parts. In the first part, the air drying parameters (drying air flow rate, inlet water dew point, etc.) and the final outlet water dew point are used to quantify the volume and surface area of water remaining after the drying process is completed. In the second part, the evaporation of this water into the gas flowing through the pipeline/facility after commissioning and start up is modeled as a function of the gas flow rate, temperature, pressure and inlet water content. Then, the water content of the gas at the delivery points is calculated. This increase can then be evaluated in reference to the water content specifications at the delivery points. The approach is exemplified by a 31 km NPS 48 pipeline over a mountainous terrain.