In recent years, as E&P companies have become more efficient at developing unconventional shale resources, the demand for midstream/processing solutions that enable operators to deliver oil and gas to market quickly and cost-effectively has increased significantly. Implementing modular designs at cryogenic gas plants offers a number of benefits over the traditional “stick-built” approach to help achieve that, three of which are outlined below.
Increased Flexibility – Modular designs can be configured to process a wide range of gas compositions. This is particularly advantageous for facilities in shale plays, where newly drilled wells can create variability in the primary feed to the plant. The flexibility offered by modular designs is also advantageous in that it allows operators to begin developing their cryogenic facility before specific pressure, volume, and temperature (PVT) data from wells is known. Later in the development process, as more data on the reservoir is obtained, additional modularized equipment specific to the process can be installed. If priorities change during the actual operation of the plant, modules can be quickly swapped in and out to meet new processing objectives.
Reduced Development Time – Speed is critical in the NGL business. The typical timeline for a “stick-built” cryogenic gas plant is anywhere from two to three years. In the modular design process, on the other hand, front-end engineering design (FEED) and procurement can take place simultaneously, which significantly reduces the project schedule and accelerates time to first oil (or gas). Because modules arrive onsite skid-mounted and preassembled, field constructability time is also reduced.
Improved Quality– One benefit of modularization that many operators fail to consider is the improvement in both the quality and reliability of the plant and its equipment. Because modules are fabricated offsite in a controlled facility, quality can be closely monitored. In many instances, modular elements are ready for factory acceptance testing (FAT) immediately after they are assembled, which reduces commissioning requirements. Additionally, by having assembly take place at an offsite location, operators ensure access to the specialized manpower needed to build and inspect gas plant components. This is becoming increasingly important, as the unique skills that these personnel offer can sometimes be difficult to cost-effectively secure.