Why upgrade to a spherical sand separator? Vertical cyclonic sand separators have been around for years, and everyone is comfortable with them. That was the conventional wisdom we set out to challenge when we brought Sandtinel sand separators into the field in 2014. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about how cyclonic separators work – and what we’ve found is that just because one way of doing things is comfortable and familiar, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. In our newest study, we dig into the seven most important factors in sand separator performance and compare Sandtinel’s Vapor Lock spherical separators to the generic vertical cyclonic separators which have been on the job for decades.
Although they are widely used, vertical cyclonic separators really have two main advantages over other separator designs. First, it’s easy to remove sand from them, as you can simply open the drain line on the bottom. Second, they are easy and cost-effective to build for very high pressures, up to 10 ksi or even 15 ksi pressure ratings. These factors make them a convenient and low-cost option for sand removal. However, convenient and low-cost doesn’t necessarily translate into the separator’s real job, which is actually removing sand. In many cases, operators have had to stack two, three, or even larger numbers of cyclonic sand separators in front of each other to try to approach the effectiveness of a single high efficiency sand separator.
Sandtinel’s spherical sand separators were found to outperform cyclonic separators on four key performance criteria: sand removal efficiency, sand storage capacity, fugitive emissions release, and turndown operation at low flow rates. Vertical cyclonic separators were found to have a poor separation efficiency; in one featured trial in our study in the Permian basin, a downstream Sandtinel spherical separator actually caught more sand than an upstream cyclonic sand separator. The storage capacity of vertical cyclonic separators is sharply limited, requiring frequent dumping to remove accumulated sand. These frequent dumps also come with a cost: Sandtinel found a high fugitive emissions release during the dump stage of a vertical cyclone, between 2x and 55x more gas than is released during a comparable sand dump operation on a Sandtinel sphere. Vertical cyclones were also found to be vulnerable to turndown at low flow rates, dropping sharply in efficiency once the flow rate of a well fell below a critical threshold.
Just because vertical cyclonic sand separators are common, doesn’t make them a good choice for your well. As wells are seeing higher flowrates and sand sizes are getting smaller in recent years, sand separators are becoming an ever more important component of a successful flowback operation. You need a high efficiency sand separator which can keep up with the demands of the modern flowback and production environments – and the cyclones of 40 years ago aren’t cutting it anymore. Take a look at our newest comparison report where we dig into the specific improvements Sandtinel spherical sand separators bring to the field compared to generic vertical cyclones. Contact our sales staff today to see how Sandtinel’s separators can upgrade your flowback and production and save you on dangerous erosion, costly downtime, and unnecessary chargebacks.
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