Vaporizer

It’s 10 am on a Monday.  You’re in your office and you just found the bottom of your desk.  Your serviceman calls and lays this bit of information on you, “Hey boss, this vaporizer system is making oil and has flooded thru the 2nd stage regulator.”  Your first reaction after choking on your coffee is “how did this happen?” Well, let’s go back to basics.

 

Propane is a resource that is acquired two ways:

  1. As a byproduct of the crude fracking process.
  2. Naturally occurring in underground natural gas pockets.

heavy ends

Either way it’s a petroleum based product. So, how does this oil foul up vaporizers, piping and our lives?  These oils are naturally blended with the propane and normally do not bother us in a natural vaporization system. If you have ever emptied a tank and de-valved it for scrap purposes you will also find oils known as “heavy ends" in the bottom of the tank.  If you heat propane in a vaporizer the heavy ends are going to become your nemesis. When you apply heat, the oils separate from the propane and get caught in the vapor stream. Provisions must be made to get rid of these oils.

What to Do?

Drip Leg Kit

Manufacturers recommend a drip-leg or a separator be installed downstream of the 1st stage regulator. Why downstream you ask?  Vaporizer manufacturers have determined that the oils will stay trapped in the vapor stream until you compress it down to a lower pressure.  At this point the oils drop out of the vapor stream and heads for the piping system. If you don’t make provisions to catch this oil then it will head for your first stage piping, and quite possibly into the building. Now you have a bigger mess to deal with.  Trust me, if you have ever had to deal with heavy ends, they make the backside of a skunk seem pleasant!!

So this is why we’re going back to basics. When you install your vaporizer let’s remember to do a few things.

  1. Make sure you are using a new tank. If you use a tank that was once in service you will have accumulated heavy ends in that tank. However, there are products to treat these tanks if you plan on recycling them.
  2. Install the first stage regulator at the same level, or higher, than the vapor outlet of the vaporizer. This will allow any oils to drain back to the vaporizer.
  3. Install your scrubber at least 10 pipe diameters after the outlet of the first stage regulator.

Now that you have installed your vaporizer, regulator and scrubber you probably think that all is going to be hunky dory until next year when you go back to perform your yearly maintenance. Guess again!! I recommend going back within the first 2 to 4 weeks to check for oil.  This can be done by opening up the drip leg on the vaporizer burner regulator.  Be sure to check for oil in the scrubber too.

Depending on the quality of the gas you are getting you may find no oil, a little oil or a fair size quantity of oil. What you find will help you to determine the maintenance schedule for your vaporizer. A key point to remember is that if oils get into the vaporizer control it will have to be changed. If you are noticing more oil than you feel comfortable with in the vaporizer regulator drip leg you can always disconnect the tubing that connects the vaporizer to the burner regulator, cap it and then reroute the gas to the regulator from one of the supply tanks service valves. 50 feet of k type tubing is much cheaper than replacing a vaporizer control.

Another Scenario

There is another scenario that can come back to haunt you that I have seen in the past. You send a crew out to empty some tanks at a customer location or the yard with your compressor and bobtail. After you’re done what do you do?  You send them to dump the gas into one of your larger users, but don’t empty that into a vaporizer system!!!!!!  All the heavy ends/oils are now going into that system and will muck everything up. Trust me, it took a dealer 3 days to empty out eight 2,000 gallon tanks, treat them and get them back online.

If you need to treat the tanks, there are different products out there to help. One is the Pro 2000-V from a company called World Resources LTD. Another product out there is called Vapoclean from ATI industries out in Illinois. Both products will help reduce oils in the bottom of your tanks.

As noted earlier, oils are in the propane supply, but by utilizing the proper installation techniques and periodically maintaining the unit, you can tame this issue and keep your vaporizers running in top notch condition.

If you need further assistance please feel free to call Tarantin Industries at 800-922-0724 and we will be able to help you work through your problem.



 

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