Glycol dehydration is a liquid desiccant system for the removal of water from natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL). It is the most common and economic means of water removal from these streams. Glycols typically seen in industry include triethylene glycol (TEG), diethylene glycol (DEG), ethylene glycol (MEG), and tetraethylene glycol (TREG). TEG is the most commonly used glycol in industry.
An example process flow diagram for this system is shown below:
PurposeThe purpose of a glycol dehydration unit is to remove water from natural gas and natural gas liquids. When produced from a reservoir, natural gas usually contains a large amount of water and is typically completely saturated or at the water dew point. This water can cause several problems for downstream processes and equipment. At low temperatures the water can either freeze in piping or, as is more commonly the case, form hydrates with CO2 and hydrocarbons (mainly methane hydrates). Depending on composition, these hydrates can form at relatively high temperatures plugging equipment and piping. Glycol dehydration units depress the hydrate formation point of the gas through water removal.
Without dehydration, a free water phase (liquid water) could also drop out of the natural gas as it is either cooled or the pressure is lowered through equipment and piping. This free water phase will contain some portions of acid gas (such as H2S and CO2) and can cause corrosion.
For the above two reasons the Gas Processors Association sets out a pipeline quality specification for gas that the water content should not exceed 7 pounds per million cubic feet .  Glycol dehydration units must typically meet this specification at a minimum, although further removal may be required if additional hydrate formation temperature depression is required, such as upstream of a cryogenic process or gas plant.