Natural gas plant in works

Dave Gragg

A key component in developing the natural gas surrounding Tucumcari in the Tucumcari Basin will be the plant scheduled for construction south of town in the next few weeks.
That plant will remove the impurities — chiefly nitrogen — from the gas before sending it on its way to consumers.
“It’s a fairly simple process,” said Brian Powers, a spokesman for Kendall Energy. “You just make everything cold.”
Cold as in 295 degrees below zero.
Powers said a two-inch pipe is surrounded by 12 inches of insulation on each side for a total 26-inch pipe.
The plant is so concerned about heat loss that a single light bulb in the wrong place can throw off productivity, he said.
Of nearly 40 natural gas plants in the United States, more than half don’t work right, Powers said.
One plant took more than a year to get operational, and it still experienced problems, he said.
But the Tucumcari plant will be different because it is modeled after one of the plants that does work, Powers said. The key to the plant is its brazed aluminum heat exchanger, which is guaranteed to meet specifications every time.
“We’re really happy, because we know it will work,” he said.
The plant will also feature a detailed instrumentation package, he said. “It’s an engineer’s dream. … If there’s a hiccup in the deal, the engineer will be able to find it.”
Depending on how much nitrogen is in the raw natural gas, phase one of the plant will process an estimated 18 million cubic feet of natural gas, he said. The brazed aluminum exchanger will be able to handle between 3 percent and 40 percent nitrogen. The plant will be mostly automated, so will probably only employ two people, he said.
But phase two will be much larger, processing closer to 50 mcf a day (with an average nitrogen content of 20 percent) and employ 10 full-time people, plus contract labor.
The larger phase two will be a scaled up version of phase one, so should be just as reliable, Powers said.
The plant will also allow for another company to add on to recover the helium found in the Tucumcari Basin and piping natural gas byproducts to a fractionalization plant in Hobbs.
“This is quite a plant — quite a feat,” Powers said.
CKG Energy, which is digging natural gas wells and building a pipeline, brought in the Houston-based Kendall Energy said CKG’s Rick Partain.
Powers said Kendall was already familiar with the area, since they had investigated taking over the city of Tucumcari’s ethanol plant outside of town before deciding it was not feasible.

Tucumcari Basin
The Tucumcari Basin covers an area of approximately 6,000 square miles. It sits astride Interstate 40 between Santa Rosa and the New Mexico-Texas state line, extends north into San Miguel County and south as far as Fort Sumner

The oil and gas are generated from the remains of organisms, chiefly plants and algae, trapped within the sediments when they were deposited millions of years ago.

— source: Horizons 2002 — A publication of NMT’s Research and Economic Development Division.