Chemical Potential of Triethylene Glycol Adsorbed on Surfaces Relevant to Gas Transport and Processing – Studies Using Molecular Dynamics Simulations

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Richard Olsen, Sara Sjöblom, Kim Nes Leirvik, Bjørn Kvamme and Tatiana Kuznetsova, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
Natural gas will inevitably contain trace amounts of water and other impurities during different stages of processing and transport. Glycols, such as triethylene glycol (TEG), will in many cases follow the water. The glycol contents of the gas can originate from preceding glycol-drying units or it can be a residue from the direct injection of glycols used to prevent hydrate formation. Thus, it is important to know how glycol contents will affect the different paths leading to hydrate formation. Glycols may in some cases dominate the condensed water phase. If this occurs, it will lead to the well-documented shift in the hydrate stability curve, due to the altered activity of the water. A great deal of information on the molecular path of a glycol through the system can be obtained from calculating the chemical potential. Due to difficulties in measuring interfacial chemical potentials, these often need to be estimated using theoretical tools.

We used molecular dynamics (MD) to study how TEG behaves in the vicinity of mineral surfaces such as calcite and hematite. Many methods exist for estimating chemical potentials based on MD trajectories. These include techniques such as free energy perturbation theory (FEP) and thermodynamic integration (TI). Such methods require sufficient sampling of configurations where free energy is to be estimated. Thus, it can be difficult to estimate chemical potentials on surfaces. There are several methods to circumvent this problem, such as blue moon sampling and umbrella sampling. These have been considered and the most important have been used to estimate chemical potentials of TEG adsorbed on the mineral surfaces. The resulting chemical potentials were compared to the chemical potential of TEG in bulk water, which was estimated using temperature thermodynamic integration.