Advanced science.  Applied technology.


Vessel for High-Pressure Test Section, 18-R8987

Principal Investigator
Inclusive Dates 
08/21/19 to 11/21/20


There are many types of gas-liquid separation devices used in oil and gas production, gas transmission pipelines, chemical processing, and other industries. Much of the development work for these devices has been supported by tests at low pressure and using simple model fluids, such as air and water. There is a strong need to test devices and conduct research at more field-like pressure conditions using field-like fluids, such as natural gas and oils. SwRI performs these more realistic types of tests in the Multiphase Flow Facility (MFF). In the past few years, customers who have utilized the MFF have expressed a desire to test gas-dominated separation equipment and flow meters at flow rates much higher than the MFF can supply and with liquid volume fractions (LVFs) greater than other test facilities at SwRI.

One such facility, the Metering Research Facility (MRF), has a much greater gas flow capacity than the MFF. Unfortunately, market forces in the gas transmission industry have caused some of the testing needs of that industry to move away from the dry gas capabilities of the MRF. So, by adding a wet gas handling capability to the MRF, SwRI can provide our customers with greater capabilities to test gas-liquid separation, wet gas flow meters, and perform research on the effects of wet gas flows on pipeline and process industry hardware.


The main focus of the design effort for this facility improvement was the unique pressure vessel that will be used as the main test section for gas-liquid separation hardware. This PDIR project was conducted to design a vessel to meet the design requirement described above. This design was accomplished primarily by the staff of the Structural Engineering Department in the Mechanical Engineering Division.


The pressure vessel has the following features:

  • The maximum operating pressure is 1,440 psig at temperatures up to 120°F.

  • The vessel can be separated at its midpoint to allow installation of test articles with a maximum facial dimension of 40 inches transverse to the flow direction.

  • The vessel has internal brackets to mount equipment for conditioning the flow into the separation equipment test articles.

  • There are multiple nozzles to allow access for liquid injection piping, ports for flow visualization, and other measurement devices.

  • The vessel will serve as the primary separator for other wet-gas pipeline test articles that are placed upstream of the vessel.

  • The vessel was designed in accordance with ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section VIII.

The design work on the vessel, depicted in Figure 1, is complete and the fabrication of the vessel is currently underway. It will be operational in January 2021, when it will be used for a test of a vane-type separation device for the Separation Technology and Research (STAR) Program.