The height and diameter of an atmospheric separator are critical dimensions which affect the volume of gas and fluid the separator can efficiently handle. As the mud and gas mixture enters the separator, the operating pressure is atmospheric plus pressure due to friction in the gas vent line. The vertical distance for the inlet to the static fluid level allows time for additional gas break-out and provides an allowance for the fluid to rise somewhat during the operation to overcome friction loss in the mud outlet lines.
The gas-fluid inlet should be located approximately at the midpoint of the vertical height. This provides the top half for a gas chamber and the bottom half for gas separation and fluid retention. The 30 in. diameter and 16 ft minimum vessel height requirements have proven adequate to handle the majority of gas kicks. The separator inlet should have at least the same ID as the largest line from the choke manifold which is usually 4 in. Some separators use tangential inlet, which creates a small centrifugal effect on the gas-fluid mixture which causes faster gas break-out.
The baffle system causes the mud to flow in thin sheets which assists the separation process. There are numerous arrangements and shapes of baffles used. It is important that each plate be securely welded to the body of the separator with angle braces.