Effective critical constants for helium for use in equations of state for natural gas mixtures

Darren Rowland, Thomas Hughes, Eric May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Most of the world’s helium supply is obtained by the cryogenic distillation of natural gas. Modeling the distillation conditions requires equations of state capable of predicting vapor–liquid equilibria over wide ranges of conditions. Equations of state, including cubic equations and multiparameter Helmholtz models, depend on the critical properties of pure substances for predicting various properties of multicomponent fluid mixtures. Predictions for helium are problematic as its critical point (5.195 K, 0.2275 MPa) is influenced strongly by quantum effects; large, empirical interaction parameters tend to be used in equations of state to compensate for these effects. Prausnitz and co-workers proposed an alternative approach using effective critical constants for quantum gases but demonstrated it for only three helium-containing binary mixtures. Here, we demonstrate that the use of an effective critical point at (11.73 K, 0.568 MPa) for helium substantially improves the prediction of VLE by the Peng–Robinson equation of state for 15 binary and 2 ternary mixtures, including the major components of natural gas. This effective critical point for helium was selected from a critical analysis of pTxy data for the (methane + helium) binary. The effective critical constants for helium are compatible with an acentric factor near zero, as expected for a small spherical molecule and similar to the acentric factors of heavy noble gases. The possibility of applying this approach to address recognized limitations of the GERG-2008 equation of state is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2799–2811
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Chemical & Engineering Data
Issue number9
Early online date10 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2017


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