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Oil emulsion prevention

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Emulsions are always a drain on the operating budget. It is almost impossible to eliminate emulsions during crude production; however, emulsion problems can be reduced and optimized by following good operating practices.

Operating practices

The following points should be included in operating practices.

  • Solids management. Fine solids stabilize emulsions, and efforts should be made to reduce solid contaminants during production. These solids include asphaltenes, which can be controlled by effective asphaltene management, dispersants, etc.; scales, which should be reduced by scale inhibitors; and waxes, which should be controlled with pour-point depressants or heating.
  • Reduction of corrosion products. These products can be reduced with effective corrosion inhibitors.
  • Acidization. Stimulation with acids can cause very tight emulsions; consequently, acid jobs should be designed with care, and their field performance should be reviewed. To avoid emulsion upsets, the acid job design should incorporate effective demulsifiers at relatively high concentrations, use mutual solvents, and minimize fines and precipitates during acidization.
  • Mixing or turbulence. Chokes and other devices such as pumps should be controlled to optimize shear and mixing. Degree of fluid mixing passing through these devices depend on the energy dissipation rate, i.e. how fast and in which volume this energy is introduced to the system. While a moderate amount of mixing is necessary and beneficial, severe mixing leads to tight emulsions or even re-emulsification after water separation. Another place to control mixing is in gas lift operations by injecting the optimum amount of gas.
  • Compatibility of chemicals. Increasingly, more chemicals are being used for improved oil recovery and crude processing. The chemical may be the source of the emulsion problem. Compatibility studies should be performed with the chemicals that are used during crude oil production (from the reservoir to the separation facilities), and their emulsion-forming tendencies should be evaluated.

Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Al-Ghamdi, A., & Kokal, S. (2003, January 1). Investigation of Causes of Tight Emulsions in Gas Oil Separation Plants. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Al-Ghamdi, A. M., Noïk, C., Dalmazzone, C. S. H., & Kokal, S. L. (2009, December 1). Experimental Investigation of Emulsion Stability in Gas/Oil Separation Plants. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Aziz, H. M. A., Darwish, S. F., & Abdeen, F. M. (2002, January 1). Downhole Emulsion Problem, The Causes and Remedy, Ras Budran Field. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Beetge, J. H., & Horne, B. (2008, September 1). Chemical-Demulsifier Development Based on Critical-Electric-Field Measurements. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Dalmazzone, C., Noik, C., & Komunjer, L. (2005, March 1). Mechanism of Crude-Oil/Water Interface Destabilization by Silicone Demulsifiers. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Husveg,  T., Bilstad, T., Guinee, P.G.A. et al. 2009 A Cyclone based Low Shear Valve for Enhanced Oil-Water Separation. Paper presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, Texas, USA, 4-7 May. OTC 20029.

Kokal, S., & Al-Juraid, J. (1998, January 1). Reducing Emulsion Problems By Controlling Asphaltene Solubility and Precipitation. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Kokal, S. L. (2005, February 1). Crude Oil Emulsions: A State-Of-The-Art Review. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Kokal, S. L., Al-Ghamdi, A., & Meeranpillai, N. S. (2007, March 1). An Investigative Study of Potential Emulsion Problems Before Field Development. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Opawale, A. (2009, January 1). Oilfield Emulsion Control: A Major Issue During Heavy Crude Oil Production. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Opawale, A. O., & Osisanya, S. O. (2013, March 23). Tool for Troubleshooting Emulsion Problems in Producing Oilfields. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Poindexter, M. K., Chuai, S., Marble, R. A., & Marsh, S. (2006, August 1). The Key to Predicting Emulsion Stability: Solid Content. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

External links

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See also

Oil emulsions