Taming Crude Behavior: Understanding production additives – Part 3

ByMark D. Halloran

Two common oilfield areas that stand to benefit directly from incorporative additive technology are production wells (upstream) and storage tanks (midstream).

Keen to Commercialize
Enrique Muñoz Pinilla, CEO of Los Angeles-based Oil Flux Americas, LLC, (www.oilfluxamericas.com) says his company’s suite of 15 incorporative oil additives became commercially available in mid-2014, after several years of focused research, development and testing. He adds that the decision to create the new formulations was fueled by what he calls “an unprecedented demand for alternatives to the economic and environmental perils of hexane-based solvents.”

“The oil industry is being pressured as never before from both regulatory and profit perspectives, due to what author Allen Brooks describes as the ‘capital cost/commodity price/investor return trifecta,’” says Muñoz. “And although new engineering and mechanical technology is helping to find and squeeze more out of the crude that’s being discovered and extracted, there are still a great many ‘pinch points’ in the crude oil production and flow stream process where speed and efficiency are being hampered because additive technology just hasn’t kept up. With the anionic/non-ionic formulations becoming available, I believe that’s about to change. The industry is beginning to recognize that the crude it already has in the production lines is cheaper than the crude it hasn’t extracted yet.”

Muñoz adds that this shift in mindset has been underscored by Berkshire Hathaway’s recent purchase of Lubrizol and Phillips 66 specialty chemical additive business – a move that complements its earlier purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s rail tanker business. BNSF uses large amounts of specialty chemical additives for cleaning and flow stream fluidification to keep its immense fleet of crude oil rail cars running.

The “pinch points” Muñoz references are very specific areas of the production process in which the crude’s resistance to easy, uninterrupted flow can pose serious profitability roadblocks. See table 1. for a detailed description of these areas and information about how incorporative additives are being used to overcome the roadblocks.

Oil Flux Americas, like the handful of other production additive manufacturers currently offering incorporative technology, believes the formulations are “next-generation alternatives” to hexanes, condensates, polymers or natural plant products, and that they will ultimately help professionals tasked with managing crude wring more profit out of their processes.

Part Of The Plan
Oil Flux Americas, like the handful of other production additive manufacturers currently offering incorporative technology, believes the formulations are “next-generation alternatives” to hexanes, condensates, polymers or natural plant products, and that they will ultimately help professionals tasked with managing crude wring more profit out of their processes. But Muñoz warns that any chemical – incorporative or evaporative – should be part of a carefully considered plan. He says he encourages prospective customers to take these simple steps before finalizing their own additive strategy:

Step 1.) Identify the physical problem area, problem actor and problem result. For example:

i. Problem area: production well clogging due to loss of fluid flow. Problem actor: wax/paraffin/asphaltene. Problem result: causing increased costs due to increased pressure and heating required.
ii. Reduced flow and possible environmental blow out/spills causing increased costs and HSE problems.
iii. Flow stream dewatering to eliminate increased costs due to pumping more fluids than necessary, or reduced flow and possible environmental blow-out.
iv. Flow stream cleaning causing increased costs and HSE problems.
v. New HSE regulatory issues creating new problem areas, actors and results.

Step 2.) Involve operational, financial and HSE executives to list the physical problem area, problem actor and problem result, then list available solution costs as well as operational and HSE consequences.

Step 3.) Secure lab tests to ensure efficacy.

Step 4.) Create a comparative analysis of cost vs. efficacy vs. undesirable outcomes that might result from using and/or not using one solution vs. another.

“Such analysis is crucial if you’re hoping to arrive at a plan that gets you the most from each additive you choose,” Muñoz says. “Your plan might consist of a mix of traditional and new (incorporative/non-evaporative) additive technologies, or it might rely completely on just one type. But you won’t really know what’s going to be most effective until you do the legwork.”

The typical state of an oil well in which no production additives have been used during the extraction phase.

The typical state of an oil well in which no production additives have been used during the extraction phase. Buildup of asphaltene and paraffin in the bore and on the head impede the efficient flow of crude. Right, the same well bore and head as treated with new incorporative/non-evaporative production additives, which can offer improved performance over traditional hexane-based solvents without HSE concerns.

An illustration of how water in a flow station without production additive remains mixed with the crude, causing process slowdowns.

An illustration of how water in a flow station without production additive remains mixed with the crude, causing process slowdowns. Right, the same flow station treated with a low dosage (0.1% to 0.5% by volume) of an incorporative/non-evaporative demulsifying additive that reduces the emulsified water content of the crude to meet refinery standards.
Images courtesy of OilFlux Americas, LLC. www.oilfluxamericas.com

This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.

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