With the depletion of gas reserves, the increase in commercial demand and the rising cost of natural gas, alternatives for a reliable, safe, economical and efficient method for preheating produced fluids in heater treaters is sought. A case history on the performance of an electric immersion heater versus a conventional gas firetube is presented under similar pumping and climatic conditions. The immersion heater uses the principle of resistive type of heating (thermal energy). Some advantages of using electric immersion heater's are:

  1. They help reduce the possibility of fire or explosion hazards since there are no open flames. Explosion-proof units are available if required.

  2. They eliminate all inconveniences created by the pilot light blowing out in a gas-fired vessel thus requiring the fluid to be rerun through the treater.

  3. By the removal of selected in-line fuses, the quantity of heat can easily be adjusted to the requirement of the job (from the minimum to maximum unit capacity), giving a flexibility that cannot be obtained from the gas fired unit.

  4. Existing gas-fired heater treaters can be easily retrofitted with an electric immersion heater.

The test showed the cost of electric heating to be directly competitive with the cost of gas treating in one of Amoco's operated West Texas fields. In areas where residue gas is sold for a higher price (over $0.50 per MCF), the fuel cost difference might strongly favor the electric heating element. The heating element would have immediate application in areas where treater gas has to be purchased from a utility or is not available at all, and in areas where it is impossible or undesirable to make daily checks of gas-fired treaters.

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