Heavy crude oils and diluted Bitumen ( DilBit ) continue to be a challenge to dehydrate and desalt for the Oil & Gas Industry. These challenges include reduced crude oil / formation water density difference, higher crude oil viscosity and often smaller water droplets due the production techniques used for heavy crude oil production.

The traditional remedy to the above challenges often leads to high operating temperatures, large dosages of demulsifier chemicals, equipment fouling, production upsets and use of very large treaters. This leads to both higher operating expenditure ( OPEX ) as well as higher capital expenditure ( CAPEX ).

Other challenges include higher crude oil conductivity and increased crude oil emulsion viscosity formed by higher water cuts. Typically crude oil dehydration vessels use heat, retention time and AC type electrostatic dehydration technology. The AC technology produces limited voltage gradients and is not efficient for treating conductive crude oils, leading to the use of very large vessels and power units. For AC technology, the use of lower voltage gradient may be preferred.

The use of combined AC / DC electrostatic technologies provides high bulk water removal efficicency in the weaker AC field combined with higher removal efficiency of small water droplets in the stronger DC field. Further improvements include amplitude modulated electrostatic fields, high frequency AC fields, improved electrode configurations as well as improved fluid distribution inside the electrostatic treaters.

More efficient dehydration and desalting processes provide potential for operating the treaters and desalters at lower operating temperatures and reduced dosage of demulsifier chemicals, in addition to the potential for using smaller treaters.

This paper describes potential lowered OPEX for crude oil dehydration and desalting processes, using advanced electrostatic dehydration technologies, efficient test methods for optimized use of production chemicals and selection of electrostatic technologies, including case studies.

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