The Thermosludge Water Treating and Steam Generation Process
- R.J. Hull (Gas Processors, Inc.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1967
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,537 - 1,540
- 1967. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion, 4.3.4 Scale, 4.6 Natural Gas, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment
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The Thermosludge process internally softens and makes high-pressure steam directly from hard and saline oilfield or other water. Pilot plant and early full-scale plant work established several physical and chemical principles found necessary or desirable for good operation, and for control and practical elimination of scale on the process heating surfaces. These principles are use of a secondary liquid heat transfer medium, provision of time and space for water chemical reactions ahead of the boiling zone, and presence of sludged reaction products throughout the boiling zone. Other pertinent factors are discussed such as dissolved and suspended solids limits, foaming, corrosion, and heat transfer.
In 1964 considerable use of steam in California oil fields was beginning to cause shortages of good steam generator feedwater in some areas. It seemed evident that in some situations oilfield brine or other low-quality water would have to be used to generate high-pressure steam directly. The Thermosludge process was developed to meet this need, and early results of its field use have been reported previously. This article discusses both pilot plant and full-scale plant design and operation particularly relative to the high-temperature reactions and scaling characteristics of some of the chemicals present in the waters.
Present understanding of the process should allow broader use in its original field, and in other processing areas dealing with difficult waters.
Pilot Plant Design and Operation
After considerable study of chemical and engineering factors involved, a pilot plant program was set up. Three main theories or principles believed to lead to successful operation were followed in the pilot plant design and the same principles were carried into the full-scale plant design.
First, heat should be applied via a secondary fluid heat transfer medium rather than directly in a combustion space. Relative to direct-fired beating, the secondary fluid heating guarantees that maximum tube wall temperature will be well within the allowable metal temperature limit regardless of local scaling or salting up. Many situations call for soluble salt in the steam generator in concentrations of as much as 15 percent by weight perhaps half of the limiting solubility. Even if conventional tube scaling were somehow entirely prevented, such situations would require the inherent heat flux control of a secondary heat medium to prevent gross fouling and plugging by salt deposits.
Second, means should be provided in terms of high-temperature time and volume to preheat and chemically react the feedwater before it enters the boiling zone. The practicality of this is based on the expectation that thermally induced mineral sludging reactions will proceed much faster and more completely in the 350 to 600F environment than, for example, in the conventional lime-soda process. Thus, the feedwater should be entirely softened by the time it arrives at the boiling zone.
Third, the sludged reaction products generally should be present in good supply in the process in general, and in the boiling zone in particular. There is no general agreement of theory on the exact mechanism and degree of scaling at boiling surfaces; however, it is desirable to have an ample supply of nuclei for crystal growth away from the boiling heat transfer surface itself.
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