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V. N. Shvetsov and I. I. Kabirov UDC 665.622.43

The technology of desalting and processing crude oil with the use of washwater and
other reagents, regardless of the stand that is taken in explaining the essential features
of these processes ('!averaging" [i, 2] or "replacement" [3]), includes a stage of intro-
duction of washwater or reagent into the oil and mixing of the two phases. The process
also includes the coalescence of drops of residual brine and washwater, plus settling of
the enlarged drops. The efficiency of these processes depends greatly on the degree of
polydispersity of the water-in-oil emulsion that is formed. The highest efficiency is ob-
tained if the emulsion is monodisperse [i, 3].
Studies of the drop size distribution of W/O emulsions taken from crude oil pretreat-
ing units in the desalting stage have shown (Fig. i) that the residual brine usually con-
sists 80% of drops with diameters smaller than 20 ~m, of which approximately 45% consists
of drops smaller than i0 ~m. In practice, the discrepancy between the theoretically cal-
culated and actual contents of salts in commercial crude entering desalting units [i] is
explained by the mismatching of brine and washwater drop size.
As a result, most of the washwater, which is fed into the oil in a coarsely dispersed
state, does not mix with and does not coalesce with the fine drops of brine; and this is
responsible for the high residual content of salts in the oil and the low coefficient of
washwater utilization [i, 2]. Thus, one of the most important factors determining the ef-
ficiency of the crude oil desalting process is the size of the washwater drops, which de-
pends on the way the washwater is introduced into the crude and the device that is used
for this purpose.
The hydrodynamic devices most commonly used to disperse washwater are difficult to
control, since they form coarse, polydisperse emulsions, and require a large differential
of pressure between the liquids. Oil-field studies have shown that in order to obtain a
washwater drop size distribution similar to that shown in Fig. 1 by means of the hydrodynamic




D, ~m
Fig, i. Differential size
(D) distribution curve for
drops of oil-formation water
(brine) in dehydrated curve
(Q is the total number of
disperse-phase particles.

Kazan' State Pedagogical Institute. Translated from Khimiya i Tekhnologiya Topliv i

Masel, No. 6, pp. 16-18, June, 1992.

324 0009-3092/92/0506-0324512.50 9 1992 Plenum Publishing Corporation

Pressure I Content.%
drop in hy- drops with I
drodynamic l~&~eter Iwashwater
disperser, than 20 " i in oil
MPa finwashwate~rl

0,3 49,5 2,8

0,5 58,0 2,6
0,7 62,8 2,0
0,9 69,2 1,4
I, I 79,5 0,6

" 5

Fig. 2. Construction of elec-

tropulverization unit (EPU):
I) air outlet fitting; 2) hy-
drocarbon liquid inlet fitting;
3) high-potential electrode; 4)
cover; 5) housing; 6) wash liq-
uid inlet fitting; 7) perforated
cylindrical drum; 8) emulsion
outlet fitting.

disperser designed by VNIISPTneft' (All-Union Scientific-Research Institute for Gathering,

Pretreatment, and Transportation of Petroleum Crudes and Products) a pressure drop of 0.7-
0.9 MPa is required.
With such a pressure drop, the energy consumption in the dispersion process is high;
and, as a consequence of the high pressure in the water lines (up to 1.7 MPa), frequent fail-
ures occur in the washwater heating and feed system. Also, if the pressure drop in a hydro-
dynamic disperser is increased by reducing the cross section of the nozzle outlet, the flow
rate of water entering the crude is lowered to an undesirable level (Table i).
We are proposing that the phenomenon of electric pulverization should be used to cre-
ate an emulsion of crude oil with washwater. Under the influence of a high-strength electric
field, water is pulverized from a small-diameter opening into the hydrocarbon medium in the
form of extremely fine drops. In this case it is necessary to operate at the minimum pres-
sure drop between the liquids, such that if there were no electric field, the washwater
would enter the oil in the form of individual coarse drops.
The phenomenon of electric pulverization consists essentially of the following. The
total energy U of unit volume of a charged liquid, for example a drop with radius R, is
the sum of the surface and electrical energies [4]:
3o 2~(Rq~) ~

m. 50



O,J ~6 0.9 L2 L5 t8
E, MV/m
Fig. 3. Mean diameter D m of
water drops in emulsion ob-
tained by means of EPU, as a
function of mean strength E
of electric field, in dehy-
drating emulsien with 0.5%
water (i) or 0.25% water (2).

where o is the surface tension; q is the specJfic charge (per unit of mass); p is the den-
sity of the liquid; e 0 is the permittivity.
When the charge is increased, the liquid, tending to lower its energy, is broken up
into finer drops. After taking the first derivative of the total energy with respect to
radius and equating it to zero as defined by the condition of equilibrium, we obtain an ex-
pression for the radius r of the drops that a~e newly formed by breakup of the surface of
the liquid:

where E is the electric field strength; M is the consumption of water; ~ is the permittivity
of the water; y is the electrical conductivity of the water.
The influence of various factors on the process of electric pulverization of water
into a hydrocarbon liquid was investigated in laboratory electropulverization units (EPU)
with various relative positions and configurations of the electrodes. The design of one of
these units is shown in Fig. 2. As the hydrocarbon liquid in these experiments we used a
crude oil and a transformer oil. The antistatic additive Sigbol was used in the transformer
oil in order to bring its conductivity up to that of the crude oil.
The results of microscopic analysis of drop size distribution in the emulsions formed
by electropulverization were worked up statistically by means of a computer program, through
which numerical values could be obtained for various parameters of the distribution and then
interpreted in the form of differential curves. In a series of experiments, the influence of
various factors was evaluated through the change in arithmetical mean diameter of the water
drops in the emulsion (which we will subsequently term the mean diameter), which was obtained
with a confidence interval of 2 pm at 0.95 probability.
Our investigation of the influence of field strength on the process of water electro-
pulverization (Fig. 3) showed that by increasing the strength of the electric field, the
size of the drops of water introduced into the crude could be varied from hundreds of microm-
eters down to a few micrometers, while obtaining emulsions that were largely monodisperse.
The relationships that were obtained are in accord with the theoretical concepts.
The physicochemical characteristics of crude oils and of the water that is used for
their desalting may vary greatly depending on the type of oil deposit, the oil production
technology, and the water sources that are used. Taking this into account, as well as the
theoretical r e l a t i o n s h i p (I), we investigated the influence of the physicochemical charac-
teristics of the liquids on the process of electropulverization of washwater into a hydro-
carbon medium, and on the dispersity of the resulting emulsion.
In order to determine the relationship between the pulverized water drop size and the
electrical conductivity of the water, we performed a series of experiments in which sodium




23 f~
2,2.10 ~ i,5.iO ~ 1,2.10 ~ 2J4.10 ~
log y (y in S/m) J.7 12,70"103,j/m2 27
Fig. 4 Fig. 5
Fig. 4. Mean diameter D m of emulsion water drops
as a function of logarithm of conductivity log y
of aqueous phase, with supply voltage to EPU 12 kV
(i) or 15 kV (2).
Fig. 5. Mean diameter D m of emulsion water drops
as a function of interfacial tension o, with fol-
lowing voltages impressed on EPU" I) 6 kV; 2) 9 kV;
3) 12 kV.

chloride was added to the washwater. The conductivity was measured by means of an R-5016
ac digital bridge. The conductivities for water with 0, 0.I, I, i0, and 25% NaCI were 3.5"
10 -5 , 0.i'i0 -l, 1.5, 120, and 210 S/m, respectively. With increasing conductivity, the
mean diameter of the water drops decreased slightly (Fig. 4), in accordance with the theo-
retical relationship (i).
The influence of the electrical conductivity of the hydrocarbon liquid on the disper-
sity of the emulsion was investigated on blends of the transformer oil with the additive
Sigbol, the measurements of conductivity being performed by an E 6-13 teraohmmeter. With
Sigbol concentrations of 0, 0.01, 0.i, and 0.5%, the respective conductivities were 4"I0 -12,
3.5"I0 -I~ 4.4"10 -9 , and 0.5"i0 -s S/m. Examination of emulsions prepared from these oils
by electropulverization showed that the dispersity of the emulsion is indifferent to the
conductivity of the hydrocarbon liquid, and hence also to the type of crude oil.
Another series of experiments was performed to determine the influence of the hydro-
carbon/water interfacial tension on the diameter of the drops of pulverized water. The
interfacial tension was measured stalagmometrically. With the surfactant Disolvan 4411
in the water at concentrations of 0, 0.i, 0.4, and 0.8 kg/m 3, the respective interfacial
tensions were 74.7"10 -3, 9 -3 , 12.7.10 -3, and 40"10 -3 j/m2. * Along with the lowering
of interfacial tension, the mean diameter of the drops of the dispersed phase was reduced
(Fig. 5). The shape of the experimental curves correspond to the theoretical relation-
ship (i).
The efficiency of crude oil desalting with electric pulverization of the washwater
was investigated on artificially prepared emulsions of mineralized water and crude oil.
The concentration of salts in the water and the dispersity of the water were consistent
with what may be expected in oil-field W/O emulsions after dewatering the oil. Specifi-
cally, we investigated an emulsion of water with 500 mg/liter of salts, with a 0.5% con-
tent of water in the emulsion in the form of drops with a mean diameter of 15 ~m.
By means of an EPU, fresh washwater was introduced into t h e e m u l s i o n in the form of
very fine drops. The drop size was adjusted by varying the supply voltage. The content
of water in the oil during this stage of the test was 5.5%. Then the emulsion was broken
in an electrocoalescer of the ~KP~-I500 type [5] with an average field strength of 0.6
MV/m. The separation of phases was accomplished in a K-23 centrifuge. The centrifuge

*As in Russian original; from the data plotted in Fig. 5, it appears that this last value
should have been 9.7.10 -~ - Translator.


----~ Mean diam-~eesidual

Experi-lVolta~deter of I content
ment [to EPUJ drops in
No. lkv l emul- lwater [salts,
sion, I/Ill '--~-- mgll[ter

1 8 39,4 0,3 1 I0 '

2 !0 25,4 0,2 62
3 14 15,8 0,2 46
4 18 10,6 0,6 55

0, U6

0,05 ~ ~i



5 25 ~5 g5 65
D, pm

Fig. 6. Differential distri-

bution curves for water drop
size D in emulsions of crude
oil with water: i) saline water
(with desalting); 2,3,4) wash-
water (with voltage feed in EPU
18, 14, and I0 kV, respectively).

speed and the centrifuging time, which were selected in accordance with the conditions
of the gravitational process in thermochemical units, were 25 sec -I and 240 sec.
Four experiments were performed (Table 2) with washwater drops that varied in
mean diameter from one experiment to the other. In control experiment i, drops with an
average diameter were obtained by using a feed voltage of 8 kV to the EPU. Such an
emulsion is identical in terms of water drop size to the emulsion obtained in a hydrodynamic
disperser of the ejector type with a pressure drop of 0.6-0.7 MPa. (Such dispersers are
most frequently used in oil field operations.)
Experimental data were obtained and compared for aqueous phases with dispersities less
than, equal to, and greater than that of the saline water contained in the crude (experiments
2-4), on the basis of differential distribution curves (Fig. 6). The contents of water and
salts in the oil were measured by means of a VEN-3M moisture meter and an ION-L3 salt meter.
These results confirmed the possibility of improving crude oil desalting by means of
an EPU, i.e., by achieving the necessary size distribution of the washwater drops. The max-
imum effect is obtained when the size distribution of the washwater drops coincides w i t h t h a t
of the saline water. A semicommercial electropulverizer unit designated EPA-3000, with a
crude oil capacity of 120 m3/h, has been tested successfully and put into service at the
Tatneft' Production Association. As a result, the quality of the commercial crude~has been
improved and the consumption of demulsifier and washwater has been reduced, resulting in a
significant saving.


I. V. I. Loginov, Dewatering and Desalting Crude Oils [in Russian], Khimiya, Moscow
2. D. N. Levchenko et al., Emulsions of Crude Oil with Water and Methods for Breaking
Emulsions [in Russian], Khimiya, Moscow (1967).
3. V. P. Tronov, Crude Oil Pretreatment in the Field [in Russian], Nedra, Moscow
4. R. L. Hines, J. Appl. Phys., 37, 2730-2736 (1966).
5. USSR Inventor's Certification 827,111.