Assault on SaltSimon Cornelius, Dan Jackson and Doug Longtin, Baker Hughes Incorporated, USA, examine the challenges associated with desalting heavy crudes.
The modern refining industry is faced with many challenges, but one of the most common processing challenges referenced is the ability to process difficult heavy crude oils successfully and profitably. Heavy crude oils are typically defined as dense and viscous, with an API gravity between 10 –20˚. Heavy crude oils (<20˚ API) are well known in the US and have been a desalter challenge from as early as 1990. The subject has been addressed at the American Fueland Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) Q&A conferences, where desalting operational and mechanical techniques for heavy crude oils have been discussed. The key issues many refiners face are system limitations, or when the original design criteria trails market economics while supplies of heavy oil are used.
Approximately 70% of the heavy crude oils produced come from North and South America, with significant quantities being produced in the US, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. The Middle East follows with 11%, then Asia, Europe, Russia and CIS, and finally Africa. The Canadian oil sands and the Orinoco Belt extra heavy oil are the largest sources of non-conventional oil production today and are expected to remain so in the future.
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