Ralph Navarrete and George Duggan, Baker Hughes Inc., USA, explain how desalter pH management can help to increase crude diet flexibility.

Refiners have always sought to boost their profitability by improving their crude diet flexibility. Such flexibility allows refiners to control how much of a discounted, opportunity crude to include in their feed slate, after weighing the financial benefits of running the crude against the processing problems it is likely to create. As crude oil quality declines globally and refiners face additional pressure to boost margins, they will have to process greater volumes of opportunity crudes on a more frequent basis if they are to remain profitable and, ultimately, operational.

Processing problems can begin as soon as the opportunity crude enters the crude unit’s desalter and are often exacerbated by uncontrolled desalter pH. The pH of the brine in desalters can vary widely, ranging from 5 to as high as 10. For most desalters, controlling brine pH at the lower end of this range benefits the overall refining process by improving oil/water separation; lowering salt, basic sediment, and water in the crude; and reducing oil undercarry, which decreases chemical oxygen demand (COD) of the brine sent to the wastewater treatment plant.

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