Emulsification Prevention in Oil and Gas Applications

How Discflo Disc Pumps Control Emulsion for Increased Efficiency and Cost Savings

Emulsification is a costly and disruptive challenge for the oil and gas industry. Emulsions can create issues throughout the entire production pipeline–from productivity loss and product damage to increased maintenance and downtime.

Discflo pumps offer a departure from the conventional pumping methods that cause emulsification to occur. This blog unpacks how our innovative technology revolutionizes fluid handling for superior emulsion prevention in oil and gas applications.

What Causes Emulsification in Oil and Gas?

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Conventional pumps create harsh conditions in which emulsions form. Their rotating blades and impellers generate turbulent flow, where fluid particles move chaotically rather than in a steady stream. This erratic motion degrades the barriers that keep immiscible liquids like oil and water from mixing.

Blades and impellers also violently contact the pumped liquid. This creates shear force, where fluids moving at non-uniform speeds rub against each other and break down. The higher the shear force, the smaller the dispersed droplets–and the harder they are to separate once emulsification occurs.

How Discflo Disc Pump Technology Prevents Emulsification

Discflo disc pumps offer a unique emulsification control solution for oil and gas operations. Our breakthrough technology bridges the performance gaps of conventional pumps–providing numerous benefits to your pump and pipe system, including emulsion control.

Discflo disc pumps are designed with a patented rotating disc system called the Discpac. Unlike conventional impellers or blades, which push fluid violently, the Discpac gently pulls fluid through the pipe using the principles of boundary layer and viscous drag.

As the discs rotate, viscous drag attracts successive layers of fluid molecules into parallel streams, creating a smooth, non-turbulent laminar flow. This controlled flow pattern minimizes turbulence and agitation, ensuring fluids like oil and water remain separated as desired.

During laminar flow, the outermost fluid layer at the pipe walls remains stationary relative to the rotating disc, creating a protective boundary layer. This natural protective buffer eliminates direct contact between the pipe and fluid, preserving the integrity of the pumped fluid and reducing the risk of emulsification due to mechanical agitation.

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Discflo technology also solves another important issue in emulsification control: shear force. Discflo pumps operate on a positive displacement principle, displacing a fixed volume of fluid with each revolution of the disc. This results in gentle, fluid movement and substantially lower shear force than conventional pumps with impellers or blades.

In addition to preventing emulsification in oil and gas applications, Discflo’s unique laminar flow design helps prevent clogging, reduces downtime and costly maintenance, and extends equipment lifespan by eliminating the root causes of erosion and wear and tear.

Solving Oil Emulsion Problems

El Dorado Refining Company, the largest oil refinery in Kansas, was seeking a solution for their sludge oil transfer and CPI oil transfer at their wastewater treatment unit. The fluid in the sludge oil transfer operation was moderately viscous (40cP), with no solids, and had a specific gravity of 0.877. The oil was in an emulsion state, which made it difficult for a centrifugal pump to handle.

The fluid conditions presented the toughest challenge. The viscosity, solids size and concentration, suction pressure, and flow rate could all vary:

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• The viscosity could be as high as 200cP or as low as 1cP

    • The solids content could include sand, pieces of plastic, or anything that entered the system earlier in the process

      • The discharge line pressure could swing by as much as 20-25psig

        • The flow rate could reach a high of 2,000 barrels/day (58GPM) or a low of 450 barrels/day (13GPM).

          For 40 years, the refinery used a reciprocating steam-driven pump to move the slop oil. Unfortunately, it had become a “reliability nightmare,” generating over 30 work orders for maintenance in its final year of service. The refinery tried two different centrifugal pump configurations as replacements. Both options proved unreliable, with frequent seal failure or loss of prime due to clogging and loss of seal flush.

          The solution? Three new Discflo pumps were installed for sludge oil transfer and CPI oil transfer at the wastewater treatment unit. In every application, the Discflo pumps have outperformed conventional pump types–solving problems with erosion due to solids, oil emulsion problems, and operating problems due to the changes in composition and viscosity.

          In the six years since start-up, the pumps have performed well with very little maintenance and no unplanned downtime due to pump failure. The Discflo disc pumps successfully ended the plant’s “reliability nightmare.”

          Preventing Emulsification in Multi-Phase Fluid

          In 2004, Sincor A.S. of Venezuela needed a pump capable of handling a notoriously difficult 4-phase fluid in its upstream surface facilities. A mixture of oil, water, gas, and sand, the fluid was extremely abrasive with high solids and entrained gas. 

          Sincor A.S. chose Discflo for its unique Discpac technology. Our Discpacs solve the problems that plague positive displacement pump systems when handling the challenging liquids found in the oil industry. Discflo supplied direct-coupled 20-inch models with 800kW motor. The space between the discs is large enough (up to 8” in the largest models) to prevent solids from clogging the pump.

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          The Discflo pump’s laminar flow pattern prevents oil from emulsifying. This improves oil recovery rates compared to other pump devices and makes filtration easier. It also minimizes impingement, improving the pump’s abrasion resistance and moving entrained air and gasses without mechanical failure or cavitation.

          Choose Discflo for Emulsion Prevention in Oil and Gas

          Discflo pumps prevent emulsification in even the most challenging oil and gas applications. Our unique Discpac technology offers trouble-free pumping, handling even heavy crude oil and the most abrasive sludge without clogging.

          Discover how Discflo disc pump technology can control emulsification in your operation–saving you time, money, and product damage. Contact our expert engineering team today.

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