Digital Tribes Houston16 Feb - 23 Feb
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Let's just be friends? - Predicting conditions that upset the separation of water and oil in petroleum production
During well production, a mix of oil, gas and water is brought to the surface. As part of the production process, these components must be separated from one another. A particular challenge is separating oil and water, such that the “produced water” contains a minimal amount of residual oil. A separator unit is used to accomplish this task, employing a three-phase separation process using gravity separation followed by a hydrocyclone to remove the oil from the water. This is a steady state process dependent on upstream flowline conditions to operate smoothly. When flowline conditions change, these fluctuations can cause upsets to the separation processor, destabilizing the process resulting in the need to re-process water before it can be disposed of and slowing down production to allow the process to re-stabilize. A predictive tool capable of identifying potential process upset based on upstream data would be useful to reducing the need to re-process water and minimizing process slowdowns.
Impact and Value
Forewarning of events known to cause separator upsets such as flow line slugging (a surge in flow) would allow operations to take corrective actions to prevent upset conditions.
A destabilized separator process results in oil concentrations in produced water that are above regulatory limits, requiring further processing before disposal. This equates to additional time and energy required to re-process the water, and a slow down in production to allow the process to re-stabilize.
Minimization of process upsets will result in higher quality produced water, reducing additional processing time necessary to make compliant with regulations. It will also reduce production slowdowns as a result of upsets.