Earlier this month, I attended PetroPhase 2011 at Imperial College London. Organized by the IOP Liquids and Complex Fluids Group, the PetroPhase 2011 conference featured 44 presentations and over 100 posters presentations on such topics as:
- Petroleum phase behavior
- Formation and mitigation of organic solid phases
- Emulsions and colloids
- Structure and composition of heavy oils, asphaltenes, and trace contaminants
Many of the conference presentations and posters were focused on asphaltene precipitation and deposition studies. Besides asphaltene studies, oil water separation was a topic that got a lot of attention. Finally, fouling (solid precipitation, coking, scaling, and plugging) in distillation units and refineries appear to be a popular subject as we are running out of lighter oil reserves. As oil industries are extracting more heavy crude and bitumen than in the past, fouling malfunctions have increased steadily.
In attendance were a number of major global petrochemical companies , including Exxon, Shell, Total, Petrobras, Repsol. Several attendees were from global oil service companies, including Schlumberger, Nalco, Baker Highes, ConocoPhilips, and IFP. There were also academic groups that work directly with major oil companies.
I presented the poster – Asphaltenes, Waxes, Emulsions, and Oil Suspensions: Inline Particle and Droplet Measurements in Dark Crude Oil. A number of attendees were interested to learn that FBRM and PVM could track changing particle size and droplet size in dark crude oil. Several traditional size measurement techniques – such as laser diffraction rely on sampling – and this is difficult when flow streams are at high temperatures and pressures or where the API is low and the material is viscous. Also, sampling droplets can be difficult because they can break apart or coalesce during the process. Several Petrophase attendees were excited to learn more about how FBRM and PVM avoid such problems by tracking the process in situ and in real time with no need for sampling. I also presented some return on investment examples including the following:
- Study asphaltene precipitation and deposition – by studying aggregation kinetics in situ
- Optimize oil-water separation systems – by targeting the most appropriate droplet size and screening the most effective demulsifiers
- Improve desalter performance – by reducing solids carryover/oil under-carry, optimizing chemical additive usage, speeding up desalter operation, and subsequently preventing costly desalter upsets such as corrosion and fouling.
I look forward to attending PetroPhase 2012 in St. Petersburg.