Collaboration spurs salt-in-crude analysis innovation
Innovation addresses longtime challenge of determining real-time salt concentration in crude oil.
About half a decade ago, Aramco’s Research and Development Center (R&DC) went on a quest that would lead them to not only find an innovative solution for a pressing challenge for the North Ghawar Producing Department (NGPD), but create a new product that will be commercialized globally.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series about Aramco technologies that are being commercialized by our licensing arm, Saudi Aramco Technologies Company.)
The new innovation addressed a challenge that has long plagued Aramco’s onshore oil production teams — how to determine the real-time salt concentration in crude oil. Aramco standards require a maximum salt content of its export crude oil to be lower than 10 pounds per thousand barrels, because of the damage that salt can do to the equipment in refineries.
NGPD grappled with the challenge of determining the accurate, real-time salt concentration in crude oil, improving the operational efficiency and safety, while keeping the capital expenses and operating expenses (OPEX) low.
Traditionally, salt concentration in crude oil is determined by electrometric methods governed by the American Society of Testing and Materials. These methods involve manually measuring conductivity of a homogeneous mixture — made by diluting a small volume of crude oil in three low boiling polar solvents. Continuous, real-time salt-in-crude measurements allow a proactive approach to guarantee that the produced crude oil is within specification at all times.
But these analyzers weren’t optimal.
A focus on automation, simplicity, and risk mitigation
NGPD and the R&DC joined hands with industry leader BARTEC and set out to develop a solution with an acute focus on automation, simplification, and risk mitigation.
The new salt-in-crude analyzer uses a solvent that has a much higher boiling point (ideal for the scorching heat of Saudi summers), reduces the consumption of solvent (from 90% solvent and 10% oil to 50% solvent and 50% oil), improves the accuracy of the measurement, and can retrofit any commercial analyzer with minimal modifications. In addition, the simplified Aramco salt-in-crude analyzer requires minimal maintenance and calibration.
Khalid A. Buradha, Oil Operations superintendent at NGPD, said: “The technology represents a step forward in terms of operational efficiency. On the safety front; it eliminates operator’s exposure to the hazardous chemicals required by the international practice and reduces the requirement of manually sampling petroleum, a potentially unhealthy practice for operations personnel.”
The novel single-solvent based salt-in-crude analyzer is patented by Aramco and is manufactured and globally marketed by BARTEC ORB (www.Bartec.com) under a commercial license agreement facilitated by the Technology Strategy and Planning Department.
This technology was successfully proven at Shedgum Gas-Oil Separation Plant-4 during six months of continuous operation, and is currently under deployment at Khurais, Zuluf, and Safaniyah facilities.
Simone Less, R&DC team lead, said we are dedicated to finding solutions that other companies may not even tackle because Aramco has far-reaching benefits in mind. He said: “Intangibles become tangibles in the long-term. Aramco sees the value in selling quality products that exceed current standards and to improve the industry best practices as whole.”
Saudi Aramco Technologies Company manages the license agreement with BARTEC. The successful deployment of this technology truly crystalizes the well-known fact that successful integration of value chain partners leads to efficient transfer of technology from laboratory to marketplace.
— Abbas Al Ghamdi, CEO of Saudi Aramco Technologies Company
For more information about this technology and related license agreement, contact Subashini Asokan, head of Licensing at Saudi Aramco Technologies Company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caption for top photograph
Working together with a vendor, Aramco’s Research and Development Center and North Ghawar Producing Department developed a new salt-in-crude analyzer that is more efficient, safer, and automated.