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DESALTING OF CRUDE OIL IN REFINERY

Purpose of crude oil desalting

Crude oil introduced to refinery processing contains many undesirable impurities, such as sand,
inorganic salts, drilling mud, polymer, corrosion byproduct, etc. The salt content in the crude oil
varies depending on source of the crude oil. When a mixture from many crude oil sources is
processed in refinery, the salt content can vary greatly. The purpose of desalting is to remove these
undesirable impurities, especially salts and water, from the crude oil prior to distillation.

The most concerns of the impurities in crude oil:

The Inorganic salts can be decomposed in the crude oil pre-heat exchangers and heaters. As
a result, hydrogen chloride gas is formed which condenses to liquid hydrochloric acid at
overhead system of distillation column, that may causes serious corrosion of equipment.
To avoid corrosion due to salts in the crude oil, corrosion control can be used. But the
byproduct from the corrosion control of oil field equipment consists of particulate iron
sulfide and oxide. Precipitation of these materials can cause plugging of heat exchanger
trains, tower trays, heater tubes, etc. In addition, these materials can cause corrosion to any
surf ace they are precipitated on.
The sand or silt can cause significant damage due to abrasion or erosion to pumps, pipelines,
etc.

Benefits of Crude Oil Desalting

Increase crude throughput


Less plugging, scaling, coking of heat exchanger and f urnace tubes
Less corrosion in exchanger, fractionators, pipelines, etc.
Better corrosion control in CDU overhead
Less erosion by solids in control valves, exchanger, f urnace, pumps Saving of oil from slops
from waste oil

Desalting process

The desalting process is completed in following steps:

1. Dillution water injection and dispersion


2. Emusification of diluted water in oil
3. Distribution of the emulsion in the electrostatic field
4. Electrostatic coalescence
5. Water droplet settling

Crude oil passes through the cold preheat train and is then pumped to the Desalters by crude charge
pumps. The recycled water from the desalters is injected in the crude oil containing sediments and
produced salty water. This fluid enters in the static mixer which is a crude/water disperser,
maximizing the interfacial surf ace area f or optimal contact between both liquids. The wash water
shall be injected as near as possible emulsifying device to avoid a first separation with crude oil.
Wash water can come from various sources including relatively high salt sea water, stripping water,
etc. The static mixers are installed upstream the emulsifying devices to improve the contact between
the salt in the crude oil and the wash water injected in the line. The oil/water mixture is
homogenously emulsified in the emulsifying device. The emulsifying device (as a valve) is used to
emulsify the dilution water injected upstream in the oil. The emulsification is important f or contact
between the salty production water contained in the oil and the wash water.

Then the emulsion enters the Desalters where it separates into two phases by electrostatic
coalescence. The electrostatic coalescence is induced by the polarization effect resulting from an
external electric source. Polarization of water droplets pulls them out from oil-water emulsion
phase. Salt being dissolved in these water droplets, is also separated along the way. The produced
water is discharged to the water treatment system (effluent water). It can also be used as wash
water f or mud washing process during operation.