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Centrifuges

Gravity is a force that occurs naturally within the earths atmosphere. Essentially, any
object that goes up must come down. The downward pull is gravity acting upon in. This
same gravitational force acts upon components of a mixture, either a solid and liquid or
two immiscible liquids, and cause separation over time.

The length of time taken for separation to occur depends on the specific gravities and the
intermolecular forces holding the components together. There are cases when gravity
alone is not capable of achieving separation, a greater force is required. This can be
achieved by means of centrifugal action. The centrifugal forces are so large that the force
produced by gravity can be neglected.

In the case of an oil and water emulsion, the oil and water will be separated into their
individual components and can be processed accordingly. The centrifuge enables this by
increasing the gravitational force far beyond the natural forces. Typically the range for
the two liquids to be separated is between 200 - 2000 g. The gravitational force required
to result in separation depends on the nature of the oil, i.e. a light or heavy oil.
The image above illustrates how a typical centrifuge operates. The emulsion enters the
centrifuge where it is violently rotated by motors. When the gravitational force is great
enough the oil particles in the emulsion will be removed leaving the water behind. The oil
and water then flow out of separate discharge valves. The oil is piped back to storage for
further processing while the water is either piped onshore for treatment and disposal or
treated offshore and discarded overboard.

Determining the problematic emulsion.

Coalescence can be taken to mean the separation of different substances within a mixture
and the grouping of the separated substances. In terms of an emulsion, it is the point at
which the emulsion breaks completely. In the case of an oil and water emulsion, it is the
point at which bulk separation between oil and water phases occurs. Complete emulsion
breakage is governed by four droplet loss mechanisms:-
Brownian Flocculation
Creaming
Sedimentation Flocculation
Disproportionation

These four mechanisms may occur randomly and simultaneously.


Fig. ( what ever number)

Schematic of mechanisms involved in the coalescence of and oil in water emulsion.


Any emulsion capable of conforming to either of the three, disproportionation, Brownian
flocculation and sedimentation flocculation, then creaming and coalescence can be
completely separated.

Emulsions form zones alpha, beta and charlie have been tested. Zones A and C have
proven to contain emulsions which are separated with minimal difficulty. Zone Beta, the
highest producing water zone, produces eight thousand barrels of per day. The chemicals
utilized were ineffective at breaking the emulsion. As a result this zone was focused on
individually and was treated offshore.

The reason zone beta is producing a problematic emulsion may be due to heaviness of the
oil produced. The oil at zone beta has an API gravity of thirty degrees.