Reliable water hardness measurement will improve process steam quality

Managing produced or brine water in oil production is one of the many challenges upstream oil production companies face today. As an oil field matures the oil that is remains becomes much heavier and eventually has an almost  tar consistency. In addition to the oil becoming heavier in a mature field the amount of produced/brine water increases as well. For example, a 10 to 1 ratio of produced water to oil ratio is not uncommon. Oil companies must manage the produced water as well as continue oil production. To handle the produced/brine water an oil company will build a water softening plant to manage the produced/brine water. The softened water is used for non drinking water application such as irrigation and it used in steam production. The steam production is critical to oil production because the steam is used to liquefy the oil in a mature oil field.

Providing quality water from your industrial water softening facility is critical to generating quality steam. Having a reliable real time hardness analysis is the key to making quick process changes when the hardness exceeds 1 ppm of Calcium. Working with an Oil Company in the  San Joaquin Valley we installed a continuous hardness monitoring analyzer. The analyzer  consisted of an Ion selective sensor Calcium Sensor, a pH sensor, and a trace dissolved oxygen sensor. The system allows the customer to have a real-time analysis of the hardness of the water after the water has been processed through the water softening system and before it is sent to a steam generator for steam production. The steam generator is used for the injection of steam down hole in oil wells to liquefy the California heavy oil for oil and gas production.

The results have been very positive.

  1. The customer is now able to make real-time process changes when the hardness level starts to approach 1 ppm of Calcium.
  2. Calcium monitoring is key to maintenance of steam generators/boilers because if left unchecked calcium can form on heat exchange surfaces, the boiler tubes, and interferes with heat transfer, reducing the efficiency of the boiler and potentially causing tubes to overheat and fail.
  3. Online analysis of Calcium helps prevent premature changing the softener media because continuously monitoring calcium lets the customer knows when the softener has exhausted (removed all the calcium it can), and the customer can take it out of service and regenerate preventing damage to the steam generator.
  4. The analysis helps the customer extend softener filter media life thereby  preventing premature changing of the softener filter media. This prevent unwanted oil and gas production slowdowns because the steam generator is providing the wells with quality steam to liquefy the heavy oil.
  5. The customer is seeing an improvement in production and water steam quality which translates to both direct and indirect production cost saving the last year.
  6. This analyzer has been a valuable cost savings tool for the customer in this low oil price environment we are currently experiencing. Interest in  this analyzer approach is growing.