Innovation & savings: sustainable growth

At the brand new Central Processing Facility at the Pendare field, in Colombia, crude oil is being treated with an innovative dehydration process. José Zarante, Production Supervisor, explains how this happens.

The eastern plains of Colombia, the site of the Pendare production field, are home to high-density hydrocarbon reserves. The oil found here is a semi-heavy crude that needs high temperatures to achieve water separation, and a specific dehydration process to treat it and bring it to optimal conditions for commercialization.

In December 2021, the operation was significantly enhanced with the start-up of the new Central Processing Facility (CPF), marking the beginning of an innovative way of treating crude oil. The oil dehydration process, which formerly used steam, was replaced by a thermal oil heating system.

The innovation aspect of this system stems from the use of mineral oil, characterized by its greater capacity for transmitting heat transmission and features lower levels of gaseous emissions by the electricity generators. Currently, four generators with 1.4 megawatts of power "produce a large number of exhaust gases, as the process employs gases with a high calorific value. However, these are not released into the atmosphere, but travel through a series of conduits into four principal containers housing the economizers, also called heat recovery units,” explains José Zarante, the company’s production supervisor.

The process used to dehydrate crude oil at the Pendare field It does not require water and also protects the environment.

The heat recovery units are made up of a frame containing a coiled or spiral tube through which the thermal mineral oil flows and is heated up by the hot gases circulating around it. When the oil reaches the required temperature, it is sent to the heat exchanger located in another container. At that moment, the lines transporting the crude receive all the heat from the thermal oil. As this is a closed cycle, the temperature of the thermal oil transferring heat to the crude slowly begins to drop, so it is returned to the beginning of the process and re-enters the circuit through the heat recovery units to repeat the cycle.

Benefits and environmental sustainability

The new crude oil dehydration process being used at the Pendare field eliminates the need to take water from sources neighboring the project for steam generation and also reduces diesel fuel use; both these factors make a direct contribution to environmental conservation. The thermal oil cycle, which no longer involves the use of water to produce steam and thus means less fuel oil consumption, means that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and local water resources protected, which is vital for the community of Cuernavaca living in the vicinity of the project.

In addition, the new process optimizes the operation’s economic resources as the crude oil treatment times involved in preparing it to be in condition for sale are shortened, and there is a correspondingly lower need to inject demulsifiers.

The new process represents yet another of the steps taken by Tecpetrol Colombia to drive efforts aimed at operating in an increasingly efficient and sustainable manner, something which José Zarante highlights when he explains that, “it’s about performing our operations with increasingly greater awareness of what we do, and constantly finding ways of being as environmentally sustainable as possible.”

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