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Insight

Chemical Solutions with Low Environmental Impact

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 15:06

AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry, a business unit of AkzoNobel, has become ubiquitous in the oil and gas industry for its dependable specialty chemicals. This reliability has been acquired by the firm thanks to plenty of expertise in the oilfield sector, where it helps to enhance production, drilling, and well stimulation. It couples this expertise with a broad product portfolio that allows customers to choose the solutions that best fit their specific needs and situations. One of AkzoNobel’s priorities is to reduce the environmental impact of oilfield operations, a factor which is at the core of its R&D strategy. The company’s principal R&D aim is to replace toxic chemicals currently used in the sector with more benign materials, or to come up with more environmentally friendly versions of its current products. AkzoNobel’s product line for the production stage currently includes demulsifiers, corrosion inhibitors, scale inhibitors, paraffin control solutions, biocides, water clarifiers and deoilers, asphaltene inhibitors, and foamers.

The production, separation, and purification of crude oil all involve complex tasks that need to be done safely, quickly, and economically. To aid in these processes, which production teams face on a daily basis, AkzoNobel has developed an extensive range of solutions. For example, the most common treatment to help break emulsions is the addition of formulated chemical demulsifiers. These chemical additives are usually injected at the wellhead to achieve adequate mixing prior to reaching the separator, enabling the demulsifier to reach the target interface and function effectively. The stability of an emulsion is unique to each reservoir, and may vary from well to well. As such, it is necessary to develop demulsifier blends specifically targeted at the fluids being produced. One of AkzoNobel’s products, the WitbreakTM demulsifier line, should be considered as concentrated raw materials or intermediates for the preparation and/or formulation of oilfield demulsifiers and dehydrating chemicals.

AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry has also developed a broad range of products that can be used to tackle two types of oilfield corrosion: sweet corrosion and sour corrosion. Its products can provide corrosion inhibition in a variety of forms, including oil-soluble, oil soluble/water-dispersible, and water soluble. AkzoNobel’s teams have assessed the performance of its wide range of specialized scale inhibitors that allow the treatment of all common scales in a range of production conditions, and under a series of standard conditions to give indicative performance, as well as providing indicative physical property characteristics for these materials. This has allowed the company’s portfolio to include green products made using its patented hybrid technology platform. Another common issue that AkzoNobel 

seeks to counter are the paraffins which are naturally found and are completely soluble in most hydrocarbons under pristine reservoir conditions. The main problem with paraffin deposits is the way they affect fluid production rates by restricting the flow of hydrocarbons in the near-wellbore. Additionally, paraffinic crystallites can increase the viscosity of the fluids if precipitated in the bulk hydrocarbon, reducing pipeline throughput. In the worst-case scenario, the growth and fuse of paraffin crystals can lead to wax gelling, which makes it impossible to reinitiate fluid flow. To counter this, AkzoNobel has developed high-performance additives that help with any type of paraffinic crude and condensate, either in paraffin remediation or continuous treatment regimes. For instance, it provides paraffin dispersants that are used either in solvent treatments of existing deposits, or through continuous application to keep paraffin crystallites suspended in the crude and flushed out of the system. Paraffin inhibitors are oil-soluble polymers that reduce the creation temperature of the cloud point, therefore inhibiting the formation of paraffin deposits. Finally, pour-point depressants are used to limit wax gelling by interfering with the crystallization process and keeping the bulk fluid mobile. Another complication common to the production process comes from asphaltenes. These make up some of the highest molecular weight organic fractions found in crude oil, and the specific structure of asphaltenes varies across different types of crude. While the presence of asphaltic components does not necessarily cause problems, their precipitation can destabilize the oil. When non-chemical techniques fail in solving an issue with asphaltene, chemical inhibitors need to be used.

AkzoNobel also offers solutions for drilling applications. Drilling fluids naturally play a crucial role in a successful drilling operation. Their primary application is to carry the rock cuttings to the surface and out of the well in order to prevent these from clogging the drill bit. However, drilling fluids have more critical functions, such as controlling formation pressure, maintaining wellbore stability, cooling and lubricating the drill bit, and minimizing formation damage, among others. Drilling fluids fall into two main categories: water-based muds (WBMs) and oil-based muds (OBMs), although synthetic-based drilling fluids (SBMs) are now being developed. These usually contain a sacrificial chemical link to encourage biodegradation, thus becoming widely used in environmentally sensitive areas. AkzoNobel provides a variety of additives to enhance the performance of WBMs and OBMs in a variety of filed conditions. Many of the additives the company produces are components that can be built into the emulsifier package, which stabilizes the internal aqueous phase, develops fluid rheology, and prevents fluid loss. Other additives include cleaners, foamers, wetting agents, and dispersants that help the main fluid retain its ideal performance levels. They can also be used in post-drilling additives to leave the wellbore clean and ready for initial production. In extension of these additives, AkzoNobel’s WBM solutions are becoming increasingly popular. Due to the industry’s increasing operations in high-temperature reservoirs, WBMs have been reexamined in order to perform under such conditions. As such, AkzoNobel’s water soluble polymers are designed to be used as deflocculants, stabilizing the drilling fluid’s flow as temperature and pressure conditions change.