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The oil and gas service industry's paraffin solution. The Flo-Rite Fluids Magnetic Fluid Conditioning systems prevent paraffin and scale buildup before it begins. On the left there is substantial paraffin accumulation. On the right is a pipe treated using the MFC system. (Image courtesy of Flo-Rite Fluids Inc.)
The Flo-Rite Fluids Magnetic Fluid Conditioning systems prevent paraffin and scale buildup before it begins. On the left there is substantial paraffin accumulation. On the right is a pipe treated using the MFC system. (Image courtesy of Flo-Rite Fluids Inc.)

The oil and gas service industry’s paraffin solution

Oil well paraffin and scale control is an ongoing battle associated with tight oil production and is a pervasive issue in the ongoing drama of the American oil fields.

The recurring expense of remedial paraffin control treatments is often favored over preventative measures, cutting into producers’ bottom line. But in today’s market climate in which efficiency is critical to survival, the economic consequences are severe, and unnecessary.

Following the deep plummet of crude prices, oil and gas producers scrambled to cut costs as break even margins narrow. While drilling operations adapt to achieve more with less, deficiencies in production operations are often overshadowed by reducing the steep costs of drilling and completing a well.

Paraffin, a waxy substance that deposits in oil and gas production systems like cholesterol attaching itself to the walls of an artery in our body, restricts fluid flow which affects the system’s overall health. Paraffin treatments are often hazardous to workers and costly; but still, preventing paraffin deposition in production equipment before it starts, both downhole and on the surface, remains a challenge.

Full stop to full redesign

One company, after years of engineering efforts, has developed an innovative solution and is poised to disrupt the paraffin treating market. For the past 15 years, Flo-Rite Fluids’ President John W. White, an inventor and an oil field veteran, has been leading his team in the engineering and patent design of an oil well paraffin control technology known as Magnetic Fluid Conditioning (MFC).

When Mr. White bought the Texas-based Flo-Rite Fluids company in 2000, not only did he have its unreliable reputation and the aftermath of poorly designed tools to contend with, but the designs he acquired were not as effective as he knew they could be. Mr. White brought the MFC tool production to a full stop and with his team of engineers; they went back to the drawing board and brainstormed. What followed was an extensive design change and rigorous testing phases, which resulted in a superior product with new patents.

The product that worked too well

In the years leading up to Mr. White’s acquisition of Flo-Rite Fluids, the idea of using magnetic fluid conditioning in the oil fields came onto the market in a big way — a subsidiary of a Texas-based oil and gas systems and services company entered into an exclusive agreement with Halliburton Energy Service.

“The Halliburton Magnetic Fluid Conditioner complements our extensive range of lock mandrels and other sub surface products to offer our customers additional value and lower total costs,” said Artie Burke, Director of Halliburton’s Sub Surface Products business line at that time. The company cited controlled laboratory testing to testaments of how effective the treatment method could be. However, Halliburton’s Magnetic Fluid Conditioner was removed from its services catalogue within a matter of years.

It has been speculated that, while the method worked well, it began cutting into the profit margins of Halliburton’s other services – scale remediation. The technology was soon pushed off into the fringes of oil and gas services. Since then, Flo-Rite Fluids has further innovated the technology, perfecting it and finding ways to implement it at a fraction of the cost of traditional remedial treatment methods.

Although the technology has been previously introduced to the oil field, it’s often not perceived as a go- to method of paraffin treatment. However, the technology is more commonly recognized in its extensive and successful use in industrial and commercial water systems where it is used to prevent scale and other carbonate and deposition issues in flow lines and storage tanks.

The inherent problem

In an industry where low operating expenses are paramount, the bottlenecks created by oil well paraffin deposition create unnecessarily high costs for producers. Remedial actions such as hot oiling, chemical treatments, and wireline cutting hinder the profitability of the oil and gas operations year after year. This is due to treatment costs and revenue lost because of production downtime.  The key to preventing paraffin deposition is to attack the problem before crystallization commences.

As tight oil is extracted from formations containing high levels of paraffin (along with other problematic compounds such as asphaltenes), paraffin crystals begin to accumulate into bunched or grouped molecules. As the fluid moves to the surface, the friction from the flow against the pipes, as well as the dropping temperature, causes the paraffin and other sediments to crystallize and precipitate. If left uninhibited, the crystals grow larger, making it easier to collect additional particles and deposit on the pipe wall. This deposition not only impacts production rates, but the efficacy of a system’s pipes, rods, pumps and tubing as well.

The engineered solution

The Flo-Rite MFC tool works by fundamentally changing how these particles react to each other. The tool, which has no moving parts, is maintenance-free to the customer and requires no external power source. With the use of the foremost rare-earth magnets, the tool is able to pull the molecules passing through it into proper working alignment.

The Flo-Rite Fluids design conditions 100 percent of the fluid traveling through the pipes, rather than treating the pipes themselves as other magnetic technology prescribes. The Flo-Rite team’s redesign process explored and aligned with the laws of Magneto-hydrodynamics, the study of the magnetic properties of electrically conducting fluids such as produced water and hydrocarbons. By utilizing the laws of physics, Flo-Rite was able to create molecular order amidst the otherwise chaotic movement of fluids.

Using multiple, strategically positioned rare-earth magnets within the tool, the molecules pass through its magnetic force, which is exerted perpendicular to the flow of fluid. At this point, the fluid molecules encounter the Lorentz force, the force that is exerted by a magnetic field on a moving electric charge. Before reaching the magnetic field, though, the fluid is pushed through a specially engineered annular space, creating the velocity necessary for the Lorentz force to be most effective.

In addition to being electrical conductors, produced water and hydrocarbon molecules are also dipolar, meaning that the molecule is electrically neutral and carries both a positive and a negative charge. As these molecules pass through the alternating magnetic fields, they become polarized and are pulled and steadied into a more rigid framework, rather than flowing haphazardly along with the forces of friction.

As this framework of produced water and hydrocarbon molecules stabilizes along with its new electric charge and magnetic field, other molecular particles such as paraffin, asphaltenes, scales and other sediments aren’t allowed to move as freely, preventing them from crystallizing and accumulating into lattice structures.

Prevention or regular remediation?

Although remedial methods can be effective, the accumulated drawbacks experienced in each fiscal quarter can amass quickly as the operating budget is chipped away by mitigation products and shipping costs, down time and extra man hours.

Hot oiling, for example, which most producers regard as hazardous process requiring a Hot Work Permit, has been shown to only be effective down to about 1,800 feet because the application cools and loses its thermodynamic effectiveness. Additionally, the oil used in this method is often sourced from tanks already containing paraffin and various other sediments.

While it might not exacerbate the problem, it ensures the need for frequent treatments. Additionally, there is a loss of production while the hot oiling process is being performed; and afterwards as the added “bad oil” precipitates its own accumulated paraffin and asphaltenes making this process unmanageable and requiring more frequent applications.

Mechanical methods such as wireline cutting, on the other hand, can be damaging to equipment and requires production downtime, as well as the required workers. Chemical treatments often use raw materials product mixtures, which can create hazards to employee health and the environment alike. Interestingly enough, chemical paraffin treatments known as wax crystal modifiers have the same polarizing effect created by the Flo-Rite’s MFC tool; however, a MFC tool is utilized without the associated employee and environmental exposures.

Treating 100% of the fluid

Because all of the fluid passes through the magnetic field, the reduction in paraffin deposition is witnessed throughout the system, not just in subsurface tubulars. As a result, the paraffin particles and other sediments remain in a suspended state and are less likely to settle and accumulate, along the flow lines and in storage tanks.

The tool, which comes in various diameter and lengths to meet the needs of the customer, can be placed in varying locations, such as subsurface (at the end of a tubing string or below down hole pumps) or in surface piping and pumps, depending on which system network needs to be targeted. Since 100 percent of the fluid passes through the MFC tool, the system’s overall health improves, along with the quality of crude.

The proof

Leo Cavness, Operations Foreman with Texas-based Traditions Resource Operating, installed the tool on a flowline. He said, “We could take a flowline that was 90 percent plugged with paraffin and within a few days to a week, it was all gone.”

Cavness also used tools on circulating pumps and tank batteries that had recurring problems with emulsion, asphaltenes, and paraffin. Before using the tools, the percentage of basic sediment and water impurities found in storage ranged from 1-2 percent. After introducing Flo-Rite Magnetic Fluid Conditioning to the system, that percentage fell to 0.5 percent.

In a trial conducted by Pioneer Natural Resources, the tool was installed below the rod pump on wells scheduled for a workover, which had been plagued by paraffin deposition issues. Prior to the tool’s installation, the wells selected for the trial experienced eight pump failures. After the installation of the tool, there was only one failed pump, and it was due to a hole in the tubing. No discernible paraffin deposition was found. Additionally, the data collected showed an increase in production rates after installation of the MFC tool, plus an accumulation of savings as other forms of paraffin mitigation were deemed unnecessary.

Surviving low oil prices

A variety of factors are in play when accounting for the economic benefit of implementing the tool. As production rates increase, more product is being produced with fewer resources.

After installation of a Flo-Rite’s MFC tool, positive results are witnessed in a matter of days and weeks, not months or years. The team at Flo-Rite, as well as us here at Energy Media Group, is steadfast in that this technology will advance the industry while diminishing negative impacts on producer spending, worker health, the environment, and subsequently, the future.

Test it for free

The team at Flo-Rite wants to give you the opportunity to witness the improvements first hand by offering a free 30-day trial of the Flo-Rite Magnetic Fluid Conditioning devices. The free trial runs for 30 consecutive days as most results are proven within that timeframe. For more information about the products and how to test the device on your own equipment, visit the Flo-Rite website at http://www.flo-ritefluids.com or contact Flo-Rite Fluids Inc. by phone at 325-893-0069, or by email at info@flo-ritefluids.com.

Flo-Rite is in the process of initiating field trials in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico and is looking for other problematic locations throughout the Rockies and on the West Coast.  If you are interested in a field trial in either of these locations, please contact Greg Ramalho at gramalho@nmassi.com or 505.215.1516.

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