If you’ve ever burned a candle in the same candleholder over and over again, you know that there is going to be huge wax buildup. Removing the wax is no easy task.
The same holds true in the oilfield. The plain fact is that crude oil contains wax . . . paraffin to be exact . . . and over time, the buildup of that wax can be a nightmare for producers. You can’t scrape it with a razor blade and hope for the best. It’s a complicated issue that requires high-tech solutions to keep producers from enormous expenses, lost production and critical downtime.
Janise Barrett has spent over two decades in the industry working for companies like ConocoPhillips, Burlington Resources, and Hilcorp, and as one who has spent her career dealing with drilling issues and the subsequent environmental, monetary and time issues they create, she knows firsthand the problems caused by paraffin buildup.
“Paraffin and scale buildup in wells and pipelines is a fact of hydrocarbon life, especially in colder climates or subsea conditions, but also in standard vertical or horizontal wells in the lower 48,” she said. “It typically requires periodic shut-in to run wireline or pigging or the traditional hot-oil or steam treatments. These methods generally require permitting, which can be an extremely time-consuming process. The end result for the operator is loss of production time and the chance of error.”
According to Barrett, wireline can be especially tricky depending on the design of the well, be it vertical or horizontal. “The added well service cost as well as production down time costs the operator a significant amount of money,” she said.
The wireline and hot-oil methods have been around pretty much since modern oil production began. But, as Barrett points out, there are newer methods that make an operator’s life much easier. Magnetic fluid conditioners (MFCs), for example, eliminate the need for lengthy permitting and offer producers a host of other time-and-money saving opportunities.
“The upside of MFCs is really about prevention in the first place, reducing and eliminating the need for down time and remediation requiring shut in and subsequently lost production,” Barrett said. “In addition, they tend to have a smaller carbon footprint, are basically ‘green,’ and some, like those made by Flo-Rite Fluids, use no electricity, which totally eliminates yet another hazard.”
The MFCs Barrett referred to are made by Flo-Rite Fluids, Inc., a Texas-based 32-year-old company that received several US patents on their products. Simply put, the Flo-Rite Fluids MFC actually changes the molecular structure of the fluid, preventing buildup inside the pipe. This allows for longer equipment life, elimination of the need for additional treatments such as steam or hot oil, and as a side benefit, noticeable savings come from the dramatic reduction in down time and lower operational costs. In addition, it is a much more environmentally friendly method, and that pleases Barrett.
“Environmentally speaking, besides shutting in the systems for remediation, the amount of permitting and costs required to deal with a problem after it has occurred is both expensive and irresponsible,” she said. “Having a cleaner, less costly solution to paraffin buildup like Flo-Rite Fluids has developed makes financial and environmental sense. Using the old methods is costly, messy and creates an opening for human error to occur, and no one method is guaranteed to work over another from well to well. The Flo-Rite Fluids MFC gives you that confidence of consistency that is one less thing for a producer to worry about.”
Now, back to the cost savings aspect of MFCs over other treatments. In addition to the loss of production while the well is down for a hot oil treatment, there’s also the lost production while the well recovers from the treatment. There’s also the cost factor of the treatment itself, which can end up being a pricey proposition, considering it’s a temporary solution for a recurring problem. According to Flo-Rite Fluids, the combined amounts spent in treating paraffin per well per month could cover the cost of Flo-Rite Fluid’s downhole tools for an entire year.
So while legacy methods may be a good thing for certain procedures in the oil patch, new, proven technologies may be the best thing not only for the environment, but for a producer’s bottom line as well.
Find out more information about Flo-Rite Fluid’s paraffin control here, call 325-893-0069, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.