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OMMICA: Mitigating the Operator's financial burden in challenging times

OMMICA: Mitigating the Operator's financial burden in challenging times


Life in the oil industry is a daily tussle between human ingenuity and the forces of nature requiring the application of science on many different fronts.

One fascinating front is Oil and Gas Production Chemistry which attempts to control not only the output from an oil well but also the way in which oil, gas and water are separated, their preparation for shipment to the refinery, while allowing for flexible processing. Production chemistry ultimately affects the quality of the oil and its suitability to refineries which is reflected in the price per barrel paid to the producer.

Flow Assurance is an area of production chemistry which relates to the interactions which occur between the fluids flowing from the well during the production process. If flow and chemical interactions are not properly handled it can result in pipeline blockages, leading to millions of GBP lost in production and remediation costs. Chemicals are often injected at or near the wellhead to prevent potential issues such as hydrate blockage which is one of the most expensive problems affecting production apparatus or pipelines.

Unintended Consequences

Hydrates are generally easily prevented by injecting an inhibitor (antifreeze) into the flow to ensure that they cannot form. However, if this chemical is still present in the crude oil when it reaches the refinery for processing this is bad news. Just small amounts, normally parts per million of methanol or glycol, can cause damage at the catalysts and contaminate the effluent water treatment plant at the refinery.

The Polluter Pays

Refineries across the world have strict maximum levels for the amount of methanol and other chemical contaminants that they will accept in the crude oil and regularly issue penalties to producers who supply contaminated oil with more than 15 - 50 parts per million methanol. The Forties Pipeline System in Scotland for example issues a penalty of almost £4,000 per 1,000 litres of methanol contained in the crude oil.

In many cases the refinery will refuse a cargo of crude oil leaving the producer who, in turn, would have to search for a refinery that would accept their cargo with high levels of methanol. This will result in a reduced price per barrel for the cargo - perhaps as much as $3 to $5 per barrel which at today’s Brent crude price is approximately 10% of the value. For a tanker consignment this can amount to $4 or $5 million of lost income.

Managing the Problem

Methanol is not generally used by oil producers during normal production. It is only needed when wells are shut in. This gives operators some control of the amount of methanol present and how to manage the amount that enters their export pipelines or transport vessels. They do this by blending portions of high methanol content crude with zero methanol content crude in the pipeline for export or in the cargo tanker before it leaves the oil installation. This helps them avoid penalties from the refiners adding significant cost savings.

To demonstrate that their cargo is within specification, the operator needs to be able to establish the amount of methanol present in the crude oil as quickly as possible on arrival at the platform or cargo vessel. Complex test equipment, normally used by an onshore laboratory are required, however, these may be found 100 miles from shore and can take weeks to obtain a result if samples are required to be sent away for analysis. Therefore, a means of quickly and cost-effectively analysing methanol levels on location offers significant benefit.

This is where OMMICA comes in - a clever example of the appliance of science.

Duncan Baillie, Business Development Manager said “OMMICA is a compact easy-to-use field chemical analysis kit which was developed specifically to speed up production analysis. This enables producers to get information on their contamination levels fast resulting in them getting the best commercial outcome for their oil production. It does in minutes what would otherwise take days or weeks. The analysis is carried out by the client and provides a simple indicator on the condition of their cargo.”

OMMICA is the only methanol analysis kit developed for use in an offshore environment. It enables an unskilled operator to gain accurate results within the hour, achieving effective management of crude oil prior to its export to the refinery or point of sale.

The ability to manage the crude in this way assures the seller/buyer of the quality of the crude and can assist in commanding a higher price per barrel. Now that is good news in the current climate of COVID-19 and low oil price!

For more information contact:

Duncan Ballie, Business Development Manager

Email : duncan.ballie@ommica.com


Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.


Published: 17-10-2020

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