Hot on the heels of corrosion
Research firm Avantium has developed a test method to find out how corrosive the constituents of crude oil are. This occurs by adding special additives that eliminate the chemicals that cause rust, rather damaging for pipelines and refineries.
Establishing the degree of the components’ corrosiveness was always somewhat laborious, says Dr. Gert-Jan Gruter from research firm Avantium. ‘A metal strip hangs in a relatively large stirred batch reactor with oil at operating temperature. With an iron strip, the quantity of rust that is formed is a measure of corrosiveness. The disadvantage is that it takes a long time to see this effect. As a result of this, the oil is heated far longer than the circulation time in the refinery. The relevant constituents in the oil can disintegrate, as a result of which the measurements are no longer representative.’
Four parallel tubes
Avantium’s test method consists of four parallel tubes with a diameter of 2 mm in which crude oil constantly circulates. The tubes draw the fluid from a reactor vessel with oil at room temperature. A section of the tubes is incorporated into an aluminium block that can be heated accurately to 200-300°C. Small metal strips hang in these tubes, says Gruter. ‘Because the flows of fluid are very low in terms of volume, they warm up extremely rapidly. Once they reach the metal strips the oil is at operating temperature. The heated flows of oil subsequently flow into the reactor container and cool off as quick as a flash. In this way it is not constantly the same oil that is being heated.’
Another advantage is that the entire test unit, called Flowrence, is a stand-alone piece of equipment and can operate outside of the refinery, at the loading point for example. ‘Refineries want to know, most preferably before the oil goes into the tank, what supply flow they are dealing with. This unit is 1.30 metres tall, 1 metre wide and contains all systems for analysis.’
Parallel catalyzed chemical reactions
Among other reasons, Avantium has become famous because of technology for the extremely rapid analysis of parallel catalyzed chemical reactions. ‘We are using this technology again’, says Gruter. ‘The method of analysis is also interesting for companies that are developing additives to make oil more ‘friendly’. They want to know quickly what the effects of new chemicals are. We can also make a system with sixteen tubes; in each tube of oil there are different additives. Our technology analyses the sixteen effects simultaneously’.
The patent application was written by Nyske Blokhuis from EP&C. Because of her background at Stork the application went fairly smoothly, says Gruter. ‘This made the communication easier.’
December 2008 – De Technologiekrant