Simple Turnkey Solution Saves Crude Oil Company Thousands in Lost Production and Repairs

Challenge


Many crude oil production companies use freshwater injection systems to increase oil production and lower maintenance costs. These injection systems take freshwater stored in tanks above ground, pump it through a high-pressure skid, then inject it down into the well. This increases down-hole pressure and encourages oil to work towards the well.  Some oil production companies are located in parts of the United States that have harsh winters with sub-zero temperatures that can last for weeks. Everything above ground that can freeze must be protected with heat and insulation. The top layer of earth can also freeze with a 5’+ permafrost. An oil production company was having problems with the freshwater flow lines freezing up in the vertical sections that go through the permafrost layer. All of the frozen lines stemmed from the self-regulating heat trace cable they were using which kept burning out. It would short out at the bend required to fit it down inside the 1” thermowell pipe. The secondary problem was the lack of sufficient heat output when self-regulating heat trace is folded back on itself. With each failure came thousands of dollars in lost production, down time, labor and materials to thaw the line.

Solution


Valin's technical specialists were able to come up with a simple solution after we had a chance to take a look at what they were doing and why it was failing. Instead of using a heat trace cable that needed a return loop to terminate electrically, we found that a simple heating cable could be used. And to increase reliability and longevity, we added redundant thermostat control snap disks to control the temperature. The control had a kill switch that would activate should it start to overheat.

When on location assessing the original problem, the customer asked if Valin could fabricate the 8’ thermowell pipes they were using. After looking at the space requirements needed inside the pipe for the new heating element and thermostats, we were able to shrink the pipe from 1” to just 3/4”. That 1/4” may not seem like much, but it allowed the company to shrink their flow pipe from 3” down to 2”, saving them 50% per foot on that cost.

Customer Benefits


The oil company determined that their old heating units lasted only a couple of months into winter and a year or two before failing. A single failure during the winter cost them $10,000/day in lost production and repairs.

The savings in downtime with this new unit will pay for itself within the months of winter with increased production, lower maintenance costs and less downtime. The solution is expected to outlast the old solution by 10 years. Valin provided a simple turnkey solution that will have a long and dependable life with plenty of heat output.