Project Synopsis

Perform calculations in support of the system development and process safety evaluation for a novel experimental process for heating/cracking heavy oils (heavy fuel oil, bitumen, etc.) at elevated temperatures.

Project Summary


Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was contracted by the client, an oilfield process technology development company, to perform calculations in support of a process and safety evaluation for the client’s experimental process for heating heavy oils (heavy fuel oil, bitumen, etc.) to elevated temperatures.  This experimental process is intended to support the client’s 1,000 barrel per day pilot-scale facility to be used for proving the concept of bitumen/heavy oil upgrading (cracking) by irradiation with an electron beam from a beam generator.  More specifically, PROCESS performed the following tasks in support of this effort:

  • Characterized the bitumen/heavy oil feed and product streams based on chromatography data provided by the client and simulated distillation curve techniques for estimating normal boiling point (NBP) distributions for each.  Incorporated these compositions into a computer process simulation model.
  • Performed process simulation based flash calculations of the bitumen/heavy oil feed and electron beam product streams at elevated temperatures of interest to the client.
  • Summarized the resulting vapor and liquid stream compositions and quantities.
  • Compared the vapor phase components to analog compounds (the original component lists were based on normal boiling point or boiling cut point type compositions) and then summarized the following data about the vapor phase:
    • Flash temperatures
    • Auto-ignition temperatures
    • Lower explosive limits (LEL) based on the lowest LEL valued component
    • Safe operating time period for experimental operation given vapor evolution rates, vapor phase compositions, beam vault volume, etc. to maintain vault atmosphere below the LEL.
  • Calculated the experimental electron beam vault volume, ventilation rate (volume turnovers per minute), and compared the vapor evolution rate to the calculated ventilation rate for LEL determinations.

Industry Type

  • Oilfield Heavy Oil Upgrading

Utilized Skills

  • Distillation data development
  • Pilot operations support
  • Novel process development assistance
  • Process safety evaluation assistance

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