Production Chemistry – getting it right at the FEED stage

14 Apr 2014

By Karl Stevens, Production Chemistry Consultant, Maxoil Solutions.

Most production facilities experience chemistry problems - in the reservoir, the flowlines and on topside equipment.  Issues such as souring, scaling, emulsions, foaming, solids deposits, waxing are all too common problems and the traditional solution is to throw chemicals at them and hope they will go away.  In most cases the root cause of the problem reveals too little Production Chemistry input at the FEED stage of the project.  This can have occurred for a number of reasons: 

  • Lack of fluid samples
  • Lack of awareness
  • Budget constraints
  • Lack of priority

At the FEED stage sometimes the lack of awareness of the importance of fully integrating Process Chemistry issues into the Basis of Design for the project has led to some very serious shortcomings: whilst the FEED project has been concentrating on the process engineering lack of awareness in ensuring the Basis of Design was correct has undone this effort.   

On many projects a “silo” mentality can develop between disciplines where the importance of one input to the project is not realised by the rest of the team: investigations are performed and reports get written but any conclusions and recommendations are not always integrated into the project.  Frequently once the fluid properties are analysed and the production profile agreed the design work starts based consensus agreement based on this information alone. 

Maxoil have over the years provided detailed reviews to many projects in the design phase of the development of projects.  With the accumulated wealth of experience in the production chemistry/process environment they have been able to guide operators during this fluid period of design to ensure decisions that are made compliment the cost and efficiency of the program.   This process has been able to ensure chemical and process problems are reviewed and a balanced approach is taken provide the operators with strategy documents backed up with understanding. 

How to get it right at the FEED stage 

A recent example of this approach involved a Maxoil team working within a large project design office as a multi-disciplined integrated unit.  In this capacity all relevant Process Chemistry issues were identified from fully reviewing and understanding the relevant reservoir and fluid sample information: Maxoil used laboratories and specialists to define production chemistry issues producing necessary Production Chemistry data for incorporating into the project Basis of Design. 

The output of this process was that at Project Sanction there was in-depth understanding of the risks and a defined/detailed plan for the Project Execute stage.  This was achieved through the full realisation of the Production Chemistry issues and the design and the implementation of an information system which transformed this data into working documents used by the full project team.  

Such an approach has shown significant benefits to the project design and development phases with the project having the assurance that any chemical treatment programs implemented will have been reviewed with an experienced cross-functional review team.  Typically the review team will have worked with a multitude of operators and have many years of operational experience.  The programs are workable and appropriate to the proposed environment.

Realising the priority

Despite such successes there is still a reluctance to adopt this approach to the early FEED stages of a project: time, money, resources and priority are often cited as reasons.  However Maxoil’s experience is that getting Production Chemistry issues realised and understood is key to the success of project execution and efficient facility operation: money spent on Production Chemistry issues at the FEED stage pales into insignificance when compares with the end cost of getting it wrong.   

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