Heater treater solutions continue to attract attention, as industry seeks a better way to achieve North Dakota’s vapor pressure standards for crude oil in winter. The standard was implemented to improve safety of Bakken crude transportation.

Two ideas were circulating on the floor of the Bakken Oil Products and Services Show Thursday, vying for attention. One was an older idea, and the other a brand new contender, freshly designed by Chromalax, represented by Volco.

The new device is essentially a large electrical heating element. In an illustration of the device, heat tape is also wrapped around the pipeline that runs to the production tanks, to keep the oil at the required temperature.

John Skow, with Volco, said about 50 of the newly designed electrical heating units had been manufactured for an oil and gas company in the Bakken. That company was subsequently sold, so the deal is on hold, but in the meantime, the new device has already been sold to other companies in the Bakken.

One selling point of the device, Skow said, is that the heating element is easily replaced. With traditional heater treaters, a tank would have to be drained before the fire tube could be replaced. But with the Chromalax device, the heating element is simply be pulled out of the device and replaced, without needing to drain the tank.

The other solution is actually a repeat visitor who has attended the BOPSS show three years in a row. The device was invented by Wayne King, who first introduced it to the Bakken at a North Dakota Petroleum Conference three years ago.

His invention runs a glycol-water steam mixture through corrosion resistant tubes that are plugged directly into the heater treater in place of the usual fire tube. As the steam exchanges its heat, it condenses and runs out of the tubes. That, in turn, creates a vacuum, which acts to simply pull in more steam, without the need for pumping or circulating units.

There is no flame with this setup, and the voltage required to run the unit is exceptionally low. On the millivolt scale.

The NDIC has granted King’s invention an exemption from its usual rules, which require a 125-foot distance between a heater-treater and production tanks. King’s device can instead be within 21 feet of production tanks.

Among visitors intrigued by the device were some employees of Continental Resources, who were at the show to see who had what new technology to potentially solve problems.

“This is just a neat concept,” said Josh Evans, who took photos of the device to send back to the office.

Continental is using fire tubes, Evans said, and he’s had to relight them from time to time. Upon occasion, it’s meant a face full of soot and smoke.

“These would be easy to control,” he said, indicating King’s device.

Andy Craven, National Sales Director for Elite Petroleum, which is now the sole licensed distributor of King’s invention, said the heater-treater replacement King designed has been an easy sell for the company so far, which took over its distribution in January of this year.

“It becomes a no-brainer,” he said, “because of all the safety aspects.”

The heater-treater has no fire. Its power source is low voltage. No pumps or valves are necessary. The device is the same size as existing heater treaters, which makes retrofitting easy.

“They can simply unplug the old heater treater and plug this one in,” Craven explained.

Craven said while the BOPSS event generally has a smaller number of contacts than some of the other trade shows they’ve attended, the quality tends to be better. They are talking to people with their feet on the ground in the Oil Patch, many of whom are either decision makers for their company, or have direct connections with them.

“Every time we have come, it’s paid for the show and then some,” Craven said. “We didn’t get a lot of traffic, but the traffic we did get felt pretty solid.”

Plus, the people they talk to at the show share their knowledge, which can help further refine the product, added Peter Henkels, with TecValco.

“The feedback you get is great,” he said.

As a result of such feedback, the company is now testing a dual model, that will run two tanks instead of just one. That spreads the cost of the device across two wells instead of just one.

“The test device is already set up,” Craven said. “We’ll be firing up the test in another couple weeks.”


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