Research Institute of Petroleum Industry

Development of the Know-How and Technology of Electrostatic Desalters

Crude oil extracted from petroleum reservoirs, always contains some water and impurities that should be separated. A portion of the water is removed in three phase separators and gravity tanks. Separation of the remaining  fine water droplets is possible via electrostatic methods, like electrostatic desalters. In crude oil desalters, a strong electric field is applied to coalesce the small drops and form larger drops,  significantly increasing their settling rate and therefore improving water separation efficiency.



Presence of water in crude oil and distillates is one of the most important challenges in oil industries. Gravitational methods are conventionally used for such separations, but they turn out to be ineffective in the case of emulsified water droplets. Electrostatic desalters are utilized in crude oil surface facilities and refineries, to help solve this problem.


Aims and Achievements

Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI) has begun some attempts on electrostatic desalter to achieve this technology. To this end, several projects including:

v  Experimental and numerical study of desalting mechanism (electrocoalescence)

v  Design and construction of a continuous pilot plant for operating condition tests

v  Design and construction of special key element (H.V. entrance bushing patent)

v  CFD simulation of Crude Oil desalter

v  Development of a preliminary version of in-house professional software


Financial and Economic aspects

v Joint development of desalter technology with equipment constructors

v  Consulting services on performance improvement and troubleshooting of desalter units

v  Cooperation in industrial and engineering projects on desalter units

v  Performance test of different crude oils and operating condition using RIPI’s in-house pilot plant

v Design and construction of mobile pilot plants for field tests and demulsifier selection


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