Importance of Line Heaters in the Oil and Gas Industry
March 24, 2020 Welcome
To ensure a satisfactory rate of production in the oil and gas industry, operators must always use the right array of equipment. The use of appropriate equipment is particularly critical as oil and gas manufacture generates a lot of contaminants and by-products which may diminish process efficiency.
Line heaters in the oil and gas industry are among the vital pieces of equipment that preserve efficient production. Line heaters are indispensable in the prevention of hydrate formation within oil field components by maintaining desirable process temperatures. While line heaters can be employed in any environment, their use is particularly critical for harsh, low-temperature oil exploration and production.
What Is Hydrate Formation in O&G?
Hydrates are formed when a complex mixture of minerals and gases occurring naturally within oil pipelines condense into a solid form. Hydrates are formed when in-line pressures are high and temperatures are low, making it a more serious concern for operators working in an environment with low ambient temperatures.
Damaging Effects of Hydrates
The major problem associated with hydrate formation is the bottlenecking it causes within production lines. Unchecked, hydrates will plug pipelines and other equipment, raising pressure and diminishing production efficiency. Accumulation of hydrates within oil and gas manufacturing systems can potentially lead to fluid conduit failure requiring costly maintenance.
Preventing Damage with Pipeline Heaters in Oil and Gas
Since the hydrates that cause significant damage to oil production installations mostly occur at low temperatures, operators need to ensure proper thermoregulation of their processes. Using pipeline heaters is a key technique for attaining optimal temperatures that inhibit the development of hydrates. Once stable process temperatures are reached, the fluid contents of gas pipelines will continue to flow unhindered with minimal risk of accumulation and obstruction.
The pipeline heaters used in the oil and gas industry generally come in two variants: upstream and downstream. The upstream versions of oil heaters usually operate at higher pressures than their downstream counterparts. Regardless of type, oil line heaters are generally easy to install and operate as most types are available in factory-assembled configurations.
Types of Pipeline Heaters
The most effective pipeline heaters are either fused to the pipelines or designed as detachable modular process skids. The most common variants are outlined below.
Screw Plug Pipeline Heaters
These pipeline heating systems are welded to the pipes or storage tanks they serve. In most cases, highly heat resistant materials such as ceramic sheaths are used in screw plug heaters which facilitate temperatures up to 1000°F.
Flange type pipeline heaters have a similar configuration to screw plug variants. These heaters are ideal for use in large scale transport and storage applications as they can heat large volumes efficiently.
Open Coil Element Heaters
For operators looking to save cost on industrial heating, open coil element heaters provide a satisfactory alternative. These heaters will provide continuous low-cost heating evenly distributed over a large surface area while preventing temperature fluctuations. Open coil heaters are useful in warming tanks, pipes, and tubing made of metal.
How Do Pipeline Heaters Work?
Pipeline heaters function by pumping oil and gas into their interior where these fluids are exposed to heat exchangers that elevate their temperature. After heating to desired levels, the warmed liquids are returned to the process environment.
By heating process fluids, pipeline heaters ensure that smooth laminar flow is maintained within the transport and storage units as hydrate formation is inhibited.
Components of a Line Heater
The basic components of a conventional industrial line heater are a bath for housing heater liquids, a fire tube, and a process coil. When in operation, fluids are passed through the process coil immersed in a bath of heating liquids. The heat energy required to run the process is supplied by burning natural gas in a fire tube.
More recently, electric powered heaters have gained popularity due to their low operational costs and greater industrial safety profile. Electrical heaters are also easier to maintain when compared to heaters powered by other forms of energy.
Improved Pipeline Heater Safety
Similar to other process equipment, industrial hot oil heaters require proper handling to ensure compliance with the highest possible safety standards.
Key ways operators can maintain adequate heater safety are by scheduling and conducting regular maintenance checks. Further opting for heaters that incorporate newer energy systems improves the safety rating of the pipeline heaters.
IFS Provides Comprehensive Solutions for Midstream O&G
At Integrated Flow Solutions, we provide clients with the most efficient and complete solutions for midstream O&G. If you’re an industrial oil and gas project operator looking to gain a competitive edge in the industry, IFS is the right fit for you.
Contact us online today to learn more about the oil and gas industry solutions we provide.