Mercury Removal Process Is Applied to Crude Oil of Southern Argentina
- Carlos Alberto Salva (PETROBRAS Argentina SA) | Darrell Lynn Gallup (Chevron Corp.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference, 1-3 December, Lima, Peru
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2010. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 4.1.3 Dehydration, 6.5.3 Waste Management, 4.3.3 Aspaltenes, 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.1 Reservoir Characterisation, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion, 4.6 Natural Gas
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The presence of elemental mercury and mercury compounds has been reported in some produced hydrocarbons from southern fields in South America.
Although mercury removal from natural gas is a common industrial practice, that is not the case for crude oil. Mercury is a trace contaminant that is known to have severe associated problems in the petroleum industry, whose consequences may have impact on both environmental and facilities integrity/safety with undesirable costs.
Petrobras Argentina has worked in a mercury removal project that has been implemented with success. The process treatment is being applied to crude oil from E&P Petrobras Argentina concessions areas. As a result, a purified oil with much lower mercury concentration is achieved. Crude oil having acceptable mercury content is now commercialized in the market, with no restrictions.
The presence of mercury in oil may cause trouble in many parts of the production, transportation, storage and refining systems, generating products and effluents with mercury contents that may exceed the maximum allowed by local regulations or other environmental standards of companies.
Currently many incentives promote mercury removal from crude oil; most of them are driven by refining companies through defined "unacceptable quality?? or in the high penalties of price discounts. These main reasons are the following:
a) Environmental problems in refineries.
The mercury balance in raw petroleum is: Hg (crude oil) = Hg (air) + Hg (products) + Hg (waste water) + Hg (solids waste) 1.
Although mercury from oil in the refinery is distributed into the different product streams according to the previous equation, wastewaters streams typically may contain mercury in excess. When this occurs, wastewaters are not allowed to be discharged in open rivers or oceans because regulatory conformity would not be reached.
b) Contamination of valuable products from refinery streams, such as gas streams, LPG, light or heavy distillate products.
c) Hydrotreating catalyst poison or other further catalyst contamination in refined streams due to precious metal amalgamation.
d) Risk of health problems in personnel involved with operation and equipment maintenance.
e) Additional expenses in upstream and downstream facilities such as special disposal of contaminated mud from tanks, cleaning of equipment, cleaning of ships, restricted shipping, etc.
f) Corrosion of materials equipment, such as in copper and aluminum due to metal embrittlement.
Some of these circumstances have made refining companies to consider additional processes for mercury removal in some of the lighter hydrocarbon product streams. However, they are more likely to set up more strict limits for this contaminant in crude oil entering the refinery, thereby making more difficult the commercialization of the produced liquids with mercury.
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