Paraffin Deposition and Prevention in Oil Wells
- R.M. Jorda (Shell Development Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1966
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,605 - 1,612
- 1966. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.3.4 Scale, 3.1.6 Gas Lift, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion, 1.10.1 Drill string components and drilling tools (tubulars, jars, subs, stabilisers, reamers, etc), 3 Production and Well Operations, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 3.1.1 Beam and related pumping techniques
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The mechanism of paraffin deposition and prevention has been studied in the laboratory using an apparatus which provides a quantitative means of studying paraffin deposition on metal and plastic surfaces. The amount, hardness, adhesion, per cent wax and mean molecular weight of paraffin deposits appear to be governed by surface roughness alone, all other conditions being constant. Tests of various plastic coatings indicate that most smooth, nonparaffinic plastics are capable of reducing paraffin deposits in oil wells, but flexible, highly polar, nonparaffinic plastics are more suitable for providing long term resistance to paraffin deposition in oil wells if the flow stream contains abrasive materials.
The problem of paraffin deposition is one of long standing in the oil industry.' Crude oils often contain paraffins which precipitate and adhere to the liner, tubing, sucker rods and surface equipment as the temperature of the producing stream decreases in the normal course of flowing, gas lifting or pumping. Heavy paraffin deposits are undesirable because they reduce the effective size of the flow conduits and restrict the production rate from the well. Where severe paraffin deposition occurs, removal of the deposits by mechanical, thermal or other means is required, resulting in costly down time and increased operating costs.
The troublesome paraffins are normal hydrocarbons ranging from approximately C(18)H(38) to C(38)H(78) mixed with small amounts of branched paraffins, monocyclic paraffins, polycyclic paraffins and aromatics. The amount of paraffins found in crude oils varies from less than 1 to more than 30 per cent. Many publications are available which deal with this problem, and perhaps the most significant findings in recent literature are contained in a publication by Hunt who developed the "cold spot tester", a really useful means of investigating paraffin deposition. Hunt's observations led to many generalized conclusions concerning the effect of surface roughness on paraffin deposits. He ascertained that there was an observable qualitative correlation between the severity of paraffin deposition and the roughness of the surfaces which he tested (cold rolled steel, stainless steel and several plastics). Because of the number of meaningful observations made by Hunt, his cold spot tester was modified somewhat and extensive tests were performed to study the quantitative relationship between surface roughness and the physical and chemical nature of paraffin deposits.
LABORATORY TEST PROCEDURES
The cold spot test apparatus consists of a flat circular plate mounted on a curved tube and positioned in a vessel containing a wax-oil solution (Fig. 1). The apparatus is arranged so that the temperature of the central portion of the circular plate can be varied by means of a circulating liquid stream; the test equipment includes provisions for maintaining a constant wax-oil solution temperature and stirring speed. In the paraffin deposition studies, the modified cold spot tester was used as follows. The cold spot probe consisted of a flat circular plat 2 in. in diameter and 1/8-in. thick positioned in the wax-oil solution kept at constant temperature. As in Hunt's earlier experiments,' a cold liquid was circulated through a tube connected to the circular plate so that the liquid impinged on one side of the plate cooling the plate from the center outward, causing paraffin to deposit on the side of the plate exposed to the wax-oil solution.
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