Squeezing value from wastewater in petrochemical and refinery industry

June 21, 2017
Written by Staff
The petrochemical and refinery industry is undergoing profound changes. As technology and innovation lead to new, more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of developing products, many older facilities have closed down.

Existing facilities are being retrofitted, rather than built brand new. They are asked to manage greater capacity; handle a wider variety of crude feedstock; adapt to increasingly stringent environmental regulations for both fuel product quality and facility carbon emissions; and strive to be more energy efficient, all while grappling with an aging infrastructure and increased operational complexity.

Of the many ways companies in this sector can work to overcome these challenges, creative waste management solutions provide tremendous environmental and financial benefits, helping companies maintain a competitive edge in a challenging market.

A leading Canadian service provider pioneering sustainable environmental solutions for the petrochemical and refinery industry, Terrapure Environmental, says that the secret is not so much in developing new technology, but in leveraging existing technology in innovative ways for customers that put their challenges at the centre of the solution. The waste management solutions that come out of this thinking benefit the environment and help customers operate in a more sustainable manner.

One-of-a-kind solution
Traditionally, petrochemical and refinery sludge from tanks and wastewater treatment ponds is treated entirely as waste and is transported offsite for incineration or landfill disposal. However, there is often great value in this waste. By recognizing this opportunity, a different approach to waste management can actually allow petrochemical companies and refineries to leverage the value that comes from their own waste. One example of this is the use of centrifuge technology.

A centrifuge is a machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents, separating liquids from solids. Terrapure uses centrifuges to separate different components within a waste stream to recover valuable industrial by-products. This unique approach of separating and managing waste components individually allows customers to recover valuable resources; reduce the cost of transportation and disposal; and reduce the volume of waste for disposal and the related environmental impact.

By completing a detailed analysis of each waste stream onsite at the customer’s location, Terrapure identifies and applies creative and customized solutions for each. The company recovers the value in waste by removing oil and water contents, therefore reducing the volume of solid waste that ultimately requires disposal. This helps minimize costs of transportation and incineration or landfill disposal, improve performance and minimize the carbon footprint and overall environmental impact of the business.

How it works
Terrapure operates centrifuges of varying sizes that can process anywhere from 5,000 to 300,000 litres of material per hour. On average, this reduces solid-liquid and liquid-liquid waste volumes by 65-85 per cent, while recovering the valuable oil and water components for reuse. For example, if a customer has eight-million litres of slurry/water mix it needs removed from a tank and processed, Terrapure can use its centrifuges over a six-day period to reduce the volume of solid waste requiring transportation and disposal by 75 per cent – down to 600 dry tonnes. This significant reduction in volume means significantly lowers costs and reduced environmental impacts associated with transportation and disposal for the customer.

Because the process recovers oil and water for reuse, this also reduces the customer’s reliance on non-renewable resources, reducing the impact to the environment while providing further financial value.

The Customer
This North American refinery produces oil, gasoline and natural gas. The company operates distribution terminals and a fleet of delivery trucks to serve wholesale, commercial and retail customers.

The Challenge
The refinery was struggling with continuous buildup of heavy slurry oil, decreasing the efficiency of three onsite settling tanks where the heavy slurry oil was stored. The buildup was caused by the use of a catalyst in the refining process that would mix with the heavy oil. Due to the temperature of the tanks, the catalyst (made up of silicone and paraffin content) was in a solid state, compounded by the heavy oil. Over time the solids accumulated, reducing the tanks’ ability to efficiently separate the heavy oil. This cost the refinery time and resources and slowed down the refining process.

The Solution
The customer asked Terrapure to analyze the heavy oil slurry holding tanks and Terrapure developed a customized solution that would improve tank efficiencies and maximize product recovery and waste volume reduction. By jet mixing the contents of the holding tanks with a Gamma Jet pump and nozzles, Terrapure’s operators were able to effectively break up the solid material, making it possible to pump the solids and semi-solid contents out of the settling tank.

Once both solids and semisolids were pumped out of the tank, they were run through Terrapure’s onsite centrifuge system, which separated the heavy oil and the solids into separate waste streams. This allowed Terrapure to recover the oil to be returned to the customer’s tanks for reuse, while the remaining, significantly reduced volume of solids was disposed of separately.

The Results
Terrapure’s onsite services allowed the refinery to:
  • Recover valuable heavy oil (up to 60 per cent of the heavy oil in each holding tank) and return it to the refinery’s bunker pool
  • Reduce the volume of waste requiring disposal
  • Reduce costs associated with disposal by nearly 50 per cent
  • Reduce transportation associated with disposal, as well as the associated GHG emissions
  • Help the refinery implement more environmentally sustainable processes and reduce its long-term environmental impact

This article was submitted by Terrapure Environmental. For more information, visit www.terrapureenv.com.

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