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Demulsification is the breaking of a crude oil emulsion into oil and water phases. From a process point of view, the oil producer is interested in three aspects of demulsification:

  • Rate or the speed at which this separation takes place
  • Amount of water left in the crude oil after separation
  • Quality of separated water for disposal

A fast rate of separation, a low value of residual water in the crude oil, and a low value of oil in the disposal water are obviously desirable. Produced oil generally has to meet company and pipeline specifications. For example, the oil shipped from wet-crude handling facilities must not contain more than 0.2% basic sediment and water (BS&W) and 10 pounds of salt per thousand barrels of crude oil. This standard depends on company and pipeline specifications. The salt is insoluble in oil and associated with residual water in the treated crude. Low BS&W and salt content is required to reduce corrosion and deposition of salts. The primary concern in refineries is to remove inorganic salts from the crude oil before they cause corrosion or other detrimental effects in refinery equipment. The salts are removed by washing or desalting the crude oil with relatively fresh water