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Onsite Nitrogen Generators for the Oil and Gas Industry: Storage Tank Blanketing, Enhanced Recovery and Other Uses

Utilizing onsite nitrogen generators in oil and gas industry applications is a huge asset to the industry because it guarantees that individual applications will always have a steady and reliable supply of nitrogen gas on hand. An onsite nitrogen generating system also increases safety standards, eliminates operational downtime, and saves facilities a great deal of money by eliminating the need to have LN2 nitrogen trailers delivered and installed whenever nitrogen supply needs to be replenished.

The Use of Nitrogen Generators in Petroleum Products Storage Facilities

Nitrogen gas is essential for the oil and gas industry. It prevents both onshore and offshore fire and explosion hazards caused by negative chemical reactions. When it comes to tank storage facilities nitrogen gas, being completely inert, can displace any oxygen that may be present in the oil storage tanks. When oxygen interacts with certain chemicals, the results could be lethal, so it’s important to remove it entirely through nitrogen blanketing. Volatile materials in the tank can’t come into contact with oxygen thereby eliminating the potential for fire and explosion.

Used oil tanks need to be thoroughly cleaned out on a regular basis to remove the slag from the oil that settles at the bottom of the tank. Slag is a sludge-like substance that consists of various contaminants such as dirt, debris, rust from the tank, microorganisms, and leftover particulate matter from the fuel. This combination of substances can contaminate new oil and gas products that are placed inside the tank for storage, rendering the tanks ineffective at maintaining the purity of the product inside.

During the cleaning process, ambient air containing oxygen can enter into the interior of the tank. Before storing new oil and gas products inside, the tanks have to be flushed or purged with nitrogen gas to displace the any oxygen in the tank and prevent a negative chemical reaction that could cause a fire or explosion. In addition to protecting the entire facility from the possibility of igniting a fire or explosion, clean, dry nitrogen gas also helps preserve the purity, quality, and lifespan of the petroleum products being stored as well as helps preserve the structural integrity of the tank itself.

Problems Faced during Oil Extraction

One of the main challenges facing the oil industry is in the oil extraction process itself. Oil wells produce an intense amount of drive pressure that only allows for a small percentage (about 12% to 15%) of oil to be extracted from the wells. Even after implementing a series of oil extraction practices such as a gas lift, stimulation, and fracturing, these efforts are often met with minimal success and approximately 60% to 70% of the oil remains unattainable inside the wells.

On top of the minimal success rates, many of the oil extraction processes that have been adopted by oil companies have a dire environmental impact, which is why they’re typically frowned upon and criticized by environmental organizations like the EPA.

Nitrogen generators for oil well pressurization can help minimize environmental risks and concerns by increasing oil reservoir pressure. This maximizes the amount of oil extracted from the wells in less time than other more harmful processes.

The Role of Nitrogen Gas in Oil Extraction and Recovery

Nitrogen is a completely inert gas, which means it’s colourless, odourless and won’t negatively react with other products which makes it incapable of altering the quality or texture of any substance with which it comes in direct contact. These properties make it the ideal gas for separating and displacing oxygen from oil wells and helps the oil products to retain their quality.

Unlike carbon dioxide, salt water or fresh water injection, inert nitrogen doesn’t have a corrosive effect on borehole piping making it an ideal medium for injecting downhole to enhance field recovery.

Other Important Nitrogen Gas Uses in the Oil and Gas Industry

Downhole Drilling Operations

Since nitrogen is a non-corrosive gas, it can be used to blanket downhole pipelines, preventing corrosion and increasing onsite safety standards in oil fields.

Hydrocarbons can have an explosive reaction if they come in contact with air. Nitrogen gas neutralizes wellbore and pay zone areas to prevent this from happening. An efficient way to introduce nitrogen gas into these downhole pipelines is by drilling a small hole so that the drill bit can go deeper into the mechanism and blanket the entire tank in as little time as possible.

Pressure Maintenance

Oil reservoirs that use salt or fresh water to flush out hydrocarbons from tanks can also benefit from incorporating nitrogen gas to maintain certain pressure levels. Nitrogen gas doesn’t mix in with oil and water and can therefore be injected or flooded into oil wells to remove remaining hydrocarbon pockets that may have been missed by water.

Thorough hydrocarbon removal is essential to maintaining and enhancing safety standards in oil fields.

Purging and Pigging

Oil pipelines and storage reservoirs can often become contaminated with various liquids and oxygen. The presence of oxygen in these areas can be hazardous in that the oxygen can mix in with other elements or gases and produce a hazardous reaction such as a fire or explosion.

Purging is a vital process that is used to completely eliminate the contaminants in an oil well, tank, or pipeline. Once the undesirable contents are removed, they can be replaced with nitrogen, which is an inert gas and helps control the atmosphere inside the oil reservoir, tank, or pipeline.

Pigging is a practice that involves using a “pig” (a mechanical device that goes inside the oil tank or pipeline to perform maintenance operations. Primarily pigging is used to clean the interior walls of the tank by scrubbing off various chemical deposits or residues that might be left behind during the process of storing or moving petroleum products. Typically, nitrogen gas is used while undertaking this process to prevent any hazardous reactions.

Also Read: How Can Nitrogen Generators Improve Safety in the Oil and Gas Industry?

Onsite Nitrogen Generators for the Oil and Gas Industry from Advanced Gas Technologies

Advanced Gas Technologies is one of the leading providers of onsite Membrane and PSA nitrogen gas generators for the oil and gas industry. Onsite nitrogen generators are a worthwhile investment for any oil production company. They can reduce operational costs, increase safety standards, eliminate downtime, and limit the environmental impact of various oil extraction methods by providing 24/7 continuous access to nitrogen gas. Contact us today to learn more.

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