Viscosity of Crude Oil

Viscosity is the term used to describe how difficult it is for a fluid to flow. The viscosity is measured in centipoise or abbreviated cP.  cP goes back the French physican Poiseuille, who made studies about the flow of blood.
Water has at 20°C a viscostiy of 1 cP. This vicosity gets less with increasing temperatur. At 25°C water has only 0.89 cp.

How viscosity works is difficult to understand. So we talk about honey at this place, with honey people have experience. Honey has a viscocity of 2,000 to 10,000 cP).
The viscosity of the honey shown in the video is so high that when the drop falls, not all the honey falls, but part of it goes up again due to its viscosity. If crude oil has such a high viscocity, one can imagine, how difficult it is to pump the stuff or what strain it gives to the pumpwheels.
You can do a simple test. Take a glass of honey and stir with a spoon. The higher the viscosity, the harder it is to stir.
In general, the viscosity increases, if the temperature is lower. Honey at 20°C is thicker and less flowable than honey at a temperature of 50°C. This can be tested, if you have honey which is not flowing anymore, put in hot water and it will flow again.

In case of the crude oil the ingredients of the crude determine its viscosity. Especially tar or asphaltene, increase the thickness of crude. The higher the viscosity, the more difficult it is to transport through a pipe. Pumping highly viscous liquids can be very energy-intensive and wearing for machines and pipes.

The second major factor influencing viscosity is the temperature. We know customer who are heating the crude, before being pumping through the pipeline. The heat has to be high enough to ensure that the crude at the end of the pipe is still pumpable. As longer the crude is in the pipe as more the temperature decrease. If pipelines are too long several heat stations a long the pipe line are used.

The issues around viscosity and temperature management are a main part of engineering around crude oil. If the energy for heating and pumping is more costly than the revenue of the oil, it sometimes makes no economic sense to even use the crude.

Managing the negative effects of a high viscosity

Protecting machines and pipes from the wearing through high viscous crude can be one side effect of the treatment with our technology. In theory, there are at least traces of water in the crude. When in contact with our technology they serve as a lubricant between the different „layers“ of the liquid. In consequence, the shear forces being responsible for viscosity are reduced in the crude.

In practice, this means, that the transportation of the crude is facilitated. It will be easier to pump the crude, even if it is not changed chemically.

In the past, we have done some tests to collect data on this phenomenon. For now, we only have tendencies as the number of cases has been too small. We will be happy to discuss the options for a trial on site if you like to contact us on this topic.

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