Refinery Water Engineering & Associates (RWE)

New trends in oil refinery wastewater reclamation

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Refinery Water Engineering & Associates (RWE)

Six of the ten largest companies in the world are Oil Companies. This fact would support the argument that there may be no industry more competitive than the Oil Industry.  Within the Oil Companies, the toughest challenges lie within the Refining Divisions. Extreme pressures exist to expand capacities, to produce products which generate market advantages, to improve upon environmental considerations, and last but not least, to reduce or optimize operating costs. In reviewing recent SEC Quarterly Reports (10-Q) for several of the large Oil Companies, in conjunction with studying historic gas price trends compared to crude oil prices, at least at present it appears that the Oil Industry is one of the major industries least affected by the current U.S. economic recession. However, if downward economic trends continue, sooner or later the Oil Industry will be significantly impacted.

Considering the above conditions, perhaps there is no better time for Oil Refineries to step up investment into capital projects capable of reducing operating costs with attractive return on investment schedules. The steadily accelerating operational costs in an Oil Refinery in the environmental areas are highly visible on management’s radar screen for target profit opportunities. Unfortunately, Environmental Departments are cost centers in refineries, they are not profit centers. As such, these departments frequently do not have sufficient resources to really produce step improvement with significant impact on the financial bottom line. A great example would be the centralized Wastewater Treatment Operations in a typical refinery. These departments often struggle trying to get financial, manpower, and interdepartmental support from the finished product department profit centers. Meanwhile, the profit centers such as the Crude Unit, Vacuum Unit, Cat Cracker, Hydrotreating, Coker, etc. are incurring massive expenditures on the Supply Water side. Supply of Desalter Wash Water, Cooling Tower Makeup, and Boiler Feedwater alone, with the related pretreatment costs, represent major budgetary requirements.

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