The Cost Benefits of Instrumentation for Oil and Water Separators

When introducing new technology within the oil and gas industry, it is important to be able to compete on price as well as operational costs. As every investment needs to be approved by management, the initial investment cost for the technology (CAPEX) offered is what tends to get most attention.

Although cutting features will reduce the CAPEX, it is far from ideal. Consider that the longest period of any equipment's life is after it's been taken into operation, as such the OPEX will over time exceed the CAPEX several times. Consequently, a high CAPEX can be justified if it can substantially decrease the OPEX.

To understand the total cost of a new technology, it is therefore crucial to take into account the efficiency and added value. In other words, it is important to get an overview of how much operational costs (OPEX) may be reduced by introducing the new technology over the full life-cycle of the field. 

Suggested reading: Instrumentation for Oil and Water Separators: Just a Cost or a Great Investment?


Advanced Instrumentation

The oil and water separator is vital to an efficient oil production. It separates the oil from water and gas, making it a sellable product. However, it must function at maximum performance to gain all the possible cost-benefits. This is where advanced instrumentation comes in.

Advanced instrumentation for oil and water separators makes it possible to increase the oil production output, while at the same time reduce inefficiencies and processing costs.

Free Guide: How to choose the right instumentation for your 3-phase separator


The Cost Benefits of Advanced Instrumentation

1) High quality data

Advanced instrumentation allows you to monitor the different levels within the separator in real time and in any operating conditions. This real-time data makes it possible to limit the time spent on adjusting to upset conditions and avoid waste of time/production.

Furthermore, it gives the operator a dynamic digital twin tool. Utilizing this dynamic tool gives the advantage of increasing productivity, reducing downtime and the need of maintenance and re-calibration activities.

To summarize, instrumentation helps you get higher quality data which increases efficiency, automation and ultimately reduces production costs.


2) Produce at bigger capacity

Investing in advanced instrumentation like level profilers allow you to utilize the spare capacity within your separator. Hence, you can utilize your separator at 95% instead of 50-60% for the same production capacity.

Consequently, the separator can be smaller- which means it requires less steel to be built, as well as less space is needed. Offshore, this has a cascade effect that dramatically reduces the overall costs.

Suggested reading: Offshore vs. Onshore: Cost Drivers of an Oil & Water Separator

3) Reduce the injection of chemicals

Separators are built “blind”, meaning you cannot see what is going on within the separator at any given time.

This “blindness" is challenging: as you cannot see what lies ahead, you have to slow down production in order to be capable of identifying and dealing with unforeseen obstacles.

In addition to slowing down production, chemical injections are added at a constant rate to prevent any additional risks. In terms of the oil and water separator one of the biggest OPEX item is the chemical that the operators need in order to keep the separator functioning properly.

Due to the lack of visibility, the chemical injection rate cannot be optimized. Hence, it is not uncommon to over-inject, high operation costs.

Even an over-injection as small as 2% has big repercussions, due to the fact that it is a continuous operation, happening 365 days a year, for several years of production.

Through adding advanced instrumentation, you are able to gain visibility inside the separator. Consequently, the operator will know what should be injected, whether that’s emulsion breaker, anti-scaling etc. As such, you are able to optimize this process and prevent any over-injection and consquent waste of expensive chemicals.


Advanced instrumentation allows you to collect more data about the production process, which means higher efficiency, lower downtime and operational cost (OPEX). This real-time data provides the operator a dynamic digital twin tool. Utilizing this dynamic tool gives the advantage of further increasing productivity and reducing the need of maintenance and re-calibratation activities.

Furthermore, investing in advanced instrumentation technology allows you to optimize your separator so it can be utilized 100%. Consequently, the separator can be smaller- which means it require less steel to be built, as well as less space is needed. Offshore, this has a cascade effect that dramatically reduces the CAPEX.

Lastly, the added visibility gained through implementing advanced instrumentation also allow you to optimize the injection rate of chemicals. Consequently, you avoid any over-injection and substantially reduce OPEX over time.


Guide: How to choose the right instrumentation for your 3-phase oil and water separator

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