Oil Water Separation Using Heating Elements

oil separation heater elementsOil/water separation is an important process in the production of oil and gas. It is especially necessary where fracking methods are employed.

A major component of downstream refining processes, separating the oil and water from other fluids makes it possible to refine crude oil and purify natural gases. As well, this separation is required to produce commercial products such as fuel oils, waxes, lubricants, and asphalts.

Creating Separation With Heating Elements

There are two heating methods for oil/water separation, direct and indirect. Both methods use heating elements to remove the water from the oil, because water has a lower evaporation point, precision heating makes it possible to remove the water without evaporating the oil. Heat is applied throughout downstream processing to further purify and refine products via separation.

Direct heating is the most efficient method and is the ideal solution where appropriate. This approach uses a direct immersion heater which submerges the heating elements directly into the fluid. As a result of this direct contact, nearly 100% of all heat is transferred into the product, with negligible wasted energy.

Indirect heaters, drywell heaters, have enclosed heater elements. Instead of coming in direct contact with the target medium, the heater elements create the heat inside of a closed pipe. The pipe then transfers the heat to the product. Although this offers less efficient heat transfer than direct heating, it provides greater protection for the heater. Where corrosion or damage to the elements is a significant concern, indirect heating is an effective solution.

Advantages of Electric Heating Elements for Oil/Water Separation

Electric heating elements are particularly advantageous for oil-water separation applications. We explore a few of their key benefits.

Reduce Exhaust Emissions

There is growing social, political, and financial pressure to reduce emissions, particularly in the oil and gas industry. Electricity produces virtually no emissions, allowing downstream processes to significantly reduce their ecological footprint.

Faster Production

Electric power makes it possible to achieve target temperatures faster and more accurately. As a result, users can process more product in less time without sacrificing quality. This increases output while decreasing operational costs, directly improving profitability. Factoring in the lower cost of electricity versus fossil fuels, and this margin increases further.

Smaller Units

Combustion heaters are larger and more complex than electric heaters. Using an electric heater takes up less space, allowing for more room for other operations and equipment. As well, they can even be skid-mounted for easy installation/uninstallation or for use in multiple tanks.


The more simple design of electric heaters results in fewer repairs, easier maintenance, and a longer lifespan. Combustion systems have more moving parts and failure points, as well as undergoing the ongoing stress that combustion puts on the system. Although electric heaters can have a higher initial price point, they have a lower cost over their lifespans as well as maintaining their efficiency longer.

Electric Heating Elements for the Oil & Gas Industry

Wattco custom-manufactures electric heating systems and elements for the oil and gas industry. Our team of experts helps you select the best electric heater for your specific application and budget.

Contact Wattco today for electric heating element quotes and information.