Hydrates: A Pipeline Problem Industrial Heaters Can Solve

Last updated on July 3rd, 2023 at 07:00 pm

Hydrates are more than a nuisance to pipelines—they can result in significant production and delivery troubles in the oil and gas industry. Repairing the damage caused by hydrate formation is costly and time-consuming. However, the right use of heating methods and heating units can prevent these compounds from forming so pipelines can operate without obstruction. The right industrial heaters can stop hydrates in their tracks.

A guide to hydrate formation

The oil and gas industry functions through networks of pipelines to transport natural gasses. In colder environments, pipelines are at risk of developing obstructions due to hydrate formations.

A hydrate is the structure water molecules can become when subject to specific pressure and temperature in a pipeline. The hydrate is composed of natural gas molecules like methane but it can contain multiple hydrocarbons. The hydrate will look like ice but will burn when lit.

When a pipeline begins to form hydrates, it can slow the flow of gas, which affects operation, production, and maintenance, and raises safety concerns. Hydrates will form in low temperatures, so there’s an easy preventative solution for affected pipelines.

The effects of hydrate formation

The initial problem hydrate formations cause is blockages or constraints in the pipeline. This leads to a reduction in production which affects an oil or gas industry’s bottom line. As the pressure builds in the pipeline due to the hydrates, strain is added to more equipment. 

As the pressure then increases, the equipment is more susceptible to failure, or at the very least, unfavorable production rates, and costly maintenance becomes necessary. However, the hydrate formation is known only in colder climates meaning the key is to maintain a safe temperature in the pipelines using industrial heaters.

Industrial heaters can help prevent hydrates

Address hydrates, and better yet, prevent them, by installing pipeline heaters for thermoregulation. The consistent temperature will ensure oil and gas travel unobstructed through the pipelines to produce the results it’s meant to. 

Screw plug heaters

Wattco’s screw plug heaters weld hairpin tubular elements into the pipe thread fitting. They’re then screwed directly through a threaded coupling in the tank wall or vessel, or installed in the pipe. Screw plug heaters are an easy way to heat solutions in smaller containers that also require controls. Mechanical thermostats or digital control panels can be used with these immersion heaters to help reach target temperatures with great accuracy meeting your project objectives.

The screw plug heater at Wattco is well-used for heating gases and liquids in tanks or vessels. These submersible heating elements have been designed so heat transfer will occur at a rapid rate, enabling quick liquid heat-up times.

Flanged heaters

Similarly to screw plug heaters, Wattco’s flanged heaters use hairpin elements of bugle tubular elements extending from the face of the flange. The flanged heater uses direct heat application to the liquid medium. Wattco flanged heaters allow the flexibility of using many different alloys to help resist corrosion and maintain the life longevity of the flanged heating element. The material of the flange is determined by its intended purpose.

Flanged immersion heaters are one of the most widely used industrial heater options in the oil sector. Compared to other oil heaters, they’re easier to install, are specifically designed for use in pressurized vessels, and are more manageable.

Open coil element heaters

Wattco’s open coil elements are the most efficient type of electric heating element and the most economically feasible for most heating applications. Used predominantly in the duct heating industry, open coil heater elements have open circuits that heat air directly from the suspended resistive coils. These industrial heating elements have fast heat-up times that improve efficiency and have been designed for low maintenance and easy, inexpensive replacement parts.

Open coil heaters are used in tanks, pipe heating, and/or metal tubing. It will provide excellent and uniform heat distribution over a large surface area. They provide an indirect industrial heating solution to decrease watt density requirements or the heat fluxes on the surface area of the pipe connected to the heated section and prevent heat-sensitive materials from coking or breaking down.

The best heaters to prevent hydrate formation

The answer will depend on the pipeline project. Different specs will require different industrial heaters. Get in touch with an expert at Wattco to discuss your project and get the right in-line heater.