Industrial Heaters for Pipelines

How to Keep Oil Pipeline Flowing

One of the audacious projects that connects US and Canada is found in the Keystone Pipeline Project stretching over 2,150 miles across the border, piercing through 3 Provinces and more than half a dozen states like Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Of course, the biggest challenge is not about laying down the 36-inch pipeline that can transport up to 830,000 barrels per day, but how to keep the flow of such massive amount of crude oil at an optimal condition without losing oil viscosity throughout the delivery.

The use of flanged electric heaters in the oil industry is no new subject. However, keeping few hundred gallons of tank and/or few hundred feet of pipeline heated is not exactly same as using those oil heaters. To keep the Keystone Pipeline flowing and maintain the flow rate constant requires an entirely different approach. The variance of external environments in various areas forces the construction of heaters to be more creative and context oriented depending on where and how to implement in each section of the areas.

The Big Question: Which One?

The big question is deciding which one of those industrial heaters to employ. Its answer is rather simple for engineers. The immense diameter and distance of pipeline suggest that immersion heaters, more specifically flanged inline heaters, are the ideal choice. The construction of inline heaters offers several advantages. It is the best oil heater to maintain the constant heat temperature required for oil applications. The indirect heating also helps to maintain the temperature at a constant level. The heat spreads spontaneously throughout the pipeline sections. The ferocity of environment also may require the best heating element and sheath material possible with the use of WATTCO™ products such Incoloy™ or Calrod™ specifically designed to withstand adversity.

These special alloys are used to make sheathe shielding to protect the heating rods from corrosion and heat that may invade while submerge in the current of crude oil. They can be easily maintained, which is a huge advantage since emptying the pipeline for maintenance is virtually impossible. It also leads to the question of how to handle the coolant. Unlike some of those smaller scale inline heaters in which using water within the heating chamber is more than adequate, this project requires much more effective liquid coolants to fill the heating chamber.

Consideration for the Coolant

Choosing the right heat transfer fluid, also known as coolant, is crucial in the success of Keystone Pipeline to preserve the desired oil viscosity. The effectiveness of the inline heaters is only as guaranteed as the effectiveness of the coolant used therein. Coolant comes in all three states: gas, liquid, and even solid. The liquid form of coolants, most commonly used, consists of water and a wide variety of different kind of chemicals. They are often the best fit for general cooling purpose. However, the use of coolant sometimes requires more than a simple water type of setup. For various applications, other more complicated form of coolant such as Liquefied Gases or Nano Fluids are needed. Taking all of these variables into account, a lot of engineering ingenuity will be required to optimally design the immersion heaters for this industrial heating project.
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