Horizontal heater treaters are used in the oil/gas industry to help facilitate oil/water separation by speeding up emulsions separation through applying heat. Heater treaters can be thought of as low pressure, three phase separators equipped with fire tubes. They separate gas from the incoming emulsion and separate the emulsion into a water phase and an oil phase. Heater treaters can also function as a free water knockout, a heat exchanger, a filter, and as a water wash tank.
The heater treater is normally found downstream of a two-phase separator on a high pressure system. It can be found downstream of the well, a free-water knockout or gun barrel on a low pressure system. Heater treaters are used where the emulsion cannot be broken using just retention, quiescence and chemical demulsifiers. The addition of heat is required to break the emulsion. Heat lowers the viscosity of the oil making it easier for the water to settle. It also creates molecular movement which aids in the coalescing of the water droplets.
Horizontal vs vertical heater treaters
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