AC motors power heavy oil recovery process in 50 degree Omani desert heat

Author : Marek Lukaszczyk

01 February 2010

Steam injection technology is a process in which heavy viscous oil is thermally stimulated to improve recovery. The technology is being used in Oman, where the more readily accessible oil reserves are depleted, limiting future production to the heavy formations in the hot, arid regions of the country’s interior. With depletion of global oil resources now a common problem, injection technology is increasing in use throughout the world.

Making steam in 50 deg heat.
Making steam in 50 deg heat.

Houston-based EN-FAB, Inc. with considerable expertise in steam recovery, was contracted by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) to design and install 100-million-BTU steam generators in the Omani oil field. The location is on a vast gravel desert plain, and subject to regular sand storms and some of the world’s highest recorded temperatures.

WEG motor control packages, comprising motors, ruggedised CFW-09 inverter drives and direct-on-line starting controls, are helping EN-FAB to achieve demanding production targets in the steam injection recovery project.

“WEG is the only motor and drive equipment that we would trust in the harsh Omani environment," said Chandra S. Tripathy, President of EN-FAB, Inc. He said his company had worked with WEG in other steam generation projects.

To date, WEG has delivered 34 motor control systems to EN-FAB to control multiple motors on the oilfield.

Each system comprises WEG's CFW-09 Series variable frequency (VF) drives and customised control packages with direct on line starting. This equipment helps run the main and booster pumps that supply water to the steam generators, as well as the large fans for combustion air to the burner assembly.

Mr. Tripathy says EN-FAB has requested other equipment vendors to supply two- and four-pole WEG motors on their equipment to complement the use of the WEG VF drives and controls.

Michael Smith, WEG's Automation Sales Engineer, says his company’s products were selected because of their ruggedness and the ability to operate at differing voltages and frequencies.

"The location of the field presents unrelenting challenges for motors and drives, and the equipment they power,” he noted.

“In Oman, ambient desert temperatures can regularly exceed 50 degrees C in the hot season; and sand storms are prevalent,” said Mr. Smith; so it’s critical to have "rugged, low-maintenance motors, variable frequency drives, and control packages capable of reliable and repeatable performance.”

He said a strength of the CFW-09 series of VF drives is that they provide users with software selectable V/F, sensorless vector, and closed loop vector (with encoder) control techniques in one product.

“At the beginning of 2008, the oil field had reached a target of 32,000 barrels of oil, with only six steam generators on line,” said Mr. Smith.

“However, because there is a direct correlation between the amount of steam injected into the formation and the amount of oil recovered, production should increase proportionally as EN-FAB brings additional steam generators on line."

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