What is the process of demulsifier production?

What is the process of demulsifier production

The process of demulsifier production involves polymerization, blending of ingredients, neutralization, and stability testing.

Raw Materials Used in Demulsifier Production

Demulsifiers, essential in various industrial processes, particularly the oil and gas sector, primarily rely on a combination of specialized raw materials. Each of these materials contributes to the potency and efficiency of the final product.  Here’s a breakdown of the main raw materials used in demulsifier production:

What is the process of demulsifier production

Organic Solvents

Organic solvents play a pivotal role in demulsifier formulations, serving as the medium that facilitates the solubility and dispersibility of other active ingredients. Commonly used solvents include:

  • Xylene: A colorless, sweet-smelling liquid that is very flammable.
  • Toluene: Another aromatic hydrocarbon, toluene is known for its solvent properties, especially in dissolving paints, chemical reactants, rubber, and more.
  • Ethanol: Used in its industrial grade, it helps in the dilution and stabilization of the formulation.

Polymers and Copolymers

Polymers and copolymers are integral components in demulsifier formulations, lending them the properties required to break emulsions effectively.

  • Polyacrylates: These are salts or esters of polyacrylic acid and are widely used due to their versatility and effectiveness.
  • Polyethylene Oxides: Often referred to as PEOs, they are pivotal in enhancing the demulsification process, especially in water-in-oil emulsions.
  • Copolymers of Acrylamide: These are utilized to improve the efficiency of the demulsifying action, especially under high salinity conditions.


Surfactants form the active component of demulsifiers, reducing interfacial tension between oil and water phases, allowing for their separation.

  • Anionic Surfactants: Such as alkyl sulfates or alkyl ether sulfates. They possess a negative charge and are suitable for specific types of emulsions.
  • Cationic Surfactants: Examples include quaternary ammonium compounds. These carry a positive charge and find applications in treating certain water-in-oil emulsions.
  • Non-Ionic Surfactants: Such as fatty alcohol ethoxylates, which have no charge, making them versatile in various demulsification processes.

Methods of Demulsifier Production

The production of demulsifiers involves a series of well-coordinated processes. It’s not just about mixing the right ingredients together; it’s also about ensuring they interact correctly to produce a product that can effectively separate emulsions, especially in demanding environments like the oil and gas industry. Let’s dive into these processes in detail:

Pilot Performance of Chemical Demulsifier on the Demulsification of Produced Water
Pilot Performance of Chemical Demulsifier on the Demulsification of Produced Water

Polymerization Process

Polymerization is a chemical reaction wherein monomers are combined to form a polymer. The type and nature of the polymer being synthesized determine the specific polymerization method to be used.

  • Chain Growth Polymerization: Here, the monomers possess a reactive group, which, upon initiation, starts adding to the polymer chain in a sequential manner.
  • Step Growth Polymerization: In this method, bi-functional or multi-functional monomers react to form a sequence of bonds.


Blending of Active Ingredients

Once the polymers and copolymers are ready, they are blended with other ingredients, like surfactants, to create the final product.

  • High-Shear Mixing: This method is employed to ensure thorough mixing, breaking down any large particles or agglomerates and resulting in a uniform product.
  • Continuous Blending: This is a dynamic blending process where ingredients are continuously fed into the system, mixed, and then taken out, ideal for large-scale demulsifier production.

Neutralization Process

Certain acidic or basic components within the demulsifier formulation might require neutralization to ensure the product’s effectiveness and stability.

  • Acid-Base Titration: Using a controlled addition of acids or bases, the pH of the formulation is adjusted. pH meters are used to monitor and achieve the desired pH level.

Formulation and Stability Testing

After the production, the demulsifier formulation undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it performs as expected and remains stable over time.

  • Bottle Testing: This involves shaking a mixture of oil, water, and demulsifier in a bottle and observing the separation process. It’s a quick way to evaluate the demulsifier’s efficiency.
  • Stability Testing: Here, the demulsifier is stored under various conditions to ensure it retains its properties and doesn’t degrade over time.

Applications and Types of Demulsifiers

Demulsifiers play a crucial role in several industries, most notably in the oil and gas industry, where they assist in separating water from crude oil. The type of demulsifier chosen often depends on the nature of the emulsion, its stability, and the specific conditions under which separation is to take place. Different types of demulsifiers have their unique advantages and applications. Here’s a closer look at the various types:

Oil-Based Demulsifiers

Oil-based demulsifiers predominantly contain an oil medium, making them especially effective for water-in-oil emulsions.

  • Advantages: They are highly efficient in environments where the oil phase is dominant. Their oil affinity ensures a rapid breakdown of the emulsion.
  • Applications: Oil-based demulsifiers find their primary use in crude oil production. By breaking water-in-oil emulsions, they aid in reducing the water content in the extracted crude, thus improving the overall yield and quality.

Stabilization and Separation of Oil&ndash

Water-Based Demulsifiers

These demulsifiers have water as their main constituent.

  • Advantages: Water-based demulsifiers are particularly effective in scenarios where the water phase is dominant. They can help in reducing oil content in wastewater, ensuring it meets environmental discharge standards.
  • Applications: They’re widely used in wastewater treatment plants to remove residual oil. Silicone-Based Demulsifiers

Silicone-based demulsifiers, often considered premium-grade, boast of excellent emulsion breaking capabilities across a range of conditions.

  • Advantages: Silicone-based demulsifiers are versatile and can tackle both water-in-oil and oil-in-water emulsions effectively. They also remain stable across varying temperature and salinity conditions.
  • Applications: These demulsifiers are frequently used in extreme environments, such as deep-sea drilling, due to their stability and efficiency. They also find applications in certain food and cosmetic industries due to their non-toxic nature.

Factors Affecting the Efficiency of Demulsifiers

Demulsifiers play a pivotal role in breaking down emulsions, particularly in the oil and gas industry. However, their efficiency is not constant and can vary based on a range of factors. These factors, if not managed or considered, can inhibit the performance of the demulsifier, leading to sub-optimal results. Let’s delve into some of these factors:

pH Level

The pH level is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. It greatly influences the performance of demulsifiers.

  • Impact: A drastic shift in pH can modify the charge of particles in the emulsion, affecting the demulsifier’s ability to destabilize it.
  • Management: It’s essential to monitor the pH and use demulsifiers that are optimized for the expected pH range. In cases of extreme pH values, pre-treatment might be necessary to bring it to a manageable range.
Chemical Demulsifiers
Chemical Demulsifiers


The salt content or salinity of the emulsion plays a crucial role in determining the demulsifier’s effectiveness.

  • Impact: High salinity can lead to increased electrostatic forces between dispersed droplets, making emulsion breaking more challenging.
  • Management: It’s essential to consider salinity when selecting a demulsifier, with some formulations specifically designed for high-saline environments.


Temperature fluctuations can influence the viscosity of the liquid phases and the solubility of the dispersed phase.

  • Impact: At higher temperatures, the viscosity of oil usually decreases, making it easier for water droplets to coalesce and separate. However, if the temperature is too high, it may affect the demulsifier’s stability.
  • Management: Using demulsifiers designed to operate optimally within the expected temperature range is crucial. In certain scenarios, heating or cooling treatments might be necessary to achieve optimal demulsification conditions.

Oil and Water Characteristics

The physical and chemical properties of the oil and water phases can also influence demulsification.

  • Impact: Oils with higher asphaltenes or resin content can form more stable emulsions. Similarly, the presence of solid contaminants or certain dissolved ions in water can impact emulsion stability.
  • Management: Comprehensive analysis of oil and water characteristics allows for the selection of the most suitable demulsifier.

Safety and Environmental Concerns

The use of demulsifiers, while beneficial in many industrial applications, raises legitimate safety and environmental concerns. As with any chemical, proper handling, storage, and disposal methods are necessary to protect both humans and the environment. Moreover, understanding the regulatory landscape ensures compliance and aids in maintaining a reputation as a responsible corporate entity. Let’s explore these concerns in detail:


Handling and Storage Recommendations

Handling and storing demulsifiers require special attention to ensure safety.

  • Impact: Incorrect handling can expose workers to chemical burns, inhalation hazards, or other health risks. Improper storage can lead to container breaches, spills, or even chemical reactions.
  • Management: Always use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and goggles, when handling demulsifiers. Store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and incompatible chemicals. Regularly inspect storage containers for any signs of wear or damage.

Environmental Impact and Disposal

The environmental repercussions of demulsifiers, if not managed correctly, can be significant.

  • Impact: Spills or incorrect disposal methods can lead to contamination of soil and water resources. This can harm aquatic life and disrupt ecosystems.
  • Management: Adopt spill containment measures, and in the event of a spill, act swiftly with proper cleanup procedures. When disposing of demulsifiers, follow guidelines set by environmental agencies.

Regulatory Considerations

Given the potential risks associated with demulsifiers, numerous regulatory bodies have established guidelines and requirements for their use.

  • Impact: Non-compliance can lead to legal ramifications, hefty fines, and damage to a company’s reputation.
  • Management: Stay updated with local, regional, and international regulations governing the use, storage, and disposal of demulsifiers. This includes understanding the guidelines set by bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and equivalent agencies in other regions. Regular audits and compliance checks should be part of company protocol.

What are the main components used in demulsifier production?

The main components are organic solvents, polymers, copolymers, and surfactants.

How does temperature affect the efficiency of demulsifiers?

Elevated temperatures, around 60°C, can decrease oil viscosity, making it easier for water droplets to separate but excessively high temperatures might destabilize the demulsifier.

Are there safety concerns when handling demulsifiers?

Yes, improper handling can expose workers to chemical burns or inhalation hazards. It's essential to use personal protective equipment, like gloves and goggles.

How do pH levels influence the action of demulsifiers?

Drastic shifts in pH modify the charge of emulsion particles, which can affect the demulsifier's destabilizing ability.

What is the average shelf life of stored demulsifiers?

Depending on the specific formulation and storage conditions, demulsifiers typically have a shelf life of 1 to 2 years.

Are there specific regulatory considerations for demulsifier usage?

Yes, agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set guidelines for the use, storage, and disposal of demulsifiers. Non-compliance can lead to significant fines.

How much does a typical demulsifier cost?

The price varies based on the formulation and volume, but an average price range might be $50-$150 per gallon.

What are the main advantages of silicone-based demulsifiers?

Silicone-based demulsifiers are versatile, tackle various emulsions effectively, remain stable across different conditions, and are non-toxic, making them suitable for food and cosmetic industries.

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