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United States Patent Application 20170335173
Kind Code A1
Johnson; Axel R. November 23, 2017

METHODS FOR PRODUCING AND EMPLOYING OIL AND GAS WELL DRILLING AND COMPLETION FLUIDS AS WELL AS HYDRAULIC FRACTURING FLUIDS EMPLOYING TRIGLYCERIDE PROCESSING BY PRODUCTS AND PROPYLENE GLYCOL RECOVERED FROM AIRCRAFT DEICING OPERATIONS

Abstract

The present invention relates to processes employing industrial streams, including glycerol-containing by-products of triglyceride processing as well as waste glycol streams recovered from several sources, to produce oil well drilling, completion and hydrofracturing fluids.


Inventors: Johnson; Axel R.; (North Babylon, NY)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Johnson; Axel R.

North Babylon

NY

US
Family ID: 1000002793698
Appl. No.: 15/668864
Filed: August 4, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
13434049Mar 29, 20129725641
15668864

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: C09K 8/035 20130101; C09K 8/62 20130101; C09K 8/72 20130101
International Class: C09K 8/72 20060101 C09K008/72; C09K 8/62 20060101 C09K008/62; C09K 8/035 20060101 C09K008/035

Claims



1. A method for producing water-based oil and gas well drilling and/or completion fluids, said process comprising; (a) recovering a crude glycerin stream selected from the group consisting of transesterification crude glycerin, neutralized transesterification crude glycerin, heterogeneous catalyzed transesterification crude glycerin, saponification crude glycerin, hydrolysis crude glycerin, or mixtures thereof, (b) adding to the crude glycerin stream one or more components selected from the group consisting of glycol, methyl glucoside, polyglycerine, inorganic salts, lubricants, gelling agents, methyl cellulose, corrosion inhibitors, water and mixtures of any of the foregoing and optionally (c) prior to step (b), employing an ultrafiltration step to remove at least part of organic materials having higher molecular weight than glycerin from said crude glycerin stream.

2. A method for producing water-based oil and gas well drilling or completion fluids as described in claim 1 wherein said glycol is at least partly derived from waste streams from the group consisting of residues from aircraft deicing operations, waste heat transfer fluids and waste gas dehydration fluids.

3. A method for producing water-based oil and gas well drilling or completion fluids, said process comprising: (a) distillation of a crude glycerin stream selected from the group consisting of transesterification crude glycerin, neutralized transesterification crude glycerin, hydrolysis crude glycerin, saponification crude glycerin and mixtures thereof, said distillation producing a bottoms product comprising at least approximately 7% of the glycerin contained in the crude glycerin stream, and one or more overhead products consisting essentially of glycerin and optionally water and, (b) adding to at least a portion of said bottoms product one or more components selected from the group consisting of glycol, methyl glucoside, polyglycerine, inorganic salts, lubricants, gelling agents, methyl cellulose, corrosion inhibitors, weighting agents, water and mixtures of any of the foregoing, (c) optionally, prior to step (b), adding water to said bottoms product and processing it by ultrafiltration to remove at least a portion of organic impurities having higher molecular weights than glycerin.

4. A method for producing water-based oil and gas well drilling or completion fluids as described in claim 3 wherein said glycol is at least partly derived from waste streams from the group consisting of residues from aircraft deicing operations, waste heat transfer fluids and waste gas dehydration fluids.

5. A method of producing a hydrofracturing fluid, said method comprising blending one or more crude glycerin streams selected from the group consisting of transesterification crude glycerin, neutralized transesterification crude glycerin, heterogeneous catalyzed transesterification crude glycerin, saponification crude glycerin, hydrolysis crude glycerin, a bottoms product from the process of claim 3, or mixtures thereof with water and at least one compound from the group consisting of inorganic acids, biocides, breakers, corrosion inhibitors, crosslinkers, friction reducers, gels, iron control agents, potassium chloride, oxygen scavengers, pH adjusting agents, proppants, scale inhibitors, surfactant and mixtures of any of the foregoing.

6. A method of producing a hydrofracturing fluid as described in claim 5 wherein said friction reducer comprises monoesters produced from triglycerides by transesterification.

7. A method of producing a hydrofracturing fluid as described in claim 5 wherein said inorganic acid is at least partially HCl included in neutralized transesterification crude glycerin.

8. A method of producing a hydrofracturing fluid as described in claim 5 wherein said potassium chloride comprises potassium chloride included in neutralized transesterification crude glycerin.

9. A method of producing a hydrofracturing fluid as described in claim 5 wherein at least part of organic materials having higher molecular weight than glycerin contained in said crude glycerin stream and/or bottoms product is removed by employing an ultrafiltration step.

10. A method for producing glycerin meeting the requirements for products consisting essentially of glycerin and optionally water, said method comprising the process steps of claim 3 and further comprising, obtaining at least part of the one or more overhead products consisting essentially of glycerin and optionally water, and optionally performing one or more of the following; a) stripping to remove alcohol b) distillation to remove water c) removal of impurities comprising color bodies and high molecular weight organic compounds.

11. A method for producing glycerin meeting the requirements for products consisting essentially of glycerin and optionally water of claim 10 wherein said products are selected from the group consisting of technical grade, USP grade, kosher grade, halal grade and mixtures thereof.
Description



FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to processes employing industrial streams, including glycerol-containing by-products of triglyceride processing as well as waste glycol streams recovered from several sources, to produce oil well drilling, completion and hydrofracturing fluids.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to novel processes to produce oil well drilling, completion and hydrofracturing fluids, that comprise industrial streams comprising glycerin, preferably produced when processing triglycerides. Triglyceride containing feedstocks, such as vegetable and animal oils and fats, have been employed traditionally to produce soaps and other materials, such as fatty acids with crude glycerin streams as by-products of these processes. Virtually all of this crude glycerin was refined and distilled to produce purer grades, such as USP, technical grade and food grades, such as kosher or halal. Until recently there was a substantial market for pure glycerin, beyond that generated by processing of fats and oils. For example, Dow operated a plant in Freeport Tex. producing 60,000 tons/yr. of synthetic glycerin based on hydrocarbon feedstocks.

[0003] From a small start in the early 1990s, to a larger industry today, triglyceride-containing feedstocks have been reacted with alcohols to produce monoesters that are used as diesel fuel--"biodiesel". In 2011 biodiesel production in the United States reached one billion gallons. As 0.7 pounds of glycerin is produced for each gallon of biodiesel, Glycerin production from this source amounted to about 350,000 tons of glycerin. In the face of this production Dow has shut down the Freeport facility, and finding stable, profitable markets for this product has been an important factor in the economics of biodiesel production.

[0004] The processes of this invention provide a means to meet this long felt need by employing the crude glycerin by-products of triglyceride processing in production of products for use in producing oil and gas well fluids. Glycols are also a useful component of certain glycerin-based drilling and completion fluids. Propylene glycol recovered from industrial applications, such as aircraft deicing operations, can be an economic source of this material.

Oil and Gas Well Fluids--Drilling Fluids and Completion Fluids

[0005] Drilling fluids, generally referred to as muds, are employed in drilling oil and gas wells to perform several functions. These were summarized by the Institute of Petroleum in "Modern Petroleum Technology", as follows; [0006] a. to remove cuttings continuously at reasonable velocities while ensuring that they need not be ground too finely before being lifted to the surface; [0007] b. to release the cuttings and the detritus readily from the return mud on screens and in settling pits; [0008] c. to form a gel, when flow ceases, so that cuttings entrained in the mud column do not settle down in the bottom of the hole; [0009] d. to act as a lubricant and coolant for the bit and drill column; [0010] e. to maintain the requisite pressures in the bore hole in excess of the reservoir pressures existing in gas, oil and water bearing reservoir fluids.

[0011] Once the drilling operations are completed, "completion" fluids are needed to contain the formation pressure during completion and servicing (workover) operations. Muds employed in drilling are occasionally used for this purpose, but more often, "clear" liquids including brines, such as solutions of zinc or calcium chlorides or bromides, are used to create a density adequate to contain the reservoir pressure during completion and workover operations. In practice, densities can range from about 8.4 to over 20 pounds per gallon.

[0012] Drilling fluids fall into two general categories; water-based muds and oil-based muds. Employing water-based mud when drilling through shale formations has led to several problems including sloughing shale, tight hole, gradual hole enlargement, poor hole cleaning, high torque and cementing failures (Ismail, I & Huang, A. P., Journal Technologi, 50(F) 53-65 .COPYRGT. University Technologi Malaysia). While oil-based mud addresses these issues, its use has become restricted due to environmental regulations. In response to this situation, a number of developers have identified compounds that can be added to water-based drilling and completion fluids in order to mitigate the effects of water on shale formations.

[0013] Peterson (U.S. Pat. No. 4,780,220) teaches the use of glycerine and polyglycerine in drilling and completion fluids for use in shale formations, as well as the use of glycols to control the foaming tendency of glycerine in these applications. Peterson further teaches that the concentration of glycerine should be at least 6%, but preferably more than 25% in order to inhibit shale swelling.

[0014] Walker (U.S. Pat. No. 5,403,820) teaches the use of alkyl glucosides--particularly methyl glycoside--in a water-based drilling fluid to inhibit shale swelling. He also teaches that it is preferred that the drilling fluid in this instance also contain at least 2% of an alkali metal hydroxide in order to have a pH above 8.5, and preferably 9-12.

[0015] In addition to the above enumerated constituents, drilling and/or completion fluids typically contain other additives including corrosion inhibitors, weighting agents (including salts, barites and other clays), defoamers, emulsifiers and biocides.

[0016] Schilling et al (U.S. Pat. No. 6,806,231) teaches advantages to employing beet molasses together with methyl glucoside, and that a salt--NaCl or KCl--appears to assist the shale-swelling effects of methyl glucoside. Schilling also identifies maltodextrins, carboxymethyl starches and hemicelluloses as useful constituents of drilling fluids.

[0017] Special mention is made of Sapienza, et al (U.S. Pat. No. 7,138,071) that teaches the inclusion of a variety of components as freezing point depressants in drilling fluids; including alkyl aldosides, maltodextrins and glycols and/or glycerin recovered from aircraft deicing operations. Also, to be noted, Sapienza, et al (U.S. Pat. No. 6,890,451) teaches inclusion of glycerin and glycerin-containing by-products of triglyceride processing as freezing point depressants in oil and gas well drilling fluids.

[0018] Taking the existing background into consideration, a need exists for economic sources of the ingredients of environmentally benign water-based drilling and completion fluids for application to oil and gas wells.

Oil & Gas Well Fluids--Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids

[0019] At this time, in response to the growing need for clean energy sources, there exists a dramatic expansion in drilling operations associated with development of natural gas and hydrocarbon liquid resources associated with deep shale formations. This resource has now become economically viable through the development of advanced directional drilling techniques that permit drilling in several lateral directions from a given drilling site coupled with hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracturing) techniques that enable production of hydrocarbons from tight shale formations.

[0020] In addition to drilling and completion fluids, the above mentioned hydrofracturing techniques employed in production of hydrocarbons from tight shale formations employ substantial quantities of a fluid comprising primarily water and a "propping" agent, such as sand. This fluid is introduced at high pressure into the completed well to initiate and expand fractures in the shale formation thereby enabling an economic rate of recovery of hydrocarbons. These fluids also contain a small percentage (ca 0.5%) of "chemicals" (a chemicals package) that provide useful properties to the hydrofracturing fluid.

[0021] (D. Arthur, et al--Hydraulic Fracturing Considerations for Natural Gas Wells of the Marcellus Shale) presents a discussion of hydrofracturing with particular reference to the Marcellus shale of the Appalachian region. They state; "The fluids currently being used for fracture treatments in the Marcellus shale are water based or mixed slickwater fracturing fluids. Slickwater fracturing fluids are water-based fluids mixed with friction-reducing additives, primarily potassium chloride." The amount of hydrofracturing fluid used in a typical well can range from 2 to 4 million gallons.

[0022] "Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States--a Primer", a US DOE publication, presents the following breakdown of the "chemicals package" in percentages as contained in a typical hydrofracturing fluid;

TABLE-US-00001 Component vol % acid 0.123 friction reducer 0.088 surfactant 0.085 KCl 0.06 gelling agent 0.056 scale inhibitor 0.043 pH adjusting agent 0.011 breaker 0.01 crosslinker 0.007 iron control 0.004 corrosion inhibitor 0.002 biocide 0.001 total 0.490

[0023] The additives depicted in the above Table represent less than 0.5% of the total fluid volume. Overall the concentration of additives in most slickwater fracturing fluids is a relatively consistent 0.5% to 2% with water making up 98% to 99.5%.

[0024] Exhibit 35 of this DOE publication presents specific compounds that are used to provide the functions enumerated above. One of the concerns surrounding these hydrofracturing operations is the potential for contamination of potable water sources should the chemical-containing hydrofracturing water enter any natural aquifers in the area.

[0025] These developments are leading to an increasing need for economic sources of environmentally benign components of the chemical package added to hydrofracturing water.

Materials Employed in the Processes of this Invention

[0026] The present inventor has found that the issues and markets discussed above can be addressed by processes utilizing certain by-products and waste streams as described below.

[0027] The biodiesel industry, driven by US and European statuatory requirements for alternative fuels, has led to a substantial increase in the supply of by-product crude glycerin and to a decrease from the historic price of both crude and refined glycerin from all sources. Against this background, the present invention provides novel methods for producing desirable products for use as oil and gas well drilling, completion and hydrofracturing fluids, while at the same time reducing the costs of producing glycerin-containing products employing purer grades of glycerin.

[0028] The principal by-products for use in the present invention comprise the glycerin produced during several processes that employ raw materials comprising triglycerides. These raw materials include vegetable and animal oils and fats including, without limitation, soy and rapeseed oils and waste cooking oils.

Production of Monoesters, Soap and Fatty Acids

[0029] Triglyceride-containing raw materials are processed by several processes including; [0030] 1. Transesterification reactions with monoalcohols to produce monoesters. Production of monoesters has grown in response to the need for alternative fuels as monoesters, known as "biodiesel," which can function as an alternative or supplement to the use of petroleum-derived diesel fuel. [0031] 2. Hydrolysis of triglycerides to produce fatty acids for sale as such or for subsequent reaction with monoalcohols to produce monoesters, or with alkalis to produce soap. [0032] 3. Saponification (reaction with alkalis) to produce soap. All of these reactions produce glycerin-containing by-product streams of varying purity. These processes are described more fully below.

[0033] a) Transesterification crude glycerin [0034] This process istypically catalyzed by a homogeneous catalyst system employing as a catalyst either a base or an acid. The base catalyzed route is the most popular because of reaction efficiency, mild operating conditions and as it requires only simple materials of construction. Typically, the base catalyst will be NaOH or KOH dissolved in the alcohol that will be employed as a reactant in the process. Methanol is typically employed, but higher alcohols may be used. [0035] The principal products of the transesterification reaction, oil-soluble monoesters and water-soluble glycerin--are typically separated by gravity decanting. The monoester phase is generally water-washed to remove any remaining glycerin, alkaline catalyst, soaps formed during the reaction and other water soluble impurities. This wash water is normally added to the glycerin phase to constitute a by-product glycerin stream. The resulting glycerin-containing stream (with or without the addition of wash water) is termed "transesterification crude glycerin," for convenience in the present specification. Both the monoester and the glycerin by-product will normally contain unreacted alcohol that typically are be removed by stripping and recycled to the reactor or disposed of otherwise. [0036] Transesterification crude glycerin is often neutralized with an acid to convert the remaining alkaline catalyst to a salt and to convert soaps formed in the transesterification reaction to free fatty acids. Formation of soap during the transesterification reaction can result from the presence of free fatty acids in the triglyceride-containing raw material or from water in any of the materials being processed. [0037] The fatty acids resulting from the reaction of the acid with any soaps formed can be recovered by gravity or centrifuge assisted separation. The remaining glycerin phase is termed "neutralized transesterification crude glycerin" and will generally comprise water, glycerol, the salt of the base catalyst and, depending on the efficiency of the separation of free fatty acids and other organic materials, MONG (matter organic not glycerol). A typical analysis of neutralized transesterification crude glycerin is shown in Table 1.

TABLE-US-00002 [0037] TABLE 1 Component wt % Glycerin 86.4 salt 3.1 water 10.5 MONG neg.

[0038] There is considerable flexibility in choice of the base employed as a catalyst and in the acid used for neutralization. Consequently the crude glycerin could comprise one of several bases such as NaOH and KOH, while the salts contained in the neutralized stream could be sodium or, potassium salts such as acetates, chlorides, sulfates, lactates, etc.

[0039] b) Heterogeneous Catalyzed Transesterification Crude Glycerin [0040] As taught by Stern (U.S. Pat. No. 5,908,946), a transesterification reaction employing a solid catalyst comprising zinc and alumina, with carefully controlled conditions can produce esters and a relatively pure glycerin by-product. At the same time minor impurities may be present in the glycerin by-product depending on the purity of the triglyceride raw material. For example, unless the raw materials (oils, fats and alcohol) are essentially water free, soaps may be formed that would be included in this crude glycerin. For purposes of this discussion this glycerin-containing stream will be referred to as "heterogeneous catalyzed transesterification crude glycerin." In both the homogeneous and heterogeneous catalyst cases, water and or free fatty acids in the feed can react to form soaps that in turn will become free fatty acids following acidification of the crude glycerin. If a purer glycerin is desired, care is taken to avoid water and free fatty acids in the feeds can be esterified with glycerin to triglycerides before entering the transesterification reactor.

[0041] c) Hydrolysis Crude Glycerin [0042] Hydrolysis of triglyceride-containing vegetable and animal fats and oils typically takes place at high temperature and pressure (ca 500 F and 600 psi) in a vertical counter-flow reactor with the fat/oil phase flowing upward and the hot water phase flowing downward. Reactor overheads contain the fatty acid product and the bottoms stream (hydrolysis crude glycerin) is a water/glycerol stream containing about 12-25% glycerol with a small amount of impurities, such as dissolved fatty material and proteins. The fatty acids produced can be reacted with caustic to produce soaps or with alcohols to produce monoesters that may be employed as biodiesel.

[0043] d) Saponification Crude Glycerin [0044] Saponification, an alkaline hydrolysis of fats and oils with caustic, is the traditional method for manufacture of soap. In this method, fats and/or oils are mixed with caustic (such as sodium hydroxide) and boiled. After cooling, salt (NaCl) is added causing the mixture to separate into two layers with the "neat" soap on top and "spent lye" on the bottom. The "spent lye" is the primary by-product and comprises a mixture of glycerol, salt and unreacted caustic together with small quantities of unseparated soap. Typically this spent lye will contain 5-15% glycerol and 8-20% salt. Processing of the spent lye to recover glycerol can proceed through the following steps: [0045] a. Skimming off most or all of the free soap and then boiling the spent lye with fatty acid to remove free caustic followed by cooling and further skimming. [0046] b. Removal of impurities by coagulation with alum or ferric chloride (purified spent lye). [0047] c. Neutralization with an acid, such as HCl (neutralized spent lye). [0048] d. Addition of caustic to raise the pH range to 8.5-9.0 (pH adjusted spent lye). In the present invention, the glycerol-salt solution obtained at any point in the above sequence ("saponification crude glycerin") could be employed as a raw material for the processes of this invention.

Distillation of Glycerin

[0049] Distillation is traditionally employed to produce essentially pure glycerin products (e.g. USP, technical grade, kosher, etc) from the crude glycerins described above. The Crown Iron Works website brochure describes distillation of crude glycerin from biodiesel production.

[0050] As the atmospheric boiling point of glycerin is 290.degree. C., these distillation processes are normally conducted under vacuum to avoid high temperatures that would degrade the glycerin product. In the case of the crude glycerin from hydrolysis, the 12-25% crude glycerin can be processed without a vacuum through multi-stage evaporation to a concentration of about 88% prior to being distilled under vacuum in the manner described above. The Lurgi website brochure illustrates processing of hydrolysis glycerin that has been concentrated in this manner.

[0051] As an alternative to vacuum distillation, it is also possible to employ steam distillation employing systems known to persons skilled in the art, such as vapor recompression, as a means of avoiding excessive temperatures.

[0052] Crown Iron Works reports that bottoms from the still will contain 65-75% glycerin. If a neutralized transesterification crude glycerin as shown in Table 1 were being processed, this level of recovery would lead to rejection in the bottoms product of about 7-10% of the glycerin contained in the crude glycerin being processed. As the principal objective in these distillation processes is to maximize recovery of glycerin as a pure product, the vendors suggest that the bottoms product from the still--comprising some glycerin together with the salt and MONG contained in the crude glycerin--be processed in either a "foots" still or a thin film evaporator in order to maximize recovery of glycerin in a pure form.

[0053] Bottoms from these operations have been typically marketed as livestock feed additives or disposed of as wastes.

Membrane Separation Techniques

[0054] Muraldihara, in International Application WO 2008/156612, describes the application of membrane separation techniques to purification of crude glycerin. Membranes are designed to separate on the basis of molecular size. In descending order of molecule size, they can be ranked as follows; [0055] microfiltration--300-20,000 .ANG. [0056] ultrafiltration--25-1500 .ANG. [0057] nanofiltration--9-70 .ANG. [0058] reverse osmosis--1-20 .ANG.

[0059] In the processes of this invention, membrane separation may be employed to remove organic materials (MONG). Muraldihara shown a case in which a 32.9% glycerol, 2% NaCl and 1.0% MONG solution in water was processed through a nanofiltration membrane (MPS34 produced by Koch) yielding 89.6% of a stream containing 33.03% glycerol, 1.71% NaCl with no remaining MONG.

[0060] When processing glycerin streams containing low concentrations of water to remove MONG, it is preferable to add water for membrane separation to reduce the pressure needed to effect the separation. This need not be an issue in the present case as the oil and gas fluids being produced will require water in any event.

Recovery of Glycol from Industrial Waste Streams

[0061] In addition to glycerin-containing products, in certain cases the present invention also may make use of glycol recovered from industrial waste streams.

[0062] Airports, in response to environmental concerns, are increasingly turning to collection and processing of the waste dilute streams of propylene glycol resulting from aircraft deicing applications (Stormwater--March-April 2008--"Aircraft Deicing Fluid--The Recycling Solution"). Also, propylene glycol can be recovered from waste heat transfer fluids and gas dehydration fluids.

[0063] Inland Technologies, Inc, in its website brochure, describes a concentrator that will produce a 50-60% glycol solution from deicing wastes containing 1-20% glycol. The concentrated product would be a useful additive to glycerin-containing drilling and completion fluids to avoid foaming. Other firms are offering similar products including the use of membrane separations.

[0064] Thus, there also exists a need in the art for processes by which glycol in industrial waste streams can be used economically and efficiently.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0065] The present invention relates to processes for employing the crude glycerin streams recited above in producing blended products for use in fluids for oil and gas well drilling and completion.

[0066] The processes of this invention provide economic and efficient ways to employ crude glycerin streams, or materials derived from such streams, as a component of oil and gas drilling and completion fluids. Peterson (U.S. Pat. No. 4,780,220) has shown glycerin to be an effective additive to water-based drilling muds to prevent sloughing of shale and swelling of clays. Further, it has been found that glycerin is effective in insuring that drilled contaminants like salt, gypsum, anhydrite and calcium chloride are held in suspension rather than in solution thereby preventing deterioration of the mud. Concentrations as low as about 6% have been effective, and effectiveness I reported to continue to increase at concentrations over 25%. Also, glycerin is useful in a water-based mud in that it raises the boiling point thereby enabling operation at higher downhole temperatures. The present inventor unexpectedly has found that the processes of the present invention provide glycerin byproduct streams that can economically and efficiently be used instead of the purer glycerin employed in the prior art.

[0067] In addition to glycerin, there are several other materials that can be added to improve the effectiveness of a formulation in accordance with the present invention. [0068] 1. An issue with glycerin is foaming and a defoamer is needed. While there are commercially available defoamers, glycols can also serve this function. Peterson reports that propylene glycol is preferred as it is less sensitive to high temperatures than other glycols. In accordance with the present invention, the present inventor has found that propylene glycol recovered from industrial operations such as aircraft deicing can be used. Preferably, if such a glycol stream were concentrated to say 40-50%, any one of the above mentioned impure glycerin streams could be added thereto to make a product for use as a mud additive in accordance with the present invention. [0069] 2. As taught by Walker (U.S. Pat. No. 5,403,820), alkyl glucosides--particularly methyl glucosides (MEG)--are also effective in decreasing the swelling of hydratable shales. This phenomenon has been further studied by Ismail & Huang. These investigators found that a NaCl fluid increased shale recovery in a hot rolling dispersion test from about 10% with fresh water to about 55%. When MEG was added shale recovery was increased to about 80% at 35% MEG to about 90% with 35% MEG. Given these effects, it is apparent that MEG can be a useful additional additive for use with a glycerin-containing mud produce by the processes of the present invention. [0070] 3. A glycerin-containing drilling mud will require a number of other components. These can include; another form of glycerin--polyglycerine, lubricants, gelling agents such as drilled solids and bentonite or organic colloids and agents to control the filter cake at the bore interface such as methyl cellulose and lignite. Likewise, these additives can be added to the materials formed by the processes of the present invention, where desired. Completion fluids will not normally have gelling agents as there is not the need for suspension of cuttings, and not as much of a requirement for lubricants. Aside from these differences, a completion fluid will be similar to the drilling fluid in terms of properties to inhibit negative impacts on shales and clay. An important factor is maintaining the density necessary for the column of fluid to counteract the pressure at the producing formation. While a glycerin/water mixture will have a density higher than water, in many cases it would be desirable to include NaCl, CaCl.sub.2 or other weighting agents in order to achieve the requisite density. Likewise, these weighting additives can be added to the materials formed by the processes of the present invention, where desired.

[0071] The processes of the present invention employing crude glycerin streams that generally can be divided into two categories; [0072] 1. Processes comprising blending of one or more or the crude glycerin streams described above as a component of said agents or fluids. Prior to blending, steps may be employed to remove impurities. [0073] 2. Processes comprising separation of one or more or the crude glycerin streams described above into (1) one or more essentially pure glycerin streams, optionally comprising water and (2) a stream, comprising the glycerin remaining after recovery of the essentially pure glycerin stream, any salt(s), unreacted catalyst and/or any materials present in the crude glycerin having molecular weights and/or boiling points higher than glycerin. The separation can involve one or more of the techniques familiar to those skilled in the art including distillation and membrane separation.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

[0074] 1. Processes for Production of Oil and Gas Drilling and Completion Fluids and Hydrofracturing Fluids Based Upon Crude Glycerin

[0075] The crude glycerin streams resulting from the processes described above--may be employed in the processes of this invention for producing oil and gas well drilling and completion fluids. Table 2 presents typical ranges of concentrations of the components in these aqueous solutions.

TABLE-US-00003 TABLE 2 Glycerin- ash- wt % wt %* MONG transesterfication crude glycerin 70-85 2-8 2-15 alkali neutralized transesterfication 70-85 2-8 neg-2 crude glycerin salts heterogeneous cat 90+ neg. traces, depending transesterification crude glycerin on feed preparation saponification crude glycerin 80 5-10 2-4 salts hydrolysis crude glycerin 12-25 <1 trace-2

Under certain circumstances, the present invention provides recovering any of these crude glycerin streams and employing them directly in producing drilling and/or completion fluids. The salts or alkalis could have useful functions as described earlier and, depending on the characteristics of the MONG, this material could supply surface activity or lubrication. Should this not be the case, the ultrafiltration step described above could be used to remove essentially all of the MONG.

[0076] In accordance with the processes of the present invention, other materials may be added to produce a completed fluid. Among these would be; components selected from the group consisting of glycol, methyl glucoside, polyglycerine, salts, lubricants, gelling agents, methyl cellulose, corrosion inhibitors, weighting agents, water and mixtures of any of the foregoing.

[0077] Regarding hydrofracturing fluids, any of the crude glycerin streams could be employed as part of the "chemicals package" employed in production of these fluids. For example, the glycerol-containing by-product stream from alkali-catalyzed transesterification contains--or can be processed to contain--a substantial portion of the components of the chemicals package included in such hydrofracturing fluids.

[0078] Examples include the following; [0079] Glycerol--Glycerol can provide important functions required in hydrofracturing fluids. These include; (1) replacing ethylene glycol (a toxic material) as an agent to prevent scale formation and (2) as a friction reducer--replacing petroleum distillates that may contain carcinogens, such as benzene or other aromatic compounds. [0080] Salt--Depending on the choice of alkali as the transesterification catalyst, and the acid used to neutralize, a range of salts are possible. For employment of the glycerin by-product in hydrofracturing applications NaCl or KCl would be preferred The former would be useful as a breaker and KCl is employed to produce a "slickwater" fluid. [0081] Acid--If desired, an excess of HCl could be employed beyond that required for neutralization. [0082] Biodiesel--petroleum distillates are often used as friction reducers, but the presence of carcinogens such as benzene and other aromatics raise issues. The biodiesel product of the transesterification process is free of aromatic compounds could be employed in this service.

[0083] One exemplary procedure for manufacturing a "chemicals package" for inclusion in a hydrofracturing fluid could be; [0084] Using the glycerol-containing by-product described in Table 1 above, this could be used--as is--as a component of the hydrofracturing chemicals package. Glycerol, a non-toxic, environmentally benign compound, will function as a scale inhibitor (replacing ethylene glycol--a toxic chemical) and as a friction reducer. The salt present would supply part of the salt normally added. If potassium hydroxide were employed as the catalyst, then the KCl produced in neutralization would provide that component. Further, if the neutralization employed a surplus of HCl, this would also supply part, or all, of that compound. The other necessary chemicals (detergent, biocide, etc) could be added at the point of manufacture, or at the drilling site. The finished hydrofracturing fluid would comprise principally water combined with the "chemicals package," other necessary chemicals and proppants.

[0085] 2. Processes Involving Separation of the Crude Glycerin Stream Leaving a Remainder that is at Least Partially Employed in Producing Oil & Gas Well Drilling and/or Completion Fluids.

Separation by Distillation

[0086] Some processes of this invention may include distillation as an element of the process. As described earlier, in the case of crude glycerin from processes including transesterification, saponification and hydrolysis, it has been common practice in refining glycerin from such sources to distill--normally under a vacuum--with an emphasis on maximizing the recovery of a pure glycerin. To this end, it has been normal practice to add a processing step--such as a "foots still" or, alternatively, a wiped film evaporator--to insure maximum recovery of glycerin from the distillation bottoms stream.

[0087] In the case of hydrolysis crude glycerin, the 12-25% crude glycerin by-product can be processed without a vacuum through multi-stage evaporation to a concentration of about 88% prior to being distilled under vacuum in the manner described above.

[0088] As an alternative to vacuum distillation, it is also possible to avoid excessive temperatures by employing steam distillation employing techniques known to parties skilled in the art such as vapor recompression.

[0089] In contrast to the stress on maximizing glycerin recovery in the distillation processes described in the manufacturers brochures, certain processes of this invention require substantial amounts of glycerin to be left in the distillation bottoms, thereby producing a functional fluid rather than a high salt content waste or low-valued animal feed component. Depending upon the requirements of the markets for the overhead and bottoms products, the amount of glycerin remaining in the bottoms product in operations under this invention will vary, typically from about 6% to about 30% or more of the glycerin contained in the distillation process feed. Employment of at least part of this functional fluid as a component of oil and gas well fluids is a novel element of this invention.

[0090] If the crude glycerin being distilled comprises organic impurities (MONG), virtually all of these are higher-boiling compounds that will remain in the still bottoms. For many industrial applications of these still bottoms these impurities may not be objectionable and, in those cases, do not need to be removed prior to application. However, if a purer product is required, one option is to employ an ultrafiltration step employing a nanofiltration membrane such as MPS34 from Koch. Such as procedure may require adding water to the glycerin/salt bottoms, but addition of water will likely be required in any event for most applications of the bottoms stream. When the distillation overhead product is to be refined to a purer grade, the water removed in this process may conveniently be employed as the diluent for this procedure.

[0091] In many cases, particularly where the transesterification facility and the distillation process are under common control, MONG content of the crude glycerin can be controlled by eliminating water from the triglyceride-containing feed materials and if free fatty acids are present, esterifying these with glycerin to form triglycerides. These steps minimize production of soaps during the transesterification reaction that are then converted to fatty acids during neutralization. Also, centrifuging neutralized crude glycerin following acidification/neutralization of the byproduct glycerin stream can assist in separating any fatty acids formed during neutralization.

[0092] It has been typical practice, when distilling crude glycerin streams comprising water, to withdraw the essentially pure glycerin as a side-stream from the distillation column. Water, together with any alcohol and minor quantities of glycerin, will then comprise the overhead product. The relatively pure side-stream product is then further refined to meet the specification for USP glycerin or food grades such as kosher or halal. This processing step may comprise treatment with activated carbon.

[0093] This processing sequence can be employed in the case of this invention, and the overhead product can be produced to meet USP and/or food grade specifications. However in this case the still bottoms, to be employed as an oil and/or gas well fluid, will contain 6%, or more, of the glycerin contained in the crude glycerin feed.

[0094] Alternatively a single overhead stream can be produced in the distillation step. This product will contain all of the water contained in the crude glycerin as well as the glycerin not contained in the bottoms. Following any purification required to remove other material such as any alcohol and/or MONG, this product can be employed in manufacture of various products or can be sold as Technical grade glycerin. Also, in the context of this invention, such essentially pure glycerin products, that may contain water, can be employed in production of oil and gas well drilling and completion fluids.

[0095] In the case of producing a chemicals package for hydrofracturing, the present invention contemplates distillation of the Table 1 compound to produce a salt-free glycerin/water overhead product and a glycerin/salt bottoms product. In this way the glycerin/salt ratio in the bottoms product can be controlled to meet the ratio desired in the hydrofracturing chemicals package. The excess acid could be added after distillation to avoid corrosive conditions in that process.

Separation by Membrane Processing

[0096] As noted earlier, where desired, the crude glycerin streams can be purified using ultrafiltration to reject MONG. Muraldihara shows that this procedure can also include reverse osmosis steps leading to pure glycerin as a final product. There are several intermediate points in this process where the intermediate product is a fluid comprising glycerin, salt and water. Such fluids could be usefully employed in the oil and gas fluids of this invention.

[0097] The processes described above may be practiced at one site to produce a finished product or alternatively, the streams produced at the source of the glycerin-containing by-product, or at the distillation site, may be shipped--with or without added water and/or other components--to another site for finishing and/or use.

[0098] Many variations of the present invention will suggest themselves to those skilled in the art in light of the above described processes. All such obvious modifications are within the full intended scope of his invention.

[0099] The above referenced patents and publications are hereby incorporated by reference.

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