Session Title :

Mercury in the oil and gas processing industry

Synopsis :

The main purpose of this session is to provide an overview of mercury in the oil and gas industry. The session will provide an up to date overview of how mercury affects the petrochemical industry and how this managed to prevent damage to plant, contamination of downstream products and environmental releases.

Description :

Mercury is a naturally occurring trace contaminant in hydrocarbon reservoirs which is distributed in all phases (oil, gas and water). The concentration of mercury at the well head is highly variable ranging from non-detectable quantities to saturated levels. Even low concentrations of Hg can be significant because of the large quantities of oil and gas processed. The presence of mercury may affect the oil and gas industry in a number of areas including damage to the processing plant, contamination of Hg in hydrocarbon products, environmental emissions and waste disposal. There is also a health and safety issue that needs to be considered. The inventory of mercury releases from this industry is rarely considered in global budgets and little is known about the fate and transportation of mercury from the raw to final products and to the environment.

Knowledge of the mercury content in petrochemical feed-stocks and refinery products is extremely important. The damage caused to petrochemical plants can be financially crippling especially when unscheduled shutdowns are forced. Mercury has been found to be responsible for many cases of selective hydrogenation catalyst deactivation even at low concentrations. These are typical based on palladium or platinum which form a strong amalgam with Hg. Mercury is also known to be the cause of corrosion problems with aluminum-based heat exchangers which operate at cryogenic temperatures, rotors and condensers at natural gas refinery plants. Heat exchanger replacement is a costly operation due to the capital investment of the exchanger itself and the plant down time incurred for its replacement. Because of these facts many plants install mercury removal systems to ensure that important parts of the plant are protected, this means that periodic measurements of the outlets of these removal systems need to be made to ensure that they are working correctly. Also other parts of the plant also measured to help provide a better understanding of the fate of mercury.

In this session we will provide a general overview of how the oil, gas and petrochemical industrial sector manages mercury. The chemistry of mercury and mechanisms of how it is removed and measured will be discussed. The session will summarize what we understand and believe to be fate of Hg and the potential impact of mercury as a global pollutant.