Exploration and Production Technologies

Control System for Oil Field Centrifuge (aka Fuzzy Logic)


This project was funded through DOE's Natural Gas and Oil Technology Partnership Program. The program establishes alliances that combine the resources and experience of the Nation's petroleum industry with the capabilities of the National Laboratories to expedite research, development, and demonstration of advanced technologies for improved natural gas and oil recovery.

Project Goal
The project goal is to create an expert set-up and control system for a novel three-phase decanter centrifuge process.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
Los Alamos, NM

Centech, Inc.
Casper, WY

Project Results
The project performers developed and implemented a feed-forward control system to predict disturbances in feed conditions and alter operating parameters to accommodate these expected disturbances. This includes a soft sensor to infer feed composition from other sensor measurements. Researchers also enhanced the existing fuzzy logic feedback control system to make it more robust for operating conditions. They developed an expert set-up consultant computer program that provides guidelines for initial centrifuge operating parameters that will yield a required product quality.

The fuzzy advisor and control system will help make this technology affordable and available to many operators. The expanded use of this technology has the benefit to the industry and Nation of reducing oil industry wastes (and its associated liabilities) and of recovering salable oil in the process.

A novel tank bottoms and sludge-treatment process, based on a one-of-a-kind three-phase decanter centrifuge, has demonstrated astounding success in treating tank bottoms and various petroleum sludges. The process separates wastes into three product streams: pipeline-quality oil, clean water, and clean, landfillable solids. The operation provides nearly total recovery of the emulsified oil found in the sludge and a complete clean-up of the waste, with no further treatment needed. Unlike other treatment processes, clean-up is often achieved without separation-enhancing chemicals. Revenue from recovered oil discounts the cost of the clean-up, so the venture often breaks even. The economics are more favorable still if the costs of waste liability are taken into account.

Project Summary
Project researchers have:

  • Developed and implemented a feed-forward control system.
  • Developed a soft sensor to infer feed composition from other sensor measurements.
  • Enhanced the existing fuzzy logic feedback control system.
  • Developed an expert set-up consultant computer program.

Current Status (August 2005)
The project is ongoing.

Miller, Neal J., Parkinson, William Jerry, and Smith, Ronald E., System and process for separating multi-phase mixtures using three-phase centrifuge and fuzzy logic, U.S. Patent 6,860,845, issued March 1, 2005.

Parkinson, W.J., Smith, R.E., Mortensen, F.N., Wantuck, P.J., Jamshidi, M., Ross, T., Miller, N., Fuzzy SPC Filter for a Feed-Forward Control System for a Three-Phase Oil Field Centrifuge, Intelligent Automation and Soft Computing, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2005, pp. 5-20, 2005.

Project Start: June 15, 1999
Project End: December 31, 2005

Anticipated DOE Contribution: $950,000 
Performer Contribution: $250,000 (21% of total)

Contact Information
NETL - John Ford (john.ford@netl.doe.gov or 918-699-2061)
LANL - Ronald Smith (ronsmith@lanl.gov or 505-667-7002)
LANL - William Parkinson (parkinson@lanl.gov or 505-667-7021)

Decanter centrifuge separates tank bottoms sludge into oil, clean water, and landfill-ready solids.

Three-phase decanter centrifuge treating tank bottoms sludge.