Separation kinetics of an oil-in-water emulsion under enhanced gravity

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The breakup of crude oil emulsions to produce clean oil and water phases is an important task in crude oil processing. We have investigated the demulsification kinetics of a model oil-in-water emulsion in a centrifugal field to mimic the forces acting on emulsion droplets in oil/water separators such as hydrocyclones. The rate of growth of separated oil phase and the change in mean droplet diameter of the emulsion layer was measured as a function of surfactant concentration, centrifugal acceleration and time. Demulsification is enhanced with increasing centrifugal acceleration and time and decreasing surfactant concentration. A kinetic analysis was performed that allows to estimate the characteristic coalescence times between droplets in the emulsion and between a droplet and the separated oil interface. The experimental procedure presented in this work can serve as a simple, but useful test to predict the separation efficiency of emulsions in separators with swirling flow fields.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-125
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • coalescence
  • drop
  • bubble
  • stability
  • surface
  • plane
  • size


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