Clients in the petroleum refining business are currently faced with complex systems that vary dependent on the type of crude refined and the desired final products. Considering barrel throughput, type of crude, final desired products, and complexity of refining unit operations, petroleum refineries are one of the largest consumers of water in the range of 9 to 12 gallons of water per barrel of oil. Water can originate from multiple sources: surface water; purchased water, water in crude, and stormwater. Source water typically requires treatment before use as a process water, boiler feedwater, cooling water, fire water, and utility water. Contaminants consists of many types of constituents that require treatment and removal. Equally important in the management of water is to understand the major locations where water leaves the refinery: wastewater, steam losses, and cooling tower losses.

Refineries can generate a significant volume of wastewater that has been in contact with hydrocarbons. Wastewater can also consist of rejected streams from boiler water processes and cooling tower blowdown. Process wastewaters can originate from desalting, sour water stripping, tank bottom draws and spent caustic operations. Wash water used in the desalting process can originate from many different sources including fresh water and recycled water from refining processes. Recycled water is more economical and can originate from crude distillation tower overheads, vacuum tower overheads, and stripped sour water (SSW). It's essential that refineries manage and recycle various water streams to avoid using a valuable resource and reduce the treatment costs of water and wastewater. Finally, a refinery utilizes a complex train of treatment processes such as American Petroleum Institute (API) oil–water separation, dissolved air flotation, equalization, various biological treatment configurations, clarification, and in many cases tertiary treatment.

Our practitioners' record of success helping oil refinery clients evaluate and develop solutions to issues related to the treatment and reuse of water  have given clients a distinct advantage in their operations and operating budget. Our process engineering, water, and wastewater treatment consultants help their clients in many areas with wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) design, operational improvements, troubleshooting, operator training, digital process control, air emission modeling and permitting support. Below are some examples of our services:

  • Treatment Evaluation and Workshops: Our practitioners have conducted a review of treatment plant performance and process systems to develop upgrades to reduce bottlenecks as well as reduce annual operating and maintenance costs which were considered excessive. Our team visited several plants during the project and conducted a workshop with several folks from the refinery team including management, engineering, operations and EHS compliance. We developed benchmark comparisons of other refinery wastewater plants as well as what other industries were using to achieve the same goals. We also developed a long-term plan which included prioritization of several projects in the long term. These projects were identified to anticipate future regulatory permit issues on nitrogen, water reuse and VOC emissions control.
  • Water Reuse: Many refiners are considering reuse of wastewater and other internal water sources as a means to improve wastewater compliance and reduce water risk. Additionally, the prospect of moving a wastewater stream from the cost side to the revenue side of the balance sheet represents an increasingly attractive value proposition for refineries. Improved methods for handling problem waste streams, such as treatment of stripped sour water (SSW) for reuse may be particularly attractive. Geosyntec's practitioners can help with the evaluation of sources and sinks for implementing water reuse programs, as well as mass, water, and heat balances, and the evaluation of pre-treatment technologies, regulatory impacts, and potential second-order effects on plant operations
  • Design and Operation of Upstream Source Control Techniques: Critical to the success of end of pipe treatment is to understand the sources of wastewater where certain streams contributed to the toxic or inhibitory impacts to biological treatment. Understanding and characterizing upstream wastewater sources is vital in the smooth operation of the downstream WWTP. Many opportunities exist such as diversion, point of generation pretreatment using emerging technologies such as sidestream chemostats, advanced oxidation and equalization.
  • Refinery and Petrochemical Wastewater Treatment Training: Refiners, like many other businesses that rely on seasoned and skilled operators, face increasing challenges as wastewater operating staff retire in large numbers. This loss of knowledge and experience, combined with new wastewater compliance and water supply challenges on the horizon, represents a critical gap that must be closed to ensure reliable operation.

Clients choose Geosyntec due to the unique nature of refinery and petrochemical wastewater, which demands a strikingly different engineering considerations compared to the theory found in conventional sewage treatment textbooks. Our experts not only understand wastewater treatment, but the refining processes that generate complex wastewater streams. Our clients can access our team of leading process and wastewater engineers but can tap into other professionals that develop multidisciplinary solutions in filtration technology, treatability analysis, biokinetic modelling, regulatory negotiation, etc. and can solve the most complex problems refinery clients face.

Refinery and petrochemical clients choose Geosyntec to develop solutions to complex industrial wastewaters and lowering costs. They know our consultants understand of the unique combination of the science and engineering behind complex refinery wastewaters and advanced treatment processes.

List of Services

  • Needs Assessment for Existing Refinery Wastewater Treatment Systems
  • Volatile Organic Compound Treatments and Compliance
  • Activated Sludge Design Configuration Alternatives
  • Treatability Testing
  • Causes and Control of Activated Sludge Solids Separation Problems
  • Refinery WWTP Troubleshooting
  • Upstream Wastewater Source Control and Wastewater Reuse
  • Carbonaceous and Nitrogenous Biological Treatment Process Control
  • Advanced Biological Process Control Tools and Predictive Modeling
  • API and DAF Process Control and Design
  • Chemical and Advanced Treatment Mechanisms
  • RCRA and Biomass Sludge Processing, Treatment, Disposal and Compliance Considerations
  • Activated Sludge Treatment Plant and Aeration Design for Energy Efficiency
  • Refinery and Petrochemical Site-Specific Wastewater Treatment Training

Representative Clients

  • Marathon
  • Phillips 66
  • Shell