Dolphin Centrifuge

Crude Oil Centrifuge | Operation, Uses, Specs, Benefits

Crude Oil Tank Bottom Recovery Centrifuges

West Texas

Table of Contents

Design and Operation

An industrial centrifuge designed to dewater crude oil and separate particulate matter is called a crude oil centrifuge. These centrifuges exert high centrifugal forces (over 8,000 Gs) to continuously remove all water and sludge particles. Sale oil with less than 0.1% BS&W can be reliably reclaimed.

Crude oil centrifuges are mechanical separating machines used in O&G production applications. They perform a variety of separating functions in petroleum production. From drilling mud recovery to oil washing, centrifuges are versatile tools in the petroleum industry.

Alfa Laval 3-Phase Centrifuge Class 1 Div 2 Crude Oil Hawaii
Alfa Laval 3-Phase Centrifuge Class 1 Div 2 Crude Oil (Hawaii)

Heavy sludge is the primary contaminant in all types of crude oil-related streams. It must be removed to protect downstream equipment such as pumps, separators, wellheads, etc.

A decanter centrifuge is the first line of defense for these heavy, abrasive solids. Alfa Laval three-phase decanters efficiently remove sludge and produce sludge-free oil. De-sludged oil is much easier to handle and treat for recovery of sale oil.

In general, these oilfield centrifuges are subject to considerable wear and abrasion. Therefore, these oil centrifuges need to have robust construction and wear protection.

Dolphin Centrifuge has considerable experience in all applications using centrifuges for crude oil. Following is a summary of the functions for which we have supplied centrifuges.

Applications in Oil and Gas Production

Drilling Mud Recovery

Solids control centrifuges are also known as drilling mud centrifuges or decanters. Oil well drilling requires lubrication for efficient operation. This lubricant is a mix of water and barite, which is a mineral.

Barite allows the drilling lubricant to work under high pressure in deep wells. The drilling mud carries crushed rocks when it flows back to the surface. Centrifuges separate drill fluids from the crushed solids as the drilling mud returns to the surface.

Drilling mud solids are heavy and abrasive. They need heavy-duty gearboxes, wear protection, tiled conveyors, and precision speed control. Wear protection ensures the highest efficiency and durability.

Dolphin Centrifuge has Alfa Laval solids control decanters for sale. Our drilling mud decanter modules include:

Oil-Based Drilling Mud Recovery

Oil-based drilling mud (OBM) often uses diesel as the lubricant. The oil enhances the lubricity and better temperature resistance without breaking down.

Recovery of diesel from OBM is desirable due to the cost of oil. The diesel in used OBM carries colloidal solids, and separating these suspended solids is essential before reusing the oil.

Decanters do not exert centrifugal force high enough to extract these suspended solids. A high-speed disc stack centrifuge generates enough force to separate these small particles.

Dolphin Centrifuge's oil cleaning system is suitable for recovering diesel from de-sludged OBM. Our solution uses a self-cleaning disc stack centrifuge to extract the colloidal solids. It can also break emulsified oil depending on the type of emulsion.

Tank Bottoms Recovery

Crude oil extracted from wells carries saltwater and sand or other sediments. Producers use settling tanks to skim sale oil from the top of settling tanks. The residue left in the settling tanks is known as tank bottoms.

Tank bottoms contain Basic Sediment & Water (BS&W). Skimming of sale oil leaves plenty of good oil in tank bottoms. This oil can be recoverable using our centrifuge system for extra revenue.

An oilfield centrifuge is a cost-effective solution for tank bottom processing to recover sale oil. The centrifuge also reduces tank bottom sludge, thus significantly reducing tank cleaning costs.

Salt Water Disposals (SWDs) use Alfa Laval three-phase centrifuges for dewatering crude oil from produced water.

If you have simple, routine questions: We have condensed our 40+ years of disc-stack centrifuge experience into 101 Frequently Asked Questions about Disc Stack Centrifuges!

Dolphin Centrifuge has been working with owners and operators to recover tank bottom oil. We have engineered robust solutions for efficient, low-cost oil recovery using specially designed produced water centrifuges.

Dolphin-designed & manufactured Oil Recovery System (ORS) is an ingenious solution for oil recovery. Our ORS incorporates the 3-step process listed below for crude oil de-watering.

Containerized Tank Bottom Recovery System

Containerized Crude Oil Recovery Module

Three-Phase Alfa Laval Centrifuge

We have integrated a pre-strainer, decanter & crude oil centrifuge into a standard 40′ container. This system includes accessories such as pumps, heaters, sludge augers, buffer tanks, etc.

The design of the container is for ease of deployment and use in remote field locations. These modules have interior lighting, service crane(s), interconnecting pipes, automatic PLC control systems, etc.

Our containerized Oil Recovery System (ORS) is a 'self-contained' module. We designed it to process tank bottoms and recover sale oil with less than 0.1% BS&W.

The following video shows the latest version of our containerized ORS.

Skid Mounted Crude Oil Recovery System

The ORS is also available in a 'Skid Mounted' design, which is suitable for fixed installation in existing facilities. We supply each of the 3-step components as an individual skid-mounted system.

The customer has the flexibility to configure the ORS around pre-installed tanks or other assets. Also, the skid-mounted configuration offers lower costs and shorter lead times.

The following image shows our Skid Mounted Oil Recovery System.

DMPX-042 Self Cleaning Disc Stack Centrifuge for Crude Oil Slop
DMPX-042 Self-Cleaning Disc Stack Centrifuge for Crude Oil Slop
Crude Oil Container - Virtual 3D Tour - Click Above

Refinery Slop Oil

Oil refinery waste streams are also known as refinery slop. This waste stream consists of wastewater, crude oil, and sludge. It often contains varying amounts of oil emulsions as well.

A refinery slop treatment system includes a crude oil decanter for de-sludging. A high-speed disc stack centrifuge separates the liquid phases in the de-sludged oil. Using chemicals helps the centrifuge break the oily-water mix if the emulsion is present.

Therefore, both the decanter and disc stack centrifuge are well suited for refinery slop oil treatment.

Water Washing

Heavy metals, such as lead, iron, arsenic, nickel, etc., are present in crude oil. Though their presence in trace levels is not an issue, higher levels of metals can cause a problem for the producer.

Oil companies do not want to buy crude oil with heavy metals beyond their specified level.

Certain types of crude oil are washable with water to remove heavy metals by adsorption. Water absorbs the metals and needs to be separated. A 3-phase disc stack centrifuge recovers the crude oil from the wash water.

Of course, this process creates a stream of water with adsorbed heavy metals. This contaminated water stream needs disposal through proper means.

Contact Dolphin Centrifuge for further information regarding the use of crude oil centrifuges. Let us use our expertise to your benefit!


The following are the specifications for a typical Alfa Laval three-phase centrifuge processing API 40 Light Crude Oil.

Centrifuge Type ►Alfa Laval WHPX-510Alfa Laval WHPX-513
Processing Capacity25 GPM on Light Crude Oil40 GPM on Light Crude Oil
Centrifuge TypeSelf-Cleaning, Disc-Stack Centrifuge
(Auto Ejects Concentrated Sludge)
Self-Cleaning, Disc-Stack Centrifuge
(Auto Ejects Concentrated Sludge)
Bowl Speed5,150 RPM4,140 RPM
Centrifugal Force (RCF)7,000 Gs7,000 Gs
Sludge Volume3.0 Gallons5 Gallons
Motor Power10 HP (7 kW)15 HP (11 kW)
Dimensions5' x 6' x 6' (H)6' x 6' x 8' (H)
Weight4,000 Lbs5,500 Lbs

Are crude oil centrifuges flow-through type separators?

Crude oil centrifuges are flow-through type separators that continuously separate crude oil from water and sludge.

Can crude oil centrifuge be used for analyzing the water and sludge content in oil?

The centrifuges that can show the percentage of water and sludge in crude oil are benchtop centrifuges that use test tubes. These centrifuges are also known as benchtop testers or grinders.
The crude oil centrifuges we refer to here are large-capacity industrial machines that continuously separate crude oil from water and sludge.

Can crude oil centrifuges separate crude oil emulsion?

Crude oil centrifuge can separate emulsified oil under certain circumstances. Mechanical emulsions are separable by the high centrifugal force in disc stack crude oil centrifuges. However, chemically bonded emulsions require the use of chemicals in addition to centrifuges for effective separation.

Can a centrifuge recover crude oil from frac water?

The concentration of crude oil from frac water is a common application. These industrial centrifuges separate large volumes of saltwater from crude oil to recover saleable oil.

What is the smallest crude oil centrifuge available?

The smallest crude oil centrifuge available has a capacity of 10 barrels per minute. The actual throughput depends on the gravity of the crude oil, processing temperature, percentage of water, etc.

Are crude oil centrifuges portable?

Dolphin Centrifuge can build crude oil centrifuge systems inside shipping containers for mobile applications. Dolphin Centrifuge has designed and supplied a self-contained containerized crude oil recovery system built inside a 40-foot shipping container.

What is the range of gravity (API) a centrifuge can process?

Crude oil centrifuges can process oil with API gravity of less than 10 to crude oil over 40 API gravity. Thickers oils (less than 10 API) require higher processing temperatures for separation efficiency.

Do crude oil centrifuges require special electrical classification? i.e. Class 1 Div 1 or 2

The electrical classification requirement for crude oil centrifuges is dependent on the location, fluid being processed, and local environment. In cases where volatile crude oil fractions are present, the centrifuges and related equipment must be suitable for the environment through electrical classification.


Centrifuges offer several benefits over conventional heating and settling of crude oil to separate BS&W. The following is a list of the main advantages of crude oil centrifuges.

Alfa Laval Crude Oil Centrifuge Modules


To get more details email us or call us at (248) 522-2573

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