This is a photo of a heater treater unit which is used to heat crude oil to separate out oil, water, solids such as paraffin and what natural gas bubbles remain in the oil. Heater treater units may be always in operation or operated only when a tank of oil needs to be cleaned up in order to be sold. This heater treater unit is located on a ranch in West Texas near the town of Sterling City.
These old oilfield vessels can last for decades with proper maintenance, however some crude oil contains hydrogen sulfide and eats away at both the inside and the outside of the heater treater and separator. Pipes and other exposed metal surfaces must be regularly coated to counteract the effects of H2S gas which is highly poisonous as well as corrosive. Not all oil and gas wells produce this gas. Normally where it appears there will be warning signs posted and workers may have to wear monitoring equipment to warn of the danger of H2S gas.
The plaque above shows how a heater treater works. This plaque appears at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland Texas.
Float valves, with a counter weight, trip when the level of water or oil needing to be dumped gets to a certain height. Below is an image of an old dump valve with iron counterweight on a heater treater unit.
The valve above was made by Kimray Inc. in Oklahoma City.
For more photos of oil and gas producing equipment visit EnergyIndustryPhotos.com
The following book is the number one training manual used by oil and gas companies. It explains how devices like heater treaters and separators are used in oil production.