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The Chloride Challenge: How Powder Producers Handle Abrasive and Hygroscopic Materials

| Editor: Manja Wühr

Cal-Chlor is the world’s largest distributor of CaCl2 powder, which is shipped in 23 kg plastic valve bags.
Cal-Chlor is the world’s largest distributor of CaCl2 powder, which is shipped in 23 kg plastic valve bags. (Picture: Munson)

Screen classifying cutters master challenging product — Calcium chloride is really difficult to process. This very hygroscopic salt dissolves exothermic in water and its abrasive properties require robust process equipment. An American calcium chloride supplier has found a save and reliable process solution.

The surge in production of North American oil and natural gas has been good for petroleum producers and the businesses that supply them with material for drilling. One important product in this category is calcium chloride (CaCl2), a two-part chloride salt that provides benefits in such applications as drilling shale formations, flushing mud from oilfield holes, and filling casings when drilling ends.

Demand for CaCl2 is so high among oil producers that supplier Cal-Chlor of Lafayette, Louisiana, has solidified its standing as the largest distributor of CaCl2 in the world on the strength of oilfield use, says Brett Davis, operations director of the company’s Opelousas, LA, plant.

The plant downsizes CaCl2 pellets into a powder comprised of uniformly sized particles using five Screen Classifying Cutters (SCC) from Munson Machinery. Each cutter processes up to 11,793 kg of product per hour, says Davis. They are so important to meeting oilfield on-time demand that Cal-Chlor runs four of them and keeps the fifth for emergency use if one goes offline. The plants daily CaCl2 powder production ranges from 181 to 363 tonnes.

Process is automated from railcars to packaging line

Cal-Chlor sources its CaCl2 in Michigan. The salt is refined from natural brines found in underground sandstone formations, and then manufactured and shipped as pellets (about 4.5 mm in diameter) to Cal-Chlor’s Opelousas, LA, and Ludington, MI, plants for processing.

At the Opelousas plant, loading, conveying and feeding of CaCl2 is automated; no worker handles the calcium chloride prior to bagging, loading and shipping. The railcars are diverted to a spur where they park over a pit that contains a loader and conveying mechanism. The raw CaCl2 empties into the loader through the bottom of the railcar, and is conveyed to a surge hopper in the plant.

The hopper meters CaCl2 pellets to the four of the plants five SCC-30 cutters through an intake chute at the top of each unit.

Davis says it is important to maintain a constant feed rate. If material backs up it will strain the cutter bearings, causing them to overheat and possibly fail. To assure an even flow of CaCl2 into each cutter, Cal-Chlor installed a mechanical flow control valve with a variable frequency drive above each cutter.

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