Charles Talley, a 69-year-old self-described “dirt-water or bucket chemist,” is a problem solver. And he’s got 11 patents to show for it.
His latest, WellRenew, is the only non-hazardous, environmentally friendly means of removing gunk like paraffin wax and asphaltenes from land-based pipelines, storage vessels and oil refinery piping — allowing for flow of oil and gas through the pipelines.
Six of Talley’s patents helped him reach his latest development under Ideal Energy Solutions.
“This patent stands on the shoulders of the other six. I can’t take this without the knowledge of what I did in the first six. So essentially, it took seven patents to get to WellRenew,” Talley tells ABiz.
Though the patent was awarded on May 2, the process began in August 2014. According to Talley, patents can take three or four years, depending on how the examiner reviews the novelty of it.
“The patent examiner has questions, and you have to provide answers to those questions,” says Kevin Ayers, IES’s chief operating officer. “It’s costly, but it’s something that I’m glad we went through. In the end, it’s well worth it.”
Continues Ayers: “The patent is for IES, but it was [Talley’s] idea, and he’s the one that developed that product."
WellRenew is a non-caustic cleaner that floats the gunk — paraffins and asphaltenes — in pipelines, allowing them to be pumped out. Hot solvents, on the other hand, dissolve these materials, which will gel again when cooled, making them hard to remove.
But WellRenew is temperature-independent and is not limited by the size or length of the pipeline, which makes using it in cold, deepwater applications possible. It also can be activated by seawater or fresh water — making it possible to be used in both offshore and land applications.
“At moderate temperatures, paraffin displays limited solubility when in contact with most types of inorganic solvents and is virtually insoluble in aqueous solutions,” Ayers says. “Once the temperature of streaming oil falls below the cloud point, or wax-appearance temperature, the paraffin components begin to crystallize into solid wax particles.”
This crystallization makes buildup difficult to remove once deposited as the sticky particles attach to one another and to pipeline walls “like they’re coated with glue,” says Ayers.
“With these solids, it’s just a question of density. They’re lighter, so you put in an aqueous solution [a solution in which water is the solvent, which dissolves the solute to create the solution], and the paraffin is gonna float once it’s broken up.”
At that point, the buildup can be pumped out the pipeline. From there, Ayers says, it is taken to and disposed of at an approved facility.
According to IES’ website, WellRenew has “cleaned out over 22.6 miles of pipeline, in 12 different pipelines with 70 percent of those pipelines being offshore” and has also “recovered over 1,000 barrels of paraffin.”
“There are very few people that do what I do, there are,” Talley says. “That’s why I’m a dirt-water chemist; I just come up with stuff.”