Crude oil refineries and petrochemical plants both consume large volumes of Process water in their operations. The extensive number of processes within the plants produce a variety of waste streams which demand different treatment methodologies to meet reuse criteria or regulated discharge parameters. The plants process crude petroleum into fuel products like diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel; non-fuel products such as asphalt and lubricants; and petrochemical feedstocks the basic building blocks for numerous end-use products.

Because Thincell EC treats such a wide range of contaminants, the technology provides solutions to many water treatment challenges. One notable potential Thincell EC application is cooling tower makeup water. Plant’s couple heat through boilers and steam vessels with cooling systems. Make-up water for these systems accounts for a large portion of the plant’s total water demand. Recirculated blowdown water builds up a high concentration of silica. Without an effective removal process, premature scale buildup will occur, requiring unscheduled maintenance to restore system efficiency. Thincell EC reduces silica concentrations from the recirculated water reducing unscheduled maintenance and chemical treatment, resulting in lower operating expenses.
Hardness concentrations are a well known nemesis to refinery and petrochemical plant operations. High concentrations of calcium carbonate, magnesium, and calcium are a few water constituents that cause scale buildup and corrosion problems, resulting in unscheduled maintenance and high chemical usage. Thincell EC may also help reduce concentrations of these known troublemakers, reducing costs (OPEX & CAPEX) associated with mitigating the problems they leave behind.

Storage of raw crude and other refined stage residue creates tank bottoms. These sediments need to be periodically removed and treated or disposed. To facilitate treatment of the tank bottom sludge, the liquid and solid phase are usually separated, minimizing the volume of materials requiring disposal, Separated solids may be disposed off-site, utilized as a fuel source in another plant process, or treated on-site. Separated liquid typically consists of water, emulsified hydrocarbons, “fine” solids, and a cocktail of chemicals and bacteria which are difficult to treat and are known to cause significant problems in the plant’s wastewater treatment system. Thincell EC technology breaks emulsions, kills bacteria, and reduces hydrocarbon and suspended solids concentrations so waters can be routed back into the plants wastewater treatment system without negative impact.

Electrocoagulation (EC) is known break emulsions, effective for its ability to reduce crude oil, hydrocarbon, suspended solids, and destroy bacteria and pathogens so water can be effectively disposed of or reused in plant processes. Traditional EC’s main downside, however, is its susceptibility for anode and cathode passivation. Traditional EC typically consist of numerous anode and cathode plates installed less than 1” apart. The passivation detriment causes operating inefficiencies, premature shutdowns, and higher costs.

Thincell® Advantages

Water Vision Inc.’s Thincell® EC technology is unique and has solved the passivation challenge. This new dimension in EC treatment offers a cost-effective on-site solution with benefits that include:

  • Reduced capital costs
  • No passivation
  • Bi-polar sacrificial anodes electrodes that completely dissolve
  • Less frequent maintenance shutdowns
  • Low power requirement
  • Low operating costs
  • Minimal operator engagement
  • Improved personnel safety
  • Reduced HSE risks
  • Replaces or significantly reduces chemical usage
  • Compact footprint easily integrates with existing wastewater treatment system
  • Modular and Scalable design to suit facility needs
  • Treats a wide range of contaminants with single technology

how does
thincell technology work?

Outstanding Results with Thincell

Industry Thincell Technology
Average Contaminant – % Removal
Crude Oil Oil & Grease/TPH TSS Turbidity Ca Hardness Total Hardness Bacteria Alkalinity BOD Total Silica
Oily Waste Waters 71%
Oily Waste Waters 100% 89%
Oily Waste Waters 100% 89%
Oily Waste Waters 100% 98%
Oily Waste Waters 100%
Oily Waste Waters 100%
Crude Storage Tank Wash Water 99%  97% 97%
Tank Bottom Sediment 100%
Crude Oil Waste Water 100%
Cooling Tower Blowdown 100% 64% 30% 4%
Process Well Water 67% 28% 45% 71%
Recovery Well Water 100% 67% 33% 73% 89%
RO Reject 100% 73% 44% 40% 100%
Bio Effluent 100% 62% 3% 25% 89%
Rain Water Run Off 100% 100% 100% 62% 3% 25% 89%

What else can Thincell Handle?

Big Spring, TX Refinery


Thincell® EC Treatment – Refining & Petrochemical

Silica Removal

Silica was successfully removed from the following process and waste streams in a Big Spring Refinery:

  • Cooling Tower Blowdown
  • Well Water
  • E. Bound. Rec. Well
  • Reverse Osmosis Reject
  • Bio Effluent
Silica Source Feed Sample Treated Water Removal Efficiency
CT Blowdown 50.1 6.5 87.03%
Well Water 61.1 17.6 71.19%
E. Bound. Rec. Well 69.3 7.8 88.74%
R.O. Reject 73.0 0.3 99.59%
Bio Effluent 21.1 2.3 89.10%

Silica reduction in process water minimizes premature scale buildup and reduces maintenance and restoration costs of heat treatment and cooling tower equipment.

Silica Removal to Prevent Scale Buildup

Texas Refinery


Thincell® EC Treatment – Refining & Petrochemical

Hardness Reduction

It is not well understood why EC reduces hardness concentrations from waters. Public domain information contains considerable data to support EC hardness reduction. The same amount of data exists to refute the claim.

Thincell has reduced hardness concentrations in several applications; however, hardness reduction is very water specific. Removing hardness from waters reduces premature scale buildup.

EC feasibility testing for hardness reduction should be completed prior to selecting EC as a treatment option.

Feed Sample Treated Water Removal Efficiency Variance
Alkalinity – as CaCO3 230 160 30.43% 70
Calcium 3,030 2,390 21.12% 640
Magnesium 1100 910 17.27% 190

Electrocoagulation application results from online content and literature review.

Texas Refinery Feed Sample Treated Water Removal Efficiency Variance
Alkalinity – as CaCO3 234.2 268 0
Calcium Hardness 642 218 66.11% 424
Total Hardness 848 600 29.23% 248


Water Disinfection



Bacteria, Pathogens, and Virus Removal

Thincell’s unique electrochemical processes are extremely effective disinfectants. More importantly, the Thincell system disinfectants in one step where Traditional EC requires a second technology (electro-oxidation) to complete the disinfectant process.

Thincell electrochemistry produces an in-situ disinfectant that:

  • Upsets the ionic balance of the bacteria via electrocution
  • Generates sodium hypochlorite, hypochlorous acid, and ozone, known disinfectants.
  • Dead bacteria are removed via in-situ generated electro – coagulants through settling or flotation
Feed Sample Treated Water Removal Efficiency
Bacteria (cfu) 110,000,000 2,700 99.998%
Coliform (cfu) 318,000 2,390 99.25%
E Coil Bacteria (mpn) 2,419 0 100.00%
Enterococcus Bacteria (mpn) 83 10 87.95%

Electrocoagulation application results from online content and literature review.

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