Optimizing Petroleum Refining Processes with Circulation Heaters

Circulation Heater

The process of refining crude oil into different petroleum products is a complex process that requires different furnaces, distillation chambers, and machinery to work without fault for the best efficiency. In the case of any error, fault, or deviation in temperature can cause issues that can have devastating outcomes.

Circulation heaters play a critical part in refining petroleum as they maintain the integrity of different materials flowing through the refinery and help them not to coagulate. Furthermore, the transfer of heat at different stages helps increase the efficiency of the process. In this article, I will discuss the importance, need, and how circulation heaters help in increasing the efficiency of the refining petroleum process.

Circulation Heater

The Need for and Importance of Circulation Heaters in Refining Petroleum

During the refining process, the circulation heaters allow the proper heat transfer, making it easy for the oils to flow. Special thermocouples and measuring devices are installed to maintain the right amount of heat in the pipes. These devices and heaters can withstand extreme weather and environmental conditions, enhancing their life.

If there is any deviation outside the tolerances allowed, oil can rot up on the wall lining, and with due time, this developed layer will cause insufficient heat transfer.Secondly, you do not want the fluids inside to coagulate in any case, such as crude oil or bitumen. Even in the case of natural gas flow, you don’t want them to condense, causing similar issues.

Different Types of Industrial Heaters Used in Petroleum Refining

There are many different types of industrial heaters based on the following factors:

  • By application
  • Type of medium
  • Physical Properties
  • The fuel sources

Let’s briefly discuss each type of industrial heaters based on this categorization.

Application of the Industrial Heaters

  • Circulation Heaters – In these industrial heaters types, fluid flows in the pipes that help transfer heat for moving fluid or circulating streams.
  • tubular Heaters – Support moving gas streams are typically installed directly in the gaseous flow path.
  • Immersion Heaters – Immersed into the fluid or liquid that needs heating.
  • Space or Room Heaters – Specializing for confined spaces and can be moved as they are portable.

Type of Medium

  • Air Heaters – Radiant or space heaters that heat airflow.
  • Water Heaters – Primarily used for commercial or residential usage and are fired using gas, oil, or electricity.
  • Physical Properties
  • Explosion Proof Heaters – Housed in frames that can withstand shock, flames, and explosions and stop them from reaching the fluid.
  • Flexible Heaters – These industrial heaters can be shaped according to the process or heated object.

Fuel Source

  • Electric Heaters – Provides heat using resistive material and create heat when electricity passes through them.
  • Gas and Propane Heaters – Using these gases to generate heating.
  • Oil and Kerosene Heaters – Most common heaters use petroleum products to create heat.

Advantages of Circulation Heaters

Here are some of the advantages of circulation heaters in the petroleum industry, making them the best choice for optimized petroleum refineries.

  • A minimum amount of energy is wasted as they are sometimes in direct contact with the medium. Other times, they utilize state-of-the-art measuring techniques to keep the tolerance as minimum as possible.
  • Most industrial heaters, when they use electricity for heating, allow for more controlled temperature changes making them safe and easy to work with.
  • It allows for more functionality and can be used with even corrosive fluids.

Circulation Heater

Things to Consider for Optimizing Circulation Heaters Function in Petroleum Refinery

Now that we have discussed a little bit about different industrial heaters based on their properties and why circulation heaters are great for refining petroleum. It is time to delve into some critical aspects that you need to consider for their full utilization so you can optimize your petroleum refining process.

The Application Conditions of Refining Petroleum

Circulation heaters aren’t great just for the refining process but for other types of chemical processes, power generation heat transfer, hydrocarbon refining, and other industries. Let’s observe the specifications you must include when ordering circulation heaters for the best engineering applications.

  • You must factor in your fluid’s different physical and chemical properties, such as chemical compositing, their corrosive nature, thermal and physical properties, etc.
  • The higher and lower limits of the fluid’s flow.
  • It is also vital to ensure what design and operating pressures you are working with.
  • The temperature ranges you need to maintain for efficient flow.
  • Whether you are installing these industrial heaters indoors or outdoors.
  • Either they are vertical or horizontal when they are being mounted.

These are just some of the considerations you need to make for the application conditions, and you should go into all the factors when discussing with your manufacturer.We covered HOW TO INSTALL A CIRCULATION HEATER in detail in our previous article. If you are interested, you can read it here.

Design Composition of Industrial Heaters or Flowing Media

Most typical industrial heat exchanges are manufactured with 316 stainless steel or carbon steel, but material or composition is a critical choice. You have to consider the composition of the medium and, based on it, the choice for choosing the circulation heaters’ material and whether they are outside or inside types.

The 2nd consideration is the need for customized material based on your medium because, most typically, standard designs are used for quick or common delivery. Customized considerations are essential when you have flammable or corrosive media.

The Watt Density Factor

Please don’t confuse it with the Wattage in electric heaters or power applications, as this factor is about how high temperature ranges your medium will reach. Most of the time, it reduces the life expectancy of the measuring element, which can be increased with more specialized material. Corrosive materials also reduce life.

The Orientation of the Industrial Heaters

Some typical considerations and guidelines for deciding on the orientation of your circulation heaters in industrial applications:

  • You should install the heater horizontally for liquids, with the inlet near the terminal housing.
  • If you choose vertical installation, the inlet should be near the bottom and the terminal enclosure.
  • For gases or air, horizontal orientation is preferable.

Click here to learn more:Industrial Applications of Circulation Heaters

The Optimum Standoffs for Terminal Enclosures

Standoffs are another significant factor in the life of your industrial heaters in the petroleum processing environment. The main issue here is the electric connections or fuel firing to provide the heat.

So do consider what temperature at standoff you are providing the manufacturer and whether your medium is part of an explosive environment.Considering the T-code details is essential so your enclosure doesn’t exceed the defined rating.

Control System Reliability

You can consider SCR, Silicon Controller Rectifier, which comes with a PID Temp. controller. This helps the device to control temperature where quick response is required. If you place one control sensor on the outlet for ambient temp, consider one directly attached to the sheath or in other places for a more accurate reading.

Circulation Heater

How to Increase the Efficiency of Your Refining Process?

The circulation heaters are an essential part of refining petroleum processes, such as gas, oil, and other power or regenerative heating, along with superheaters. The purpose of these heaters is not just to provide heat fluctuation when required; it needs to be accurate and reliable no matter the complexity.

Especially when the heating element is in direct contact with the media of your petrochemical process, the efficiency can be enhanced to as near to % as possible.Here are some guidelines for using circulation heaters as your industrial heaters to help you gain optimum efficiency. Bear in mind that good maintenance practices are the pillar of long life and safety for your processing.

  • Sheath Sensors – Always use high-limit sensors to help you prevent overheating and be controlled with a control switch when needed.
  • Correct Installation – Typically, horizontal orientation is preferred over vertical and enclosure temperature should be below 200F. Any exceeding temperature requirements can be mitigated with higher temperature requirement certifications.
  • Terminal Housing Protection – Always check for corrosion or oxidation, even on all the connections. The best way to maintain it is to seal it properly. Cleaning is typically achieved with blowers that are dry and oil-free.
  • Scaling Removal – It is typical for scaling to build up in industrial applications, which may mitigate heat transfer. Using a wire brush can help in cleaning.
  • Coking Care – Coking is another essential factor that can reduce your process’s efficiency and heat transfer. Using a tubular element allows sheath to run cooler because coking is highly linked with oil temperature.
  • Wiring Connections – Ensuring the integrity of the electrical connection is critical where tightening the studs by 20-pound-inch torque is required. Similar to checking the flange connections and mounting bolts to keep the seals intact during the process.


Circulation heaters are the backbone of numerous industrial applications, especially if you consider them for refining petroleum products. The best part is they are easy to install and require minimal labor. You can maintain them regularly and easily.

If you have issues finding the best circulation heaters suppliers and manufacturers, you should consider contacting HASTECO for the best pricing and delivery charges.

Sales representive Luke


As the devoted CEO of Hasteco, I've spent countless years nurturing my passion for heating elements. Warmly inviting you to connect & collaborate for cozy, tailor-made solutions. Get in touch!

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