Marathon Petroleum Desalter Blowdown Process and Treatment Facilities

Updating wastewater systems for better cost efficiency

Marathon Petroleum Corporation | United States | 2006-2009

New processes remove asphaltenes from desalter effluent

Canadian bitumen-based crude oil can be used

Costs savings realized


  • Canadian heavy sour crude is a cost-effective solution for combating rising crude-oil market prices. Unfortunately, it can create significant problems for a refinery’s wastewater treatment system.
  • Marathon Petroleum was facing a potential shutdown due to its violations of publicly owned treatment works (POTW) resulting from using this crude oil in its refining slate.


  • Marathon Petroleum contracted our engineering, pilot testing, and design/build services to construct treatment facilities for its desalter blowdown. The goal was to eliminate the POTW violations resulting from treating Canadian crude oil stock.
  • The Hatch desalter effluent pretreatment process (DEPP) was developed with the on-site treatability testing of desalter washwater over a period of several months. Because the crude slate changed from day to day, the process needed to be able to treat a wide variety of Canadian crudes.
  • Following on-site testing, a full-scale pilot system was provided for the temporary treatment of Canadian crude desalter blowdown on an expedited design-build basis. The system was designed to treat 250 gallons per minute (gpm) of desalter washwater while removing up to 3,000 mg/l of asphaltenes.


  • The temporary system consistently removed an average of 98 percent of the asphaltene solids.
  • With this process, mercury was also removed and the washwater returned to non-detect levels.
  • The full-scale pilot system was completed in 2007. It operated until the permanent system was installed by Hatch on a design-build basis.
  • This process has allowed Marathon to use less costly Canadian heavy crudes, thus improving its bottom line.

Project numbers

A 650 gpm permanent system for desalter washwater
System designed to remove 3,000 mg/l of asphaltenes
250 gpm temporary/pilot system

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