Scaling Tendencies

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What is Scaling?

Scaling is the deposition of a mineral salt on processing equipment. Scaling is a result of supersaturation of mineral ions in the process fluid. Through changes in temperature, or solvent evaporation or degasification, the concentration of salts may exceed the saturation, leading to a precipitation of solids (usually crystals).

For example, changes in temperature can cause that calcium bicarbonate precipitates as calcium bicarbonate and releases CO2 into the solution, as is shown in the following reaction:

Ca(HCO3)2(aq) ---> CaCO3(s)+CO2(g)+H2O

The saturation level of a salt in water is a good indicator of the potential for scaling.

What is a Scaling Tendency?

Scaling Tendency is the ratio of the ratio of the concentration of the ions of the salt of interest divided by the equilibrium constant of the same salt (Ksp). For example for the following reaction

CaCO3(s) = Ca+2 + CO3-2

The scaling tendency (ST) is:

ST = [Ca+2][CO3-2]/Ksp

The three possible ST scenarios are the following:

    Scaling Tendency      Result
    < 1.0	           The solid is under-saturated and is not expected to form
    = 1.0	           The solid is saturated and is expected to form
    > 1.0	           The solid is over-saturated and may or may not form

Scaling Tendency and Pre-scaling Tendency in OLI Software

Scaling Tendency is the saturation ratio after all potential solids come to equilibrium. This is the true equilibrium condition (time=∞).

Prescaling Tendency represents the condition before any solids are allowed to form. This is a non-equilibrium condition and can be viewed as the condition where time=0.

Scaling Tendency

Scaling tendencies are essentially saturation ratios. When the scaling tendency for a species is 1.0, it indicates that this species is in equilibrium with water. In other words, the species is in the solid phase. A scaling tendency below 1.0 indicates sub-saturation and that the solid phase will not form.

Below there is an example of how the software calculates the Scaling Tendency. Consider the dissolution of sodium bicarbonate:

NaHCO3(s) = Na+ + HCO3-

Scaling Tendency is defined as ST = IAP/Ksp

Where IAP is the Ion Activity Product, and is defined as the product of specific ions (in this case the ions resulting from the dissociation of a particular solid); and Ksp is the Solubility Product Constant which gives the thermodynamic limit of ion availability.

Let’s consider a 1.0 molal NaHCO3 solution. The IAP is calculated as follows:

IAP = [gammaNa+]*[mNa+]*[gammaHCO3-]*[mHCO3-]

Assuming Ideal Solution Activities:

gammaNa+ = 1.0

gammaHCO3- = 1.0

mNa+ = 1.0

mHCO3- = 1.0


IAP = (1.0)(1.0)(1.0)(1.0)

IAP = 1.0

Defining the Ksp

Ksp = [gammaNa+]*[mNa+]*[gammaHCO3-]*[mHCO3-]

Ksp = 0.403780

The Scaling Tendency is then the ratio of available ions to the thermodynamic limit:

ST = IAP/Ksp

ST = 1.0/0.403780

ST = 2.48

Was assuming ideal conditions valid?? The actual species concentration and activity coefficients (calculated by the OLI software) are:

gammaNa+ = 0.598

gammaHCO3- = 0.596

mNa+ = 0.894

mHCO3- = 0.866

This results in a different IAP:

IAP= (0.598)(0.894)(0.596)(0.866)


The new Scaling Tendency is the following:

ST = IAP/Ksp

ST = 0.276/0.40378

ST = 0.683

Scale Index

Scale Index (SI) is the log value of the Scaling Tendency (ST):

SI = Log (ST)

PreScaling Tendency

OLI Defines a Pre-Scaling tendency (pST) is the scaling tendency before any solids have been formed. Many industries, notably the up-stream oil & gas industry, use the pre-scaling tendency to make design decisions about adding anti-scaling and anti-fouling agents or if the asset is as risk.

Pre-Scaling Index

Pre-Scale Index (PSI) is the log value of the Pre-Scaling Tendency (PST):

PSI = Log (PST)