A system for separating a multi-component fluid such as a water-in-oil emulsion into at least two components. The system comprises a cylindrical vessel which is equipped with a baffle system interposed between fluid inlet and outlet means. The baffle system defines a horizontally extending spiral flow path which is in fluid communication with the fluid inlet at one end and with the outlet means at the other end. The flow path is characterized by a vertically elongated channel cross section. Within the flow path, one or more distributor means are provided which function to distribute the flow of fluid in the spiral flow path evenly throughout a substantial vertical interval of the channel cross section. The distributor means may be located adjacent the inlet and outlets of the vessel and may take the form of vertically elongated impellers mounted for rotation about vertical axes.