Discover a Career - Opportunities in petroleum reservoir simulation and flow assurance.
If you ask 10 specialists, “What is flow assurance?”, you are likely to receive 10 different answers. Some may provide broad, generic statements about hydrocarbon transportability. Others may confine themselves to a more limited scope, emphasizing the use of chemicals to prevent deposits or of simulators to predict fluid dynamics or thermal issues. I was never quite satisfied with such answers, so let me offer an 11th definition: “Flow assurance is the technical discipline that guarantees achievement of a lifting and transport system’s lifetime production targets— from the near-wellbore to offloading tanks—by predicting, preventing, and solving problems originated by the behavior of the transported substances (i.e., gases, liquids, and solids either separated or in multiphase conditions).” This long definition emerged as an attempt to encompass each different facet of my everyday activities, which I will try to clarify one by one.
First, a focus on flow assurance has some physical boundaries. Qualitatively, whenever flow from the reservoir is confined within a very limited space, flow assurance starts becoming an issue. This may happen in pipes of any sort (e.g., well tubings, flowlines, and pipelines), but also in plant facilities (e.g., valves, manifolds, separators, and slug catchers) and in that rather fuzzy region called the near-wellbore, where the fluids must accelerate and squeeze close together to enter the well. The property common to all these places is that even tiny transformations produced by the fluids traversing them may have drastic effects on the capability to produce the desired hydrocarbon flow.