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Multiphase-Flow Modeling Based on Experimental Testing: An Overview of Research Facilities Worldwide and the Need for Future Developments
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- Gioia Falcone (Texas A&M University) | Catalin Teodoriu (Texas A&M University) | Kurt M. Reinicke (Tech. U. Clausthal) | Oladele Olalekan Bello (Tech. U. Clausthal)
- Document ID
- SPE Projects, Facilities & Construction
- 1 - 10
- Publication Date
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 2008. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5 Production and Operations, 5.6 Multiphase Flow in Wells
- 4 in the last 30 days
- 1,132 since 2007
Multiphase-flow models for the oil and gas industry are required to investigate and understand the cocurrent or countercurrent flow of different fluid phases under a wide range of pressure and temperature conditions and in several different flow configurations in wellbores, pipelines, and risers and through the surface facilities. Experimental measurements are required to develop and validate the multiphase-flow models under controlled conditions and assess their range of applicability. This is why a large number of multiphase-flow loops exist around the world. However, there are numerous varieties of multiphase-flow occurrences because of differences in pressure and temperature; fluid types; flow regimes; pipe geometry, inclination, and diameter; and whether the flow is steady-state or transient.
Building a flow loop that reproduces real hydrocarbon wells, including the reservoir inertia and the complex heat transfer process taking place between the wellbore and the reservoir, is not feasible. Thus, downscaling typical field parameters is necessary to study multiphase flows at laboratory conditions.
This paper presents a critical review of multiphase-flow loops around the world, highlighting the pros and cons of each facility with regard to reproducing and monitoring different multiphase-flow situations.
The authors suggest a way forward for new developments in this area.
Multiphase flows consist of the simultaneous passage through a system of a stream composed of two or more phases. They are common natural phenomena; the flow of blood in our body, the rising gas bubbles in a glass of beer, and the steam condensation on windows are all examples of naturally occurring multiphase flows.
However, large-scale multiphase flows, such as those that occur in the petroleum industry, are difficult to visualize. For example, in a typical oil-and-gas development, multiphase flow is encountered in the wells, in the flowlines and risers transporting the fluids from the wells to the platform, and in the multiphase-flow lines that carry the produced fluids to the treatment facilities at shore.
Typical parameters for an oil well in the northern basins of the North Sea are as follows (BERR 2008): production rate of 800-1600 m3/d, tubing diameter of 0.102-0.130 m, reservoir depth of 3000-3500 m, oil density of 825-930 kg/m3, gas/oil ratio of 100 std m3/std m3, and water cut up to 90%. For a gas well in the southern gas basin, the typical parameters become (BERR 2008): initial production rate of 0.7 to more than 2.8 million std m3/d, tubing diameter of 0.114-0.140 m, reservoir depth of 2500-3500 m, and initial liquid/gas ratio of less than 1 to more than 30 std m3/million std m3. The operational pressure at the wellhead may reach up to 10 MPa, and reservoir pressures can be as great as 30 MPa.
However, well-performance values not only vary considerably across the world, but also vary with time for the same field.
Multiphase-flow systems can be complex because of the simultaneous presence of different phases and, usually, different compounds in the same stream. Thus, the development of adequate models presents a formidable challenge. The combination of empirical observations and numerical modeling has proved to enhance the understanding of multiphase flow.
Models to represent flows in pipes traditionally were based on empirical correlations for holdup and pressure gradient. It is more usual now to use codes based on the multifluid model, in which averaged and separate continuity and momentum equations are written for the individual phases. For these models, closure relationships are required for interface and pipe-wall friction.
To complement the theoretical effort, experimental measurements under controlled conditions are required to verify multiphase-flow models and assess their range of applicability. This is why a large number of multiphase-flow loops exist around the world, each with specific capabilities and limitations.
This paper attempts to review the major worldwide facilities that allow a wide range of two- and three-phase-flow experiments, but the authors accept that their review may not be exhaustive. Flow loops may be operated by academic organizations, independent research centers, or individual companies, and there is a special category for oil and gas applications, where real hydrocarbon fluids and field operating conditions are used.
The review is based on information available in the public domain and focuses on large-scale facilities. This choice reflects the specific need for multiphase flow loops for studies related to hydrology, petroleum, and environmental engineering; geothermal energy plants; underground gas storage; and carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration. For studies on nanotechnology, life science, and medical systems, different flow loops are necessary to reproduce reality in a laboratory. Finally, there are ad-hoc facilities for the investigation of boiling and condensation processes and for nuclear-engineering applications.
No flow loop can be representative of all possible situations. Even when experiments in a given flow loop are believed to be sufficiently exhaustive for a specific study area, the conditions that will be encountered in a real application can be different from those recreated in the research facility.
The objective of this paper is therefore to review some of the major worldwide flow-loop facilities for two- and three-phase-flow investigation that are reported in the public domain to point out unresolved problems in reproducing real processes in a laboratory environment.
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