Simultaneous Flow of Gas and Liquid As Encountered in Well Tubing
- N.C.J. Ros (Koninklijke/Shell Laboratorium Delft)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 1961
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,037 - 1,049
- 1961. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.6.5 Tracers, 4.6 Natural Gas, 3.1.6 Gas Lift, 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow, 5.4.2 Gas Injection Methods
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The paper deals with pressure gradients occurring in flowing and gas-lift wells, a knowledge of which can be applied to the determination of optimum flow-string dimensions and to the design of gas-lift installations. The study is based on a pressure-balance equation for the pressure gradient. It appears that a pressure-gradient correlation of general validity must essentially consist of two parts-one part being a correlation for liquid hold-up and the other part being one for wall friction. Dimensional analysis indicates that both liquid hold-up and wall friction are related to nine dimensionless groups. It is shown that in the field of interest only four groups are really important. On the basis of these four groups a restricted experimental program could be selected that nevertheless covered practically all conditions encountered in oil wells. This experimental program has been carried out in a laboratory installation. Three essentially different flow regimes were found. The pressure gradients in these regions are presented in the form of a set of correlations. Comparison of these correlations with a few available oilfield data showed excellent agreement.
Prediction of the pressure drop in the flow string of a well is a widely known problem in oilfield practice. Accurate data on the pressure gradient of a simultaneous flow of gas and liquid in a vertical pipe are especially useful for the determination of optimum flowstring dimensions. It is well known that with moderate gas and liquid flows such a vertical string acts as a "negative restriction". The pressure drop decreases (1) when the throughput through a given pipe increases, and (2) when at a given throughput the cross-sectional area is decreased. The reason is that, with increasing velocities, the flow becomes more agitated so that the gas slips relatively more slowly through the liquid. With the resulting increase in gas content in the string, the static head decreases. When the area becomes very small, however, the high velocities entail great wall friction, which causes an increase in pressure drop. For a given flow, therefore, minimal pressure drop is obtained by using a certain cross section. This means that, in principle, each well can be provided with an optimum flow string for minimum pressure drop and, hence, maximum possible production rate. The procedure for the selection of the optimum string has been discussed by Gilbert. A necessary tool in the procedure, however, is accurate knowledge of the pressure gradient to be expected for various values of the governing variables. Another application of pressure-gradient data lies in the field of gas-lift practice: they provide a means of determining the optimum gas-injection rate, optimum injection pressure and optimum injection depth. Much work has already been done in the study of the pressure gradient of vertical gas-liquid flow. Poettmann and Carpenter presented a pressure-gradient correlation based on measurements in wells. This correlation has been found to provide accurate predictions in high-pressure wells and in high-production wells for flow through both tubing and annuli. However, when their method is checked on low pressure-low production wells or on wells with viscous crudes, serious discrepancies are found. As we shall see in the next section, this is due to the fact that their correlation factor, representing all irreversible energy losses, is given as a function of only one correlation group. Some important variables, such as gas-liquid ratio and liquid viscosity, are not incorporated in this group so that their specific effects are not accounted for. To study also the mechanism of vertical gas-liquid flow outside the ranges covered by the Poettmann-Carpenter publication and extensions, a laboratory investigation has been carried out. This study is founded on a pressure-gradient equation that is based on a pressure balance. To reduce the number of test runs required, a dimensional analysis has been carried out, followed by a selection of relevant dimensionless groups. These groups guided a subsequent experimental study, and with their aid the experimental program could be minimized while still covering the majority of the situations encountered in oilfield practice. In this paper the choice of a formula for the pressure gradient is discussed first. This is followed by a brief description of the experimental setup. Subsequently, the dimensional analysis is discussed and the relevant dimensionless groups are selected, resulting in the experimental program required.
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