Dale D. Erickson, SPE, and Michael C. Mai, SPE, Multiphase Solutions Inc.

The challenges associated with multiphase flow are as old as the oil business itself. The natural flow from most wells consists of some mixture of oil, gas, and water. Historically, separators were placed as close to the wellhead as possible to avoid problems associated with multiphase-flow behavior. However, as production has moved into more hostile environments and project and operating philosophies have changed, use of multiphase transport in oil and gas production operations has increased. For example, in the production scenario in Fig. 1, all production (gas, condensate, and water) from the subsea wells and the wellhead platforms is transported commingled to the central platform. At the central platform, liquid/gas separation is performed so that the gas can be compressed and the liquid pumped. The fluids (liquid and compressed gas) are then remixed and transported as a multiphase mixture in a single pipeline to shore. Onshore, the fluids are separated to sales specification. In this scheme, methanol may be needed at the wellhead to prevent formation of hydrates. The methanol is removed from the water phase onshore and sent back offshore for reuse. If methanol is not required in the infield network, the water can be separated on the central platform and disposed of offshore. To make production scenarios like this one both feasible and reliable, transient-multiphase-flow modeling is used in many different ways. This paper provides brief descriptions of these techniques that are based on our experience with more than 200 individual studies of multiphase pipelines and related facilities worldwide. These applications include conventional offshore, deepwater, arctic, and desert production and transportation systems.

limit of the pipeline on the basis of pressure-drop constraints, as governed by expected flowing wellhead pressures. The region below the lower curve establishes the production and water-cut combinations where terrain slugging occurs. The region between the curves is the envelope of operability. In this case, production over most of the field life is inside the envelope. Increasing the line size moves the envelope up, and decreasing the line size moves it down. In this way, operational impacts of different line sizes can be assessed. The key to making the envelope of operability a reliable design tool is to use an accurate dynamic model to calculate the boundaries. In preliminary engineering, a design engineer often uses steady-state simulators (or other correlations based on low-pressure, small-diameter, air/water laboratory data). These relationships should be used with caution. In one case that we encountered while working on a subsea pipeline, transient-model predictions for the pipeline pressure drops were 30% greater than the steadystate-model predictions (with similar differences in predicted liquid holdups). On the basis of the transient-model results, the line size was reduced by 2 in. from the size initially recommended on the basis of steady-state-model results. Field data subsequently confirmed that the transient-model predictions were within 8% of the actual values. If the larger line size had been installed, the pipeline would have been in the terrain-slugging region under normal flowing conditions, creating substantial operational problems.

Selecting the line size for a single-phase pipeline is relatively direct. The greatest anticipated flow rate should be established, the available pressure driving force should be determined, and pressuredrop relationships should be used to select a line size large enough to transport the required flow. Typically, economics may drive the line size to still greater values to accommodate future production or third-party fluids. The line-sizing problem in multiphase flow is more problematic because bigger is not necessarily better. Fig. 2, which shows the envelope of operability, explains this concept. The envelope has three main curves. The snake-like curve shows how production is expected to change with water cut (as the field matures and additional wells are brought on line). These production numbers reflect total liquid flow rates. The upper curve establishes the throughput
Copyright 1999 Society of Petroleum Engineers This is paper SPE 52757. Distinguished Author Series articles are general, descriptive representations that summarize the state of the art in an area of technology by describing recent developments for readers who are not specialists in the topics discussed. Written by individuals recognized as experts in the area, these articles provide key references to more definitive work and present specific details only to illustrate the technology. Purpose: to inform the general readership of recent advances in various areas of petroleum engineering. A softbound anthology, SPE Distinguished Author Series: Dec. 1981–Dec. 1983, is available from SPE’s Customer Service Dept.

Gas is difficult to store in large quantities unless converted to liquefied products. Therefore, offshore gas production typically is regulated to match onshore demand. Because of the storage (compressibility) and resistive properties (friction loss) of the pipeline, a time lag occurs between changes in the gas flow rate into the pipeline and corresponding changes in the gas flow rate out of the pipeline. To maintain deliveries during short offshore shutdowns, the pipeline may be operated in a packed condition. “Packed” in this sense refers to the additional gas that can be stored in the pipeline by increasing operating pressures. These operating pressures are higher than the driving force required simply to transport the gas to shore given the minimum allowable arrival pressure. Moreover, an oversized line has been used in some cases to provide the line packing necessary to ensure uninterrupted onshore delivery during temporary offshore shutdowns. In multiphase systems, this issue becomes more complicated because the liquid reduces the volume available for gas compression. Furthermore, increases in flow rate can produce the intended gas volumes but may also yield problematic quantities of liquid. Beyond design considerations, commercial and operations people need to know the delivery capacity of the system throughout the day. On-line models have been developed to provide an accurate assessment of potential performance. For example, an operator knows that the compressor offshore will be down for 4 hours in the afternoon for planned maintenance activities. The on-line model takes the current state of the pipeline (continuously calculated from
APRIL 1999 •


A cost/benefit analysis is then performed to balance pigging frequency with slug-catcher size. Fig. These ramp-up liquid slugs are a problem because of their potential to fill (flood) the slug catcher. A live (volatile) -condensate pipeline was simulated to determine acceptable closure times for a shutdown valve. which calculates the maximum required slug-catcher size for a range of assumed liquid-handling rates. These include highintegrity pressure-shutdown systems. Terrain One problem with multiphase flow is that increasing the distance between the separator and the multiphase-flow source increases the likelihood that liquid will arrive at a variable rate. if production is increased offshore. surge analysis. the presence of two phases substantially affects the flow transients and the dynamics of pressure buildup or bleed-down. 3—Ramp-up slugging behavior in a 14-in. and range of swing in anticipated flow rates. In oil systems. pressure-relief systems. terrain and hydrodynamic slugs dominate liquid arrival rates and are the design basis for slug-catcher sizing. which protects a pipeline in case of line breaks. The following example illustrates a typical type of analysis. In addition. if the operator wants to sell gas on the spot market. production data) and the current gas-nomination profile and forecasts the size of the shortfall (or surplus) that may be expected in the contract period. called slug catchers. frequency with which the pipeline is to be pigged. Similarly. Because many systems achieve steady-state infrequently. the amount of gas that can be made available at the sales point can be forecast as a function of time. First. 1—Wet-gas gathering and transmission. the flow rate is ramped up from these initial states and the liquid flow rate leaving the pipeline recorded. Simulations showed that. Next. Ramp-up slugs are particularly harmful because they occur when the flow rate is increasing and the gas is in high demand. Again. Gas is formed as the pressure in the pipeline falls. The on-line model then controls the flow rate by controlling the choke position of each well in the field. Fig. the on-line model can forecast the volume of surplus gas currently available as line pack (and any ramp-up limitations governed by liquid holdup in the line). The required slug-catcher size depends on the liquid-handling or drawdown rate. This information is sent to a slug-catcher model. are located at the end of multiphase flowlines. 85 . more than half the pipeline inventory would leave the pipeline. and leak detection. without a fast-closing shutdown valve in place. fast-closing valves were required. 4) is generated with information from approximately 50 transient-multiphase-flow simulations. a curve can be generated that shows how high the flow rate can be ramped up for a given initial steady-state flow rate. North Sea flowline at 265 psia. Consequently. causing a costly system shutdown. 3 shows this information for several cases. In gas/condensate pipelines. 4 shows slug sizes for various pigging intervals as functions of flow rate. large separators. Fig. On-line models can be used in field operations to predict pigging requirements accurately on the basis of a “current” assessment of the state of the pipeline (which may be far from steady state). 2—Envelope of operability. The following procedure is used to size a slug catcher for this type of service. line ruptures. thereby pushing additional liquid out of the pipeline. Once the slug-catcher/liquid-handling rate is selected. Multiphase-flow simulations then were used to determine whether the valve seats could handle the surge stress imposed by the rapid valve closure. on-line models have been developed2 to predict accurately how fast the flow rate can be increased given the current pipeline condition (on the basis of historical field data). SLUG-C ATCHER SIZING First. steady-state simulations are run at a number of flow rates. Ramp-up slugs are not true slugs but waves of liquid caused by the increase in gas flow rate (which sweeps liquid out of the pipeline).Fig. For this reason. • APRIL 1999 Fig. SAFETY-SYSTEM ANALYSIS There are several applications for transient-multiphase-flow technology in the area of safety-system analysis. a graph (Fig. Sizing a slug catcher for a pipeline that is pigged regularly is relatively straightforward. This type of failure is the worst case of all the fire scenarios because condensate density is much higher than gas density. The transient pigging analyses used in design work usually are based on steadystate starting conditions (liquid holdups). the primary cause of slug-catcher flooding is ramp-up slugs.

For example. slug-catcher sizing requires some proba- Most operators prefer to use carbon-steel pipelines because of the lower material cost compared with pipes made of special alloys. APRIL 1999 • 86 . To prevent hydrate formation after this period.000. However. With an incorrect design. The corrosion potential is higher in these locations. In multiphase service. However. the least desirable location because of the difficulty in removing the plug. 4—Pigging intervals with line pack. At some locations. To improve performance. Both of these solids have the potential to plug a flowline. Therefore. The design-slug basis is defined as the maximum slug size the system must handle (e. or line-size selection.3 One problem is that corrosion inhibitor is carried in the bulk phase.000 ppm. any subsea well or flowline at shut-in conditions may be in the hydrate-formation region. the 1 in 1.or wax. For a corrosion inhibitor to function properly. the temperature drops because of Joule-Thompson cooling. the return line may be insulated. An additional twist with hydrodynamic slugs is that slug sizes are not uniform but follow a frequency distribution. operating procedures can be developed to keep the fluids out of the hydrate region. under these conditions. slugs typically can be controlled by means of gas lift. If the flow rate for the heating medium is chosen incorrectly and the flow is countercurrent. Multiphase modeling can determine whether the solids can be re-entrained or whether the pipeline should be pigged to facilitate solids removal.g. slug-control valves work best when they control pipeline backpressure and a large reset time constant is used to dampen the dynamics of the control moves. Fig. In some cases. they are much more difficult to design than standard heat exchangers because of the significant external heat losses. soil-heat-conduction model was developed.formation temperature and chemical inhibitors are not cost-effective. Field observations have shown that the multiphase-flow simulations of these strategies accurately predict this behavior. To study these problems. methanol injection is required during startup. HYDRATE/PARAFFIN CONTROL At low temperatures.5 For a subsea pipeline. hydrates can then form at the middle of the pipeline. Corrosion inhibitors typically are added at levels between 10 and 1. CORROSION-INHIBITOR TRANSPORT Fig. however. The problem from a hydrate perspective is that the pressure builds up in a matter of minutes. hydrate and paraffin formation is possible. Long lag times also are seen for warmups.000 slug or the 1 in 1. however. performance drops if too much insulation is used. 2 shows that the envelope of operability expands when gas lift is used. Multiphase-flow simulation aids the corrosion engineer by estimating the concentration of the inhibitor at various locations along the pipeline length. the pipeline is depressurized. Under certain flow conditions. the temperature in the bundle reaches a minimum. a model capable of tracking individual slugs is used. this does not cure startup and shutdown problems. Typically. The output from the slug-tracking model is fed into the slug-catcher model to determine whether the slug catcher floods. a transient..000 slug). In other cases. Slug-catcher size is selected so that its cost is balanced with the cost of a slug-induced shutdown. Therefore. High pressures and low temperatures increase hydrate-formation potential. it must cover the entire surface of the pipeline at the correct concentration. however. the model showed that the pipeline cools down to hydrate-formation temperature in approximately 24 hours (previous simplified models predicted cooldown times of 4 hours). liquid flow is stagnant in some locations and solids (sand) can deposit. such as typical variance in slug-catcher pressure and the design-slug basis. the depressurization process is modeled to examine minimum fluid and well temperatures along the length of the pipeline. the danger of internal corrosion always exists. This minimum can be close to the ambient temperature even when temperatures at the inlet and outlet of the pipeline remain high. control valves at the top of the riser.6 Bundles often are considered when it is impossible to maintain the steady temperature above the hydrate.4 Pipelines often are buried and/or insulated to lower heat losses and keep temperatures elevated. if the depressurization is too rapid. It may take days or weeks to raise temperatures to steady-state values in buried pipelines. Bundles are simply large heat exchangers.bilistic information. Slug size also is affected by fluctuations in boundary conditions. condensation occurs that dilutes the inhibitor concentration. Heated bundles also may be used to provide protection. For hydrodynamic slugging.

all in chemical engineering. SYSTEM MONITORING AND OPTIMIZATION Multiphase flow technology is now being applied to system monitoring and optimization. Erickson is a principal consultant with Multiphase Solutions Inc. and Mai.PIPELINE STRESS REFERENCES 1.589 873 E−01=m3 ft3 ×2. forecasting. it can move. With these data. CONCLUSIONS SI METRIC CONVERSION FACTORS bbl ×1. Conference Multiphase Flow. T. Buck. where he has developed realtime. 5. and mass rates throughout the pipeline. M. For most pipelines (especially gas/condensate pipelines). 87 During the last 10 years. explosive growth has occurred in the application of multiphase-flow technology for design. 6–9 October. He has conducted technical studies worldwide on transient multiphase flow in oil and gas systems. Consequently. excessive erosion in valves and manifold piping. in Houston. of Notre Dame and MS and PhD degrees from the U. insufficient support and excessive vibration. He has conducted technical studies on transient multiphase flow worldwide. Michael C. France (1997) 19. DC. Materials Performance (September 1993) 32. and paraffin-/hydrateformation potential. Mai holds a BS degree from the U.” J. riser control volumes.” paper SPE 36610 presented at the 1996 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. Conference on Natural Gas Hydrates. Erickson.” Proc. in Houston where he has developed on-line. and optimization of offshore production systems. Colorado. 7. transient-multiphase flow simulators and control/optimization software for multiphase pipelines. D.: “A Pipeline Integrity Monitoring System for Leak Detection. D.. et al. the structural engineer designs the riser and piping supports using the sum of the individual phase densities multiplied by the effective phase velocities. gas-composition tracking. In the past. 2.: “Application of a TransientHeat-Transfer Model for Bundled Multiphase Pipelines. F “Dynamic . 3. or even failure. . T.. Increasing utilization of the technology has allowed operators to save capital costs and reduce life-cycle operating and overhead costs. Washington. New York City (April 1994) 715. operation. These same techniques can be used to optimize blending and gas-compression requirements and to evaluate gas deliverability on the day while considering system performance and planned or unplanned shutdowns. 40. when information was not available. liquid holdup (volume fraction). and Optimization for WetGas Pipelines. T. If a multiphase pipeline is not anchored down..831 685 E−02=m3 Dale D. Denver. thereby achieving additional profits and/or cost savings. Erickson.F and Wasden. Cannes. pigging requirements.. 6. of Texas at Austin. and problematic liquid slugging in gathering flowlines and pipelines. the volume and mass rate of liquid in a given pipeline section changes with time. and compressor speed. Conversely. and Danielson. the dynamic load on the pipeline changes. Colorado. D.7 On-line modeling provides information about pressures. • APRIL 1999 . Moreover. Mai is a principal consultant with Multiphase Solutions Inc. densities.: “A Comparison of ConOlga with Field Data from a Gas Condensate Pipeline. (10 August 1998) 96. can occur. Brown.” Oil & Gas J. and Twaite. loads would be calculated with the liquid density multiplied by the maximum gas velocity. Lamey. this practice yielded predicted stresses that were two to five times too high. D. As a result. control algorithms can be used to regulate individual well flows. 6–9 October. E. J. Eighth Intl. Moreover. 72.2. Erickson. Control. New York Academy of Sciences Intl. Normally.. Properly designed control algorithms can prevent well sandout or liquid loadup. 4–7 October. and Kolts. Erickson. M. temperatures. Erickson holds BS and MS degrees from the Colorado School of Mines and a PhD degree from Rice U. 4.” paper SPE 24790 presented at the 1992 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition.” Proc. and optimization software for pipelines and related process equipment.: Simulation Model Aids Mensa Development.: “A Transient Multiphase Temperature-Prediction Program. if phase densities and velocities are used and slugging events are not accounted for accurately. more piping support was added than was required. and Brown. continuous forecasting provides the operator with information about allowable ramp-up rates (slugging dangers). all in chemical engineering. 49. recent use of this technology in on-line monitoring and control systems is allowing operators to push existing systems further.: “Occurrence of Hydrates in Multiphase Flowlines.” paper SPE 36607 presented at the 1996 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. In multiphase flowlines.: “Corrosion Inhibitor Transport in Wet-Gas Pipelines. D. D. Denver. Erickson.

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