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Flow Assurance Intervention, Hydrates Remediation Christopher S. Mancini1
Copyright 2012, Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute – IBP
This Technical Paper was prepared for presentation at the Rio Oi & Gas Expo and Conference 2012, held between September, 1720, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro. This Technical Paper was selected for presentation by the Technical Committee of the event according to the information contained in the final paper submitted by the author(s). The organizers are not supposed to translate or correct the submitted papers. The material as it is presented, does not necessarily represent Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute’ opinion, or that of its Members or Representatives. Authors consent to the publication of this Technical Paper in the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 Proceedings


This paper addresses the issues of removing hydrates in subsea flowlines and associated equipment with an Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) of opportunity and a multi-service-vessel (MSV). The paper is split into three topics: the equipment used with the ROV, assessing the interface points and handling fluids produced from drawing down the pressure. Each section is explained thoroughly and backed up with real world experience. The equipment section details information from actual jobs performed and why the particular components were utilized. The system is generally contained in an ROV mounted skid. Pumps are utilized to draw down the pressure inside the hydrated section of equipment, removing one of the three necessary components for hydrates formation. Once the section is pumped down, several options exist for handling the fluids pumped out of the system: pumping to surface, re-injection into the well, or injection into an operating flowline. This method of hydrates remediation is both economical and timely.

Hydrate blockages form in low temperatures and high pressures. Reducing the pressure or increasing the temperature so the conditions lie to the right of the hydrate dissociation curve will slowly decompose the blockage. Depressurization and the use of MEG or methanol will give favorable conditions to remove the hydrate plug. Oceaneering has the capabilities to remove hydrates using the FRS in conjunction with an installation vessel to dispose of the gas and fluid removed from the flowline. Hydrate remediation techniques should be implemented into the


Bachelor, Mechanical Engineering - Oceaneering International Inc.

Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 initial design to reduce costs later. The cost of stopped production combined with the day rate for equipment needed for hydrate removal outweighs the costs if no technique is utilized.  Application: Most frequent use of the technology is for unplanned interventions where no specific accommodation for the remediation is incorporated in the design of the subsea facilities. Alternatively this remediation technique and technology can be incorporated into the field by design, in some cases eliminating requirements for secondary flowlines to satisfy flow assurance risk profiles.  Results, Observations, and Conclusions: Simple concepts and rugged equipment make this hydrate remediation method possible. Success of the method continues to evolve. Applied as an emergency intervention in brown fields it restores production. For those who incorporate it by design, substantial capital expenditures are eliminated for additional flowlines and the economic model for field developments shows improved viability and profitability.  Significance of Subject Matter: Results include reduction of risk, improved economics, and simplification of flow assurance design.

1. Introduction

At favorable conditions (low temperatures, high pressures), methane and water forms a clathrate type formation, with a density near 920 kg/m3. Formations of natural gas hydrates are driven by the presence of natural gas, and water together at the high pressures and low temperatures encountered in offshore productions and are most likely encountered in systems operating at depths greater than 300m.

Once formed, hydrates are difficult to decompose and require heating, depressurization or a combination of the two methods. Once dissociated inhibiting the constituents, namely gas and water, is most imperative as the reformation of a hydrate is likely to occur lest these component are maintained in an environment outside of the formation conditions. There exists three primary classes of compounds that are employed to that end: Thermodynamic inhibitors (TI), Kinetic inhibitors (KI), and Anti-agglomerate inhibitors (AI). Commonly applied TI such as methanol, and monoethylene glycol depress the hydrates formation temperature effectively shifting the phase boundary to the left in terms of temperatures and pressures preventing reformation at expected environmental conditions. KI normally copolymers and polymers serve to disrupt nucleation of the hydrate and its formation, this requires a qualitative analysis of production for the formulation of an effective inhibition. And finally AI compounds allow hydrate formation but disrupt the agglomeration of the nucleated hydrates.

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LP pump: 5000 psi [344 bar] 3.0 GPM [11 LPM] 2

Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012   HP pump: 17500 psi [862 bar] 0.5 GPM [1.9 LPM]

Figure 1 ROV HRS mounted beneath ROV As discussed depressurization and heating are convenient if not necessary for the effective dissociation of these formations and serves as the basis of the Method employed by Oceaneering in the remediation of hydrates formations of different sizes and in differing locations. For instance at a pressures equivalent to hydrostatic at 1000m hydrates can form at temperatures of 18⁰C, by lowering the pressure using the Oeaneering method these formation temperatures may shift to less than -5⁰C (composition dependent). Once this occurs the latent heat of formation (≈+440J/g) is taken from the sea. This process limits the rate of decomposition, factors that drive this are the ambient temperature, current velocity, water temperature and construction of the subsea equipment containing the hydrate.


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Figure 2 Flowline HRS for large volume hydrates remediation
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ESD System Surface Line Deployment Subsea Separation

Once decomposed the residual gases and liquids are inhibited and transported away from the Oceaneering Hydrates Remediation Skid (HRS) by means of a flying lead for disposal to an adjacent point in the subsea system i.e. flowline, manifold or to the surface via hose or coiled tubing. The size and location of a hydrate will drive the selection of one of two options for HRS equipment. Generally for smaller volumes like those encountered in remediating jumpers, manifolds and down-hole the Oceaneering ROV HRS is selected. With its’ twin 37kW multiphase duplex pumps and simple ROV integration has the power and small footprint to deal with these types of blockages quickly and effectively.

2. Hydrate Dissociation
There are multiple ways to dissociate hydrates in pipeline including depressurization from one or two sides, thermodynamic inhibitors, active heating, mechanical methods, or a combination.

2.1. Depressurization
Depressurization is the preferred method to remove hydrate blockages but is not always effective from the surface. A high liquid head in the riser or flowline may prevent hydrate dissociation. Single sided depressurization requires access from only one side and potentially would require no vessel deployment.

2.2. Thermodynamic Inhibitors
Thermodynamic Inhibitors can be used to melt hydrate blockages but the injection point has to be relatively close to be effective. Bathymetry and length can also prevent access to the hydrate plug face. However, injecting a thermodynamic inhibitor will help prevent reformation during remediation or startup.

2.3. Active Heating
Heating is one of the quickest solutions but the exact location of the blockage must be known. Safety concerns while heating hydrates include trapped gas within the hydrate plug, which can rupture the flowline.

2.4. Mechanical Methods
Mechanical Methods to dissociate hydrates include pigging, drilling, and coiled tubing. Pigging is not recommended because the plug can become compressed which can compound the problem. Drilling into a hydrate plug can release large amounts of gas, which involves many hazards at the plug and topside.


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Coiled tubing (CT)is a viable option if the hydrate plug is within range. CT can usually only reach to approximately 4-6 km but if it can reach CT can deliver thermodynamic inhibitors at the plug face, be used as a gas lift to lighten hydrostatic head and mechanically disrupt the hydrate.

2.5. Depressurization from One Side
Pressure should be reduced slowly before the hydrate dissociation pressure is reached. After each pressure reduction, pressure should be equalized across the blockage. Most hydrate blockages are porous but pressure can transmit very slowly through a hydrate plug.

2.6. Subsea Intervention

Figure 3: FRS Assembly

The Flowline Remediation Skid is a streamline design intended to interface with a subsea flowline and to perform a variety of tasks in preparation, repair, or decommissioning of the flowline. The Flowline Remediation Skid consists of the following main features:   a gas/liquid separator a bank of remote-operated valves


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 a flying lead panel, equipped with full EQD (Emergency Quick Disconnect) systems, to interface with the surface vessel for liquid, gas, and electrical interfaces

The liquid and gas flowlines interface with standard surface-deployed coiled tubing units. The FRS is capable of operating in depths up to 10,000 fsw. Flow capability is up to 1 bbl/min, with a differential pressure of 5500 psi. All connections are ROV-operable. The FRS is intended for mudline deployment via a MSV. The EQD systems isolate the MSV from subsea assets, and the flowline from the surrounding environment.Aan array of onboard instrumentation provides critical real time data, displayed through the systems control station.