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SPE-176333-MS

A Simulating Application of Well Production Allocation to Optimize Wax


Formation and Pigging Frequency in Subsea Pipeline for a
Gas-Condensate Field
Nhat C. Tran, Nam H. Tran, Dao V. Ly, and Nhut T. Tran, Bien Dong Petroleum Operating Company

Copyright 2015, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE/IATMI Asia Pacific Oil & Gas Conference and Exhibition held in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, 20 –22 October 2015.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents
of the paper have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect
any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written
consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may
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Abstract
Wax deposition is one of the most critical flow assurance issues for the pipeline and regular pigging is a
popular method for dealing with them. Predicting and controlling the wax precipitation in the pipeline can
help operators to optimize the pigging frequency, this in turn will create significant impact as subsea
pigging can be very risky and costly. Yet wax deposition is also difficult to simulate as they are complex
mixtures of heavy components from well fluid that freeze out when the temperature is low enough.
In this article, a methodology is developed to optimize pigging frequency. Simulation of wax
deposition calculates the precipitation and dissolution due to the variation of fluid flow rate and inlet
temperature into the pipeline. The simulation model takes into account all the heat transfer phenomena and
hydrocarbon phase behavior along the pipeline. Due to the heat transfer along the production tubing from
the reservoir to the well head, the tubing head temperature and respectively the pipeline inlet temperature
increase with production flow rate from wells. In other words, the inlet temperature into the pipeline can
be adjusted by the wells production allocation. This is one of the key factors that help to optimize the
pigging frequency, as a proper wells allocation for a fixed production flow rate can give a high pipeline
inlet temperature and flowing temperature, which can help not only to prevent wax formation but also to
melt the wax that precipitated earlier.
The methodology is applied to a wax-riched gas condensate field in Vietnam. A proper well allocation
plan has been developed, and as a result, the pigging frequency for the infield pipeline for this field can
be optimized from conducting monthly to conducting yearly, significantly reducing risks and costs for the
operator.

Introduction
The objective of this study is a 20km infield pipeline, which transport 3 phase well fluid flow (gas,
condensate and water) from a high temperature high pressure (HTHP) reservoir to a Processing platform.
Due to the waxy nature of the condensate (WAT⫽35 °C), deposition of wax inside the inner walls of the
pipeline is a major concern for pipeline operation. For managing this issue, monthly basic pigging is
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recommended by the engineering contractor. However, it is detrimental to optimize the pigging frequency
as a too-regular pigging scheme is costly, risky and reduces field production.

Methodology
Inlet temperature
Due to the heat transfer along the production tubing from the reservoir to the well head, the tubing head
temperature and respectively the pipeline inlet temperature increase with production flow rate from wells.
In other words, the inlet temperature into the pipeline can be adjusted by the wells production allocation.
This is one of the key factors that help to optimize the pigging frequency, as a proper wells allocation for
a fixed production flow rate can give a high pipeline inlet temperature and flowing temperature, which can
help not only to prevent wax formation but also to melt the wax that precipitated earlier.

Wax deposition
Wax deposition along the pipeline is modelled based on different mechanisms as below.
Molecular diffusion Wax deposition rate due to Molecular diffusion is expressed as

Where G [kg/(cm2s)] is the mass transfer rate of wax deposited and D [cm2/s] is the molecular diffusion
coefficient; mfr [-] is the mass fraction of wax components; ␳oil [kg/cm3] is the oil density, and L [cm]
is the thickness of the boundary flow layer. [1] [3] [5]
Shear dispersion The volume rate of wax deposited by shear dispersion can be calculated from the
Burger correlation

Where K* is the shear deposition rate constant [kg/m2], Cwall is the volume fraction of precipitated wax
in the oil at the inner wall temperature, ␥ is the shear rate at the wall [s⫺1]; A is the surface area available
for deposition [m2] and ␳wax is the wax density [kg/m3]. [2] [3] [5]
Wax dissolution When the wall temperature is higher than WDT, wax starts to melt. The change of wax
concentration is expressed as follows:

Where Cwax is the concentration of wax, TWS is the wall surface temperature, is the
concentration derivative with respect to temperature and cluod point. [2] [5]

Optimization process
Simulation was run at a low flowrate (0.7 MMSCMD) to allow wax to form. Subsequent ramp-up
simulations with various flowrates (1.5 MMSCMD to 5 MMSCMD) were run to investigate the the time
taken to melt such amount of wax. The result was then verified with the actual operation data.

Case study
The infield pipeline is 20 km in length connecting a Wellhead platform and a Processing platform, with
water depth varies from 116 m to 134 m as profiled below:
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Figure 1—Pipeline profile

Inlet temperature
The Wellhead platform consists of 3 HPHT wells. Due to the heat transfer along the production tubing
from the reservoir to the well head, the flowing tubing head temperature (FTHT) and respectively the
pipeline inlet temperature increase with production flow rate from wells. The well allocation plan has been
improved with the concept that for production rate below 2 MMSCMD only 2 wells is open; for
production rate below 1.5 MMSCMD only 1 well is open. This will help to maximize the production flow
rate from wells and hence maximize the pipeline inlet temperature. Then the relationship between pipeline
inlet temperature and total flow rate is represented by the figure below:

Figure 2—Pipeline inlet temperature vs. total flow rate


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Wax deposition simulation


A simulation has been performed to estimate the wax deposition through time along the pipeline, at a
flowrate of 0.7 MMSCMD.

Table 1—Wax volume after various days of operation


Days of Operation Wax Volume (bbl) Maximum Wax Thickness (mm)

7 0.11 0.016
30 0.50 0.073
60 1.0 0.15
300 5.1 0.75

Figure 3—Wax Thickness Profile Plot at t ⴝ 300 days

Wax Dissolution simulation


The flow rate was then ramped up from 0.7 MMSCMD to 1.5 MMSCMD in 1 hour. At the start of the
ramp-up, approximately 5.1 bbl of wax had accumulated in the pipeline. Figure 4 shows the wax volume
after ramp-up. It can be seen that when ramping up from 0.7 to 1.5 MMSCMD, the wax dissolves very
slowly and at the end of 12 days, the wax volume has decreased to only approximately half its original
volume.
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Figure 4 —Wax volume during ramp up

The flowrate was then ramped up to various values to investigate the time taken to melt the wax. It can
be seen from both Figure 4 and Figure 5 that the wax volume increases at first when the flowrate was just
ramped up. This is because although the entering fluid is warmer, the existing fluid in the pipeline is at
a lower temperature and an amout of time is required for the mixed fluid temperature being sufficiently
high for wax dissolution to occur. The wax is supsequently melt. Figure 5 and Table 2 shows the time
required to melt the wax when the flow was ramped up from 0.7 to various flows between 1.5 and 5
MMSCMD.

Figure 5—Wax volume trend for various final flowrate


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Table 2—Wax Dissolution time for various final flowrate


Final Flowrate (MMSCMD) Time Taken for Wax Dissolution (days)

1.5 ⬎12
2 4.5
2.5 2.2
3 1.8
4 1.4
5 0.7

The simulation result shows that with a proper well allocation, pigging may not necessary if total flow
rate is not below 1.5 MMSCMD for a long time.
Actual operation data application
The above simulation result is confirmed by actual pigging operation. The field is produced at flowrate
be consistently higher than 1.5 MMSCMD. As observed from actual pigging operation, the quantity of
wax obtained is negligible. Therefore, the field operator is able to change the pigging concept, pipeline
integrity and maintenance philosophy will govern pigging frequency rather than wax deposition as
decided in the early disign stage, reducing the frequency from monthly to yearly (a cost saving of more
than 90%).

Figure 6 —Pig retrieved after sufficient ramp-up time

Conclusion
In this study, simulations were performed to evaluate the effect of the well allocation to the wax deposition
in a multiphase pipeline. The result showed that a proper back allocation for production wells could
prevent wax deposition in the pipeline. The whole methodology was applied to an actual gas condensate
field, helping to optimize the wax deposition and minimizing pigging requirement, significantly reducing
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risks and costs for the operator. This methodology is also recommended for other similar fields based on
its advantages and benefits.

References
1. Bern, P.A., Withers, V.R. and Cairns, J.R.:⬙Wax deposition in crude oil pipelines,⬙ EUR206, Proc
European Offshore Petroleum Conferenceand Exhibition, London, England, October 21-24 1981
2. Rygg, O.B., Rydahl, A.K. and Rønningsen, H.P.:⬙Wax deposition in offshore pipeline systems,⬙
Proc. 1st North American Conference on Multiphase technology, Banff, Canada, June 1998
3. Karianne Rosvold. 2008. Wax Deposition Models
4. G.M.Elphingstone,Jr., K.LGreenhill, J.J.C.Hsu. 1999. Modeling of Multiphase Wax Deposition
5. OLGA software– help function
6. Ahmadbazlee Matzain. 1999. Multiphase Flow Paraffin Deposition Modeling