LAST 20 YEARS OF GAS HYDRATES IN THE OIL INDUSTRY: CHALLENGES AND ACHIEVEMENTS IN PREDICTING PIPELINE BLOCKAGE Estanga, Douglas A.; Creek, Jefferson; Subramanian, Sivakumar; Kini, Ramesh A.
The continuous effort to understand the complicated behavior of gas hydrates in multiphase flow has led to the evolution of a new paradigm of hydrate blockage. The hydrate community continues to debate the impact of kinetics, agglomeration, and oil chemistry effects on hydrate blockage formation in pipelines and wellbores. However, today’s industry for the most part still continues to rely on thermodynamic means to develop strategies to prevent hydrates altogether in its production systems. These strategies such as thermal insulation of equipment, electric heating, dead oil displacement, and methanol injection add CAPEX, OPEX, and operational complexities to system design. In spite of high oil prices, adopting such strategies to mitigate perceived hydrate blockage risk can end up taxing economics of marginal fields. Developing a comprehensive multiphase flow simulator capable of handling the transient aspects of production operations - shut-in, restart, blowdown and blockage prediction - continues to drive the research in Flow Assurance. New operating strategies based on risk management approach seem to be evolving from the model predictions. A shift in paradigm that allows for operations inside the hydrate region based on sound risk assessment and management principles could be a factor enabling future developments of marginal fields. This paper discusses the challenges and opportunities that have led to the change in focus from prevention of hydrates to prevention of blockage, and describes some initial successes in the development of a first generation empirical tool for the prediction of hydrate blockages in flow lines. Also presented in this article are new experimental data that shed some light on different ways that hydrate blockages can manifest in the field.
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