We have been researching ‘slugging’ in oil and gas pipelines for more than a decade. The culmination of our research is a patented invention; Inferential Slug Control (ISC).
Varying or irregular gas or liquid flows in pipelines is a major challenge for the oil and gas industry. Severe ‘slugging’ is an operational problem associated with offshore oil and gas production systems, particularly for ageing oil fields.
Decade-long research has seen the Inferential Slug Control (ISC) patented.
- Funded by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Impact of our research
Field trials of our ISC invention in the North Sea and West Africa indicated an increase of 10% in oil production by the elimination of severe slugging through the usage of the inferential slugging control solution.
Why the research was commissioned
The issue of varying or irregular gas or liquid flows in pipelines is a major challenge for the oil and gas industry. Severe ‘slugging’ is an operational problem associated with offshore oil and gas production systems, particularly for ageing oil fields.
The conventional approach, active slug control, is effective. However, it requires subsea instrumentation which is costly to install and maintain, and it may reduce oil production. By using this new technology, the 10% increase in oil production means that the total investment for ISC can be returned within a week.
Assuming that 10% of oil production systems have a slug problem a 10% production increase of these problematic systems is significant. Even with the currently low oil price the overall impact over time is enormous. In addition, companies benefit from a smooth oil production operation and there are environmental benefits as it reduces the gas flare on platforms.
Our work has been supported by many of the world’s biggest companies in the energy sector including BP, Chevron, Dong Energy, Petrofac, DeFlow, Neftemer, Endress & Hauser and SPT Group, as well as receiving grants from various government bodies.
Much of the practical experimentation was undertaken using our industrial-scale three-phase flow facility in the Process Systems Engineering Laboratory. We used this to generate slug flow condition in pipes and then used ISC to eliminate slugging and to refine the process.