Cranfield’s impressive process systems engineering laboratory is equipped with industrial-scale single phase and multiphase flow facilities to study the behaviour of complex flows found in oil and gas production and process plants.

Opened by HRH The Duke of York in 2005, the laboratory is used to carry out basic and applied research and to train our MSc and research students. We also are proud to work with a number of partners and clients including BP, Shell, Chevron, Petrobas, Statoil, Total, EPSRC and smaller companies through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

The facility helps us to address the needs of the oil and gas, water, process and energy industries.

3-phase flow facility

A unique and fully-automated three pressure facility can deliver 1400 m3/h of air and 140 m3/h of oil and water, with two (2” and 4”) flowline (50m long) riser (11m high) systems. System pressure is limited to 7 bar, the delivery pressure of compressors. The facility is managed via DeltaV plant management system from Emerson. The facility is capable of supplying air up to 40m/s in a 4” pipe.

High viscosity oil and sand transport loops

There are three facilities for the study of multiphase flows with high viscosity (up to 7000 cP) oils and solid transport:

  • 1” oil/water/air/sand loop – 5m horizontal, inclinable to 30°;
  • 3” oil/water/air/sand loop – 15m long horizontal and 6m high vertical;
  • 4” inclinable air/water/sand loop – this 40m long loop can be inclined to 20° to facilitate the study of horizontal, upward and downward inclined flows.

Extra-large diameter two-phase flow loop

The flow loop has an internal diameter of 256mm, consisting of a 36m long horizontal section and a 11.8m long vertical riser. The riser is instrumented with multi-plane resistance tomography system.

Small scale air water loops

  • Horizontal 2” loop – 15m loop, air water at atmospheric conditions;
  • Undulating terrain 2” loop – 20m with 14° dip, air water at atmospheric conditions for terrain slugs and sand transport studies.

Bespoke test rigs

In addition to the above, bespoke rigs could be constructed to meet the requirement of research. Typical examples are: i. a 10in, 5m long transparent test section for the study of water and oil mixing, ii. a 4 in, 20m long serpentine rig to study up and down annular and film flows as found in re-boiler.

Advanced instrumentation

The following instrumentation and sensors are available for experimental work:

  • High speed high definition camera (up to 150 kfps),
  • Electrical resistance and electrical capacitance tomography systems,
  • Wire mesh sensor system,
  • Remote microscopic imaging system with dual YAG laser illumination,
  • Particle size analysers,
  • Vector Network Analyser (5 GHz),
  • Fast sampling gamma densitometers,
  • Other bench instruments, including a Karl Fisher wateranalyser, Brookfield viscometer and high precision programmable high power DC supplies.
Oil and Gas Engineering Laboratory
Process Systems Engineering Laboratory

Summary of applications

  • Cranfield developed and patented a slug control system to minimise flow and pressure fluctuations in offshore production facilities. Application of this technology has proved to extend field life and increase productivity.
  • Other work such as subsea separation technology and multiphase flow metering helps oil companies to develop fields in increasingly challenging environments.