OTC 4485
Evaluation of API RP 14E Erosional Velocity Limitations
for Offshore
Gas Wells
by M.M. Salama and E.S. Venkatesh, Conoco /nc.
Copyright
1983 Offshore
Technology
Conference
This paper was presented at the 15th Annual
copy is restricted to an abstract of not more
OTC in Houston,
than 300 words.
Texas.
May 25,
1983. The material
Abstract
la subject
to correction
by the author.
Permission
to
disturbed due to a local change in direction, a velocity
component normal to the pipe wall will be introduced, resulting in repeated impacts on the pipe wall. Erosion damage of the pipe is caused by the repeated bombardment of
liquid and solid particles. The erosion damage is enhanced
by increasing the production capacity of a given flow systern (i.e., increasing flow velocity). In order to avoid potential erosion problems, most oil companies have been limiting their production rate by reducing the flow velocity to a
level below which it is believed that erosion does not occur.
This limiting flow velocity is calculated using the API RPI 4E
recommended empirical equation:l
In order to avoid erosion damage and associated
problems in twophase flow systems, API RP14E reconmends limiting the maximum production velocity to a value
defined by the following empirical equation:
Ve= c/*
where
V. = the maximum allowable erosional velocity in ft/sec
P = the density of fluid in lb/cu ft at flowing conditions of
temperature and pressure
C = a constant generally known as the C factor, is in the
range of 100 to 125
Ve=clfi
. . . . . . . . . . . . ...(1)
where
Evaluation of the above equation has shown that in
cases where the form of the equation can be rationalized,
the value of C, as recommended by API, is extremely
conservative. These cases include erosion due to liquid
particle impingement and corrosionassisted erosion due to
the stripping of corrosion inhibitor films. For the case of
erosion due to sand particles entrained in the fluid, the form
of the equation appears to be incorrect. The API RP14E
recommendations to reduce the value of C to account for
sand in the produced fluid is, therefore, improper.
V. = the maximum allowable erosional velocity (fVsec)
= the fluid density (lbs/cu ft)
~ = an empirical constant generally known as the C
factor
For a sandfree, twophase flow situation, the C factor
is limited to 100 for continuous flow and 125 for intermittent
flow. The API RP14E recommends the use of a lower
unspecified C factor for fluids containing sand.
Previously, production rates were generally restricted
to lower values than those specified by Equation (1) due to
fear of formation damage or excessive sand production.
However, the recent advances in well completion procedures, sand control techniques, and our understanding of
reservoirs flow behavior permit higher production rates.
These developments, in addition to the current economic
incentives, are motivating the oil industry to increase production rates, particularly for highcapacity gas wells.
Under this condition, the API RPI 4E erosional velocity
equation represents a major obstacle. Although the API
equation has been widely accepted, the authors were un
A method for calculating erosion damage as a function of fluid and flow characteristics is proposed. This
approach can be used to calculate a limiting flow velocity for
any specified allowable erosion rate.
Introduction
The production of hydrocarbons from underground
reservoirs is associated mainly with the flow of a liquid (oil
and water), gas (natural gas), and/or solid (sand). This flow
situation is essentially one of a liquidgas, twophase flow
with entrained solid particles. When the fluid flow in a pipe is
successful in all attempts to determinethe basis of this
References and illustrations at end of paper.
equation. These were the main reasons for initiating this
 .
3{1
EVALUATIONOF THE API RP14EEROSIONAL
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study. This paper summarizes the initial phase of this study.
Several areas which require further evaluation are identified.
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drop range for high capacity wells is 3,000 to 5,000 ps
These numbers correspond to a value for the constant C
the range 80 to 100. Although there is a very close similarity
between the Bernoulli relationship (Equation (2)) and th
API empirical criterion (Equation (1)), they should have n
correlation because they represent two completely differen
phenomena.
Erosion Mechanisms
Erosion is defined as the physical removal of material
from the surface. This is different from corrosion, which
involves material removal by chemical or electrochemical
reaction. The material removal by erosion is caused by one
or more of the following:
For the case of erosion due to liquid impingement on
surface, the relationship between flow velocity, V (ft/see)
and erosion rate, h (roils per year), can be written as follows
(Appendix 1):
1. Cavitation (bubble collapse)
2. Liquid particle impingement
B h16
7(3)
3. Solid particle impingement
where
Erosion damage occurs as a result of one of three mechanisms:
P
B
1. Fatigue due to repeated loads induced by a bubble
collapse or particle impingement.
For most practical cases and allowing for a 10miiperyear
erosion rate, Equation (3) reduces to:
2. Abrasion due to repeated impingement of hard particles
on ductile material.
V=%
3. Corrosionassisted erosion due to the breakage of the
protective surface layer either by fatigue or abrasion.
Possible Rationalization
Velocity Equation
The value of C under these conditions is much higher than
that recommended
by the empirical equation of AP
RP14E.
of API Erosional
Examination of the API erosional velocity equation
suggests that it may have been derived using one of the
following approaches:
The velocity limitation imposed by Equation (4) is ver
stringent when compared with experimental data obtained
to date for liquid impingement erosion. For example, Equa
tion (4) gives a limiting velocity of 38 ft/sec for water im
pingement which if far lower than experimentally deter
mined threshold velocities shown in Table 1 during wate
impingement erosion tests. The threshold velocity is de
fined as the velocity below which no measurable erosion
damage occurs after a large number of impacts (106 10
impact). In most of these experiments the erosion is caused
by the multiple impacts of a water jet on specimens
mounted on a rotating disk. Since erosion is generally
considered as analogous to fatigue,7 the threshold velocity
corresponds to the endurance limit. All these experimentally determined threshold velocites*7 are higher than thos
predicted by Equation (4). Therefore for a sandfree pro
duction system, an increase in the C factor from 100 (a
recommended by API) to a value around 300 should no
pose any operational problems.
1. Constant pressure drop limitation using Bernoulli relationship.
2. Limitation on erosion rate due to liquid impingement.
3. Limitation on velocity
inhibiting layers.
to avoid removing
corrosion
The Bernoulli relationship can be written (for the case
where the gravity effect and initial fluid velocity are ignored)
as follows:
Jzm_
~~
= the fluid density (lbs/cu ft)
= a constant which depends on the target materia
hardness and critical strain to failure.
. . . . . . . . . . ...(2)
where
V
= the maximum flow velocity
= the fluid density
~P = the total pressure drop along the flow path
If we consider the case where the limiting velocity
governed by the stripping of the protective inhibitor film from
the surface of the steel tubulars, the limiting velocity can b
expressed by:
The total pressure drop along the flow path (AP) is composed of four components. These are the pressure drops in
the reservoir, across the completion, along the production
tubing, and across any restriction. A typical total pressure
372
OTC 4485
where
T
f
MamdouhM. Salamaand EswarahalliS. Venkatesh
velocity near the tip of a bubble is about equal to the local
relative velocity between the two phases. Similar velocities
must occur in the roll waves of annular flows. It is very
difficult without appropriate experiments to identify which of
the above three possibilities is most significant and, hence,
what is the value of the radial velocity.
= the shear strength of the inhibitor interface
= the friction factor
This equation is derived by equating the flow induced shear
stress at the pipe wall with the shear strength of the inhibitor. For most practical cases, ~ equals 8,000 psis and f
equals 0.0015,9 Equation (5) can be written as:
Rabinowiczl 1 has shown that experimental results of
erosive damage of ductile metals due to solid particle impingement agree reasonably well with the following erosion
F(E)
ate quation:
_KWV2~
gP
Equation (6) has the same form as the API empirical Equation (1). The value of C based on this criterion is far higher
than that proposed by the API equation. It is clear from the
above discussion, therefore, that the current API erosional
velocity limitation seems to be extremely conservative.
. (7)
where
Proposed Erosional Velocity Equation
It appears that erosion will occur in a solidfree fluid
flow system only at very high velocities, which would not be
allowed in a properly designed system because of severe
pressure drops. In process piping, a velocity limitation of
about 100 feet per second is used. Above this velocity, it
becomes more economical to increase the pipe diameter
U
W
V
P
13
=
=
=
=
=
the volume of metal eroded
the total weight of impinging solid particles
the particle velocity
the penetration hardness of the target material
a coefficient which depends on the impingement
angle. It equals 1.0 for angles between 10 and 60
degrees and 0.50 for other angles. 12 For the fully
developed turbulent flow system, as in the case of a
producing well system, p is appropriately chosen as
= a nondimensional
erosive wear coefficient.
Rabinowicz12 has shown by statistical analysis of
the experimentally determined K values that the
mean value is 0.0103. A reasonable value for K in
the case of the producing well system can be based
on mean plus two standard deviation. This value for
K is 0.071.
= the gravitational constant (32.2 ft/sec2)
0.75.
than to increase the pumping capacity. It is therefore the
authors belief that erosion in the oil industry is mainly due to
sand particles entrained in the produced fluid.
Although estimating the quantity of sand produced
from a gas or oil well appears to be straightforward, the
quantification process is somewhat more complicated in
practice. Typically, sand production is extremely erratic.
Most producers seek to limit sand production to onl a few
pounds per day per well, perhaps 5 to 10 pounds.l r Wells
that produce this level of sand are sometimes characterized
as sandfree wells.
For the case of flow in pipes, the maximum erosion is
expected to occur in elbows. As a conservative first approximation, the eroded area is considered to be equal to the
projected area of the pipe and the particle velocity equals
the average flow velocity (V). The amount of impinging solid
particles (W) on the surface of the elbow is a percentage of
the total particles in the flow. Griffith13 has estimated that for
a lowdensity gas system, this percentage is about 100
percent, and as density increases, the percentage is reduced to a limiting value of 30 percent for liquids. This is
rationalized because in highdensity fluids, most of the
particles will be carried in the stream in the center of the flow
without impacting the surface of the elbow. This observation is interesting because it indicates that as the density
increases, the amount of impinging particles decreases,
thus decreasing erosion rate and, therefore, increasing the
allowable velocity. This is opposite to what is implied by API
erosional velocity equation. For a twophase flow system,
the ratio of the weight of impinging particles to the weight of
all the particles in the flow is, therefore, between 0.3 and
1.0. A reasonable ratio is 0.65 for a mediumdensity twophase fluid, as in the case of a gas well system.
The presence of sand particles in the produced fluid
results in erosive damage by abrasive wear mechanism.
However, in order for the sand being conveyed by the
mixture of gas and oil to cause damage, it is necessary for
the sand to acquire a velocity normal to the pipe wall. This
velocity can be attributed to three sources:
1. Turbulent fluctuation in the flow.
2. Secondary flows in the vicinity of bends and fittings.
3. Radial twophase velocity fluctuations.
Radial transportturbulent fluctuations range up to about 10
percent of the main flow. The velocity of particles depends
on the size, but it is generally less than the fluctuation
velocity. Radial velocity due to secondary flows is important. The location of the maximum wear in bends and
sometimes the peculiar wear patterns in the wake of protuberances and orifices can only be accounted for by
Using the above analysis in Equation(7),
rate due to flow in elbows can be given as:
secondary flow. Due to the structure of the flow, twophase
flows have strong radial velocities. Fora slug flow, the radial
373
the erosion
EVALUATIONOF THE API RP14E EROSIONAL
VELOCITY
~=
K(0.65W)V2
gP(m/4dz)
(~)
LIMITATIONS
FOR OFFSHORE
A.
mpy)
barrel of sand = 945
ft/sec2)
units
Conclusions
1. Erosion damage in gasproducing wells occurs primarily
due to solid particle impingement.
The value of A in the above units is calculated to be:
A=
I.36
x106
2. API RP14E erosional velocity equation is extremely
conservative for sandfree production conditions.
. . . . . . . . . . . . ...(9)
for p = 0.75 and K = 0.071, Equation (8) reduces to:
h=l.86x105~
OTC 4
Although Equation (7) offers a sound theoretical basis
to assess the problems of erosion in pipes, it is clear that
several assumptions have to be made to derive design
equations, such as Equation (12). An experimental program should be undertaken to establish the rationalization
of these assumptions and verify the values of their corresponding parameters.
Such an experimental
program
should also address the effect of sand erosion on the formation of a protective inhibitor film which is necessary to avoid
corrosion problems in corrosive wells.
(8)
where
h = erosion rate (roils per year,
W = sand flow rate (bbl/month;
pounds)
V = fluid flow velocity (ft/see)
P = hardness (psi)
d = pipe diameter (inches)
g = gravitational constant (32.2
A = correction factor for proper
WELLS
3. Appropriate equations have been proposed for use in
design against erosion for both sandfree and sandproducing wells.
. . . . . . . . ..(10)
Acknowledgements
Comparison between the predicted erosion rate using Equation (1O) and experimental data developed as part
of API OSAPR project 2 on sand erosion by Texas A&M
University Research Centeri4 is shown in Table 2. The
results illustrate the validity of Equation (1O) in predicting
sand erosion rates. On the average, Equation (1O)overestimates the erosion rates by a factor of 1.44.
The authors would like to thank management of
Conoco Inc. for permission to publish this paper. The authors sincerely express their appreciation to Professors
Ernest Rabinowicz and Peter Griffith of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology for their valuable suggestions and
for giving permission to reference some of their unpublished work. The authors would also like to thank Messers
John Wolfe and Fred Gipson and Dr. Richard Vennett for
their assistance and advise.
The result of AP1OSAPRproject 214 also showed
that for flow infield ells and tees, the erosion rates are about
50 percent that in elbows and, therefore, Equation (1O) can
be written as follows:
h=93,000$$
..:.;
References
API RPI 4E, Recommended Practice for Design and
Installation of Offshore Production Platform Piping System, Third Ed., December 1981.
. . . . . ..(11)
Substituting the value of P for steel (P = 1.55 x 105 psi)
and assuming that erosion velocity is based on an erosion
rate of 10 roils per year, Equation (11) can be written as:
+$
2Thiruvengadam, A.; Rudy, S. L.; and Gunasekam, M.
Experimental and Analytical Investigation on Liquid impact Erosion, Characterization and Determination o
Erosion Resistance, ASTM STP474, p. 249, (1970).
(2)
3Hancox, N. L., and Brunton, J. H., The Erosion of Solids
by the Repeated Impact of Liquid Drops, Phil. Trans.
Roy. Sot., London, Vol. 260A, p. 129, (1966).
When W approaches zero, the value of V is limited by
Equation (4), which is for sandfree system. For a pipe with
3inch diameter, the erosional velocity V (ft/see) can be
given as a function of the rate of sand production W (barrels
per month) as follows:
4Baker, D. W.; Jolliffe, K. H.; and Pearson, D., The Resistance of Materials to Impact Erosion Damage, Phil
Trans. Roy. Sot., London, Vol. 260A, p. 168, (1966).
v=%(3)
5Hobbs, J. M., Factors Affecting Damage Caused by
Liquid Impact, National Engineering Laboratory Report
No. 266, December 1966.
Equation (13) is reasonably conservative and, therefore,
could be used as a design criterion. Allowable velocity, a
function of sand production as calculated by Equation (13),
is shown in Table 3 for sand containing fluid.
6Vater, M., Prufung und Verhalten Metallischer Werk
Staffe Gegen Tropfenschlagund Cavitation, Korrosion
and Metallschutz, Vol. 20, No. 6, p. 171, (1944).
a,
s/q
ITC
4485
.Venkatesh
.. M.. Salama
.
...and
..
Eswarahalli S.
Mamrkmh
where
7Heymann, F. J., A Survey of Clues to the Relationship
Between Erosion Rate and Impact Parameters, Proc. of
the 2nd Meersburg Conference on Rain Erosion and
Allied Phenomena, Royal Aircraft Establishment, U.K., p.
683, (1968).
U
v
wear volume rate
impacting fluid volume rate
fluid density (lb/ft3)
1
impact velocity (ft/see)
P
tar et material hardness, psi (for steel, P = 1.55 x
10 .9psi)
cc = Critical strain to failure (0.1 O for steel)
g = gt13Vih5ttiOrtal constant (32.2 ft/sec2)
K = highspeed erosion coefficient (= 0.01)
8Kemball, C., intermolecular Forces and the Strength of
Adhesive Joints, in the Proceedings of the Symposium
on Adhesion and Adhesives Fundamentals and Practice,
Cleveland, Ohio, p. 69, (1954).
Fox, R. W., and McDonald, A. T., introduction to Fluid
Mechanics, John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, 1973.
=
=
=
=
=
Considering
the case where v is given as
V=AV
10Estimating Sand Production Handbook, O. 1. Corporation, Houston, Texas, 1982.
. . . . . . . . . . . . (Al 2)
and erosion depth h is given as
11Rabinowicz, E., The Wear Equation for Erosion of Metals by Abrasive Particles, Proc. Fifth Int. Conf. on Erosion by Liquid and Solid Impact, Cambridge, England, p.
381, (1979).
h=:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Al 3)
where A is the crosssectional
12Rabinowicz, E., Factors Modi~ing the Erosive Wear
Equations for Metals, Israel J. Tech., Vol. 18, p. 193,
(1980).
By substitution,
Equation (Al1)
area of the pipe.
becomes:
h=~~~2
V7=%+
E. (1982), Private Com
APPENDIX
(A5)
1
V=v
Erosion rate due to a liquid impingement can be calculated
as follows:i 5
2Pg
This equation can be simplified by substituting the value of
P for steel and by accounting for V16 into the numerical
constant as follows:
EROSION DUE TO LIQUID IMPINGEMENT
U=W2
By substituting the above values for K, g, and EC,Equation
(Al 4) can be given as:
14Weiner, P. D., and Tone, G. C., Detection and Prevention of Sand Erosion of Production Equipment, API
OSAPR Project No. 2, Research Report, Texas A&M
University, College Station, Texas, 1976.
15Griffith, P., and Rabinowicz,
munication.
. . . . . ..(A14)
(
13Griffith, P. (1982), Private Communication.
2PV2
2
(27 gP ~2C)
(A16)
Assuming that the allowable erosion rate h is 10 roils per
year, the above equation becomes:
. . . . .. (All)
V=*
_

375
(A7)
s3i?i?ei?l?i?i2i?i?8s8. . . 8
.
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