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OTC 4485

Evaluation of API RP 14E Erosional Velocity Limitations

for Offshore
Gas Wells
by M.M. Salama and E.S. Venkatesh, Conoco /nc.


1983 Offshore



This paper was presented at the 15th Annual

copy is restricted to an abstract of not more

OTC in Houston,
than 300 words.


May 2-5,

1983. The material


la subject

to correction

by the author.



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 two-phase flow systems, API RP14E reconmends limiting the maximum production velocity to a value
defined by the following empirical equation:

Ve= c/*
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


. . . . . . . . . . . . ...(1)


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 corrosion-assisted 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
For a sand-free, two-phase 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 high-capacity 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.
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 liquid-gas, two-phase 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

-- .





. . ..-



study. This paper summarizes the initial phase of this study.

Several areas which require further evaluation are identified.

. .





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

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

3. Solid particle impingement

Erosion damage occurs as a result of one of three mechanisms:


1. Fatigue due to repeated loads induced by a bubble

collapse or particle impingement.

For most practical cases and allowing for a 10-mii-per-year

erosion rate, Equation (3) reduces to:

2. Abrasion due to repeated impingement of hard particles

on ductile material.


3. Corrosion-assisted 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

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 sand-free 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


The Bernoulli relationship can be written (for the case

where the gravity effect and initial fluid velocity are ignored)
as follows:



= the fluid density (lbs/cu ft)

= a constant which depends on the target materia
hardness and critical strain to failure.

. . . . . . . . . . ...(2)


= 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

OTC 4485

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


ate quation:

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)


Proposed Erosional Velocity Equation

It appears that erosion will occur in a solid-free 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



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)


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 sand-free 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 low-density 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 high-density 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 two-phase 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 medium-density 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 two-phase velocity fluctuations.
Radial transport-turbulent 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, two-phase

flows have strong radial velocities. Fora slug flow, the radial

the erosion









barrel of sand = 945


1. Erosion damage in gas-producing wells occurs primarily
due to solid particle impingement.

The value of A in the above units is calculated to be:




2. API RP14E erosional velocity equation is extremely

conservative for sand-free production conditions.

. . . . . . . . . . . . ...(9)

for p = 0.75 and K = 0.071, Equation (8) reduces to:



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
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.


h = erosion rate (roils per year,
W = sand flow rate (bbl/month;
V = fluid flow velocity (ft/see)
P = hardness (psi)
d = pipe diameter (inches)
g = gravitational constant (32.2
A = correction factor for proper


3. Appropriate equations have been proposed for use in

design against erosion for both sand-free and sandproducing wells.

-. . . . . . . . ..(10)

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 AP1-OSAPR-project 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:


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).


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 sand-free system. For a pipe with
3-inch 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).


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).





..------ M.. Salama
Eswarahalli S.



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).


wear volume rate

impacting fluid volume rate
fluid density (lb/ft3)
impact velocity (ft/see)
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 = high-speed 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.



the case where v is given as


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.
38-1, (1979).


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Al -3)

where A is the cross-sectional

12Rabinowicz, E., Factors Modi~ing the Erosive Wear

Equations for Metals, Israel J. Tech., Vol. 18, p. 193,

By substitution,

Equation (Al-1)

area of the pipe.




E. (1982), Private Com-




Erosion rate due to a liquid impingement can be calculated

as follows:i 5


This equation can be simplified by substituting the value of

P for steel and by accounting for V16 into the numerical
constant as follows:



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,

. . . . . ..(A1-4)

13Griffith, P. (1982), Private Communication.

(27 gP ~2C)


Assuming that the allowable erosion rate h is 10 roils per

year, the above equation becomes:

. . . . .. (Al-l)




s3i?i?ei?l?i?i2i?i?8s8. . . 8