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31 October-3 November 2010, New Delhi, India

Paper ID : 20100252
Deepwater Flow Assurance - Evaluation of Existing Concepts and
Emerging Trends: An Indian Perspective
Rajiv Nischal, Neeraj Lal & Sunil Arora
ONGC, New Delhi
Email :
Flow assurance goal is to assure reliable and economic production by overcoming issues of complex
reservoir characteristics, external hydrostatic pressure, low ambient temperature, long-distance
tiebacks etc. With increasing water depth, system operability like hydraulic flow instability becomes an
area of concern as multiphase fluid has to be transported from well bore to surface facilities. These
concerns are normally associated with transient operations, which, if not properly managed, can lead
to increased downtime and high remediation costs. No single flow assurance solution exists and a
combination of prediction, prevention and remediation techniques are necessary to ensure
unhindered production over the field life. Paper discusses flow assurance challenges likely to be faced
during development in the form of paraffin/waxes/asphaltene from oil discoveries and hydrates from
the deep sea gas discoveries. This paper focuses on flow assurance issues associated during
development phases, their avoidance through design and their mitigation and management through
operational strategies and procedures.
ONGC has a host of potential deep and ultra deep water discoveries in East coast like GS-29, G-4, G1, S-1, Vasishtha from PEL blocks and discoveries in KG-DWN-98/2 NELP block, which it plans to
monetize in a record time through integrated East Coast hub. The gas fields are proposed for
development from sub-sea to shore and oil fields by deploying FPSO. First oil and gas production
from G-1 field is expected to start in 2011-12.
Flow Assurance includes all issues important to maintaining the flow of oil & gas from reservoir to
reception facilities. Flow Assurance studies must consider the capabilities and requirements for all
parts of the system throughout the entire producing life of the system. It is a rigorous engineering
process that works with an objective to maximize production by ensuring unrestricted production flow
path through out the field life with lifecycle costs at minimum.
A typical flow assurance study would cover the following
System deliverability - pressure drop versus production, tubing, flow line, pipeline size and pressure
Thermal behavior - temperature changes, insulation options and heating requirements;
Solids deposition - hydrates, waxes and asphaltenes,
Production chemistry - scaling, sand, corrosion and fluid rheology;
Operability characteristics - start-up, shutdown, blow down, transient behavior, slugging etc.; and
System performance - mechanical integrity, equipment reliability, system availability, etc.
Need for Flow Assurance:
The importance of flow assurance has increased
many folds in case of deepwater development due to
lower sea bed ambient temperature, higher flowing
pressures, remote locations and great water depths,
longer sub-sea tie back distances, larger riser height
and higher external hydrostatic pressure
When proper care of these issues is not taken at
design stage possibility of solids deposition i.e.
paraffin waxes and asphaltenes coming out of
solution, formation of hydrate plugs etc exists leading to restrictions and blockages in well bore, flow
line, risers and process facilities. Cleaning of plugged flow line / pipeline is technically highly

31 October-3 November 2010, New Delhi, India
challenging besides involving huge time, effort and cost. Production could get interrupted and may
even require complete shutdown. With increase in water depths, repair and maintenance methods
become costly as well as complicated.

Pressure (psia)

Trouble makers for Flow Assurance: Flow assurance problems encountered in multiphase
hydrocarbon production systems include:
Hydrates: the formation of solid particles in low temperature, high pressure flow lines
Wax: the deposition of wax in solid form onto the flow line, reducing the flow capacity through the line
Asphaltene: high molecular weight aromatic organic substances that are precipitated by alkanes
Slugging: the phenomena caused by instabilities of the gas and liquid interface and liquid sweep-out
by gas inertial effects
Erosion: wearing of the pipeline and flow line wall due to
solid particles such as sand, liquid impingement or high
fluid velocity
Corrosion: wearing of pipeline wall thickness due to the
chemistry of the produced fluids
Emulsion: oil and water mixture causing excessive
pressure losses
Scaling: solid buildup, especially onto the well bore and
tubing, due to the chemistry of produced water.
Temperature ( C)

A typical pressure vs. temperature diagram showing vapor liquid equilibrium and phase envelope for
asphaltene, paraffin wax and hydrate is shown in the figure.
Hydrates: Gas hydrates are ice-like structures that are formed by
hydrocarbons and can
agglomerate to sizes
pipelines. Four key
factors required for
hydrate formation are
light hydrocarbons, water, high pressure and low
accomplished through Thermal control or Inhibitors.
Hydrate dissociation conditions are the conditions at
which hydrates will dissociate.
Paraffin/Wax : Wax is a solid that precipitates from the oil and
consists of a wide range of high molecular weight straight chain,
normal paraffins and/or branched or cyclic paraffins. The primary
flow assurance challenges that can result from wax formation are
wax deposition and gel formation. Wax build-up on tubulars and
tiebacks can effectively choke back the wells and can kill a well
even though the line is not totally blocked. Total blockages of
flowlines and pipelines due to wax build-up have occurred, but are
Asphaltenes: Asphaltenes are a high molecular weight compound made up of polyaromatic and
heterocyclic aromatic rings, which are typically present in black oil systems. In most cases, the
asphaltenes are stable in the crude oils. However, the flow assurance risk arises when the
asphaltenes become unstable. Asphaltene stability is typically driven by pressure effects (i.e. destabilization may occur in areas where a large pressure drop is taken wellbore, choke, etc.), but may
also become unstable with the addition of certain chemicals (acids, completion fluids, etc).
Slugging : Slugging is a multiphase flow phenomenon that is characterized by alternating liquid plugs
and gas pockets moving along a pipe. The Slug Flow regime is common at low liquid and gas
velocities. Low velocities may occur as a result of declining production or for an oversized pipeline.
Slugging can be broken down into two primary categories hydrodynamic and severe (terrain).

31 October-3 November 2010, New Delhi, India
Hydrodynamic Slugging: Hydrodynamic slugging is high frequency slugging, characterized by
gas/liquid rates that oscillate near an average steady state value. Hydrodynamic slugging is often
experienced in operations, but generally without severe consequence, as the instantaneous liquid
volumes are typically low.
Terrain Slugging: Terrain slugging is periodic oscillation of gas and liquid rates which can be quite
detrimental to operations, causing flooding of process
equipment, dynamic kill of wells due to pressure surges,
and mechanical/fatigue issues. Severe terrain slugging is
characterized by periods of no liquid outlet rates, followed
by short-term, high rates of gas/liquid. The terrain slugging
cycle typically consists of four distinct phases slug
formation, slug production, blowout, and liquid fallback that
occur in cycles. Terrain slugging is most commonly
observed in deepwater riser systems.
Flow Assurance Management: Flow assurance can be effectively managed following the steps of
prediction, prevention, monitoring, intervention, and improvement. All flow assurance concerns
expected through out the life of production must be identified. Preliminary laboratory studies as well
as computer simulations based on the models created from past experience are used to assess the
severity of associated problems.
To eliminate and/or mitigate these flow assurance problems, various design solutions have to be
incorporated, including combination of thermal, mechanical and/or chemical techniques.
Understanding Flow Assurance through Transient Flow Modeling using multiphase flow simulation
software provides a way to understand fluid flow behavior in pipelines and can be used for feasibility
studies, detailed project design and operational support. There are currently three basic approaches
i.e. chemical, thermal and mechanical methods to preventing pipeline blockage caused by solid
Chemical Methods: Chemical methods include both inhibition and dehydration for hydrate prevention
and the use of long chain polymers to maintain waxes and asphaltenes in the fluid. The traditional
method of preventing wax or hydrate formation is by dosing the well stream with anti-freeze chemicals
such as methanol and glycol, the former being the most commonly used.
One option that avoids the limitations of hydrate inhibitors is the use of low dosage hydrate inhibitors
(LDHIs). There are two basic types of LDHIs - anti-agglomerates and kinetic inhibitors. While
traditional chemicals are injected at as much as a barrel for every barrel of water in the flow stream,
LDHIs could be effective at as little as 1% of the flow volume. This not only reduces the cost of the
chemicals, but the topside equipment used to store and handle them, and also the transportation
costs. Because the volume of inhibitors injected is reduced by as much as 25 times, the umbilical
used to deliver flow assurance chemicals to the sub-sea wellhead can be reduced, offering additional
savings. LDHIs also eliminate the presence of methanol in water that is pulled from the flow stream
and disposed of overboard at the platform. The anti-agglomerate LDHI allows smaller crystals to form,
but prevents them from bonding. This leads to a sort of slurry flow that carries the hydrates through
the flow lines while preventing it from connecting either with other crystals or the flow line walls. The
kinetic inhibitors delay the formation of hydrates but do not eliminate them entirely.

31 October-3 November 2010, New Delhi, India

Thermal Methods; The primary aim of thermal methods is to maintain the well fluid temperature
above the thresholds for hydrates formation (typically 10-30 C) and/or wax deposition (typically 20
45 C). The principal thermal methods include application of insulating materials to prevent heat loss
from the well stream, heating flow-lines, by means of the circulation of hot water through annulus of a
pipe in pipe system or by electric heating systems, pipeline burial to take a

dvantage of the insulation provided by seabed soils, bundled flow-lines or multiple flow-lines
contained within a single carrier pipe and vacuum insulated tubing. The features of thermal methods
are as follows:
Passive insulation: Traditional insulation systems have used a wet insulation material, which is
typically polyurethane, rubber, or glass reinforced plastic. The overall heat transfer coefficient or U
value is generally limited to approximately 2 W/m2K for these traditional insulation materials.
Dry insulation materials have to be used for U values below 2 W/m2K. Such materials include
polyurethane foam or rock-wool, which take their insulation properties from the pockets of gas trapped
in their structure, and as a result can achieve U values of approximately 1 W/m2K or better. The
presence of water severely degrades the performance of dry insulation, so a pipe-in-pipe system is
required to ensure these low U values. The current trend is to develop systems with lower k values to
reduce the thickness of insulation. By the creation of a partial vacuum in the system, U values of 0.5
W/m2K can be achieved.
For many production systems the passive bundles will allow the operating temperatures to be
maintained above the hydrate and/or wax formation temperatures under a range of steady state
operating conditions. The passive bundles will also provide a much longer cooldown period during
shut-in. However, under startup and long shut-in conditions, methanol or glycol will be required until
the system is above the hydrate formation temperature.
Active heating: For many deepwater and long distance tieback applications, lowering the U value will
not provide adequate thermal management due to low reservoir temperatures or high wax or hydrate
formation temperatures. It is in these scenarios that some form of active heating is necessary to
facilitate production.
The difficulty with the passive insulation systems is that,
once installed, it does not give the operator any control
over the pipeline system. Transient conditions such as
startup, shutdown, turndown, or ramp-up are becoming
increasingly important for field development, especially in
deepwater fields where floating production, storage, and
offloading vessel use is predominant. These are typically
more expensive to build and difficult to operate The
benefit of the active heating systems is that it allow heat
to be added to the pipeline to maintain the temperature
above the hydrate dissociation temperature without the
need to depressurize the pipeline. This also reduces the
frequency of potentially expensive and time consuming depressurizing and start-up operations. The
other advantage is that methanol/glycol is not required except to protect wellheads and manifolds and
the system is protected even during shutdown and start-up.

31 October-3 November 2010, New Delhi, India
Active heating is defined as the input of heat into a production system from some external source.
Active heating may be required to heat the production fluids during turndown, startup, and/or
shutdown scenarios. Two types of active heating can be incorporated into a towed production system
one based on circulation of a hot fluid within a system, one on electrical heat input.
Hot water systems: Bundle can incorporate the benefits of a high performance insulation system
with circulation of hot fluids. The use of a high performance insulation system is a necessity as it can
significantly reduce the heat load for the active heating system. The direct hot water circulation
system incorporates the production flow line contained in an insulated sleeve pipe with hot water
flowing in the annulus. The hot water can either be injected into any water injection well or returned to
the topsides through a separate return line. The indirect hot water circulation method operates by
using the heat supplied by dedicated hot water supply and return flow lines to maintain the
temperature in the production flow-lines. The production and hot water lines are contained within the
insulation layer, which is filled with a low-pressure gas such as nitrogen.
Electrical heating: Another attractive form of active heating is the use of electrical heating methods.
These have been successful in the past for treating wax deposition in onshore pipelines and are now
being adapted for use on sub-sea flow lines. Electrical heating is advantageous as it can supply a
uniform heat input along the entire length of the flow-line. The electrical cables are smaller in diameter
than the hot water lines, which can give rise to capital expenditure savings through the selection of a
smaller carrier pipe. Three methods of electrically heating sub-sea flow lines that have been used, or
have the potential to be used in sub-sea applications are direct electrical heating, induction heating
and skin-effect current trace heating
Mechanical Methods : Mechanical methods of clearing blockages from pipelines rely either on coiled
tubing or on pigging.
Producers use mechanical means to keep pipelines free of solid
accumulations. These include insulated and/or heated tubing and a variety of pigging devices, which
fit the diameter of the pipe and scrape the pipe walls as they are pumped through the pipe. Pigs are
usually inadequate or uneconomical, unless used in conjunction with a chemical treatment program.

Indian Context :Indian deepwater sector is 1.34 million sq. km and constitutes about one
third of the total basin area of the country with prognosticated resource of about 10 billion
tonnes. The major east coast deepwater basins are Cauvery basin, Krishna-Godavari basin,
Mahanadi basin and Andaman basin.
ONGC: Eastern offshore is a promising basin where 16
discoveries have been reported, of which 6 are in
nominated areas and 10 are in New Exploration
Licensing Policy (NELP) areas for ONGC. Significant
discoveries include G-1 & GS-15, G-4-6 & GS-29,
Vashishtha, S-1,in block KG-DWN-98/2 (i.e, D, E, KT-1,
U, W, A, Kanakdurga and Padmavati), in block MNDWN-98/3 and in block MN-OSN-2000/2. Most of these
discoveries relate to gas reserves and are under
appraisal stage.
ONGC after carrying out concept selection and Flow
assurance studies has proposed to develop these
discoveries by combining nearby locations in to cluster/
hub based development. Sub sea tie back of wells
through flexible pipelines to common manifold and evacuation through trunk lines to onshore terminal
is envisaged. These fields are planned to be developed in the form of possible clusters as Cluster-1:
Vasishta ,S1,DWN - U & W. Cluster-2: G-4,GS-29, DWN-98/2 N,D & E. Cluster-3: Gas: Annapurna,
DWN-98/2 A, Kanakadurga and Oil: Padmavati, Kannakadurga. Possibility to have common facilities
with other operators viz. RIL/ GSPC etc. is also being evaluated so that developmental costs will be
reduced in the similar manner as being adopted by various operators in North Sea.

31 October-3 November 2010, New Delhi, India
Reliance: Reliance was awarded
the block DWN-98/3 in NELP I. It
stuck the largest gas find of 2002, in
its very first venture in the deep
waters of KG D6 block. Several
more discoveries (D26 within the
Mesozoic sequence) were made.
Gas production commenced form
D1/D3 in April 2009. The Dl & D3
gas development project includes
18 wells in water depths ranging
from 600 m to 1200 m, connected to
a deepwater pipeline end manifold
(DWPLEM) via cluster manifolds
umbilicals. The gas from the DWPLEM passes through a shallow water control and riser platform
(CRP) to the landfall point (LFP), situated 5 km from the onshore gas handling terminal.
RIL developed the D26 field (an oil-gas-condensate reservoir) using an FPSO based facility, with oil
and gas processing, oil and condensate storage, offshore offloading and gas evacuation to the

onshore terminal. Facilities have been planned for full development of the field, with seven wells using
horizontal well technology, including multilaterals, as required to minimize the coning and to maximize
reservoir contact. These wells will be connected to the sub-sea manifold from where well fluid would
flow to the FPSO through flexible production risers. The well fluid will be processed at the FPSO. The
stabilized oil and condensate will be stored and offloaded to an oil tanker and the dehydrated gas will
be transported through flexible risers up to an export riser base and further through to a 24-inch
export pipeline evacuated through a sub sea pipeline from the FPSO to the onshore terminal via the
CRP. The proposed development concept for the D26 field is shown in the figure below.
To achieve successful deepwater field development, it is necessary to ensure that all issues relating
to flow assurance have been covered in detail during the design state. This would require a through
understanding of the solids deposition. The operating guidelines could be summarized as:
 Avoid formation of solids like wax, asphaltenes or hydrates.
 Do not allow the system to enter a pressure/temperature region where hydrates are stable
 Prevent wax deposition in the well bore
 Remove wax from the flow line by regular pigging
 Design to inhibit and remove asphaltenes, wax and hydrates
 Design provisions for suitable remediation measures

31 October-3 November 2010, New Delhi, India
The capital expenditure needs to be balanced with risks associated with flow assurance and the
willingness of the operator to take these risks. Most flow assurance designs would be either underengineered or over-engineered as there is no right solution. There would be many opinions as to
what is the right solution. Hence, it is desirable to reduce the levels of subjectivity in design by
quantifying the levels of risk by following a defined unique flow assurance process based on the
needs of each project as each project is unique and requires specific project strategies for optimum
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3. Michael P. Pausche, BHP Billiton Petroleum (Americas) Inc.; Jefferson L.Creek, Chevron; Mark A
Stair, Mark A Stair and Associates: Typhoon Project: Flow Assurance Issues How They were
identified and Resolved, OTC 14053
4. David B.L.Walker and Norman D. McMullen, BP, The Challenges of Deepwater Flow Assurance:
One Companys Perspective, OTC 13075
5. K.Minami, A.P.A Kurban, C.N.Khalil and C.Kuchpil, PETROBRAS, Ensuring Flow and Production
in Deepwater Environments, OTC 11035
6. RILs KGD6 Fields, Transforming Indias Energy Landscape, Supplement to Offshore Journal
7. Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), India website: