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Development of the optimal strategy for managing the integrity and production risks

associated with sand production from the Schiehallion Oil Field

Mr C.R Deddis, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge & Mr M Oxley, BP

Exploration Ltd

The production of oil and gas is often complicated by the presence of solids in the fluids. Not only is the
sand erosive but it can also interfere with the separation of oil and water and must itself be separated
from the fluids and disposed of in some manner. The sand poses several business risks that must be
managed through the lifetime of the facilities. Firstly, there is the risk of hydrocarbons being released to
the environment through erosion of the facilities and a breach of the equipment integrity. This in turn
carries the possibility of personal injury due to fire and explosions in addition to the potential damage to
the environment. The management of the system integrity inevitably requires oil and gas production to be
reduced in order to limit velocities through the system and hence erosion or to stay within a sand disposal

At the heart of this problem is a classic trade off between maintaining integrity and maximising revenue
through production. This is especially challenging given the high levels of uncertainty involved in
predicting how much sand is likely to be produced and the extent of the damage it can cause.

One of the major challenges in the design of the infrastructure required for an offshore oil field is the
multi-disciplinary nature of the activity that by economic necessity is carried out in a compartmentalised
fashion. The sand lifecycle shown in Figure 1 below illustrates how sand spans the entire infrastructure
and the importance of adopting a holistic approach to the design of both the facilities and the risk
management approach.

Figure 1 Sand Lifecycle

Sand When adhesive forces maintaining the rock structure are

Detachment overcome, the rock will break down and produce sand
particles. The pressure difference between the reservoir
and the wellbore initiate this process.

Sand Even though the rock may fracture, oil tends to act as glue
due to capillary forces. At the onset of water production
Transport these forces are overcome and the sand will be transported
into the wellbore and through the facilities.

Once in the wellbore and production flowlines sand particles

Sand will impact on the internal walls and equipment thus causing
Erosion erosion. The erosion rate is dependent on particle size,
quantity, liquid and gas phase velocities and flow regimes

Surface Sand When sand reaches the surface processing equipment it will
Deposition settle out under gravity and collect in vessels.

Sand If produced water is to be re-injected into the reservoir, sand

particles become entrained in the water phase causing
further erosive damage and can block pores in the reservoir
into which water is being injected thus reducing injectivity.

In order to provide a robust design and risk management strategy all stages of the sand lifecycle need to
be understood and the uncertainty of any predictions clearly articulated to ensure that contingency can be
built into to the solution. However, it is often the case that predictions for example of sand quantities or
erosion rates are taken at face value in the implementation of the design hence deficiencies creep in with
the undesirable outcome of an ineffective design.

This paper describes how a model of the sand lifecycle was developed for Schiehallion in order to define
the remedial design and risk management processes required for sand production.
Schiehallion Design

The Schiehallion and Loyal oil reservoirs lie 100 miles west of the Shetland Islands in a water depth of
400m. Oil and gas is produced via subsea wells that are tied back to a Floating Production Storage and
Offloading (FPSO) vessel via subsea manifolds, flowlines and flexible risers (Figure 2). A substantial
portion of the infrastructure is located on the seabed, therefore, this inaccessibility poses difficulties in
their integrity management. Inspection and replacement of equipment is both time consuming and very
costly, as specialised vessels with ROV (remotely operated vehicle) capability, must be employed in
weather windows.

Figure 2 Facilities Layout

The oil-bearing rock in the Schiehallion reservoir is unconsolidated and prone to sand production. This
sand is produced along with the hydrocarbon fluids and is highly erosive in nature. Therefore, there is the
potential for pipelines carrying the fluids to erode with the risk of hydrocarbon leaks to water. The sand
can also deposit in pipelines, which can lead to the possibility of microbial induced corrosion under the
sand layer and blockages restricting the flow of hydrocarbons. It can also interfere with the processes
employed for separating oil, water and gas increasing the risk of off specification crude and produced
water. The sand collected in the vessels used for hydrocarbon and water separation is contaminated with
oil and it has to be cleaned prior to disposal overboard.

The facilities were designed to accommodate sand production up to a limit of 10 pounds of sand per
thousand barrels of fluids (pptb) with short term excursions to 100 pptb. However, it was not possible
during the design to quantify the expected sand production with any degree of certainty and subsequently
it became apparent that the wells were capable of producing significantly more and finer sand despite
the inclusion of sand screens in the well completions. One of the major shortcomings of the design was a
lack of sand detection and erosion measurement equipment that is necessary to provide a means of
managing the integrity of the facilities.

In order to provide assurance that the integrity of a facility is not going to be breached there must be a
means of quantifying the risk and measuring the major contributory parameters. In the case of sand
production, erosion is the major concern. However, erosion is dependent on a number of parameters
including, the quantity of sand, the velocity of the sand particles, the geometry of the system, the gas to
liquid ratio, sand particle size distribution, the material of construction and particle shape.

Accurate measurement of erosion was not provided in the original design; therefore, the only option to
control the erosion risk is to reduce the production from sandy wells. However, this is very conservative.
A balance must be struck whereby production is maximised within the integrity constraints of the system.

For Schiehallion, there were several areas of the initial design and approach that were not robust enough
to protect the facilities and the oil production rates

No means of quantifying the sand rate was provided to allow rational decisions to be made on the
well management to protect the facilities from excessive erosion rates.
A consistent approach was not adopted across the design of the facilities from well completions
through to water injection systems.
There is a complicated subsea infrastructure in 400 m of water comprising pipelines, manifolds
and valves with no easy means of inspecting vulnerable pieces of equipment.
Severe production losses may be incurred in order to provide integrity assurance.
Erosion rates were calculated using the standard API 14E that is now regarded by BP to be
insufficiently rigorous for multi-phase flow.


A sand lifecycle model of the Schiehallion facilities was developed in order to meet the aims stated below:

Build a quantitative model of the system that provides a better understanding of the issues
associated with sand production for the Schiehallion field to allow decisions on management
strategies to be taken.
Quantify the risks to integrity and oil production from sand over the life of the field.
Review the efficiency of sand separation at the surface facilities and evaluate options to improve
Propose a strategy for mitigating the risks to integrity and oil production.

The model attempts to reflect the main issues that sand production presents at each stage in the
production system and is broken down into the following sub-systems:

Figure 3: Model Overview

Wells/sub- Subsea Topsides oil Water

surface facilities separation injection
systems system system

Each sub-system is based on the topography and flexibility inherent in the system. Therefore, all the
wells are individually modelled and these can be allocated to production risers which in turn can be
allocated to oil separation trains on the FPSO. This allows alternative scenarios to be quickly assessed
using the same source information to assess how different configurations change the risk profile.

The model is constructed in an Excel Spreadsheet with a number of worksheets that contain the
calculations and input data for the model to run. A VBA program is used to perform the calculations
repeatedly for each production year and record the results.

It consists of three main sets of calculations:

Erosion: the proprietary AEA Sandman erosion model is used for well and riser components.
Sand transport: a model based on a two-phase flow correlation that calculates the critical
production rate for each well and riser to ensure transport to the surface.
Sand settling: the BP GREPS model is used for drop-out prediction in the separators

The model is used to predict the following:

Potential loss of integrity due to erosion.

Potential loss of production due to sand deposition in the wells or subsea system.
Potential loss of production due to constraints in the topsides handling.
Potential loss of production due to loss of water injection capability.

These calculations are incorporated in the sub-systems as shown in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Model Structure

Area Main Components

Wells/sub- Sand concentration scenarios
surface Sand production correlation based on Schiehallion & Foinaven data.
Sand transport model using Beggs & Brill two-phase pressure gradient and BP
method for predicting sand transport in the wells [Beggs et al., 1973; Aldis, 2000].
Subsea Sand transport model using Beggs & Brill two-phase pressure gradient and BP
method for predicting sand transport in the subsea pipelines and risers.
Erosion model of wellhead geometry.
Erosion model of geometry at the riser terminations on the FPSO.
Topsides Gravity settling of sand using Stokes Law in the 1st & 2nd stage separators and the
Separation produced water degasser [Aldis, 2000].
Evaluation of sand production rate versus a capacity constraint.
Water injection Empirical model for water injection pump reliability based on solids concentration.
system Empirical model for reservoir injectivity loss based on solids concentration of injection
water [Herbert et al., 1997].

The main parameters that are calculated for each system are detailed below.


The first section of the model establishes the following parameters for each well:
Sand production rate based on correlation.
Frequency of well failure.
Erosion rate for a tee piece at each wellhead (linked to the erosion model).
Reduction in oil flowrate required to meet an erosion rate of 0.1 mm/year.
Two phase pressure gradient.
Critical velocity for sand deposition.
Minimum flow rate that must be maintained to ensure that sand deposition is avoided in the well.

Subsea Risers and Flowlines

The riser data is used to calculate the following parameters for each riser:

Combined flow rates and sand rates.

Erosion rate.
Reduction in oil flowrate required to meet an erosion rate of 0.1 mm/year.
Two phase pressure gradient.
Critical velocity for sand deposition.
Minimum flow rate that must be maintained to ensure that sand deposition is avoided.

Topsides Separation System

An overview of the topsides separation systems is given in Figure 4. The topsides model predicts sand
separation in the main production vessels and partitioning to the produced water. Consequently, the
number of sand washes to remove sand from the vessels and the total quantity of sand discharged to sea
is calculated. The environmental impact can also be calculated from the oil on sand. This part of the
model also compares the sand produced to a notional topsides handling constraint that can be varied.

There are two factors modelled for the water injection system. These are the impact of sand on the pump
availability due to wear in the seals and impellors and the impact on the injectivity of the reservoir. Both
of these impair the amount of water that can be injected into the reservoir to maintain pressure support
and hence the oil production rate will decline. This decline in rate is not fed back into the model to avoid
Calculations & Assumptions

Sand Production

No detailed and accurate sand prediction models were available when the model was first developed;
hence, empirical correlations of sand production as a function of time and well water cut were developed.
These were based on 3 years of production data from Schiehallion wells and 4 years of production data
from the nearby Foinaven field. It was observed within the data that the wells could be broadly
characterised into five sand concentration profiles based on the expected peak sand concentration.

Based on this broad classification it was possible to develop six major scenarios that defined the
envelope of the most likely outcomes. One of these scenarios was the basis of design for the facilities to
assess how well the design could actually cope with the envisaged sand production. These scenarios
were run through the model in order to define the range of expected erosion rates and production losses
to assist with the development of an overall strategy.

Sand Transport

For the purposes of this model the BP sand deposition model developed in 1993 was used to predict
sand drop out in the flowlines. Whilst this model has limitations and has not been fully tested it is a
relatively straightforward set of equations that can be used in a spreadsheet and will give an indication at
least of the potential for sand deposition. The model contains a warning flag that indicates if sand is at
risk of being deposited. The model uses the Beggs & Brill procedure to calculate the two-phase pressure
gradient and compares this to the pressure gradient for sand deposition. The sand deposition gradient is
calculated from the following equation:

dP 4 l (U 0 ) 2
= (1)
dX D

where l is the liquid density, Uo is the friction velocity at deposition, D is the internal diameter of the pipe
and X is pipe length . The equation used to calculate the friction velocity at deposition depends on the
particle diameter relative to the height of the laminar sub-layer and also the particle settling velocity in
quiescent conditions (calculated gravity settling methods Stokes and Newtons Law regimes). The height
of the laminar sub-layer is calculated by:


DU sl l 8
= 62 D (2)

where, D is the internal diameter of the pipe, Usl is the superficial liquid velocity, l is the liquid density and
l is the dynamic viscosity of the liquid.

For the case where the particle diameter is less than the height of the laminar sub layer the friction
velocity at deposition is calculated by:


U o = 100 ws (3)

where Uo is the friction velocity at deposition for infinite dilution, ws is the particle settling velocity under
quiescent conditions, is the kinematic viscosity and d is the particle diameter.

For the case where the particle diameter is greater than the height of the laminar sub layer the friction
velocity at deposition is calculated by:

v v s l

U o = 0.204 ws


d D

where s is the particle density.

Erosion Calculations

The Harwell model (release 3.9, Jan 1998) developed by AEA Technology plc (release 3.9, Jan 1998) for
multiphase flow has been used to predict erosion rates. BP approves this model for use in bubble/churn
flow regimes but not for the slug flow regime. In all cases for Schiehallion the data fits the applicability of
the model.

Martin (1999) presents the equation used in the model in the following form:

E = S C1 + C 2V m ) (5)

E = erosion rate, mm/year
S = sand concentration, g/kg
C1 & C2 are constants that depend on flow regime, geometry, particle size and materials of construction
V = mixed fluid velocity; m/s
m = mixed phase density; kg/m3

Sand Deposition

The terminal velocity for each particle size considered is calculated. This has to be calculated for both
the oil and water phases. Then the height available and residence time based on the active length of the
vessel i.e. from the inlet to the water outlet weir are used to determine the grade efficiency of the
separator. Because the vessels cross-section is circular the ratio of areas is used rather than heights for
the grade efficiency calculation. The formulae used are:

uo d p o
Re p = (6)

gd p2
Rep<0.2 uo = ( o s ) (7)
18 o

g o
500>Rep>0.2 C d Re 2p = 1.33d 3p ( s o ) (8)

Cd = (1 + 0.15 Re 0p.687 ) (9)

Rep = particle Reynolds number

uo = terminal settling velocity in oil/water; m/s
o = density of oil/water; kg/m3
dp = particle diameter; m
s = density of sand; kg/m3
o = viscosity of oil/water; kg/m/s2
Cd = coefficient of drag
g = gravitational acceleration; m/s2

For a circle the area under height H is calculated using:

H Oil area
Area to height H,
Hw Water area

Solids area
D2 D 2H D
AH = cos 1 H x DH H
4 D 2
Settling height of a particle is calculated using the following formulae:

(a) Water settling only, h<Hw

Lu w
h= + Hs (11)

(b) Oil and water settling, h>Hw

(H H s ) u o
h = L w Vw + H w (12)
uw Vo

h = settling height, m
L = active length of separator, m
uw = terminal settling velocity in water; m/s
uo = terminal settling velocity in oil; m/s
Vw = water velocity (plug flow); m/s
Vo = oil velocity (plug flow); m/s


The key results from the modelling of the various scenarios are summarised below:

Production Losses

The model results show that erosion rates are responsible for the majority of the production losses for all
the scenarios considered. This was based on production having to be restricted to stay below an erosion
rate of 0.1 mm/year. This ranged from a minimum of 65% for the original design basis to a maximum of
80% of the losses with the majority of these losses associated with riser erosion limits.

The model also showed considerable production at risk due to poor water injection performance as a
result of sand entrainment in the produced water, discussed below.

Original Design Basis

The model showed that the design of the facilities does not meet the original intent of being able to
handle up to 10 pptb sand loadings for the life of the field. This demonstrates that poor management of
the design for sand production across the entire infrastructure results in a sub-optimal solution. However,
despite the potential for erosion rates greater than 0.1 mm/year the unconstrained results show that the
cumulative erosion over the life of the field for all the wells and risers is well within the allowance of 3 mm.
Therefore, if there was a greater degree of confidence that the sand loading would remain at 10 pptb it
could be argued that the erosion rate is ignored thus protecting a significant amount of production.


The most significant risk to production is the management of erosion rates to less than 0.1 mm/year.
The 0.1 mm/year takes into account a 30-year design life of equipment that typically has a 3 mm
corrosion/erosion allowance built into the design. It is also widely accepted that rates in excess of 0.1
mm/year can accelerate erosion due to a mechanism called corrosion-erosion, where, the protective
oxide layer on the pipe wall can be stripped off thus allowing corrosion. In the subsea systems no such
mechanism can exist given that inconel is a corrosion resistant material, however, if the inconel cladding
has broken down a localised site for this mechanism will exist.

One significant result from the modelling was to show that although all the wells being produced through
a particular riser do not exceed the erosion limits for the individual wells that it is still possible when the
fluids are combined to exceed allowable limits for the riser.
The modelling shows that the management of erosion rates is a critical element of the overall production
optimisation of the facility. There are numerous tools available for well optimisation that can establish
optimal gas lift rates and riser routings but none of these presently take into account the impact on
erosion rates and the potential for either a reduction in throughput or in the worst case a loss of

Sand Deposition/Separation

The model predicted much higher grade efficiencies for the separators than experienced in practice. The
gravity settling calculations show that more than 90% of the sand entering the 1st stage separators should
settle through the oil and water layers to be captured on the bottom of the vessel. However, in practice
only 30% of all the sand removed from the vessels comes from the 1st stage separators with 60% coming
from the produced water degasser having been entrained with the produced water. As a result of this
finding a further efficiency was applied to the sand settling calculations in order to model the behaviour
experienced more accurately and thus enhance the prediction of water injection performance.

The finding shows that there is a considerable disparity between what the separators should be capable
of achieving and what is actually being achieved. There are several possible reasons for this shortfall:

Vessel internals. Gravity settling calculations do not take into consideration the often complicated
internals employed in production separators to dampen motion and to enhance water separation.
Despite reducing the active length available for settling to try and account for this in the model it
still showed a considerable disparity between theoretical and actual performance.
Fluid separation. In theory sand travels through an oil phase and then a sharp interface into the
water phase where it will settle much quicker due to the lower viscosity. However, in practice
there will often be an emulsion band separating the phases providing a greater resistance to sand
Sand washing operations. Gravity settling calculations do not take into account the batch nature
of washing sand out of separators. The sand washing process on Schiehallion is achieved by
injecting water through two rails of nozzles in the bottom of the vessel and simultaneously
opening up sand drains. Sand washing is carried out regularly but at a frequency of once per
week or in some cases once per day. This leaves time for sand that has dropped out in the
bottom of the separators to be re-entrained with the produced water and to be transported out of
the separator to the produced water degasser.


The results produced by the model although subject to uncertainty provided sufficient guidance to
develop a sand management strategy. There were three main strands identified:

Sand Detection & Measurement

It is difficult to control a parameter that isnt measured in some way. One of the major shortcomings of
the design was a lack of sand detection and measurement facilities. Measurement and detection
underpins the ability to optimise well operating parameters to maximise the sand free production rate as
well as managing erosion rates. The major changes required were:
Installation of erosion probes in the risers. These are at greatest risk from erosion and rather
than rely solely on predictions of erosion rates it is possible to measure erosion rates using
intrusive electrical resistance probes.
Subsea sand detection using acoustic probes. Although not a quantitative measure this provides
additional information about the behaviour of the system and can assist with optimising
Specifications for new wells and developments to include detection and measurement devices as

Physical Separation Processes

A major risk to the production was identified as the sand removal processes that prevent sand being
entrained with the produced water that is injected back into the reservoir. The results of the sand settling
calculations show that major improvements should be possible by changing the types of devices used to
remove sand from the system.
Improved sand washing systems were identified that are less labour intensive and more efficient
than traditional sand jetting nozzles. These are being retrofitted to vessels.
Pump upgrades. Improving the materials of construction and seal systems of produced water
and water injection pumps was identified as the most effective means of improving the sand
tolerance and hence reliability.
Nucleonic level detection can provide a reliable means of verifying the sand level in vessels. This
ensures that action is taken to sand wash vessels when required and therefore is responsive to
production of sand bursts.

Management Processes
In order to minimise the risk to the integrity of the system and to optimise the production from the wells it
was recognised that the management processes need to be integrated as the tools used to improve
production e.g. increasing gas lift rates can lead to accelerated erosion rates. The areas identified for
improvement were:
Integration of integrity management and production optimisation.
Improved discipline interfaces to ensure that integrity management was considered throughout
the entire sand lifecycle.
Erosion modelling for well optimisation and new well completions evaluation.

Further Model Development

Despite the installation of erosion probes in the risers, these do not provide all the necessary information
required to manage the integrity of the entire system. Therefore, erosion modelling is a tool that is still
required in order to assess the potential damage in other parts of the systems such as the wellheads to
allow inspection efforts to be targeted at specific areas. Erosion modelling also provides the ability to
simulate different production scenarios for long term optimisation of the system. With these requirements
in mind the sand lifecycle model has been further developed to improve its flexibility to allow it to be fully
integrated into the day to day management processes. The key improvements that have been made are
as follows:
Flexibility to run erosion models for individual wells and risers.
Improved data input to allow scenarios to be quickly assessed.

The next stage in its development is to carry out a comprehensive data reconciliation exercise using
production data, riser erosion probe data and inspection data in order to establish a new baseline for the


A model of the complete sand life cycle from entry into the wells through the topsides separation facilities
and the produced water re-injection system was successfully developed for the Schiehallion Oil Field that
can be used to identify the risks to the business from sand production. The model has been used to
develop a sand management strategy for the facilities and is an integral part of the ongoing integrity and
production management processes.


1. Aldis N:Living with Sand Surface Treatment and Processing of Production Solids, BP Report
S/UTG/006/00, 2000
2. API: API RP14E, recommended Practice for Design and Installation of Offshore Production Platform
Piping Systems, Third Edition, 1981.
3. Beggs H Dale, Brill James P:A Study of Two Phase Flow in Inclined Pipes, paper SPE 4007,
4. Braaten Nils et al:Experience from Topside and Subsea use of the Erosion Based Sand Monitoring
System, paper SPE30644, 1995
5. Herbert N et al., Review of Produced Water for Re-Injection for the Schiehallion Development,
Schiehallion Report No. W-9900-NU-9200, 1998.
6. Martin J: Erosion Guidelines Revision 2.1, BP Sunbury Report no. S/UTG/102/99, 1999
7. Sanfilippo F et al.: Sand Production: From Prediction to Management, paper SPE
8. Tronvoll J et al: The Tools of Sand Management, paper SPE 71673, 2001
9. UTG, Sand Control Completions: Summary of Producer Case Histories, BP Intranet, 2001
Figure 4 Oil to Storage

Slugcatcher 1st Stage 2nd Stage Electrostatic
Separator Separator Coalescer


Water Injection Pumps

Water Degasser


Water to
Oil Booster Deaerated
Water Pumps Seawater

Filters to be replaced by
desanding cyclones in