Simulation model may reduce the climate footprint of oil production

Future offshore oil and gas fields are most likely to be “satellite developments” that are less expensive and emit less greenhouse gases than other fields because they do not require new production platforms.

Simulation model may reduce the climate footprint of oil production
Photo: LedaFlow Technologies

An innovative Norwegian computational tool called “Slug Capturing 2” is now enabling the design of longer pipelines that will allow many more fields to be developed as satellites.

Out of sight from land and from the air, the Norwegian shelf is covered by a spider’s web of pipelines through which production fluids flow from the wells tapping the reservoirs. This system carrying oil, water and gas in the same pipeline is called multiphase transport.

Research scientists in Norway have now developed a simulation model designed to meet one of the biggest challenges created by this form of pipeline transport – the formation of slugs. These limit the distance at which a satellite field can be developed from its host facility and require that major safety margins are built into the design of multiphase facilities.

Multiphase technology came into being at SINTEF and the Norwegian Institute for Energy Research (IFE) almost 40 years ago. This technology makes it possible to transport unprocessed oil and gas straight from a field’s production wells to platforms located on neighbouring fields or directly to land.

Multiphase transport is the key factor that has enabled fully integrated production facilities to be installed on the seabed. It allows oil and gas to be recovered offshore without the high levels of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that the construction of new production platforms entails.

For each ton of steel that is saved in construction, CO2 emissions are reduced by a little less than two tons.

One of the major challenges faced by the multiphase technology pioneers at SINTEF and IFE was to address the problem of slugging – the formation of long plugs of liquid, separated by large gas bubbles in the pipelines.

Slugging causes massive fluctuations in flow rates and results in vibrations along the pipelines. It can reduce pipeline lifetime and if the plugs are long enough, they can flood the separators in the reception facility.

The computational tools developed by the pioneers provided adequate control of the slugging phenomenon and made multiphase transport possible for many offshore fields. However, the longer the pipeline, the greater the slugging problem.

This is one of the reasons that a new simulation tool recently developed by SINTEF and the Norwegian company LedaFlow Technologies is good news.

All thanks to this tool we will probably soon be able to increase the maximum multiphase transport distance enabling more satellite developments.

The new tool will thus enable reductions in emissions from oil and gas production and is of major significance in the transition to a net zero-emissions society.