Our dedication to continuous innovation has led us down some very interesting paths here at Emerson. Research into better and better solutions keeps our technology evolving, always staying ahead of the curve. Our latest discoveries are the result of asking ourselves, “What else can we do to help prevent layer buildup in our Roxar 2600 Multiphase Flow Meters?” The accumulation of paraffin wax and scale layers has always been an accepted part of everyday life for many applications, especially in shale oil production. These troublesome layers accrue in pipelines, throwing off flow measurement calculations, clogging equipment, and causing costly damage to wellbores.
We approach layer’s effect on our equipment from three angles: prevention, detection, and correction. Before, we talked about our new Detect and Correct capabilities in our Roxar Rapid Adaptive Measurement software, the embedded software of the Roxar 2600 Multiphase Flow Meter. Now, we’ve developed exciting new methods for amplifying the prevention side of our layer buildup strategy. Successful field testing on nanotechnology surface treatments and heat traced insulation jackets has shown exciting promise in shoring up our MPFM’s ability to resist layer buildup for more extended periods.
Tackling the Challenge of Layer Buildup
The Roxar 2600 Multiphase Flow Meter (MPFM) contains both metal and PEEK surfaces within the wetted parts of the instrument. The MPFM utilizes an electrical current, and in oil continuous flow uses capacitance measurement, and in water continuous flow uses resistance measurement. The multiple Inconel electrode plates in the measurement cavity of the meter, insulated from each other by PEEK material enables this. Both of these surfaces are subject to layer growth that can throw off flow measurement data. Some operators inject layer inhibitors to prevent buildup. For those that do not, eventually, the layer will become so problematic that hot oil or hot water treatment becomes necessary to flush out the layer build-up. To compensate for layers as they build up, Detect and Correct features in our Rapid Adaptive Measurement software can take these layers into account to provide the most reliable measurements possible, but, eventually, the meters need to be cleaned.
Metal is naturally oleophobic, and PEEK is naturally hydrophobic. So, paraffin wax would naturally accumulate more on the PEEK material, and scale would accumulate more on the metal. To prevent both types of buildup, we decided to look into ways to make both surfaces oleophobic and hydrophobic. The idea was to make the electrode plates and PEEK material as resistant to both types of layer buildup as possible.
We initiated a study on the topic with a research institute in Norway. We also linked up with suppliers who specialize in nanotechnology surface treatments. Through this study and initial field testing, we concluded with two different nanotechnology surface treatments – one for the metal surfaces and one for the PEEK surfaces. These treatments promote oleophobic and hydrophobic characteristics for both materials.
The Role of Heat in Layer Prevention
In addition to the surface treatments, we’re also doing field testing on heat tracing and insulation. The heat of the flow naturally helps prevent paraffin wax buildup, but in instances where a well is shut in or a meter is bypassed, both the meter and flow cool, meaning quicker layer buildup when flow resumes. So, we’ve developed heat trace insulation jackets that can prevent cooling in the meter during periods of downtime. This solution is particularly beneficial in cyclic flow conditions created by using artificial lift methods like plunger lift or donkey pump. We’ve found that paraffin buildup during shut-in periods can be significantly reduced by retaining and raising heat. Heat also helps keep the wax layer softer, which eases the cleaning and removal process. These pilot insulation jackets are currently being tested in-field and have shown extremely promising results.
Success in Slowing Down the Buildup
We have now field-tested the nanotechnology surface treatments on our MPFM solution with very promising results. Both the treatment to PEEK material and the treatment for metal surfaces have shown good indicators for mitigating the risk of layers in our instrument. They reduce layer buildup events, slow down buildup when it occurs, and ease and simplify the removal process when cleaning is required. We’re ready to begin supplying our meters with these surface treatments included. We can also discuss heat traced insulation jacket solutions with our customers.
We’re excited about these new developments, and we will continue field-testing new solutions to grow our understanding and capabilities of layer prevention in the field. Though we still need all three methods to tackle the challenges of layer buildup – prevention, detection, and compensation – these innovations will help tremendously in the constant battle against buildup.
If you know that your flow profile and working conditions are prone to layer buildup, please ask your local Emerson representative about surface treatment or insulation and heat jacket for your Roxar 2600 Multiphase Flow Meters.
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