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CSIRO boosts oil and gas research

A new flow loop commissioned by CSIRO will help researchers find solutions to predict and control gas hydrates formation in offshore oil and gas production pipelines.

The only one of its kind in Australia, the flow loop can simulate gas-liquid flows at high pressures and low temperatures – conditions that oil and gas pipelines are subjected to in deep-sea environments.

According to CSIRO’s Dr Edson Nakagawa, the flow loop will be used to study gas hydrates formation, growth and transportability.

“It also has the capability to test different types of hydrates inhibitors and analyse how they affect the formation of hydrates under different conditions,” says Dr Nakagawa, who leads the Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship’s marine-based industries research.

The flow loop will be used in a flow assurance project that forms part of the Flagship’s Platform-Free Fields program. The project takes a holistic approach to understanding the formation of hydrates in gas pipelines.

“Our first objective is to develop a model to enable operators to predict the formation and flow of hydrates in gas pipelines and therefore anticipate potential gas hydrates problems. This will lead to improvements in the design and operation of pipelines.” Dr Nakagawa says.

Gas hydrates are ‘ice-like’ crystals composed of gas and water that can form in oil and gas offshore pipelines. Hydrates can block pipelines, disrupt production and, at worst, cause flow lines to burst, leading to costly, time-consuming and potentially dangerous repair operations.

“Improving knowledge and models of gas hydrates behaviour will save industry millions of dollars in hydrates inhibitors and related operational costs,” Dr Nakagawa says.

The project is an international collaboration between the Flagship, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Curtin University of Technology, Institute Francais du Pétrole (IFP), the Western Australian Energy Research Alliance (WA:ERA) and industry.

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