Gas hydrate formation probability distributions: The effect of shear and comparisons with nucleation theory

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Gas hydrate formation is a stochastic phenomenon of considerable significance for any risk-based approach to flow assurance in the oil and gas industry. In principle, well-established results from nucleation theory offer the prospect of predictive models for hydrate formation probability in industrial production systems. In practice, however, heuristics are relied on when estimating formation risk for a given flowline subcooling or when quantifying kinetic hydrate inhibitor (KHI) performance. Here, we present statistically significant measurements of formation probability distributions for natural gas hydrate systems under shear, which are quantitatively compared with theoretical predictions. Distributions with over 100 points were generated using low-mass, Peltier-cooled pressure cells, cycled in temperature between 40 and −5 °C at up to 2 K·min–1 and analyzed with robust algorithms that automatically identify hydrate formation and initial growth rates from dynamic pressure data. The application of shear had a significant influence on the measured distributions: at 700 rpm mass-transfer limitations were minimal, as demonstrated by the kinetic growth rates observed. The formation probability distributions measured at this shear rate had mean subcoolings consistent with theoretical predictions and steel–hydrate–water contact angles of 14–26°. However, the experimental distributions were substantially wider than predicted, suggesting that phenomena acting on macroscopic length scales are responsible for much of the observed stochastic formation. Performance tests of a KHI provided new insights into how such chemicals can reduce the risk of hydrate blockage in flowlines. Our data demonstrate that the KHI not only reduces the probability of formation (by both shifting and sharpening the distribution) but also reduces hydrate growth rates by a factor of 2.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3186–3196
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2018


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