Unique structures are formed when gases and liquids flow simultaneously in pipelines. The geometric characteristics of these structures are fundamental parameters in intermittent flow regimes. The length of liquid slugs and Taylor bubbles are inputs to mechanistic and empirical models for pressure drop estimation, slug catcher sizing and determination of the periods of no or low liquid in pipelines. Although slug flow has been studied for decades, there still exists a lack of comprehensive understanding of flow structures dynamics due to the complex interactions between the gas and liquid phases in two-phase flow. This study investigates the influence of pipe inclination on the length and hydrodynamics of large gas structures in intermittent flows, particularly, ‘Taylor bubbles’ in slug flow regime. An experimental study was conducted in a 67 mm ID pipe to estimate the bubble lengths of an air-silicone oil mixture from void fraction measurement using a twin-plane Electrical Capacitance Tomography (ECT) tool. The results show that the pipe inclination, gas and liquid flow rates have a substantial effect on the length of large bubbles in slug flow. Taylor bubbles get longer when the void fraction increases, or the pipe inclination deviates towards the horizontal pipe orientation. The influence of pipe inclination on bubble length is quite significant; this variation in bubble length with pipe inclination is attributed to the expansion or compression of large gas structures when there is an alteration on the forces acting on the bubble nose. The weight of the liquid column above the bubble nose which has been often neglected in earlier models was identified to have a notable effect on the volume occupied by the large bubbles and consequently, its length. A semi-mechanistic model is proposed based on the analysis of forces acting on the Taylor bubble nose in a quiescence liquid phase. A comparative analysis of the model and previous models shows that the proposed model outperforms existing mechanistic and empirical models across all pipe inclinations. This study gives an insight into the effect of pipe inclination on the length of large bubbles during slugging in pipes, as these bubbles can be up to 10 times longer in horizontal pipes compared to vertical pipes at the same flow conditions. The proposed model has the potential of estimating the length of large bubbles across all pipe inclinations in upward slug flow with acceptable accuracy, particularly for pipelines installed in undulating terrains.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.