Gas hydrates constitute a serious flow assurance problem. Over the last decades, industry has faced this problem by using avoidance methods (e.g. injection of thermodynamic hydrate inhibitors) and management strategies (e.g. addition of hydrate anti-agglomerants). In the former, hydrates are completely avoided by shifting the hydrate boundary towards higher pressure and lower temperatures; in the latter, hydrates are allowed to form but their tendency to agglomerate is reduced. It should be noted that some crude oils are naturally able to avoid hydrate agglomeration, this non-plugging tendency may originate from the surfactant-like behavior of fractions like asphaltenes and acids. Recent works have shown that the natural non-plugging potential of certain oils can be affected by the addition of polar molecules like alcohols.
There is another strategy for managing hydrate that consist of the addition of THIs at a concentration lower that the one required to full hydrate inhibition. In this case, hydrates are under-inhibited. Studies carried out on hydrate agglomerating systems have shown that under-inhibition might prevent hydrate agglomeration only in a specific range of THI concentrations and sub-cooling; however, work on non-plugging oils is scarce. In this paper, the hydrate agglomeration of two crude oils under-inhibited with methanol and MEG was evaluated through a visual rocking cell apparatus and a high-pressure rheometer. Results showed that THIs and the crude oil's natural surfactants were capable of acting synergistically in reducing hydrate agglomeration and improving the system flowability.