Gas hydrates are considered a major flow-assurance challenge in subsea flowlines. They agglomerate rapidly and form hydrate blockages. During transient operations [shut-in and restart (RS)], risk of blockage formation owing to hydrates can be greater compared to that during the continuous operations. In particular, hydrate formation during an unplanned shut-in and subsequent restart could lead to increased operational hazards. In this work, flow-loop tests were conducted under both continuous-pumping (CP) and RS conditions, using Conroe crude oil with three different water fractions (30, 50, 90 vol%) at 5 wt% salinity, over a range of mixture velocities (from 2.4 to 9.4 ft/sec). It was determined that RS operations resulted in an earlier onset of hydrate particle bedding—twice as fast as those in CP tests—from the interpretation of pressure-drop and mass-flow-rate (MFR) measurements. Droplet imaging using a particle vision and measurement (PVM) probe suggested larger water droplets (100–300 µm) during the shut-in, as compared to the CP tests (=40 µm) at 50 and 90 vol% water cuts (WCs). For the tests performed using a demulsifier at 200 ppm, PVM images suggested larger water droplets (mean droplet size = 94 µm), as compared with the test with no demulsifier (mean droplet size = 21 µm). The test using a demulsifier resulted in higher pressure drops and lower MFRs compared with the test with no demulsifier, indicating poor hydrate transportability when water was partially dispersed in the oil phase. The current study indicated that partially dispersed systems present greater risks of hydrate plugging as compared with the fully dispersed systems in the range of water volume fractions from 50 to 95 vol% WC, which was the phase inversion point of the water-in-crude-oil (Conroe14 crude) system. The flow-loop-test analyses presented in this work can potentially aid in an improved mechanistic understanding of RS operations, involving unplanned shut-ins and restarts.

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