Technological advances in horizontal drilling, subsea processing and complex tie-backs have had a significant impact on pushing the boundaries of operability. As the continuous drive to stretch the envelope of operability has resulted in more and more sophisticated operations, it has become increasingly problematical to operate these facilities in an optimal way.

Dynamic flow instabilities account for a large proportion of the additional operational burden that needs to be overcome. Experiences within BP have shown that a good understanding of the flow dynamics experienced during start-up can have a significant impact on well up-time and overall production rates. Similarly, ensuring stable flow during normal operations can have a significant impact on the overall operational capacity of the process, raising the overall rate of production.

Multiphase flow instabilities are often complex in nature and difficult to interpret. Significant efforts in the field of multiphase modelling have led to an improved understanding of multiphase flow, yet the level of expertise needed to run dynamic models has restricted their widespread use for operational support. The key challenge is to blend the operational insight that multiphase modelling can provide with the people, process and technology elements that have become grouped under the umbrella of intelligent energy.

Within this paper, the value of deciphering flow instabilities will be established in light of the typical operational difficulties experienced at BP today, along with projections for future flow instability. A hybrid modelling and data analytical approach will be presented for the analysis of flow dynamics during start-up and for normal operation. Finally, the importance and value of applying effective control solutions to manage potentially unstable flow conditions will be discussed, with reference to the successful implementation of a ‘slug controller’ at one of BP's offshore assets.

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