Inorganic scale (carbonate, sulphate and sulphides) formation can be predicted from thermodynamic models and over recent years better kinetic data has improved the prediction of such scales in field conditions. However these models have not been able to predict the observed deposition where flow disturbances occur, such as at chokes, tubing joints, gas lift valves and safety valves. This can lead to unexpected failures of critical equipment such as downhole safety valves (DHSV’s), and operational issues such as failure to access the well for coiled tubing operations due to tubing restrictions.

In recent years it has been recognised that the turbulence found at these locations increases the likelihood of scale formation and experiments have been able to demonstrate that increased turbulence also impacts the minimum scale inhibitor concentration required to prevent scale.

One of the industry standard test methods used to screen inhibitors for sulphate scale inhibition is the static bottle test. In this paper the ‘static’ bottle test method is modified to investigate the effects of increasing levels of turbulence on the formation of strontium sulphate scale at a fixed brine composition. Using this modified method it has been possible to demonstrate the impact of varying turbulence on the performance of two common generic types of scale inhibitor (phosphonate and vinyl sulphonate co-polymer). Data on the mass of scale formed, scale morphology using SEM imaging and inhibitor efficiency will be linked to degree of turbulence and scale inhibitor functionality (nucleation inhibition vs. crystal growth retardation). This study builds on the previously published10 findings for barium sulphate which showed phosphonates were less affected by turbulent conditions by carrying out similar tests on strontium sulphate. A clear mechanistic conclusion can now be drawn for sulphate scale formation and inhibition under increasingly turbulent conditions.

The findings from this study have a significant impact on the methods of screening scale inhibitors for field application that should be utilised and development of suitable inhibitors that perform better under higher shear conditions.

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