This paper describes a laboratory and modelling study into halite (sodium chloride, rock salt) deposition in mature gas production wells. Halite deposition can result in significant production and integrity issues, and mitigation measures are primarily based upon injection of low-salinity wash water, often coupled with careful control of production parameters (such as well drawdown), for which scale-prediction models are used.

Laboratory investigation of halite scaling and performance of halite inhibitors typically uses the mixing of incompatible brines or cooling a saturated solution, either in bottle tests or using a dynamic scale rig. While these methods allow precipitation kinetics and inhibitor performance to be examined, they are far from ideal as they require significant modification of the brine chemistry and deposition conditions.

In this paper, we describe a novel approach to laboratory investigation of halite deposition that much more closely mimics the evaporative scaling mechanism mostly widely experienced in the field, and can be performed using produced-water compositions and conditions that are much more representative of the field. It is based upon a dynamic, flowing system where field-representative formation water is co-injected with gas at an appropriate level of under-saturation in water content to that expected under production conditions.

Electrolyte prediction software was used to model the halite scaling tendency in the experiments, and very good correlation was found between the prediction of supersaturation and the onset of precipitation and deposition. This agreement implies that the scale-prediction model is accurate for halite scaling via this mechanism, and adds much confidence to the use of this tool for optimizing production parameters to minimize the effects of halite scaling in the field. The work also confirms earlier reports that the critical scaling tendency for halite – the value at which significant precipitation and deposition occurs in the field – is very close to unity for the conditions tested in this work.

The new laboratory method was also used to generate calcium carbonate scaling by the mechanism – primarily transfer of CO2 to the gas phase – that is by far the predominant one found in the field; this led to observation of a mixed halite/calcium carbonate deposit.

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