Deposition of inorganic scale has always been a common problem in oilfield pipes, especially in raising safety risk and producing cost. However, the fundamentals of deposition mechanism and the effect of various surface, temperature, flow rate and inhibitors on deposition rate has not been systematically studied. The objective of this research is to reveal the process of barium sulfate deposition on stainless steel surfaces.

In this work a novel continuous flow apparatus has been set up to enable further investigation of deposition rate, crystal size and morphology and the effect of scale inhibitor. In this apparatus supersaturate barium sulfate solution is mixed and passed through a 3 feet stainless steel tubing with ID = 0.04 inch or 0.21 inch at 70 to 120 degree C. The barium concentration is measured at the effluent to quantify the concentration drop. After 1 to 200 hours the tubing is cut into pieces to measure the barite deposition amount and observe the barite crystal morphology using SEM.

Under the experimental conditions, the deposition rate along the stainless steel tubing can be modelled by second order crystal growth kinetics, the SEM micrograph also shows that most of deposited barite is micrometer sized crystals. The highest deposition rate happens at the beginning of the tubing even before the expected induction time of bariums sulfate. The results indicated that the deposition happens even before the mixed solution is expected to form particles, which suggest that the heterogeneous nucleation might be the dominate mechanism in the initial stage, then crystal growth takes place and governs the deposition.

The mechanism of scale attachment to tubing surface has never been well-understood. The apparatus in this work provides a reliable and reproducible method to investigate barium sulfate deposition. The findings in this research will enhance our knowledge of mineral scale deposition process, and aid the use of inhibitors in mineral scale control.

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