Gas hydrates can plug pipelines and process equipment and is one of the biggest challenges in oil and gas production. The traditional methods for handling gas hydrates contribute to a significant part of the emissions from the petroleum sector, mainly through the use of large amounts of heat and chemicals. A recent case study concluded that CO2 emissions from oil production can be reduced by 20-30% if producing completely without using traditional hydrate management methods*. Some oils contain naturally occurring hydrate active components that prevent hydrate problems, but these components have not yet been identified. In this project, we use "big data" by combining very high-resolution mass spectroscopy (FT-ICR MS) of many different crude oils and advanced multivariate data analysis and machine learning. The goal is to get one step closer to identifying the hydrate active components that are responsible for non-plugging crude oil systems. This knowledge can be used to develop methods that can significantly reduce the environmental impact of oil production, by avoiding the use of heat and chemicals.
Several oils with different hydrate properties have been tested so far, and the first analyses indicate that it is possible to accumulate the hydrate-active components. By adding the accumulated components to an oil, we have managed to change the oil's hydrate properties in a positive direction. We have developed unique new methods within multivariate data analysis, which will help us understand the link between oil composition and hydrate properties. We will analyse more oils, and continue to look for the "needle in the haystack", i.e. the hydrate-active components that make crude oils non-plugging. If we succeed, this can be an important step towards more sustainable energy production.
* Heiner Schümann, November 2021, "Feasibility and environmental analysis for a 100 km tie-back solution with cold-flow", webinar in LowEmission project (p.nr. 296207)
For the petroleum industry, risk-based hydrate management can be a viable strategy for significantly widening the operational window. The traditional approach has been to avoid entering the hydrate region (high pressure and low temperature) altogether by temperature control (insulation and heating), chemicals (methanol and glycols) and pressure control. Although ensuring safe operations these remedies are costly for longer and colder transport conditions and not necessarily environmentally sound. This project will help meet demands of marginal field developments and operations in Artic areas by advancing the new fundamental knowledge of gas hydrate properties and develop methods for risk assessment and cost-effective hydrate management.
From field experience, it is known that some oil pipelines are easily plugged by gas hydrates while others are transportable. This is commonly accepted to be due to naturally occurring polar components in the crude oils. A main goal is to combine the increased resolution of mass spectrometry (using the SINTEF owned FT-ICR MS) and advanced multivariate data analysis, block chain and machine learning to identify the hydrate-active components in crude oils.
Hydrate properties in terms of plugging risk and transport properties will be measured for a number of crude oil systems (tentatively 30), and extraction of hydrates for analysis will be done. Prediction tools will be developed, relating the structure of possible hydrate active components to the hydrate properties, thus providing new understanding of gas hydrates in crude oil systems and serve as basis for developing new guidelines for risk-based hydrate management. Ultimately the results can be used for input and validation of multiphase flow models necessary for prediciton of safe operation areas for transport within the hydrate region.
Industri partners will play an active role in the project with expertise and oil samples. A reference group with experts will be established.