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Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxx xxx


Pigging simulation for horizontal gas-condensate pipelines with

low-liquid loading
Xiao-Xuan Xu *, Jing Gong
The Laboratory of Multiphase Flow in Petroleum Engineering, Department of Oil and Gas Storage and Transportation Engineering,
China University of Petroleum, Changping County, Beijing, 102249, P.R. China
Received 20 January 2005; received in revised form 9 June 2005; accepted 10 June 2005


Liquid condensation in natural gas transmission pipelines commonly occurs due to the thermodynamic and hydrodynamic
imperatives. Condensation subjects the gas pipeline to two phase transport, which dramatically affects their delivery ability and
operational modality and the associated peripheral facilities. It is therefore imperative for the pigging simulation in gas-
condensate flowlines to be taken into consideration in their design. Periodic pigging helps keep the pipeline free of liquid,
reducing the overall pressure drop, and thereby increasing the pipeline flow efficiency. A new simplified pigging model has
been developed for predicting the pigging operation in gas-condensate horizontal pipelines with low liquid-loading, which
couples the phase behavior model with the hydro-thermodynamic model. The comparison of the calculating results with those
of the two-phase transient computational code OLGA (with a dynamic, one-dimensional, extended two-fluid model), indicates
the new pigging model has a good precision and high speed in calculation. The model also contains the capability of pig-
tracking and slug-length-increasing model, which can be suitable for engineering design.
D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Natural gas-condensate; Pigging simulation; Low-liquid loading; Compositional hydrodynamic model; Phase behavior model; Two-
phase flow; Pipeline

1. Introduction duced gas must, therefore, be transported by seabed or

underground pipelines, over substantial distances.
With the rapid development of offshore and desert Liquid condensation in natural gas transmission pipe-
gas/condensate field, pre-treatment of natural gas at lines commonly occurs due to the thermodynamic and
the wellhead to remove the heavies is not generally an hydrodynamic imperatives. Condensation subjects the
option because of the hostile environment. The pro- gas pipeline to two-phase transport, and the presence
of condensation in gas pipelines dramatically affects
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 10 8973 3557; fax: +86 10 their delivery ability and operational modality and the
8973 3804. associated peripheral facilities. It is therefore impera-
E-mail address: xiaoxuanxu@sohu.com (X.-X. Xu). tive for the pigging simulation in gas-condensate
0920-4105/$ - see front matter D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

PETROL-01279; No of Pages 9

2 X.-X. Xu, J. Gong / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxxxxx

flowlines to be taken into consideration during their the range of parameters covered by the experimental
design. data used to develop them.
Pigging operation is a common practice in the petro- Minami and Shoham (1991) developed a pigging
leum and natural gas industry. Periodic pigging helps model and coupled it with the Taitel et al. (1989)
keep the pipeline free of liquid, reducing the overall simplified transient model assuming quasi-steady
pressure drop, and thereby increasing the pipeline flow state gas flow. An EulereanLagrangean approach
efficiency. Sphering was originally introduced to in- using a fixed and moving co-ordinate system is used.
crease gas flow efficiency. However, there are only a Minami and Shoham (1991) used mechanistic models
few published studies on the hydrodynamics of the for predicting flow pattern, the slippage between
phenomena. Xu et al. (2003) has given a review on phases and the pressure drop, and he performed an
the pigging simulation models in multiphase pipelines. extensive experimental program showing this simpli-
McDonald and Baker (1964) were probably the fied approach is physically sound.
first investigators to present a study on pigging of Meanwhile, other pigging models, such as TACITE
gasliquid pipelines, and they presented that the (Pauchon and Dhulesia, 1994), Lima (1998), Petra
sphering could increase transportation efficiency by (Larsen et al., 1997), have no difference in essence
30% to 70%. However, attempting to model the pig- from the Minami and Shoham (1991) model, and
ging phenomena, they assumed that a successive slug/pig tracking and boundary conditions have just
steady-state approach could be used, that is, the stan- been improved.
dard steady-state two-phase empirical correlations for In China, the research to the pigging simulation
both liquid holdup and pressure drop could be used starts relatively late, and only a few scientific research
within each timestep, which caused much calculation institutions (China University of Petroleum, Xian
error. Barua (1982) attempted to improve the McDo- Jiaotong University, etc.), have carried out the perti-
nald and Baker (1964) pigging model, and removed nent research. Liang (1997) developed a simplified
some limiting assumptions of the original model, and pigging model for predicting the dynamics of pigging
proposed a procedure to model the liquid slug accel- operation. And Li and Feng (2004) conducted pigging
eration during its delivery into the separator/slug experiments in an airwater two-phase flow loop. And
catcher. However, the main assumption of a succes- Petroleum University (Beijing) has done some valu-
sive steady-state condition was not removed. able work on gas-condensate pipelines.
Kohda et al. (1988) proposed the first pigging
model base on full two-phase transient flow formu-
lation. Their model includes the drift flux transient 2. Pigging model development
code, which is based on the Scoggins (1977) study,
and a pigging model. The pigging model is composed Gas-condensate flow with low liquid loading is a
of correlations for pressure drop across the pig, slug multiphase flow phenomenon commonly encountered
holdup, pigging efficiency, pig velocity model, and a in raw gas transportation. Fig. 1(a) is the schematic
gas and liquid mass flow boundary condition applied description of the liquid holdup in horizontal gas-con-
to the slug front. The resulting set of equations was densate pipelines. The pipeline is divided into two
solved numerically by a finite difference method, sections, that is, gas section (Ao) with no condensate
using two coordinate systems, one fixed and the near the input for the higher pressure and temperature,
other adaptive. No further detail was given on how and two-phase flow section (Bo) with condensate for
the difference equations were coupled and solved lower pressure and temperature. According to the char-
simultaneously. However, the experimental data com- acteristic of the low-liquid loading, the physical model
pared relatively well with the predicted values for the used in the development of the pigging model is given
numerical simulator. Note that the Kohda et al. in Fig. 1(b). A similar physical pigging model had been
(1988) model still uses flow-pattern-independent used by Kohda et al. (1988) and Minami and Shoham
steady-state holdup and pressure drop correlation to (1991). The pipeline is also divided three sections. Just
account the slip between phases. Empirical correla- ahead of the pig is the liquid slug section (B). The
tions are known to be restricted when applied beyond region to the left of the pig is the upstream single-

X.-X. Xu, J. Gong / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxxxxx 3

(a) 1976) for the thermodynamic calculation of physical

properties of both phases at the given temperature, pres-
sure and composition. This approach is quite reliable and
relatively fast in process calculations involving light
Ao Bo hydrocarbon systems, such as gas-condensate system,
which can be used to determine the numbers of phases in
(b) pipe, to estimate the densities, enthalpies, specific heat
capacities of gas and liquid, the flow parameters such as
Vp Vt
Vs ELs liquid and gas viscosites and the surface tension.
pig VL EL
Meanwhile, the onset of condensation means that two
phases coexist in the pipeline, with continuous mass and
momentum transfer between phases. This coexistence
Fig. 1. (a) Schematic description of holdup in gas-condensate creates an additional complication because the mass
pipelines, (b) Schematic description of pigging model for gas- transfer rate depends on the systems temperature, pres-
condensate pipelines. sure and composition. The mass transfer rate cannot be
determined in advance; it must be evaluated simulta-
phase gas flow section (A). To the right of the liquid neously with the solution of the hydrodynamic equa-
slug is the downstream transient two-phase flow sec- tions, which is necessary to satisfy the conservation of
tion (C). However, Kohda et al. (1988) and Minami and mass, momentum and energy. For calculating pressure
Shoham (1991) models cannot be used for non-isother- and temperature profiles in pipe flow, these conservation
mal two-phase pipeflow systems with phase changes equations lead to two independent equations: the pres-
and mass transfer. sure gradient and enthalpy balance equations (Fig. 2).

3.1.1. Momentum equation

3. Pigging simulation The pressure gradient equation is developed by
combining the momentum and mass balance equa-
3.1. Compositional hydrodynamic model tions for one dimensional flow in a pipe, which
includes friction loss, elevation and acceleration pres-
Prediction of temperature and mass transfer is extreme- sure gradient.
ly important for multicomponent or compositional flow,      
dP dP dP
such as gas condensate systems. Compositions of such
complex systems are not constant, but vary significantly dx Total dx dx Elevation

along the pipeline as a function of pressure, and especially dP
temperature. Thus, the black oil model is inadequate to dx acceleration
handle compositional systems, which should be treated
by vaporliquid equilibrium flash calculation at each
3.1.2. Energy equation
pressure and temperature. Accurate prediction of both
As fluids flow through a pipe, they continuously
pressure and temperature is thus essential.
exchange heat with the surroundings. The temperature
This paper presents a compositional hydrodynamic
profile in flowing fluids is affected by heat transfer,
model that describes the hydrodynamic behavior of
gas/gas condensate flow in pipelines, in which gas is
condensing/vaporizing at some section of the pipeline. TK
One of the most difficult features of this system is that HK
the condensing/vaporizing section must be identified.
This problem is resolved by coupling of a phase-be- T K-1 Z
havior model to the basic hydrodynamic equations. HK-1
The phase behavior model incorporates the Peng
Robinson two-parameter EOS (Peng and Robinson, Fig. 2. Schematic description of the kth pipeline segment.

4 X.-X. Xu, J. Gong / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxxxxx

elevation changes, velocity changes and expansion With coupling the hydrodynamic model with phase
effect. Temperature change resulting from expansion behavior model (that is, the compositional hydrody-
is referred to as the JouleThomson effect, which can namic model), pressure, temperature, liquid holdup
cause the temperature to drop below the surrounding along the pipeline can be predicted.
temperature. Taking into account all these effects in
two-phase flow, the enthalpy balance on a segment of 3.2. Gas section (A) calculation
pipe may be written as follows,
      Given the input pressure, temperature, flow rate,
dH dH dH composition, total thermal conductivity (pipe wall

dx Total dx Exchange dx Elevation thermal conductivity and soil thermal conductivity),
  wall roughness, the single-phase gas flow hydrody-
2 namic model can be used to predicted the pig velocity
dx Kinetic
and the pressure near the back of the pig, which are
For quasi-steady-state flow, the boundary condition of the slug zone calculation.
dH dQ dv dZ The mass and momentum is described by the
 v g : 3 equations of compressible gas dynamics as follows,
dx dx dx dx
Then, the enthalpy at the segment outlet can be Bqg B qg vg
0 5
written as following Bt Bx
vvsg DP KkDDLTav  Tenv  
HK HK1  gDZ   : B qg vg B qg v g2 P f qg vg jvg j
PK M  qg gsinh:
4 Bt Bx 2D
The mixture enthalpy at the pipe segment outlet
(H K )is the function of pressure ( P K ) and temperature The local friction factor f is calculated by an em-
(T K ). However P K and T K are unknowns. P K can be pirical correlation. The pressure and the gas density
calculated from the hydrodynamic model, while the are related by gas EOS,
model parameters are function of P K and T K , which P zRT
can be calculated by the phase behavior model. So it is 7
qg Mg
necessary to couple the hydrodynamic model and
phase behavior model, the hypothesis pressure and where, z and M g are the gas compressibility factor and
temperature are needed before the iterative calcula- molecular weight, respectively.
tion. In one pipe segment, with two-phase properties
gained by the phase behavior model, liquid holdup 3.3. Slug section (B) calculation
can be predicted by the empirical correlations, such as
BB (Beggs and Brill, 1973), Eaton (Eaton, 1967), MB 3.3.1. Control volume (CV)
(Mukherjee and Brill, 1983) models. MB model is Gas-condensate flowlines are often sphered/pigged
exactly used in this study. at regular intervals to control liquid accumulation.

x Pk+1 x FK+1


Pig Pig


Fig. 3. Schematic description of slug boundary disposition.


X.-X. Xu, J. Gong / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxxxxx 5

Table 1 Substituting Eq. (10) into Eq. (9), we can derive an

The pipeline operating data expression for translational velocity v t,
Parameters Value
Length 199 km ELs vp  EL vL
Diameter A559
vt 11
Wall thickness 11.9
Pipe material API 5L X65
where, the slug holdup is usually taken as a function
Wall roughness 0.02 mm
Surrounding temperature 276 K of v s as in the Gregory et al. (1978) correlation,
Total thermal conductivity 1.5 W/(m2 K)
Flow rate at input 27.4 m3/s 1
Temperature at input 293 K
ELs 12
1  vs =8:661:39
Pressure at input 9.219 MPa

3.3.3. Momentum balance equation

This process caused a liquid slug to accumulate in A general momentum balance equation expressed
front of the pig as it progresses along the line. For by the Eq. (13) is also applied to the CV shown in Fig.
modeling the pigging phenomena, mass and momen- 1(b). Since the momentum equation is a vector equa-
tum conservation equations are applied. An expanding tion, only the x component of the momentum equation
CV and a fixed coordinate system are chosen as is considered. And F is the external force exerted by
shown in Fig. 1(b). the surroundings on the CV.
d Y Y
3.3.2. Mass balance equation qvY dV qvY vY  w
ddA F : 13
dt V t At
A general mass balance equation for a moving and
expanding control volume is given by Assuming that the liquid density, slug velocity, and
Z Z the slug holdup do not change within one timestep,
d Y and the liquid slipping past the pig is zero, the mo-
qdV qvY wY ddA 0: 8
dt V t At mentum accumulation term and the momentum flux
across the surface enclosing the CV, that is, the left
There is no liquid slippage behind the pig. In each hand side of Eq. (13) are rewritten
timestep dt, the liquid holdup and density do not d Y Y
change with time. Under the above assumptions, Eq. qv dV qvY vY  w
dt V t At
(8) can be rewritten as following
qL vs ELs A qL vL vL  vt EL A: 14
dLs dt
ELs vL  vt EL 0: 9 Y
dt The net external force F is given by
Z xF
Meanwhile, the time rate of change of the length of F PP  PF A  g qs Asinhdx  ss kDLs
the liquid slug (B) is given by
dLs where, s s is the shear stress between the slug and the
vt  vp : 10
dt pipe wall. For one horizontal pipeline, substituting

Table 2
The gas-condensate composition
Component C1 C2 C3 iC4 nC4 iC5 nC5 C6 C7+ CO2 N2 Total
mol % 88.73 7.1 1.31 0.29 0.34 0.17 0.10 0.22 0.14 0.09 1.51 100.0

6 X.-X. Xu, J. Gong / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxxxxx

Fig. 4. Gas phase envelope for example fluid composition.

Fig. 6. Pressure profile for the gas condensate pipeline.

Eqs. (14), (15) into Eq. (13), the momentum balance

equation can be expressed by lation is to estimate the time of slug delivery. The
basic assumptions involved in the slug delivery cal-
  culation are shown as following,
4ss Ls EL vp  vL
PF PP   qL vs  vL ELs
(1) The outlet pressure is constant;
16 (2) The slug is homogeneous gasliquid two-phase
where, E L, v L can be described the liquid holdup and (3) The mass flow rate of gas behind the sphere is
velocity between B and C, respectively. constant.

3.4. Slug delivery calculation

4. Numerical solution
As the slug front reaches the pipeline outlet and the
liquid is producing into the slug catcher, the slug The time step Dt is assumed as constant, Dt = const.
delivery would be taken place and the pig is acceler- In each timestep, the change of the slug length Dx can
ated (Fig. 3). The purpose of the slug delivery calcu-

Fig. 5. Holdup profile for the gas condensate pipeline. Fig. 7. Temperature profile for the gas condensate pipeline.

X.-X. Xu, J. Gong / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxxxxx 7

Table 3
Results calculated comparing with those of OLGA
Liquid Maximum Liquid Slug delivery
accumulated pressure pigged time (min)
(m3) (MPa) (m3)
OLGA 102.8 9.19 73.8 11.6
MODLE 94.2 9.19 73.9 10.8

be given by Dx = (v t  v p)Dt. At the next timestep

(k + 1), the new coordinate at the pig position is
given by x pk+1 = x pk + v pk+1Dt, where v pk+1 is the pig
velocity of the new timestep, which is assumed to
be equal to the gas velocity closely behind the pig.
The new slug length is L Sk+1 = L Sk + Dx, and the new x Fig. 9. Relation of slug length and time.
coordinate at the slug front is determined from
x Fk+1 = L Sk+1 + x pk+1.
model has been jointly developed by IFE and SINTEF
(Bendiksen et al., 1991), with higher precision, which
5. Pigging analysis
has been widely used in oversea oil and gas fields.
From the Figs. 5, 6 and 7, it can be concluded that
One horizontal gas-condensate pipeline in Tarim
the hydrodynamic and thermodynamic calculation
gas field in western China is used to test the proposed
results are quite close to that of OLGA.
pigging model. It represents a typical gas-condensate
Meanwhile, the simplified pigging model devel-
pipeline, and fluid composition and pipeline data are
oped has good precision in prediction of the pigging
given in Tables 1 and 2. And the phase envelope is
operation as shown in Table 3. And the quasi-steady
shown in Fig. 4.
state approach has been used in the simulation, which
Since there is no pigging data of gas-condensate
could save much more time in simulation than OLGA,
pipelines in practice, the famous transient flow simu-
and the newly developed model can be used in prac-
lation software OLGA is used to test against the
tice. The pig tracking and simulation of slug length
proposed model. With higher precision, OLGA, a
was also shown in Figs. 8 and 9.
dynamic, one-dimensional, extended two-fluid

6. Conclusion

Pigging simulation study has already been carried

out from the 1950s (McDonald and Baker, 1964).
However, in China, much more work needs to be
done. The proposed pigging model couples the
phase behavior model, hydrodynamic model (momen-
tum and energy equation), which is able to simulate
the pigging operation of gas-condensate pipelines
with low liquid loading, which can also be used to
other gasliquid two-phase pipelines. Since there are
much phase behavior changes (condensation, retro-
condensation) during the normal running and pigging
operation, some boundary conditions have been sim-
Fig. 8. Relation of pig position and time. plified and assumptions have been used. Meanwhile,

8 X.-X. Xu, J. Gong / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering xx (2005) xxxxxx

the transient pigging model under the unsteady s Liquid slug

operations, (such as terrain, shutdown, restart, wax p Pig
deposition), would also need to pay more attention. F Slug front

A Pipe cross area (m2) Acknowledgements
D Pipe diameter (cm)
EL Liquid holdup The authors wish to thank Xinjiang Tarim Oil Field
E Ls Slug holdup Company for providing support for this project.
Tenv Surrounding temperature (K)
v Fluid velocity (m/s)
V CV volume, m3 References
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