Development of an On-Line Wall-Fouling Sensor for Pipeline Transportation of Heavy Oil-Water Mixtures

S. Rushd[1], and R.S. Sanders[1]
[1]Chemical & Materials Engineering Department, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

A beneficial method for transporting highly viscous hydrocarbons (e.g. heavy oil and bitumen) through a pipeline is known as Lubricated Pipe Flow (LPF). A major challenge for this technology is flow instability caused by the formation of a wall-coating of oil or the thinning and/or loss of the lubricating water layer in the pipe. This issue can be addressed by using capacitance sensors to measure thicknesses of both the oil and water layers. The objective of our research was to test the responsiveness of these sensors to typical LPF flow conditions. Two laboratory-scale capacitance sensors were tested. The experimental results were verified with simulations produced using COMSOL Multiphysics. COMSOL simulations were also used to determine the sensitivity of a capacitance sensor. Our research suggests that such a sensor can be used for commercial LPF installations.