Heriot Watt

HydraCHEK – Royal acknowledgement for Heriot-Watt & Total

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A crowning achievement for the innovative research on hydrates.

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Professor Dorrik Stow, Director of IPE (Institute of Petroleum Engineering), receiving the scroll from Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall

On February 25, 2016 at Buckingham Palace, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall awarded the “Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education 2015” to the Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, in particular for its innovative research on hydrates carried out in partnership with Total.

HydraCHEK® crowned with success

Improving hydrate management is a crucial issue for offshore oil & gas operations, to preserve the integrity of subsea pipelines and ensure the smooth flow of fluids from the reservoir to the surface. If hydrates form, they are likely to clog the pipelines, particularly during critical production shutdown phases. HydraCHEK® is a novel process developed by the company Hydrafact (spin-out of the Heriot-Watt University) in cooperation with Total, and is used to measure the hydrate and salt concentrations in water samples. The tool makes it easier to monitor hydrate formation in a production system and therefore avoid the substantial cost of methanol injection, used by the industry to prevent the compounds from forming.

There are many advantages to decreasing the methanol injection rate:

  • Reduction in the use of expensive and toxic chemicals (28,000 m3 less methanol used each year).
  • Reduction and elimination of methanol contamination in the produced condensate.
  • Improvement in the management of this highly toxic and flammable compound and the associated environmental impact.

For instance, HydraCHEK® has made it possible to extend the life of the Nuggets gas reservoir in the North Sea while reducing the quantity of methanol injected. By applying this process, an extra 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent of gas have been produced, increasing the recovery factor by 2%.

Benefits for the medical world

The mathematical models developed in the frame of the Heriot-Watt hydrates research group to map the flow of oil and gas through rock also awakened the interest of the medical world due to similarities between the circulation of effluents and that of blood in the human body (and biological systems in general).

Drawing on this strong analogy, researchers were able to make considerable headway and gain greater understanding of how tumors form and of the principle of angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels from existing vessels).

12The highest national academic distinction in the United Kingdom

The Royal Anniversary Trust is an independent charity founded in 1990 to mark the 40th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession, and its vocation is to advance education for public benefit. It endeavors to promote the excellence of British universities worldwide, in particular through The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education, awarded every two years. It is currently recognized as the highest national distinction open to all academic institutions in the United Kingdom.

What is a hydrate?

Gas hydrates are crystalline ice-like substances composed of gas molecules (methane, ethane, propane…) held in a caged structure of frozen water. They occur both naturally and are formed during hydrocarbon production and processing operations, where they cause serious operational and safety concerns.

NUGGETS

Gas production field in the deep offshore comprising four isolated wells situated in the northern part of the North Sea, 400 km to the north-east of Aberdeen and 20 km south of the Dunbar platform. The reservoirs on the Nuggets field contain “dry” gases (99% methane) with a low proportion of water and liquid hydrocarbons. Nuggets produces roughly 165 million m3 of gas per day.

Total and Heriot-Watt, many subjects for as many partnerships

  • Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).
  • Visualizing flow at microscopic scale (Digital Rock Physics, DRP).
  • Flow Assurance and Hydrates.
  • Multiscale reservoir simulation.
  • Sponsoring of the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in O&G, a new research program funded by the British government and the industry (http://www.nerc-cdt-oil-and-gas.ac.uk/).