Upstream oil and gas companies operate oil gathering systems comprising a flowline network and process facilities that transport the flow of produced fluids from the wells to a main processing plant. The frequency of corrosion related leaks has increased recently despite a corrosion inhibitor is injected at the wellhead into all flowlines. A root-cause analysis conducted by several companies revealed that severe internal corrosion was caused by a low fluid flow velocity an increasing water cut and the presence of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) in the production streams. Nevertheless it was not clear why some of the flowlines may leak while others do not leak despite the composition of produced fluids principal design parameters (diameter and length) dosage of corrosion inhibitor and environmental conditions of the flowlines are similar. A diagnostic analysis of different oil flowlines of was carried out to gain an understanding of why a first group of oil flowlines is developing leaks and why a second group of flowlines has not experienced leaks. The methodology used for the diagnostic analysis comprises 1) Ultra-High Definition simulation of 3-phase or 4-phase flow of gas oil water and solids; 2) 3D imaging of phase distributions inside critical sections of the oil flowlines as per NACE ICDA; 3) mapping adverse operational conditions; and 4) the determination of probability of failure in the critical sections based on criteria depending on the severity of operating conditions inside and outside the flowlines. It was found that multiple sections were exposed to stagnant water and/or had a fraction of internal surface area covered by a stationary bed of solids (formation solids produced from the well). The identified causes of potential leaks comprise the following failure mechanisms: a) metal loss caused by colonies of SRB b) composed load acting on the pipe wall and c) cyclic" thermal expansion/contraction of the flowlines due to seasonal ambient temperature variations. One of the surprising findings of this study was that a shorter flowline with a lower water cut may have multiple leaks while a longer flowline with a higher water may not leak at all approximately for the same period after commissioning. This result was explained with help of maps of adverse operational conditions constructed for the two groups of flowlines. Immediate corrective mitigation actions and preventive actions were implemented to reduce leak frequency including the installation of a novel automatic flushing system.
Inspection of offshore pipelines is essential to provide vital information required for integrity assessment to allow data driven engineering decisions to be made and prevent costly failures. This paper presents experience from applying Internal Corrosion Direct Assessment (ICDA) for offshore pipelines in the North Sea.