Rules of thumb that are used in the industry for polymer-flooding projects tend to limit the distance over which hydrolyzed polyacrylamide polymers can be transported in pipelines without undergoing significant degradation. However, in sensitive environments, such as offshore facilities where footprint minimization is required, centralization of the polymer-hydration process and long-distance transport may be desirable. More-reliable rules are required to design the pipe network and to estimate mechanical degradation of polymers during transport in turbulent conditions.
In this work, we present evidence in the form of empirical large-scale pipeline experiments and theoretical development refuting the claim that polymer pipeline transport is limited by mechanical degradation. Our work concludes that mechanical degradation occurs at a critical velocity, which increases as a function of pipe diameter. Provided the critical velocity is not reached in a given pipe, there is no limit to the distance over which polymer solution can be transported.
In addition, the drag reduction of viscous polymer solutions was measured as a function of pipe length, pipe diameter, fluid velocity, and polymer concentration. An envelope was defined to fix the minimum and maximum drag reductions expected for a given velocity in larger pipes. For pipes with diameters varying between 14 and 22 in. at a velocity greater than 1 m/s, the drag-reduction percentage is anticipated to be between 55 and 80%. A more- refined model was developed to predict drag reduction with less uncertainty.
In conclusion, classical design rules applied for water transport (fluid velocity < 3 m/s) can be applied to the design of a polymer network. Therefore, for tertiary polymer projects, the existing water-injection network should be compatible with the mechanical requirements of polymer transportation. For secondary polymer projects, changing the rules of design by taking into account the high level of drag reduction should bring some economy to the pipe design and installation.