Formation and Prevention of Oilfield Scale: From the Laboratory to the Field

Disciplines: Production and Operations

Course Description

This course is based on one that has been presented on several occasions at the SPE Oilfield Scale Conference, Aberdeen, UK. It is normally presented by three members of the Heriot-Watt University Flow Assurance and Scale Team (FAST) – Professor Eric Mackay, Professor Ken Sorbie and Mr Mike Singleton – who have a combined total of over 60 years of experience in both research and field applications in the area of oilfield scale prevention. Between them, they have written over 250 technical papers on this subject alone. This course draws very strongly on that extensive experience and provides both the underlying theory (originally developed by the authors in some cases) in an accessible manner along with concrete practical examples of how this knowledge is applied in the field.

This short course serves as both an introduction, and in places as state-of-the-art, in oilfield scale management. It is suitable for production technologists, engineers, oilfield chemists and anyone involved in flow assurance issues, working in the field, in the laboratory or in research. The basic science is illustrated by field examples and attendees will have the opportunity to see how the Heriot-Watt ScαleFAST and SQUEEZE software are used to perform scale prediction calculations and to carry out field scale inhibitor squeeze designs.


1. Background to mineral scale formation in oilfields

  • the basic ideas of mineral scale formation
  • oilfield brine compositions and how these lead to different scales
  • calcite scale, mixed Ba/Sr/Ca/SO4 scales and more exotic scales
  • field examples from around the world

2. Scale prevention using chemical scale inhibitors

  • basics of scale control using scale inhibitors (SI)
  • how scale inhibitors work mechanistically
  • topside scale control and downhole squeezing
  • introduction to downhole squeezing of scale inhibitors

3. Thermodynamics of mineral scale prediction

  • thermodynamics and the scale prediction equations
  • sulphate and carbonate scale prediction
  • the fundamental equations for scale formation and their solution
  • scale prediction software
  • examples using field data to illustrate scale prediction
  • use of scale prediction to define experimental conditions for laboratory inhibition efficiency testing

4. Theory of scale inhibitor squeeze treatments

  • basic equations for transport and adsorption of scale inhibitors in flow through porous media
  • the adsorption isotherm, (C)
  • precipitation squeeze treatments
  • field examples of squeeze treatment design
  • demonstration (and hands-on use) of Heriot-Watt SQUEEZE software

5. The design of field scale management programmes

  • assessing the problem
  • designing a laboratory programme for field scale control
  • screening methods for scale inhibitors for specific field scaling problems
  • bulk jar and tube blocking tests for inhibition efficiency – interpretation of what these tests mean mechanistically
  • the role of core flooding in scale inhibitor selection with field examples
  • assessing and avoiding formation damage when applying scale inhibitors in squeeze processes – field examples

6. Advanced topics in field squeeze design

  • scale inhibitor treatments in horizontal wells
  • scale prevention in subsea wells
  • scale inhibitor placement – back to basics on the theory and practice of SI placement in heterogeneous reservoir systems
  • field examples illustrating scale inhibitor placement issues in heterogeneous systems

7. The impact of the reservoir on the field scaling problem

  • where does scale form in the total reservoir/production system
  • reservoir scale predictions of the scaling problem
  • illustration with field examples from the North Sea and offshore West Africa
  • approaching the total system in the context of risk management of the problem

8. Recent developments in scale prevention

  • non-aqueous scale inhibitors – a review of the chemical systems and the mechanisms through which they are thought to work
  • pre-emptive scale protection of wells
  • sulphate reduction plants
  • Gyda field example of in situ sulphate stripping

Learning Level


Course Length

2 Days

Why Attend

This is a unique opportunity to learn from people who developed some of the industry’s best tools for managing oilfield scale.

Who Attends

This course is for production technologists, engineers, oilfield chemists and anyone concerned with flow assurance issues. It is also useful for those who work in the service, scale inhibitor and sulphate industries.

Special Requirements

Participants are encouraged to bring their field formation, injection water composition data, and other properties of their reservoirs for discussion in class.


1.6 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) are awarded for this 2-day course.

Cancellation Policy

All cancellations must be received no later than 14 days prior to the course start date. Cancellations made after the 14-day window will not be refunded. Refunds will not be given due to no show situations.

Training sessions attached to SPE conferences and workshops follow the cancellation policies stated on the event information page. Please check that page for specific cancellation information.

SPE reserves the right to cancel or re-schedule courses at will. Notification of changes will be made as quickly as possible; please keep this in mind when arranging travel, as SPE is not responsible for any fees charged for cancelling or changing travel arrangements.

We reserve the right to substitute course instructors as necessary.


Professor Eric Mackay holds the Energy Simulation Chair in CCUS and Reactive Flow Simulation in the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, where he has worked since 1990. His research interests include the study of fluid flow in porous media, such as the flow of oil, gas and water in subsurface geological formations. He has over 300 publications related primarily to maintaining oil production when faced with mineral scale deposition, but since 2005 he has also worked on Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage, and is a member of the directorate of Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS - He is involded in projects investigating secure CO2 storage in saline formations and depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs, and has co-edited one book and authored a chapter in another book on the topic. He was appointed Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Distinguised Lecturer during 2007 - 2008 and received the SPE North Sea Region Production and Operations Award in 2017. As well as his research interests, Eric is involved in extensive consultancy activities, he delivers short courses for industry and is a technical editor for various journals. Since 1991 he has taught Reservoir Simulation to on campus MSc classes at Heriot-Watt University and for partnerships in Australia, China, Italy, Oman, Malaysia and UAE. Eric holds a BSc in Physics from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Petroleum Engineering from Heriot-Watt University.

Ken Sorbie is a Professor in the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering at Heriot-Watt University. He has a first degree in Chemistry from Strathclyde University and a DPhil in Theoretical Chemistry/Applied Mathematics from the University of Sussex. Following this, he did a postdoc at Cambridge University working on theoretical aspects of semi-classical molecular quantum theory. He has worked in oil related research for over 30 years, firstly with the Department of Energy laboratory at AEE Winfrith where he led a group working on improved oil recovery, flow through porous media and reservoir simulation and, since 1988, at Heriot-Watt U. His current research is in oilfield chemistry and he is PI (along with Professor Anne Neville and Professor Eric Mackay) of the Flow Assurance and Scale Team (FAST) joint industry project (JIP). This 3 year, £2million FAST project is sponsored by an industrial consortium of between 15 and 25 companies and was first launched as a JIP by Ken in 1989. Ken also has three other projects on multiphase flow in porous media and on near well water control treatments, funded by various industrial companies. He has published over 250 technical papers on his research (which are all downloadable in pdf format from and a book on polymer flooding. Ken has also consulted widely in the oil industry for over 30 industrial companies and is a regular visitor to Companies and Research Institutes in Brazil, Malaysia, Russia, Italy, Norway and the US. He has been invited to be a Visiting Professor at the University of Bergen. He was a Society of Petroleum Engineering (SPE) Distinguished Lecturer in 2000 – 2001 and is a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Ken has been awarded the Society of Core Analysts (SCA) 2004 Technical Achievement award.

Mike Singleton is Manager of FASTrac at the Heriot-Watt University Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering, where his research interests include mechanisms of oilfield scale formation and its prevention and enhanced oil recovery through chemical interactions that take place during fluid flow through porous media. He is an active member of the Flow Assurance and Scale Team (FAST) joint industry project (JIP) as well as his role managing the group’s consultancy activity (FASTrac). Mike joined FAST in December 2004 following 10 years of service with Baker Petrolite, Liverpool, UK. During this time Mike was involved in the manufacture and testing of many oilfield service chemicals, ranging from demulsifiers to scale, wax and corrosion inhibitors. During 1997-98, he was seconded to Heriot-Watt University to study the molecular structure/activity relationship for a proprietary Baker Petrolite scale inhibitor and received an MPhil for his work in this area. In 1999, Mike returned to Heriot-Watt University to lead a 5 year joint Baker Petrolite/Heriot-Watt University research project into the area of Chemical Water Control, investigating the mechanisms of Relative Permeability Modification (RPM), the development of suitable RPM chemistries and the design and deployment of these chemistries in the field. Mike also holds a BSc. in Chemistry from Salford University, UK (1991). Mike has authored/co-authored 15 publications and in excess of 60 consultancy research reports.

Other courses by these instructors

Introduction into Geological Storage of CO2: An Interdisciplinary Geoscience and Engineering Approach
Eric Mackay
Florian Doster
Andreas Busch

The course addresses key concepts in CO2 storage, while integrating geoscience, engineering, and to a lesser extent political and societal aspects. It will appeal to geoscientists, reservoir engineers, governmental stakeholders and all those interested...

(Read More)

Disciplines: Production and Operations | Projects, Facilities, and Construction | Reservoir