The problem of accumulated liquid is very common in wet gas gathering pipelines which varies with the topography, this phenomenon is much more serious especially in upward inclined pipelines. The existence of accumulated liquid at the bottom of the pipeline would decrease the area of the cross section that gas flows through. This makes the gas velocity fluctuate unpredictably and even results in shocks and blocks in pipelines which may cause danger in the safety management of oil and gas production.
Swirl tool is a kind of rigid tool which can transfer different flow patterns to a flow pattern similar to annular flow and it has been successfully used to exhaust accumulated liquid in oil fields. However, the mechanism of swirling flow generation in a swirl tool is not fully understood and few researchers have explained how the annular-similar flow decays.
In this paper, the formation mechanism of swirling flow in a swirl tool is analyzed using a physical method. The flow pattern transfer procedure and distribution of gas and liquid in the cross section of the pipeline in the swirl tool is simulated with FLUENT (a commercial CFD code). Following the swirling flow formation analysis, the decay of the annular-similar flow from the outlet of the swirl tool is also simulated with FLUENT (a commercial CFD code). Also, the effects of different superficial gas velocities and different liquid rates on the decay of the annular-similar flow are studied with the swirl tool fixed at the bottom of the upward inclined pipeline.
The results show that the formation of swirling flow in a swirl tool is mostly affected by the geometric structure of the swirl tool. The centrifugal force is the main force which transfers different flow patterns to a flow pattern similar to annular flow. The centrifugal force that acts on liquid is larger than that of gas since the density of the liquid is much bigger than gas. The annular-similar flow starts to take shape in the swirl tool after the first thread pitch, but the annular-similar flow is nonuniform. After about three thread pitches, the annular-similar flow becomes uniform with liquid surrounding the inner wall of the pipe and gas flowing in the core region of the pipe. The distance of the annular-similar flow sustains longer when the superficial gas velocity increases which means the decay of the swirling flow is slower. Since sufficient liquid rate is critical to maintain annular-similar flow after the tool when the gas flow rate is fixed, the distance of the annular-similar flow goes longer if there is a little increase in liquid rate.