Wax deposition has always been an essential issue for flow assurance, especially in subsea pipelines. The coarse particles, which are usually measured in millimeters, will be carried out by oil flow during the deep-water oil fields production. However, due to insufficient understanding of the structure of wax deposits and the complexity of sandy crude oil deposition, the interaction between coarse particles and wax deposits in the pipeline have rarely been investigated.
In this paper, the effect of coarse particles on the yield stress of wax deposits has been studied. The sample was mixed at reversible structure temperature so that the impact of shear history could be eliminated, and the rapid particle settlement at high temperature could be avoided. Experimental results have found that there is a critical fraction in coarse particle influences, below which a small number of coarse particles added will lead to a slight increase in bulk yield stress. On the contrary, a dramatic decrease in yield stress when exceeding the critical mass fraction and increasingly marked enhancement of yield stress as the fraction increases.
This phenomenon has been explicated microscopically by the structural interaction between coarse particles and wax deposits. The interlock between wax crystals is the major contribution of the structure as the less particle fraction contains. Even though the silica sand is a typical non-colloidal particle, the asphaltene and resin could be absorbed on the surface of particles and forming a cluster of colloidal particles. As the fraction of particles slightly increased, the slip between colloidal particles and wax crystal interlock accelerates structural failure. Nevertheless, more particles involved the overall yield stress may depend on the friction and the adhesive force between solid particles. The subtle changes induced by coarse particles would have a harder deposit, which can hinder pig passing and affect pipeline pigging operations.