Flow assurance is an important aspect of deepwater pipeline design and operation, since one of the critical issues is the eventual initiation and growth of hydrate or paraffin blockages under certain conditions. Another relevant problem is the incidence of inorganic scale deposition in oil well production tubes during operation. This work deals with experimental and numerical simulations of an acoustic system to identify and measure blockages. The technique uses a short duration acoustic pulse that is injected into the pipe. When the pulse encounters an impedance discontinuity, a portion is reflected towards the acoustic source and, depending on fluid type, microphones or hydrophones can be used to measure the signals. Analysis of the measured signal reflections can provide valuable data related to location and size of the blockages. An experimental setup with a steel pipe of 4” internal diameter and length of 100 m was developed to evaluate the suitability of the technique for gas pipelines. In parallel, finite element analyses were performed using the commercial software Abaqus to simulate the same physical parameters. The experiments were numerically reproduced with good correlation proving the potential of the technique. Subsequently, a parametric study was carried out to examine the acoustic detection capability using different blockage types. Finally, a prototype of the acoustic reflectometry detection system was developed and tested in a full-scale onshore water-filled pipeline to show the feasibility of the method for detecting blockages.

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