As oil fields mature, the produced water content of the production stream will often increase over time, and produced water management will eventually become a bottleneck in production. Subsea separation of produced water enables prolonged lifetime of brown field installations, increased recovery rates and more energy efficient production. In addition, implementation of subsea water separation will also enable future tie-ins to existing facilities, and reduce the need for new and expensive transport lines. Existing installed subsea produced water bulk separator technologies are limited to gravity and compact gravity vessels, such as Troll and Tordis, and the Marlim pipe separator. These are large installations, which are costly to manufacture, transport and install. In addition, the gravity and compact gravity vessels are not suited for deep-water installations, and there is a need for novel solutions to both reduce the weight and size of bulk water separators, making the technology more attractive for new business cases.
In order to investigate improved subsea bulk water separation technologies, a multiphase oil-water test loop has been developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Facility test fluids are ExxsolD60 and distilled water with wt%3.4 NaCl. In this paper, a new separator design, utilizing multiple parallel pipes will be presented. The design allows reduction of required wall thickness at large water depths, shorter residence times and hence a shorter separator length compared to traditional gravity based technologies. Initial performance data of a constructed medium scale prototype will be reported, including separation efficiency estimations over a range of flow rates, water cuts (WC) and water extraction rates (ER). Tested flow rates vary from 250L/min to 750L/min at 30%, 50% and 70% WC. Water extraction rates are varied from 50% to 100% of the inlet water rate.
Based on this initial test campaign, the concept proves promising, displaying good separation efficiencies (>98%) for both water continuous and oil continuous inlet flows at moderate flow velocities. At higher flow rates, performance decreases, and water extraction rates must be limited in order to maintain high efficiencies. Photos of flow conditions at the water outlet are included, providing a visualization of the occurring two-phase flow phenomena inside the separator.
The presented concept adds to an expanding portfolio of proposed subsea separation solutions, and displays a new way of utilizing parallel pipes to achieve oil-water bulk separation.