Self Lubricated Transport of Bitumen Froth


Principal Investigators
Daniel D. Joseph
Runyuan Bai

Research Team
Clara Mata
K. Sury*
C. Grant*

*Syncrude, Canada

Supporters
Department of Energy
Department of Basic Energy Science
National Science Foundation
Syncrude, Canada



Bitumen froth is produced from the oil sands of Athabasca using Clark's Hot Water Extraction process (reference). When transported in a pipeline, water present in the froth is released in regions of high shear; namely, at the pipe wall. This results in a lubricating layer of water that allows bitumen froth pumping at greatly reduced pressures and hence the potential for savings in pumping energy consumption. Experiments establishing the features of this self lubrication phenomenon were carried out in a 1" diameter pipeloop at the University of Minnesota, and in a 24" (0.6m) diameter pilot pipeline at Syncrude, Canada. The pressure gradient of lubricated flows in 1" (25mm), 2" (50mm) and 24" (0.6m) pipe diameters closely follow the empirical law of Blasius for turbulent pipe flow; the pressure gradient is proportional to the ratio of the 7/4th power of the velocity to the 4/5th power of the pipe diameter, but the constant of proportionality is about 10 to 20 times larger than that for water alone. We used Reichardt's model for turbulent Couette flow with a friction velocity based on the shear stress acting on the pipewall due to the imposed pressure gradient to predict the effective thickness of the lubricating layer of water. The agreement with direct measurements is satisfactory. Mechanisms for self lubrication are considered.


The Project

Experimental Setup
"Tiger" Waves


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