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Theory

Pressure drop evaluation along pipelines


The simplest way to convey a fluid, in a contained system from Point A to Point B, is by
means of a conduit or pipe (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1Fluid-flow system (courtesy of AMEC Paragon).


Piping design
The minimum basic parameters that are required to design the piping system include, but
are not limited to, the following.
1

The characteristics and physical properties of the fluid.

The desired mass-flow rate (or volume) of the fluid to be transported.

The pressure, temperature, and elevation at Point A.

The pressure, temperature, and elevation at Point B.

The distance between Point A and Point B (or length the fluid must travel) and
equivalent length (pressure losses) introduced by valves and fittings.

These basic parameters are needed to design a piping system. Assuming steady-state
flow, there are a number of equations, which are based upon the general energy equation
that can be employed to design the piping system. The variables associated with the fluid

(i.e., liquid, gas, or multiphase) affect the flow. This leads to the derivation and
development of equations that are applicable to a particular fluid. Although piping
systems and pipeline design can get complex, the vast majority of the design problems
encountered by the engineer can be solved by the standard flow equations.

Bernoulli equation
The basic equation developed to represent steady-state fluid flow is the Bernoulli
equation which assumes that total mechanical energy is conserved for steady,
incompressible, inviscid, isothermal flow with no heat transfer or work done. These
restrictive conditions can actually be representative of many physical systems.
The

equation

is

stated
(Eq.

where
Z

elevation head, ft,

pressure, psi,

density, lbm/ft3,

velocity, ft/sec,

gravitational constant, ft/sec2,

head loss, ft.

and
H
L

Fig. 2 presents a simplified graphic illustration of the Bernoulli equation.

as
1)

Fig. 2Sketch four Bernoulli equation (courtesy of AMEC Paragon).


Darcys

equation
(Eq. 2)

further

expresses

head

loss

as

and
(Eq.

where
H
L

head loss, ft,

Moody friction factor, dimensionless,

pipe length, ft,

pipe diameter, ft,

velocity, ft/sec,

gravitational constant ft/sec2,

pressure drop, psi,

3)

density, lbm/ft3,

pipe inside diameter, in.

and
d

Reynolds number and Moody friction factor


The Reynolds number is a dimensionless parameter that is useful in characterizing the
degree of turbulence in the flow regime and is needed to determine the Moody friction
factor.
It
is
expressed
as
(Eq. 4)

where

density, lbm/ft3,

pipe internal diameter, ft,

flow velocity, ft/sec,

viscosity, lbm/ft-sec.

and

The

Reynolds

number

for

liquids

can

be

Equation 5

where

viscosity, cp,

pipe inside diameter, in.,

specific gravity of liquid relative to water (water = 1),

expressed

as

G
Q1

liquid-flow rate, B/D,

velocity, ft/sec.

and
V
The

Reynolds

number

for

gases

can

be

expressed

as

Equation 6

where

viscosity, cp,

pipe inside diameter, in.,

specific gravity of gas at standard conditions relative to air (molecular weight divided
by 29),

gas-flow rate, MMscf/D.

and
Q
g

The Moody friction factor, f, expressed in the previous equations, is a function of the
Reynolds number and the roughness of the internal surface of the pipe and is given by
Fig. 3. The Moody friction factor is impacted by the characteristic of the flow in the pipe.
For laminar flow, where Re is < 2,000, there is little mixing of the flowing fluid, and the
flow velocity is parabolic; the Moody friction factor is expressed as f = 64/Re. For
turbulent flow, where Re > 4,000, there is complete mixing of the flow, and the flow
velocity has a uniform profile; f depends on Re and the relative roughness (/D). The
relative roughness is the ratio of absolute roughness, , a measure of surface
imperfections to the pipe internal diameter, D. Table 9.1 lists the absolute roughness for
several types of pipe materials.

Figure 3Friction-factor chart (courtesy of AMEC


Paragon)

Table 1
If the viscosity of the liquid is unknown, Fig. 4 can be used for the viscosity of crude oil,
Fig. 5 for effective viscosity of crude-oil/water mixtures, and Fig. 6 for the viscosity of
natural gas. In using some of these figures, the relationship between viscosity in
centistokes and viscosity in centipoise must be used
(Eq.
where

kinematic viscosity, centistokes,

absolute viscosity, cp,

7)

and
S
G

specific gravity.

Fig. 4Standard viscosity/temperature charts for liquid petroleum products


(courtesy of ASTM).
6

Fig. 5Effective viscosity of an oil/water mixture (courtesy of AMEC Paragon).

Fig. 6Hydrocarbon-gas viscosity vs. temperature (courtesy Western Supply Co.).


Pressure drop for liquid flow
General equation
Eq. 3 can be expressed in terms of pipe inside diameter (ID) as stated next.
(Eq.
8)

where
d

pipe inside diameter, in.,

Moody friction factor, dimensionless,

length of pipe, ft,

Ql

liquid flow rate, B/D,

S
G

specific gravity of liquid relative to water,

pressure drop, psi (total pressure drop).

and