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OTC 24271

Prediction of Sand Erosion in Choke Valves – CFD Model Development and


Validation against Experiments
E. Gharaibah, Y. Zhang, R. Paggiaro, J. Friedemann, GE Oil & Gas

Copyright 2013, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference Brasil held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 29–31 October 2013.

This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Offshore Technology Conference, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Offshore Technology Conference is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of OTC copyright.

Abstract
Sand erosion in oil and gas production units can present rigorous system and production design challenges. Erosion is a
complex process that is affected by numerous factors such as the piping geometry, flow conditions, fluid properties and sand
characteristics. Choke valves are used to control the flow in the production units and subject to significant sand erosion. At
high differential pressure across the choke, flow accelerations may occur in the choke valve and result in extremely high flow
and particle velocities (up to 500 m/s) within the choke valve and in the downstream pipes. Consequently, the erosion rates
may become very high, which can effectively shorten the service life of choke valves. Therefore, the knowledge of the flow
characteristics and the capability to predict erosion rates in choke valves is essential for determining the choke’s service life
and guaranteeing system integrity.
The paper describes methods of using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for examining the choke valve fluid and particle
flows as well as predicting the choke erosion. A 3D CFD choke flow simulation model is developed and validated against
experimental data. The model is based on the Eulerian approach for simulating the flow while sand particles are tracked in
the flow field using Lagrangian methodology and the erosion is predicted by implementing literature erosion correlations
(TULSA and DNV) in the 3D CFD model.
The CFD flow and sand particle tracking simulations show excellent agreement between the predicted flow parameters and
experimental data. Erosion hotspot locations are well predicted in the simulations while the erosion rates are underestimated.
This discrepancy is caused by two main reasons. The first one is some numerical issues associated with extremely high
velocities of the sand particles. The second one is that steady-state simulation neglects the geometry changes due to the
erosion in the real test.
Current CFD tools can resolve the complex choke flows very well. Particle tracking accuracy depends on the particle size and
sand loading. Erosion prediction accuracy is directly affected by the accuracy of the particle flow prediction and the
applicability of the erosion correlation.

Introduction
Sand erosion in subsea components can cause serious design and production problems. Choke valves are especially affected
by sand production and the resulting erosion due to the high fluid and sand particle velocities in the choke valves. Therefore,
the knowledge of the flow characteristics and the capability to predict erosion rates in choke valves is essential for
determining the choke’s service life and guaranteeing system integrity. Physical laboratory erosion tests have been the base
of the choke qualification and the characterization of the complex flow in the choke valves. However, the physical sand-
erosion tests are extremely time consuming and costly. The development of validated 3D simulation tools can reduce the
effort and lead time associated with the choke design verification and optimization as well as the choke qualification for a
particular field application. Furthermore, the simulation models are also the base of erosion diagnostic and monitoring
systems. Computational Fluid Dynamics for the flow and the particle tracking simulation, in conjunction with erosion models
became an established tool to quantitatively predict the erosion distribution generated by sand flows in the last few years.
Models are validated in (Zhang, Y, 2007), (Xianghui Chen, 2004), (Gary Brown, 2006), (Manickam, 1999), and (Graham,
2009).

GE Oil & Gas Flow Assurance Center of Excellence for Erosion has developed a 3D CFD model to estimate erosion and
lifetime of choke valves by using flow and particle tracking models implemented in commercial CFD software packages. The
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developed choke model is based on the Eulerian approach for simulating the flow while sand particles are tracked in the flow
field using the Lagrangian methodology. The erosion is predicted by implementing literature erosion correlations (TULSA
and DNV) in the 3D CFD model. The model has been validated using test data collected in a real choke valve. The
experiments are performed for the qualification of one of the GE Oil & Gas choke valves. The paper describes the developed
CFD choke model and is outlined according to the project objectives:

o Development of a 3D CFD choke erosion prediction model that is capable of reproducing the choke fluid
flow and sand particle tracking as well as predicting the erosion rates correctly.
o The validation of the developed model against real test data.
o Model calibration to increase confidence in the predicted erosion rates and location of the erosion hot spots
where maximum material loss rates are predicted to occur.

Computational modeling

Fluid Flow Methodology


Computational Fluid Dynamics for the flow and the particle tracking simulation, in conjunction with erosion models became
an established tool to quantitatively predict the erosion distribution generated by sand flows in the last few years. Models are
validated in (Zhang, Y, 2007), (Xianghui Chen, 2004), (Gary Brown, 2006), (Manickam, 1999), and (Graham, 2009).

In this study, the commercial CFD software package ANSYS CFX® was used to calculate the fluid velocity field, particle
trajectories and consequent erosion. The fluid velocity field without particles is solved first, followed by Lagrangian particle
tracking.

The fluid flow modeling is performed using the Reynolds Averaged Navier-Stokes equations with the standard k-ε model for
turbulence closure and the total energy equation to account for compressibility effects. Table 1 summarizes the main
characteristics of the flow model.

Criteria Definition
Flow solver Steady-state
Wall boundary conditions Smooth wall
Turbulence model Standard k-ε
Fluid model pure CH4 (compressible gas)
Fluid-particle coupling Fully coupled

Table 1: Fluid and particle flow model characteristics

The gas was considered to be compressible following the ideal gas law but with a corrected molecular weight to account for
real gas effects. The molecular weight was corrected using an averaged compressibility factor over the pressure and
temperature ranges used in the test. The steady-state compressible flow field was solved using a 3D unstructured computation
mesh resolving the entire geometry of the choke valve under the assumption that both the inlet velocity field and particle
distribution are uniform.

Particle Tracking Approach


Particle tracking was performed with the standard transport model in CFX using the Lagrangian approach and accounting for
particle drag, gravitational force, virtual mass force, pressure gradient force and turbulent dispersion forces. The particles
were fully coupled to the gas flow. Dry graded sharp sand as used in the tests was considered in the simulations – sand size
distribution as used in the test and simulations is shown in Table 2. Initial studies were performed to ensure that the
numerical solutions are independent of the sand particle number – 50000 particles were released in random uniform
distribution at the inlet at zero-slip velocity.
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Particle size [mm] % Mass fraction

0.71 0.1

0.5 0.7

0.355 8.8

0.25 40.5

0.18 36.8

0.125 13.1

Table 2: Distribution of sand particles sizes

Erosion Equations
In the CFD simulations, erosion equations are used to calculate erosion rate caused by each impingement. The major input
for most of the erosion equations is particle impact information, such as impact angle, impact speed, and impact location. A
wide variety of erosion equations has been developed by many investigators. Among those the erosion equations developed
by Tulsa E/CRC (Zhang, Y, 2007) and DNV (DNV, 2007) are most commonly used in the oil and gas industries. In this
work, the DNV erosion equation, as shown in Equation 1, is applied.
E = m p K U pn F (α )
n (1)
F (α ) = ∑ Aiα i
i =1

Where:
E = erosion rate or the material mass loss rate [kg/s]
mp = amount of sand hitting the surface [kg/s]
Up = sand particle impact speed [m/s]
K, n = constants dependent on the material
α = sand particle impact angle [rad]
Ai = coefficients given in (DNV 2007).

Computation Model
Figure 1 (left) shows the 3D geometry model of the choke valve that was built according to the real product drawings used in
the test. Figure 1 (right) shows the unstructured computation mesh. The computation mesh resolves the entire internal parts of
the choke, including all cage holes to reflect the real flow behavior in the CFD simulations. Initial mesh sensitivity studies
were performed to ensure that the numerical solution of flow field is independent of the computation mesh resolution. The
final fine mesh that was proved to deliver a mesh-independent solution has a total of about 5 million tetra-mesh elements
with fine prism layers regions at the walls. These prism layers are essential for accurate prediction of the boundary layer
velocity-profiles, especially in and around the cage holes.
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Figure 1: Choke geometry (left) 3D CFD model and (right) computation mesh

Simulation Results and Discussion

Simulation Boundary Conditions


In this section the results of the 3 cases are presented. The simulation cases are summarized in Table 3. The choke parts in
cases A, B, and C are manufactured from different materials than in case D. Three different choke openings are tested and
simulated.

Units Case A Case B Case C Case D

Material of choke parts - Material 1 Material 1 Material 1 Material 2

Stem position [%] 20 40 45.7 45

Total amount of sand


[kg] 200 200 150 1000
injected in the test

Table 3: CFD simulation cases

The boundary conditions of the simulations have been set in accordance to the nominal operational conditions of the tests as
listed in Table 4. Experimental measurements show that the choke inlet pressure varies between 50 bara and 59 bara, and the
choke inlet temperature varies between 7 °C and 26 °C. In the simulations, gas inlet conditions have been set to constant
values representing the averaged values observed in the experiments: 15 °C and 55 bara. The choke differential pressure was
required to be 15 bar. The choke outlet pressure has therefore been set to 40 bara in the simulations.

Value
Parameter Units
Experiment Simulation
Fluid Natural gas with sand Natural gas with sand
Inlet temperature °C 7 - 26 15
Choke Inlet Pressure Bara 50 - 59 55
Choke Differential Pressure Bar 15 15
Choke Outlet Pressure Bara - 40
Nominal Sand Feed Rate kg/hr 50 50

Table 4: Boundary conditions of the simulations


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Results: Gas flow rates


As mentioned above, in the CFD erosion study, the sand particles are tracked in the calculated flow field. It is crucial to
ensure that the calculated flow field is predicted correctly. Figure 2 compares the flow rates from experiments and simulations
for all test cases (at a choke differential pressure of 15 bar). An excellent agreement can be seen since all points lie on or are
very near to the perfect agreement line. Thus, the results indicate that the modeling of the flow field is adequate, as far as the
relation between flow rate and choke pressure drop are concerned.

Figure 2: Comparison of flow rates through the choke between simulations and experiments for different opening positions and at a
choke differential pressure of 15 bar.

Results: Erosion Rates


The Erosion results (weight loss) predicted in the CFD simulations for all cases shown and compared against the test data in
Table 5. As it can be seen, the predicted erosion is systematically underestimated. Table 5 gives also the ratio of the
experimental to predicted erosion for each component of the choke for all cases. It can be seen that the ratio ranges from
around 2 to 30 for A, B, and C cases (Material 1) and from around 20 to 40 for D case (Material 2). The discrepancy is
caused by two main reasons:

- Geometry changes due to erosion in the erosion test are not accounted for in the simulations. The geometry changes
can greatly affect the flow and particle conditions.
- The empirical constants of the erosion equation lead to inadequate material erosion relationships for this specific
case.

The geometry changes caused by erosion influence the flow field at the erosion locations. The particle dynamics will be
altered, resulting in altered erosion rates. The geometry changes may not significantly change the mean flow field, but
changes in the surface shape alter the impact angle and velocity of the particles and thus the erosion rates. In the simulations,
the model geometry does not change as erosion occurs, so these effects are not accounted for and remain a subject to be
considered in later studies using moving mesh approaches. Geometry changes may have a considerable influence on the
erosion of the plug head and plug nose due to very deep erosion depressions or even parts been eroded through.

Empirical constants of the erosion model might also contribute to the discrepancy between test data and simulation results.
Empirical constants have been determined for a certain set of target material and sand type and flow conditions, which do not
necessarily coincide to the setup and conditions used in this paper.
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Case A Case B Case C Case D


Opening
[%] 20 40 45.7 45
position
Mass of sand
[kg] 200 200 150 1000
flowed

Erosion material loss [g]

Case A Case B Case C Case D


Exp. Sim. Exp. Sim. Exp. Sim. Exp. Sim.
Part Ratio* Ratio* Ratio* Ratio*
[g] [g] [g] [g] [g] [g] [g] [g]

Guide 15.7 3.21 4.89 16.3 2.74 5.96 22.3 5.08 4.39 4.1 0.17 23.73
Lower guide 18 4.67 3.86 11 2.85 3.86 14 3.24 4.32 28 70 0.40
Plug head 325.2 118.1 2.75 220.5 100.8 2.19 141.1 72.36 1.95 30 4.03 7.44
Plug nose 32.9 1.61 20.40 11.9 0.71 16.83 9.3 0.27 34.29 0.7 0.02 38.1

Seat 8 0.35 23.15 3.1 0.16 19.57 2.3 0.21 11.01 1.2 0.07 17.0

Proposed scaling factor


5 5 5 20
for simulation results

*: Ratio of experimental to predicted weight loss.

Table 5: Experimental and simulated erosion weight loss for all cases

Table 5 also gives a proposed scaling factor for the simulation results. This factor has been chosen to be the same for each
target material and this is the factor that will be used to scale the erosion results in the simulations under field conditions. The
scaling factor for Cases A-C has the same value because the target material (the material of the choke parts) for these cases is
the same (Material 1). Case D has a different scaling factor as its target material is different from the other cases. The
proposed scaling factor corresponds to an averaged ratio of experimental to predicted weight loss. However, when
performing this average, parts with minor geometrical changes due to erosion, such as the guide and lower guide, were more
strongly weighted than parts with significant geometrical changes, such as the plug. Note that the scaling factor adjusts the
instantaneous erosion rate in the simulations and not the total weight loss directly, so that the factor is not a function of test
duration or total mass of sand flowed through.

Figure 3 compares the experimental to the scaled simulation results. Cases A-C are scaled by a factor of 5 while Case D by a
factor of 20. Several findings can be observed from the presented results:
- Very good agreement between simulated and experimental weight loss can be seen for the guide and lower
guide. The deviation for these parts is well below the uncertainties related to erosion.
- Simulated weight loss for the plug head is always higher than the test value. The test shows that the plug
head geometry suffers significant geometrical changes caused by erosion, in some cases even being eroded
through. The model does not consider this effect and estimates erosion loss using the instantaneous weight
loss rate in a pristine choke geometry, which may be higher than the instantaneous rate as erosion takes
place and changes the plug head geometry.
- Good agreement can be seen between simulated (scaled) and experimental weight loss for the other parts:
plug head, plug nose and seat. Deviations between -80% and 150% can be seen, but this is considered good
due to all the uncertainties related to erosion.
- Simulated weight loss for the plug nose is always lower than in the test. The tests show that the plug nose
geometry suffers significant changes caused by erosion, in some cases causing partially closed choke holes
to become fully opened. This effect considerably changes the erosion pattern locally, which may be the
reason for the under prediction of the simulations. Moreover, as the plug nose is eroded, a sloped surface
relative to the flow direction in the holes is created, which is more susceptible to erosion (see Figure 15-A).
- Simulated weight loss for the seat is always lower than in the test. The erosion pattern on the seat indicates
that seat erosion may be caused by sand particles hitting the sloped surface created on the plug nose
(previous bullet) and being redirected to the seat. This effect does not occur in the simulations as erosion
does not cause the model geometry to change. Thus, erosion on the seat is under-predicted.
- The very good agreement for the guide and lower guide may be related to the fact that erosion causes only
minor changes on the geometry of these parts.
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Figure 3: Comparison of test data against predicted weight losses – scaled simulation results
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Results: Erosion Hotspot Locations


This section shows photographs of the choke parts after testing and compares them with the erosion hotspots obtained
from the CFD simulations for selected parts and case studies. The local penetration maps shown here have been
corrected by the scaling factor within the model calibration as introduced in the previous section.

• Case A: 20% open – Plug head and plug nose:

There are four major erosion areas in the plug head, each 90° apart, matching up with the opened guide holes as
shown in Figure 4. The simulation predicts very well the erosion locations. Erosion locations in the plug due to partly
opened holes are also predicted. One jet has severely eroded through the plug (jet corresponds to the guide hole at
the back side of the choke). The simulation does not predict a higher erosion rate for that hole. The reason for that
might be the geometry changes caused by erosion in the plug nose and head in the real test, which completely opens
up the initially partly opened hole, thus increasing gas flow rate through that hole and changing sand flow
distribution through the opened holes.

Figure 4: Case A - Erosion on the Valve Plug Head and Nose - Simulation vs. Test

• Case A: 20% open – Guide:

In the guide (see Figure 5), the simulation has predicted that significant erosion occurs on the corners of the open
guide holes, and this is confirmed in the experiments due to the well-rounded corners. One hole had a slot eroded at
the bottom and the simulation shows a high erosion rate at that site, as shown in the figure. Most of the open holes
have been elongated to some degree in the experiments. This is caused by erosion on the inner surface of the holes,
as correctly predicted in the simulation.
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Figure 5: Case A – erosion on the guide. Erosion hotspots – test vs. simulation

• Case B: 40% open – Plug head and plug nose:

The experimental picture shows severe erosion damage on the plug head. The simulation also predicted several sites
with deep erosion penetration, especially the erosion on the plug due to partly open guide holes (Figure 6).

• Case C: 45.7% open – Guide:


In the test, there are a number of erosion hotspots on the guide, such as elongation of some holes as well as scars on
some of the areas around the open holes. Both mentioned scars were predicted by the simulation. There are some
scars on the outlet side of the guide near the interface with the plug nose. These are not seen in the simulation as
they might be caused by impinging jets being deflected on the altered plug geometry – see Figure 7.
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Figure 6: Case B – erosion on the plug head and plug nose. Erosion hotspots – test vs. simulation

Figure 7: Case C – Erosion on the guide. Erosion hotspots – test vs. simulation
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Conclusions
GE Oil & Gas Flow Assurance Center of Excellence for Erosion has developed a 3D CFD model to estimate erosion and
lifetime of choke valves by using flow and particle models implemented in commercial CFD software packages. The
developed choke model is based on the Eulerian approach for simulating the flow while sand particles are tracked in the flow
field using Lagrangian methodology. The erosion is predicted by implementing literature erosion correlations (TULSA and
DNV) in the 3D CFD model. The model has been validated and calibrated using test data of real choke valve flow and
material losses performed for the qualification of one of GE’s choke valves.

The CFD flow and sand particle tracking simulations show excellent agreement between the predicted flow parameters and
experimental data. Erosion hotspot locations are well predicted in the simulations while the erosion rates are underestimated.
This discrepancy is caused by two main reasons. The first one is some numerical issues associated with the extremely high
velocities of the sand particles. The second one is that the steady-state simulation neglects the geometry changes due to the
erosion in the real test.
Current CFD tools can resolve the complex choke flows very well. Particle tracking accuracy depends on the particle size and
sand loading. Erosion prediction accuracy is directly affected by the accuracy of the particle flow prediction and the
applicability of the erosion correlation.

References
Graham, L.J.W. et al., 2010, “Quantification of erosion distributions in complex geometries”, L.J.W. Graham et al. / Wear
268 (2010) 1066–1071
Zhang, Y., Reuterfors, E.P., McLaury, B.S., Shirazi, S.A., and Rybicki, E.F., 2007,“Comparison of Computed and Measured
Particle Velocities and Erosion in Water and AirFlows,” Wear, 263, pp. 330-338.
Xianghui Chen, Brenton S. McLaury and Siamack A. Shirazi, 2004, “Application and experimental validation of a
computational fluid dynamics (CFD)-based erosion prediction model in elbows and plugged tees,” Computers and
Fluids, v33 (19), pp.1251-1272.
Gary Brown, 2006, “Use of CFD to Predict and Reduce Erosion in an Industrial Slurry Piping System,” Fifth International
Conference on CFD in the Process Industries, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia, 13-15 December 2006.
Manickam, M. , Schwarz, M. P. and Mcintosh, M. J. 1999, “CFD Analysis of Erosion of Bifurcation Duct Walls,” Second
International Conference on CFD in the Minerals and Process Industries, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia, 6-8 December
1999.
DNV 2007, “Recommended Practice RP O501 Erosive Wear in Piping Systems,” DNV RP O501 – rev 4.2 - 2007