Artist's impression of gas hydrate.

Artist's impression of gas hydrate.

Flow assurance: a smooth ride for oil and gas

Next generation flow assurance technologies are ensuring uninterrupted flow of oil and gas in subsea pipelines and access to previously stranded gas.

  • 9 December 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Research project areas


Page 1 of 2

More than 80 per cent of Australia’s gas resources exist in deep, remote, offshore reservoirs. Our ability to realise their full potential relies on the development of economically viable solutions to access and transport them over long distances to on-shore processing facilities.

CSIRO scientists are developing subsea technologies for the production of gas resources which may lie as far as 300 km offshore, at a depth greater than 1 km. The Flow Assurance research program will deliver science-based engineering solutions to access to previously stranded gas reserves and ensure the uninterrupted flow of production fluids in subsea pipelines.

The player will show in this paragraph

CSIRO Flow Assurance research program – subsea technologies


[Flow Assurance CESRE]

    [Music plays and flashing pictures of different shots of mines appear on screen and then zoom in on large pipelines and ships]

    [Title appears: subsea reservoirs – processing facilities – FLOW ASSURANCE. Image then changes to a ship traveling through the ocean then changes to an off shore mining rig]

Narrator:    Australia has substantial gas deposits, in deep, remote, offshore regions that at present cannot be recovered economically.

    These vast petroleum resources have the potential to provide real and sustained benefits to Australia.

    [Image changes to show workers welding then a worker walking under a large steel frame]

    With more than 80% of the nation’s gas resources in remote, offshore areas, in depths beyond 1,000 metres, Australia will need to develop economically viable solutions to access and transport them.
    [Image changes to show a large steel frame being dragged off a barge by 2 tug boats, then changes to a drilling ship on the ocean

    [Image changes to a Scientist working on a computer, different images of equipment flash on the screen]

    CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is addressing the challenge of accessing these valuable gas resources through its Flow Assurance Research program.

    The program aims to develop technologies to reduce costs and risks in the production of these resources, which may lie as far as 300 kilometres offshore, and were previously inaccessible, or economically unviable.
    [A computer generated image of an underwater mining plant appears on screen]    

    A number of new subsea technologies are being developed to resolve the challenges faced in producing and piping gas in deep, offshore conditions.

    [A computer generated image of a cross section of earth showing the down holes under the underwater mining plant]

    One of the most critical challenges for industry is water production.
    [Image shows water and gas particles moving into the wellbore, labelled, Water production management]
    Water is produced alongside oil and gas, interfering with the hydrocarbon stream, contaminating and reducing the gas flow, and producing significant economical and environmental issues for industry.

    CSIRO is taking a three-pronged approach to reduce water production from the reservoir. New chemical additives are being developed to change the flow characteristics of the reservoir.

    [Image shows red colour flowing through the wellbore then shows the gas particles are going up the wellbore while the water particles are stopped with a title: Chemicals for water production and control]    
    These chemical additives minimise the generation and flow of water in the reservoir, without affecting the overall hydrocarbon production.

    Future research will also examine new chemicals to strengthen the wellbore, avoiding its collapse or erosion during drilling or production operations.

    [A computer generate image showing the wellbore with the title: Formation strengthening]

    These additives could significantly reduce operational and capital costs associated with oil and gas field developments.

    CSIRO has been developing a compact, subsea and downhole gas water separation system.
    [A computer generate image of a wellbore displaying gas and water particles moving in and out of the gas water separation system with a title: Compact downhole gas-water separation system]
    This system allows liquid to be efficiently separated from the gas stream, and reinjected directly back into the reservoir, further reducing water content in gas production.

    The presence of water can also lead to the formation of ice-like crystals of gas and water, called gas hydrates.
    [Image changes to a close up shot of one of the pipes on the computer generated underwater mining plant, showing gas and water particles flowing through it with the title: Gas hydrate management]

        These crystals form at high pressure and low temperature, and can lead to pipeline blockages.

    Chemicals can be added to disrupt hydrate formation, but require costly handling facilities. A new generation of smart chemicals will overcome the need for such significant infrastructure, and ensure continuous flow in offshore gas pipelines.

        [A computer generated image of an underwater mining plant with title: Design, operation and maintenance of extra-long subsea pipelines]

    Together with the University of Western Australia and five other universities, CSIRO is employing engineering solutions to design subsea infrastructure.

    This includes the design of extra-long pipelines that enhance hydrocarbon flow, and withstand the challenging terrane and conditions of deep water gas fields.

    [Image pans over pipelines on the computer generated underwater mining plant]

    New technologies are also being developed, to repair subsea infrastructure and minimise economic loss, by reducing down time from oil and gas pipelines succumbing to corrosion, and other damaging processes in the marine environment.

        [Image changes to show the wellbore with the downhole robot inside with a title: Downhole autonomous robot, then image shows the robot descending down the wellbore and sending off signals]

    To optimise gas production, new subsea and downhole wireless monitoring systems are being developed. CSIRO’s downhole robot moves autonomously up and down the well, to monitor pressure and flow rates within the reservoir. The information gathered is used to develop improved reservoir and well flow models, optimise petroleum production, and also identify sources of downhole problems, such as water production and low productivity zones.

    [Computer generated image of the whole underwater mining plant showing a cut out of the earth to show the wellbore’s with title: Subsea wireless sensor networks]

    [Image then shows sensors sending out signals]

    Subsea wireless sensor networks provide an integrated communication framework to monitor pipelines and subsea systems. They consist of a series of fixed sensors that communicate with each other.
    [Image shows AUV travelling over pipelines and sending out signals]
    As well as with remotely operated vehicles, or AUV’s, and continuously inform operators of how subsea systems are performing, and any malfunctions that pose and environmental or operational threat.

    [Image changes to ARRC building with CSIRO, Curtin and other signs on the front, image then changes to different scientists inspecting equipment and checking gauges]

    CSIRO is partnering with a range of Australian and global petroleum companies and research organisations, to develop and deploy these technologies. Our vision is to facilitate the development of large gas reserves in remote, offshore locations.

    [Image changes to a gas transport ship on the ocean then shows a gas processing plant and then changes to show the Downhole robot]

    Accessing these gas reserves will significantly contribute to Australia’s energy security, as we transition to a low emissions energy economy.

    [Computer generated image of particles flowing through pipes]
    CSIRO is helping to position Australia as a world leader in cost effective and environmentally safe oil and gas production.

        [Music plays and the CSIRO logo appears]

        [Credits: Additional footage courtesy of Woodside Energy Ltd]


Our research

The research program includes development of:

Science-based engineering solutions are providing access to previously stranded gas reserves
  • compact systems to efficiently separate gas and  liquids
  • autonomous, remotely controlled robots to monitor well conditions and provide real time data
  • subsea infrastructure and pipeline design
  • technologies to repair sub-sea infrastructure
  • methods to prevent flow disruptions in sub-sea pipelines, particularly formation of gas hydrate crystals
  • designer fluids for enhanced oil recovery.

Accessing our huge reserves of deep water gas will significantly contribute to Australia’s energy security and assist the transition to a low emissions energy economy, providing real and sustained benefits to Australia.