Medical MRI for Hydrate Research

December 19, 2016

24 November 2016.  In what is believed to be a world first researchers are using medical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to get a view inside oil & gas pipelines. Specifically to study the behavior of hydrate particles and hydrate agglomerates as they are transported in water and oil.

The Research is funded by Woodside and the Australian Research Council (ARC) under the 2015 Linkage Projects Scheme. The linkage project is titled “Controlling Hydrate Slurry Flow to enable deepwater oil and gas production” and investigates the poorly understood flow behavior of hydrate slurries to determine under which circumstances they will flow satisfactorily.

Researcher Dr. Mosayyeb Arjmandi of UWA was instrumental in the experimental design and set up. Pictured here with Professor Eric May and Dr. Einar Fridjonsson both of UWA.

Gas hydrates are water-methane ice-like structures that can form in production piping. Hydrate formation may result in blockages that cause safety issues and loss of production. Current operating practice in industry is to prevent hydrates from forming through the injection of hydrate inhibition chemicals. By better understanding the behavior of hydrate slurries in pipelines the industry may be able to tolerate some hydrate formation and hence reduce the amount of chemical usage.

The research is a great example of multi-discipline expertise from the LNG Futures and Fluid Science & Resources groups at UWA. The MRI is usually used in medical research for imaging of small animals. It uses strong (high field) magnetic fields and requires superconductors cooled by liquid helium at -266 oC. The use of MRI in this application is unique in the world with only 3-4 groups’ worldwide using high-field MRI to study engineering applications.

The Bruker MRI is located at the UWA Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research at the QEII Medical Centre in Nedlands. It is operated by the UWA Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (CMCA) and is part of the National Imaging Facility (NIF).

In the coming months the team will continue to improve the experimental set up and once again relocate the flow loop to the QEII Medical Centre to obtain further MRI data.

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