Testing materials of construction for use in wells with corrosive production fluids is typically accomplished through autoclave (pressure vessels) experiments. This testing is important because production fluids contain a combination of acid gases (CO₂ and H₂S), salts, and elevated temperature and pressure conditions -.
These autoclave experiments replicate the fluid environment that the materials of construction will encounter, replicating the downhole environment, including the CO₂ and H₂S acidity, the water phase salinity, and the downhole temperatures. Materials tested are generally some form of corrosion-resistant, high-nickel alloys (CRAs) .
Recreating the downhole environment is difficult because well pressures, sometimes >1000 bar, cannot be recreated in an autoclave experiment. These pressures impact fluid chemistry significantly. They affect concentrations of molecular CO₂ and H₂S in the brine phase. These concentrations dominate the susceptibility of a CRA to corrosion.
Thus, there is an essential need to translate the downhole fluid environment into a laboratory autoclave environment. OLI simulation software accomplishes this by computing the key properties of downhole fluids and converting this to an autoclave formulation that will achieve the same properties. These include pH, chloride activities, molecular CO₂ and H₂S activities, and if possible, the bicarbonate activities. Activity is a thermodynamic property that relates the measured concentration to its actual reactivity in the water phase. There are several references that describe how these activities are calculated and why they are a better representation of corrosivity than the actual concentration value. This is the case not just for corrosion but also solid solubility, boiling point, and other measurable properties.
OLI calculates these activities using a comprehensive thermodynamic framework, referred to as the MSE-SRK model. This model is used for simulating fluids containing H₂S, CO₂, H₂O, hydrocarbons, and salts at high temperatures and pressures .
This MSE-SRK model is coupled with the OLI Flowsheet simulation tool to 1) calculate the fluid properties at downhole conditions, and 2) develop autoclave recipes that recreate these downhole properties. These recipes are based on achieving target concentrations of key gases (CO₂ and H₂S) in water, pH, or other properties critical to the autoclave experiment. It is important to note that other properties, such as activities and concentrations of key species in solution, as well as partial pressures and fugacities of aggressive species, can also be calculated.
Laboratory testing standards are available to evaluate the corrosivity of production fluids on materials of construction . Proper testing must be performed before materials are approved for service.
Designing the material testing environment depends entirely upon the intended application of the material. Downhole environments vary considerably in H₂S, CO₂, and Cl- concentration; downhole temperatures and pressures also vary depending upon the reservoir and location in the well. The environmental parameters that must therefore be simulated are the partial pressures or fugacities of the cover gases (H₂S and CO₂), temperature, and the chloride content (Cl-).
A typical range of downhole environments in oil and gas wells is summarized in Table 1.
Why use simulation for autoclave experiments?
A limiting condition of autoclave experiments is that once the autoclave is sealed and at test conditions (pressure and temperature), it is difficult and sometimes impossible to sample and measure the final phase compositions within the vessel. Consequently, one cannot know for sure if the experiment meets the field conditions
This uncertainty is reduced by using OLI thermodynamic simulations. OLI Flowsheet calculates the critical concentrations and properties at field conditions and converts them to a laboratory formulation. This achieves a number of benefits, including the ability to:
Predict the required gas partial pressures in the autoclave at test conditions
Predict aqueous phase properties, such as pH, alkalinity, conductivity, osmotic pressures
Predict CO₂ and H₂S partitioning across a fluid phase (oil, gas, and water)
Predict solids formation (e.g., FeS, FeCO₃, CaCO₃) that may affect the final properties
Predict the species concentrations in the water
Create a recipe for the autoclave experiment, i.e., grams of CO₂ H₂S, N₂, water, salt, etc. that will be added to autoclave
An oil and gas operator wants to test the corrosivity of a production gas/brine on their production tubing. The production conditions are 350 bar and 150 ⁰C. The partial pressures of CO₂ and H₂S are 20 bar and 1 bar, respectively. The produced water is simulated using a 50,000 mg/L NaCl solution. The operator needs to charge the autoclave with sufficient CO₂ and H₂S so that at the final conditions, their vapor concentrations match the measured values.
The simulation is broken down into 5 different steps needed to sequentially charge the autoclave to reach the final T and P conditions, as shown in Figure 2. These steps all represent the same autoclave vessel. Step 1 represents the placement of the sample (with its respective volume) and the addition of the deaerated brine volume. Step 2, 3, and 4 represent charging the autoclave with CO₂, H₂S, and N₂, respectively, at ambient conditions. Step 5 represents heating to reach the final temperature and pressure, and the desired final partial pressures of the acid gases.
You can see that the targeted partial pressures were achieved in the simulation, i.e. partial pressures of CO₂ and H₂S are 20 bar and 1 bar, respectively. To reach these values the CO₂ and H₂S inflows need to be 9.02 L/h and 0.59 L/h, respectively. After reaching the final T=150°C and P=350 bar, you can also see the final predicted pH value and fugacities of the acid gases.
Autoclave Configurations and how to simulate them with OLI Flowsheet: ESP Software
When working with autoclaves, there are several experimental autoclave charging procedures. With the OLI Flowsheet: ESP software you have the flexibility to recreate your autoclave charging procedure and determine the autoclave recipe (gas amount or bottle gas composition) needed to reach your final conditions. Here we will describe six different autoclave procedures that can be simulated; however, the options, of course, are unlimited.
1. Final Condition Autoclave - The most common autoclave used by customers is the final condition autoclave. It is the basic configuration, in which the test solutions and the gases are added in a single step, and the properties and concentrations are computed. The image below shows two solutions, a brine and gas are added simultaneously with CO₂ and H₂S. The vessel is at test temperature, and the test pressure is calculated. The mass (or volume) of the brine and oil are known. The amounts of CO₂ and H₂S to be added are calculated using the PCO₂ and PH₂S targets.
The purpose of the Final Condition Autoclave is to calculate the mass requirements for the experiment (i.e., the recipe). This does not include the actual procedure.
2. Autoclave Charging with CO₂ to Set the Final Pressure
This next example is based on an autoclave charging procedure in which the test solution is added to the sealed autoclave, and the remaining purge gas occupies the headspace. The sealed autoclave is then charged with CO₂. The amount of CO₂ added depends on the target total pressure at ambient conditions. The autoclave is heated to test temperatures and the test pressure and CO₂ partial pressures are computed.
3. Sequential Charging of Gases
This next example uses three pure gases, CO₂, H₂S, and N₂. This is the same charging procedure as shown in Figure 2. The amount of each gas added is based on achieving a target PCO₂, PH₂S, and PT. The gases are added in sequence at ambient temperature. The vessel pressure after each charging step is computed and this pressure value sets the gas tank regulators in the laboratory.
4. Bottle Gas Charging
This next example is for charging an autoclave when a bottle gas is used. The advantage of this simulation is that the composition of the bottle gas can be computed based on the PCO₂, PH₂S, and PT targets. The software calculates the mole fraction of the bottle gas using three composition controllers. These controllers measure the partial pressures at test temperature and modify the composition. The laboratory can then order this gas from the supplier.
5. Bottle Gas Continuously Bubbled at Test Conditions
This next configuration simulates an open autoclave experiment. In this case, bottle gas is bubble continuously into the vessel. The amount of gas required to reach steady-state conditions is computed. The purpose of this procedure is to provide a reasonable estimate of how much time is required for the system to reach target conditions.
6. Degassing Stages before Charging Gases
This next configuration is a combination of purging and charging for a continuous bubbling system. The N₂ degassing step provides a reasonable estimate of how much volume (or time) is needed to purge O₂ to its desired concentration. The charging step, as above, simulates the amount of time (or volume) needed for the gases to reach an equilibrium steady-state with the liquid in the autoclave. The degassing step is run at ambient temperatures while the charging step is run at test temperatures.
These are a few examples, of the many ways autoclaves experiments can be simulated. You can always ask for an autoclave template to get you started with your simulation. You can download the technical whitepaper on autoclave simulation here https://www.olisystems.com/autoclave-charging.
Please contact Diana Miller, Application Engineer and Autoclave Simulation Expert at OLI Systems at email@example.com for more details on OLI’s autoclave testing capabilities. To speak to an OLI technical or sales specialist please register your interest at https://www.olisystems.com/contact or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thank you to our contributing author, AJ Gerbino.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
T. E. Perez, “Corrosion in the oil and gas industry: An increasing challenge for materials,” Jom, vol. 65, no. 8, pp. 1033–1042, 2013.
L. T.Popoola, A. S. Grema, G. K. Latinwo, B. Gutti, and A. S. Balogun, “Corrosion problems during oil and gas production and its mitigation,” Int. J. Ind. Chem., vol. 4, no. 35, 2013.
M. Ueda, “2006 F.N. Speller Award Lecture: Development of corrosion-resistance alloys for the oil and gas industry - Based on spontaneous passivity mechanism,” Corrosion, vol. 62, no. 10, pp. 856–867, 2006.
R. Springer, A. Anderko and D. Miller, " MSE-SRK: A Thermodynamic Model to Maximize the Accuracy of Predicting Phase Equilibria in Systems Containing Sour Gases, Electrolytes, and Hydrocarbons", Nashville, TN: NACE, RIP Section, 2019
“NACE MR0175/ISO 15156-2, Petroleum and natural gas industries- Materials for use in H2S-containing environments in oil and gas production.,” Houston, TX: NACE, 2009.
R. D. Mack, M. Wilhelm, and B. G. Steinberg, “Laboratory Corrosion Testing of Metals and Alloys in Environments Containing Hydrogen Sulfide,” in Laboratory Corrosion Tests and Standards, American Society for Testing and Materials, 1985, pp. 249–250.