OTe 4485
Evaluation of API RP 14E Erosional Velocity Limitations for Offshore Gas Wells
by M.M. Salama and E.S. Venkatesh, Canaca Inc.
Copyright 1983 Offshore Technology Conference 

This paper was presented at the 15th Annual OTe in Houston, Texas. May 25,1983. The material is subject to correction by the author. Permission to copy is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words. 

Abstract 
disturbed due to a local change in direction, a velocity component normal to the pipe wall will be introduced, re sulting in repeated impacts on the pipe wall. Erosion dam age of the pipe is caused by the repeated bombardment of liquid and solid particles. The erosion damage is enhanced by increasing the production capacity of a given flow sys tem (Le., increasing flow velocity). In order to avoid poten 

In order to avoid erosion damage and associated problems in twophase flow systems, API RP14E recom mends limiting the maximum production velocity to a value defined by the following empirical equation: 

V _{e} = C/Yj) 

tial 
erosion problems, most oil companies have been limit 

where 
ing 
their production rate by reducing the flow velocity to a 

V _{e} = the maximum allowable erosional velocity in ftlsec 
level below which it is believed that erosion does not occur. This limiting flow velocity is calculated using the API RP14E recommended empirical equation: ^{1} 

p 
= 
the density of fluid in Ib/cu ft at flowing conditions of temperature and pressure 
C/Yj) 

C 
= a constant generally known as the C factor, is in the range of 100 to 125 
where V _{e} 
_{=} 
(1) 

Evaluation of the above equation has shown that in 

cases where the form of the equation can be rationalized, the conservative. These cases include erosion due to liquid value of C, as recommended by API, is extremely 
V _{e} = the maximum allowable erosional velocity (ftlsec) p C = the fluid density (Ibs/cu ft) 

particle impingement and corrosionassisted erosion due to 
= an empirical constant generally known as the C factor 

the 
stripping of corrosion inhibitor films. For the case of 

erosion due to sand particles entrained in the fluid, the form 
For a sandfree, twophase flow situation, the C factor is limited to 100 for continuous flow and 125 for intermittent flow. The API RP14E recommends the use of a lower unspecified C factor for fluids containing sand. 

of the equation appears to be incorrect. The API RP14E recommendations to reduce the value of C to account for sand in the produced fluid is, therefore, improper. 

A method for calculating erosion damage as a func tion of fluid and flow characteristics is proposed. This approach can be used to calculate a limiting flow velocity for any specified allowable erosion rate. 
Previously, production rates were generally restricted to lower values than those specified by Equation (1) due to fear of formation damage or excessive sand production. However, the recent advances in well completion proce dures, sand control techniques, and our understanding of reservoirs' flow behavior permit higher production rates. These developments, in addition to the current economic incentives, are motivating the oil industry to increase pro duction rates, particularly for highcapacity gas wells. Under this condition, the API RP14E erosional velocity equation represents a major obstacle. Although the API equation has been widely accepted, the authors were un 

Introduction 

The production of hydrocarbons from underground 

reservoirs is associated mainly with the flow of a liqUid (oil 

and 
water), gas (natural gas), and/or solid (sand). This flow 

situation is essentially one of a liquidgas, twophase flow with entrained solid particles. When the fluid flow in a pipe is 

successful in all attempts to determine the basis of this 

References and illustrations at end of paper. 
equation. These were the main reasons for initiating this 
371
2
EVALUATION OF THE API RP14E EROSIONAL VELOCITY LIMITATIONS FOR OFFSHORE WELLS
_{O}_{T}_{C} _{4}_{4}_{8}_{5}
study. This paper summarizes the initial phase ofthis study. Several areas which require further evaluation are identi fied. 
drop range for high capacity wells is 3,000 to 5,000 psi. These numbers correspond to a value for the constant C in 

the 
range 80 to 100. Although there is a very close similarity 

Erosion Mechanisms 
between the Bernoulli relationship (Equation (2)) and the API empirical criterion (Equation (1)), they should have no correlation because they represent two completely different phenomena. 

Erosion is defined as the physical removal of material from the surface. This is different from corrosion, which involves material removal by chemical or electrochemical reaction. The material removal by erosion is caused by one or more of the following: 

For the case of erosion due to liquid impingement on a surface, the relationship between flow velocity, V (ft/sec), 

and 
erosion rate, h (mils per year), can be written as follows 

1. Cavitation (bubble collapse) 
(AppendiX 1): 

2. Liquid particle impingement 
B 
h ^{1} / ^{6} 

V 
= vp 
(3) 

3. Solid particle impingement 

where 

Erosion damage occurs as a result of one of three mechan isms: 
p 
= the fluid density (Ibs/cu ft) 

1. Fatigue due to repeated loads induced by a bubble collapse or particle impingement. 
B 
= a constant which depends on the target material hardness and critical strain to failure. 

For 
most practical cases and allowing for a 10milperyear 

2. Abrasion due to repeated impingement of hard particles on ductile material. 
erosion rate, Equation (3) reduces to: 

3. Corrosionassisted erosion due to the breakage of the protective surface layer either by fatigue or abrasion. 
V 
= ~ 
(4) 

Possible Rationalization of API Erosional Velocity Equation 
The value of C under these conditions is much higher than that recommended by the empirical equation of API 

RP14E. 

Examination of the API erosional velocity equation suggests that it may have been derived using one of the following approaches: 
The velocity limitation imposed by Equation (4) is very stringent when compared with experimental data obtained to date for liquid impingement erosion. For example, Equa 

1. Constant pressure drop limitation using Bernoulli rela tionship. 
tion (4) gives a limiting velocity of 38 ft/sec for water im pingement which if far lower than experimentally deter mined threshold velocities shown in Table 1 during water impingement erosion tests. The threshold velocity is de fined as the velocity below which no measurable erosion damage occurs after a large number of impacts (10 ^{6} _{} 10 ^{8} impact). In most of these experiments the erosion is caused 

2. Limitation on erosion rate due to liquid impingement. 

3. Limitation on velocity to avoid removing corrosion inhibiting layers. 

by 
the multiple impacts of a water jet on specimens 

The Bernoulli relationship can be written (for the case where the gravity effect and initial fluid velocity are ignored) as follows: vp (2) 
mounted on a rotating disk. Since erosion is generally considered as analogous to fatigue, ^{7} the threshold velocity corresponds to the endurance limit. All these experimental ly determined threshold velocites ^{2}  ^{7} are higher than those 

 
 

V~~ 

where 
vp 
predicted by Equation (4). Therefore for a sandfree pro duction system, an increase in the C factor from 100 (as recommended by API) to a value around 300 should not pose any operational problems. 

v = the maximum flow velocity 

= the fluid density ilP = the total pressure drop along the flow path p 
If we consider the case where the limiting velocity is governed by the stripping ofthe protective inhibitor film from 

the 
surface of the steel tubulars, the limiting velocity can be 

The total pressure drop along the flow path (ilP) is com posed of four components. These are the pressure drops in the reservoir, across the completion, along the production tubing, and across any restriction. A typical total pressure 
expressed by: V = VW 
(5) 
372
OTC 4485
Mamdouh M. Salama and Eswarahalli S. Venkatesh
3
where 
velocity near the tip of a bubble is about equal to the local relative velocity between the two phases. Similar velocities 

or 
= the shear strength of the inhibitor interface 
must occur in the roll waves of annular flows. It is very difficult without appropriate experiments to identify which of 

f 
= the friction factor 

the 
above three possibilities is most significant and, hence, 

This equation is derived by equating the flow induced shear stress at the pipe wall with the shear strength of the inhibi tor. For most practical cases, _{o}_{r} equals 8,000 psis and f equals 0.0015, ^{9} Equation (5) can be written as: 
what is the value of the radial velocity. 

Rabinowicz 11 
has shown that experimental results of 

erosive damage of ductile metals due to solid particle im pingement agree reasonably well with the following erosion 

V 
= 
35000 
(6) 
rate equation: 

Equation (6) has the same form as the API empirical Equa 
U = K ~~2 f3 
(7) 

tion 
(1). The value of C based on this criterion is far higher 

than that proposed by the API equation. It is clear from the 
where 

above discussion, therefore, that the current API erosional velocity limitation seems to be extremely conservative. 
U 
= the volume of metal eroded 

W 
= the total weight of impinging solid particles 

Proposed Erosional Velocity Equation 
V 
= the particle velocity 

P 
= the penetration hardness of the target material 

It appears that erosion will occur in a solidfree fluid flow system only at very high velocities, which would not be allowed in a properly designed system because of severe pressure drops. In process piping, a velocity limitation of about 100 feet per second is used. Above this velocity, it becomes more economical to increase the pipe diameter than to increase the pumping capacity. It is therefore the authors' belief that erosion in the oil industry is mainly due to sand particles entrained in the produced fluid. Although estimating the quantity of sand produced from a gas or oil well appears to be straightforward, the 
= a coefficient which depends on the impingement 

angle. It equals 1.0 for angles between 10 and 60 degrees and 0.50 for other angles. ^{1}^{2} For the fully developed turbulent flow system, as in the case of a producing well system, ~ is appropriately chosen as 

0.75. 

K 
a nondimensional erosive wear coefficient. Rabinowicz ^{1}^{2} has shown by statistical analysis of the experimentally determined K values that the mean value is 0.0103. A reasonable value for K in the case of the producing well system can be based on mean piUS two standard deviation. This value for K is 0.071. 

quantification process is somewhat more complicated in practice. Typically, sand production is extremely erratic. Most producers seek to limit sand production to onl~ a few 

g 
= the graVitational constant (32.2 tvsec ^{2} _{)} 

pounds per day per well, perhaps 5 to 10 pounds. ^{1} Wells 

that 
produce this level of sand are sometimes characterized 
For the case of flow in pipes, the maximum erosion is 

as sandfree wells. The presence of sand particles in the produced fluid results in erosive damage by abrasive wear mechanism. 
expected to occur in elbows. As a conservative first approx imation, the eroded area is considered to be equal to the projected area of the pipe and the particle velocity equals 

the 
average flow velocity (V). The amount of impinging solid 

However, in order for the sand being conveyed by the mixture of gas and oil to cause damage, it is necessary for 
particles (W) on the surface of the elbow is a percentage of the total particles in the flow. Griffith 13 has estimated that for 

the 
sand to acquire a velocity normal to the pipe wall. This 
a lowdensity gas system, this percentage is about 100 percent, and as density increases, the percentage is re duced to a limiting value of 30 percent for liquids. This is rationalized because in highdensity fluids, most of the particles will be carried in the stream in the center of the flow without impacting the surface of the elbow. This observa tion is interesting because it indicates that as the density increases, the amount of impinging particles decreases, thus decreasing erosion rate and, therefore, increasing the allowable velocity. This is opposite to what is implied by API erosional velocity equation. For a twophase flow system, 

velocity can be attributed to three sources: 

1. Turbulent fluctuation in the flow. 

2. Secondary flows in the vicinity of bends and fittings. 

3. Radial twophase velocity fluctuations. Radial transportturbulent fluctuations range up to about 10 percent of the main flow. The velocity of particles depends on the size, but it is generally less than the fluctuation velocity. Radial velocity due to secondary flows is impor tant. The location of the maximum wear in bends and sometimes the peculiar wear patterns in the wake of pro tuberances and orifices can only be accounted for by 

the 
ratio of the weight of impinging particles to the weight of 

all the particles in the flow is, therefore, between 0.3 and 1.0. A reasonable ratio is 0.65 for a mediumdensity two phase fluid, as in the case of a gas well system. 

secondary flow. Due to the structure of the flow, twophase 
Using the above analysis in Equation (7), the erosion 

flows have strong radial velocities. For a slug flow, the radial 
rate due to flow in elbows can be given as: 
373
4
EVALUATION OF THE API RP14E EROSIONAL VELOCITY LIMITATIONS FOR OFFSHORE WELLS
_{O}_{T}_{C} _{4}_{4}_{8}_{5}
h  (0.65 W) V  gP ('IT/4 d2) K 2 _{•} A _{.} _{"} (8) 
Although Equation (7) offers a sound theoretical basis 

where 
to assess the problems of erosion in pipes, it is clear that several assumptions have to be made to derive design equations, such as Equation (12). An experimental pro gram should be undertaken to establish the rationalization of these assumptions and verify the values of their corres ponding parameters. Such an experimental program should also address the effect of sand erosion on the forma tion of a protective inhibitor film which is necessary to avoid corrosion problems in corrosive wells. 

h 
= erosion rate (mils per year, mpy) 

W 
= sand flow rate (bbl/month; barrel of sand = 945 pounds) 

V 
= fluid flow velocity (ftlsec) 

P 
= hardness (psi) 

d g 
= pipe diameter (inches) = gravitational constant (32.2 ftlsec ^{2} ) 
Conclusions 
A 
= correction factor for proper units 

The value of A in the above units is calculated to be: 
1. Erosion damage in gasproducing wells occurs primarily due to solid particle impingement. 

A = 1.36 x 10 ^{8} (9) 
2. API RP14E erosional velocity equation is extremely conservative for sandfree production conditions. 

for 
= 0.75 and K = 0.071, Equation (8) reduces to: 
3. Appropriate equations have been proposed for use in 
h = 1.86 X 10 ^{5} 2 WV P d _{2} (10) 
design against erosion for both sandfree and sand producing wells. 

Comparison between the predicted erosion rate us 
Acknowledgements 

ing 
Equation (10) and experimental data developed as part 
The authors would like to thank management of Conoco Inc. for permission to publish this paper. The au thors sincerely express their appreciation to Professors Ernest Rabinowicz and Peter Griffith of Massachusetts Institute of Technology for their valuable suggestions and for giving permission to reference some of their unpub 
of API OSAPR project 2 on sand erosion by Texas A&M 

University Research Center ^{1}^{4} is shown in Table 2. The results illustrate the validity of Equation (10) in predicting sand erosion rates. On the average, Equation (10) overesti mates the erosion rates by a factor of 1.44. 

The result of APIOSAPRproject 2 ^{1}^{4} also showed 
lished work. The authors would also like to thank Messers John Wolfe and Fred Gipson and Dr. Richard Vennett for their assistance and advise. 

that 
for flow in field ells and tees, the erosion rates are about 

50 percent that in elbows and, therefore, Equation (10) can 

be written as follows: 
References 1API RP14E, "Recommended Practice for Design and Installation of Offshore Production Platform Piping Sys tem," Third Ed., December 1981. 2Thiruvengadam, A.; Rudy, S. L.; and Gunasekam, M., "Experimental and Analytical Investigation on Liquid Im pact Erosion," Characterization and Determination of Erosion Resistance, ASTM STP474, p. 249, (1970). 

WV 2 

h = 93,000 P d _{2} (11) 

Substituting the value of P for steel (P = 1.55 x 10 ^{5} psi) 

and assuming that erosion velocity is based on an erosion rate of 10 mils per year, Equation (11) can be written as: 

4d V = \liiJ (12) 

When W approaches zero, the value of V is limited by Equation (4), which is for sandfree system. For a pipe with 3inch diameter, the erosional velocity V (ftlsec) can be given as a function of the rate of sand production W (barrels per month) as follows: 
3Hancox, N. L., and Brunton, J. H., "The Erosion of Solids by the Repeated Impact of Liquid Drops," Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc., London, Vol. 260A, p. 129, (1966). 4Baker, D. W.; Jolliffe, K. H.; and Pearson, D., "The Resist ance of Materials to Impact Erosion Damage," Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc., London, Vol. 260A, p. 168, (1966). 

V 12 = \TiiT (13) 

Equation (13) is reasonably conservative and, therefore, could be used as a design criterion. Allowable velocity, a function of sand production as calculated by Equation (13), is shown in Table 3 for sand containing fluid. 
5Hobbs, J. M., "Factors Affecting Damage Caused by Liquid Impact, National Engineering Laboratory Report No. 266, December 1966. 6Vater, M., "PrOfung und Verhalten Metallischer Werk Staffe Gegen Tropfenschlagund Kavitation, "Korrosion and Metallschutz, Vol. 20, No.6, p. 171, (1944). 
374
OTC 4485
Mamdouh M. Salama and Eswarahalli S. Venkatesh
5
7Heymann, F. J., "A Survey of Clues to the Relationship Between Erosion Rate and Impact Parameters," Proc. of the 2nd Meersburg Conference on Rain Erosion and Allied Phenomena, Royal Aircraft Establishment, U.K., p. 683, (1968). 
where 

U 
= wear volume rate 

v p 
= impacting fluid volume rate = fluid density (lb/ft ^{3} ) 

V 
= impact velocity (ftlsec) 

8Kemball, C., "Intermolecular Forces and the Strength of Adhesive Joints," in the Proceedings of the Symposium on Adhesion and Adhesives Fundamentals and Practice, Cleveland, Ohio, p. 69, (1954). 
P 
= tar~etmaterial hardness, psi (for steel, P = 1.55 x 

10 psi) 

E _{c} 
= Critical strain to failure (0.10 for steel) gravitational constant (32.2 ftlsec ^{2} ) = 

g 

K 
= highspeed erosion coefficient (= 0.01) 

9Fox, R. W., and McDonald, A. T., "Introduction to Fluid Mechanics," John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, 1973. 
Considering the case where _{v} is given as 

10Estimating Sand Production Handbook, O. I. Corpora tion, Houston, Texas, 1982. 
v = AV (A12) 

and erosion depth h is given as 

11Rabinowicz, E, "The Wear Equation for Erosion of Met als by Abrasive Particles," Proc. Fifth Int. Conf. on Ero sion by liquid and Solid Impact, Cambridge, England, p. 381, (1979). 
h = U A (A13) 

where A is the crosssectional area of the pipe. 

12Rabinowicz, E, "Factors Modifying the Erosive Wear Equations for Metals," Israel J. Tech., Vol. 18, p. 193, 
By substitution, Equation (A11) becomes: 

(1980). 
h _KpV  2Pg 3 (27 V 22 g~ E2c) (A14) 

13Griffith, P. (1982), Private Communication. 

14Weiner, P. D., and Tolle, G. C., "Detection and Preven tion of Sand Erosion of Production Equipment," API OSAPR Project No.2, Research Report, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, 1976. 
By 
substituting the above values for K, g, and _{E} _{c} _{,} Equation 

(A14) can be given as: 

_{V} 1 ^{.} 167 ^{_}  1l6 ^{h} \IP .yp (A15) 

15Griffith, P., and Rabinowicz, E munication. 
(1982), Private Com 
This equation can be simplified by SUbstituting the value of 1I6 

P for steel and by accounting for V constant as follows: into the numerical 

APPENDIX 1 

EROSION DUE TO LIQUID IMPINGEMENT 
V = 200 h \IP 1 / 6 (A16) 

Erosion rate due to a liquid impingement can be calculated as follows: ^{1}^{5} 
Assuming that the allowable erosion rate h is 10 mils per year, the above equation becomes: 


V = (A17) 
375
TABLE 1
_{M}_{E}_{A}_{S}_{U}_{R}_{E}_{D} _{E}_{R}_{O}_{S}_{I}_{O}_{N}_{A}_{L} _{T}_{H}_{R}_{E}_{S}_{H}_{O}_{L}_{D} _{V}_{E}_{L}_{O}_{C}_{I}_{T}_{I}_{E}_{S}
DURING WATER IMPINGEMENT EXPERIMENTS
TABLE 2 COMPARISON BETWEEN EXPERIMENTAL EROSION RATES ^{1}^{4} AND PREDICTED EROSION RATES
Ratio of
Threshold 
Sand Flow 
Metal 
Erosion 
Experimental 
_{P}_{r}_{e}_{d}_{i}_{c}_{t}_{e}_{d} 
_{P}_{r}_{e}_{d}_{i}_{c}_{t}_{e}_{d} _{a}_{n}_{d} 

Target 
Velocity, 
Velocity 
Rate 
Weight Loss 
Test Duration 
Erosion Rate' 
_{E}_{r}_{o}_{s}_{i}_{o}_{n} _{R}_{a}_{t}_{e}_{"} 
_{E}_{x}_{p}_{e}_{r}_{i}_{m}_{e}_{n}_{t}_{a}_{l} 

_{M}_{a}_{t}_{e}_{r}_{i}_{a}_{l} 
_{f}_{t}_{l}_{s}_{e}_{c} 
Reference 
(ftlsec) 
(bbl/month) 
(Ib) 
(hrs) 
_{(}_{i}_{n}_{/}_{y}_{e}_{a}_{r}_{)} 
_{(}_{i}_{n}_{/}_{y}_{e}_{a}_{r}_{)} 
_{E}_{r}_{o}_{s}_{i}_{o}_{n} _{R}_{a}_{t}_{e}_{s} 
Ti6 AI4V _{N}_{i}_{c}_{k}_{e}_{l} _{S}_{t}_{a}_{i}_{n}_{l}_{e}_{s}_{s} _{s}_{t}_{e}_{e}_{l} Hard alloy cast iron Stainless steel Steel Aluminum _{M}_{a}_{r}_{t}_{e}_{n}_{s}_{i}_{t}_{i}_{c} _{s}_{t}_{e}_{e}_{l} _{C}_{a}_{s}_{t} _{s}_{t}_{e}_{e}_{l} 
135 
2 
50 
143.90 
0.0705 
_{9}_{.}_{7}_{7}_{3} 
_{7}_{1}_{.}_{1}_{3} 
_{1}_{0}_{7}_{.}_{9}_{3} 
_{1}_{.}_{5}_{2} 
100 
2 
70 
133.66 
0.1471 
_{7}_{.}_{5}_{0}_{1} 
_{1}_{9}_{3}_{.}_{4}_{1} 
_{1}_{9}_{6}_{.}_{4}_{8} 
_{1}_{.}_{0}_{2} 

125 
2 
70 
144.37 
0.1599 
7.641 
206.27 
_{2}_{1}_{2}_{.}_{2}_{2} 
_{1}_{.}_{0}_{3} 

320 
3 
70 
144.37 
0.1568 
7.641 
202.37 
212.22 
_{1}_{.}_{0}_{5} 

390 
4 
70 
86.62 
0.1581 
15.216 
102.43 
127.33 
_{1}_{.}_{2}_{4} 

110 
5 
70 
86.62 
0.1337 
15.216 
86.64 
127.33 
_{1}_{.}_{4}_{5} 

80 
5 
70 
86.62 
0.1000 
15.216 
64.81 
127.33 
_{1}_{.}_{9}_{6} 

195 
6 
70 
113.63 
0.2015 
25.729 
77.20 
_{1}_{6}_{7}_{.}_{0}_{4} 
_{2}_{.}_{1}_{6} 

85 
6 
70 
113.63 
0.2451 
30.655 
78.84 
167.04 
_{2}_{.}_{1}_{2} 

70 
113.63 
0.2246 
24.239 
91.35 
167.04 
_{1}_{.}_{8}_{3} 

100 
120.15 
0.1982 
7.722 
253.04 
360.45 
_{1}_{.}_{4}_{2} 

100 
120.15 
0.2015 
7.722 
257.24 
_{3}_{6}_{0}_{.}_{4}_{5} 
_{1}_{.}_{4}_{0} 

100 
120.15 
0.2323 
7.722 
296.63 
_{3}_{6}_{0}_{.}_{4}_{5} 
_{1}_{.}_{2}_{2} 

100 
141.57 
0.2466 
4.378 
555.43 
424.71 
_{0}_{.}_{7}_{7} 

Average =1.44 
'Experimental erosion rates are extrapolated and calculated as inches per year. (Metal loss is assumed to _{b}_{e} over an area on the elbow equals to the projected crosssectional area of the pipe.) "Predicted erosion rates are calculated using Equation (10) with d = 2 inches and P = 1.55 X 10 ^{5} psi.
TABLE 3 EROSIONAL VELOCITY AS A FUNCTION OF SAND PRODUCTION
Sand Production
(bblslmonth)
Erosional Velocity'
(ftlsec)
10 
3.8 
^{1} 
5 
5.4 
^{1} 
2 
8.5 
^{1} 
1 
12 

1/2 
17 

1/4 
24 
'Based on allowable erosion rate of 10 mils per year. 1These velocities are lower than the API recommended minimum veloc ity of 10 ftlsec to minimize slugging of separation equipment.
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