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Fluid Flow in Coiled Tubing: A Literature

Review and Experimental Investigation

University of Oklahoma

Abstract Newtonian Fluid

This paper presents a comprehensive review of the theoretical Governing Equations
and experimental studies of steady, fully-developed flow of
Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids in coiled tubing. The flow Figure 1 shows the toroidal coordinate system that has been
mechanisms and characteristics of secondary flow and its effect used in studying fluid flow in coiled pipes. We denote the radius
on the flow resistance have been discussed. Available friction of the pipe by a, and the radius of the coil as R. C is the centre of
factor correlations have been analyzed and evaluated for accura- the pipe cross section, and θ is the angle that the cross-section
cy and applicability. Compared with its counterpart of makes with a fixed axial plane. OZ is the axis of the coil. Assume
Newtonian fluid, the flow of non-Newtonian fluid in coiled the flow is in the direction of increasing θ under a driving pres-
pipes has remained much less studied. The paper also briefly sure gradient. The velocity components u, v, and w are in the
describes the recent development of full-scale experimental directions of r, α, and θ, respectively.
investigations on the frictional pressure losses of various fluids The equations of momentum and continuity(2, 3) are:
in coiled tubing.

∂u v ∂v v 2 w 2 sin α ∂ ⎛ p⎞
u + − − = − ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟
∂r r ∂α r R + r sin α ∂r ⎝ ρ ⎠
Introduction ⎛1 ∂ cos α ⎞⎛ ∂v v 1 ∂u ⎞
−υ⎜ + ⎟⎜ + − ⎟
Coiled tubing (CT) has been used in well drilling, completion, ⎝ r ∂α R + r sin α ⎠⎝ ∂r r r ∂α ⎠ ........................................................(1)
stimulation, wellbore cleanout, and other operations in the petrole-
um industry(1). Accurate prediction of frictional pressure losses
when pumping fluids through coiled tubing has remained a chal-
∂v v ∂v uv w 2 cos α 1 ∂ ⎛ p⎞
lenge in hydraulics design, mainly due to the lack of adequate u + + − =− ⎜ ⎟
∂r r ∂α r R + r sin α r ∂α ⎝ ρ ⎠
friction loss correlations and proper understanding of the complex
flow phenomena of fluids (especially non-Newtonian fluids) in ⎛∂ sin α ⎞⎛ ∂v v 1 ∂u ⎞
+υ⎜ + ⎟⎜ + − ⎟
coiled tubing. Because of the effect of centrifugal forces, sec- ⎝ ∂r R + r sin α ⎠⎝ ∂r r r ∂α ⎠ ..............................................................(2)
ondary flow occurs when a fluid flows through a coiled tubing. It
is a known fact that flow in coiled tubing encounters more pres-
sure losses than in straight tubing. It is believed that secondary
flow causes the excessive friction losses. Since the classic work of
Dean(2, 3), the flow of Newtonian fluids in coiled pipes has been
extensively studied; in contrast, the flow of non-Newtonian fluid
in coiled pipes has remained relatively unstudied.
The objective of this paper is to review both theoretical and
experimental studies on the flow of Newtonian and non-
Newtonian fluids in coiled pipes. The mathematical formulation
and the general characteristics of the secondary flow are first
introduced in order to prepare for discussion of various theoretical
studies. The available friction factor correlations will be compared
and evaluated for their accuracy and applicability.
A recent increase of coiled tubing applications has been driving
the research activities of coiled tubing hydraulics using full-scale
experimental facilities. This paper will also present recent devel-
opments in those experimental investigations.
It is hoped that this comprehensive review and the experimen-
tal results will provide valuable information for those interested in
FIGURE 1: Toroidal coordinate system.
the application and research of coiled tubing hydraulics.

52 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

∂w v ∂w uw sin α vw cos α 1 ∂ ⎛ p⎞
+ + + =− ⎜ ⎟
∂r r ∂α R + r sin α R + r sin α R + r sin α ∂θ ⎝ ρ ⎠

⎡⎛ ∂ 1 ⎞⎛ ∂w w sin α ⎞ 1 ∂ ⎛ 1 ∂w w cos α ⎞⎤
+ υ⎢⎜ + ⎟⎜ + ⎟+ ⎜ + ⎟⎥
⎣⎝ ∂r r ⎠⎝ ∂r R + r sin α ⎠ r ∂α ⎝ r ∂α R + r sin α ⎠⎦

∂u u u sin α 1 ∂v v cos α
+ + + + =0
∂r r R + r sin α r ∂α R + r sin α ..............................................(4)

The above equations, plus adequate boundary conditions,

define a steady flow problem in a coiled tube. If the flow is
assumed to be fully-developed, then u, v, and w will be indepen-
dent of θ and the pressure gradient in the axial direction (θ) will
be constant:

1 ∂p
− = G (constant)
R ∂θ ...........................................................................(5)

Obviously, Equations (1) to (4) form a coupled, non-linear

problem and are difficult to solve analytically without invoking
simplifying assumptions.

FIGURE 2: Streamlines of secondary flow(2).

Dean’s Work and Dean Number
The pioneering work of Dean(2, 3) on the theoretical aspect of
the coiled tube flow problem has been of significant importance in
Characteristics of Secondary Flow
most recent developments. By assuming that the curvature of the The unique feature of the flow structure in coiled pipes is the
pipe is small, that is a/R is small, and that the flow is slow motion, secondary flow that is superimposed on the primary flow in the
Dean simplified the governing equations [Equations (1) to (5)]. axial direction. Mathematically, the cause of the secondary flow is
Then, using a successive approximation method, Dean obtained due to the two centrifugal force terms in the momentum equations
an analytical solution, which is essentially an approximate solu- for the r and α directions. Since the centrifugal force is perpendic-
tion obtained through perturbation over the Poiseuille flow of ular to the axial direction, there is no such term in the θ momen-
straight pipe. tum equation.
As for the effect of pipe curvature on the flux, Dean’s first Figure 2 illustrates the flow lines in the cross-section of a
paper(2) failed to show that the relation between pressure gradient coiled pipe from Dean’s solution which indicate that, in the cross-
and the flow rate is dependent of the curvature. In his second section, the secondary flow streamlines form a pair of symmetri-
paper(3), he derived the following flux expression: cal vortices, which have been called Dean vortices by later
researchers. Dean(2) pointed out that the secondary flows of the
⎛ K ⎞
2 4 spiral form are superimposed on the axial primary flow.
(0.03058) + ⎛⎝ ⎞⎠ (0.01195)
Qc K
= 1− Experimental observations of the secondary flow phenomena
Qs ⎝ 576 ⎠ 576 ....................................(6) date back to 1910 when Eustice(7, 8) did experiments of water flow
in curved pipes. Eustice(7, 8) used filaments of six different colours
where K is a dynamic similarity parameter and will be discussed
to trace the paths of secondary flow streamlines and observed “the
below. Equation (6) is valid only for very small K values.
extremely beautiful effects due to the interacting of the coloured
One important contribution of Dean’s work is the introduction bands.”
of non-dimensional parameter K, which is called Dean number. Figures 3a and 3b show the axial velocity profiles and contours
According to Dean’s original definition, in a cross-section of a coiled pipe obtained by Adler(9). The curva-
ture ratio was a/R = 1/100, and Reynolds number NRe = 2050. It
2W02 a 3 can be seen that the maximum axial velocity was shifted to the
υ2 R ............................................................................................(7) outer side of the coil and the velocity profile is very different from
the parabolic profile for straight pipe.
where W0 is the maximum axial velocity in the cross-section. Figures 4 and 5 show the theoretical results of McConalogue
There have been several versions of definition of Dean number(4, and Srivastava(6), and Collins and Dennis(10), for Dean number D
5), but most researchers prefer the following definition:
= 96, 481, 2,000, and 5,000. These results show that as Dean
number increases, the secondary flow becomes more confined to a
⎛ a ⎞2 thin area near the pipe wall. This characteristic supports the basic
N De = N Re ⎜ ⎟ assumption of the boundary layer approximation methods.
⎝ R ⎠ ......................................................................................(8)

It can be shown that K and NDe are related by K = 2(NDe)2. Theoretical Methods
Another definition of Dean number(6) is: The complexity of the flow geometries and the equations of
fluid flow in coiled pipes attracted the attention of theoreticians as
⎛ 2 a 3 ⎞ Ga 2 well as engineers. Various theoretical methods have been devel-
D= ⎜ 2 ⎟
⎝ν R⎠ µ oped, which can be roughly grouped as analytical solutions for
small Dean number, numerical methods, and boundary layer
methods for large Dean number.
Here, D and K are related by D = 4 K .
The Dean number provides a fundamental parameter in devel-
Analytical Solutions
oping flow resistance correlations for flow in curved pipes. It has
been found that at low Dean number, the law of resistance can be For loosely coiled tubes (a/R is small) and small Dean number,
correlated with NDe only. For high Dean number, both NDe and the governing equations can be simplified and reduced to equa-
curvature ratio (a/R) will be required. tions about a stream-function (ψ) and the axial velocity (w). Since

June 2004, Volume 43, No. 6 53

FIGURE 3a: Axial velocity profile, a/R = 0.01, NRe = 2,050(9). FIGURE 3b: Contours of axial velocity, a/R = 0.01, NRe = 2,050(9).

FIGURE 4a: Secondary flow streamlines and axial velocity FIGURE 4b: Secondary flow streamlines and axial velocity
contours (D = 96)(6). contours (D = 481)(6).

FIGURE 5a: Contours of axial velocity (D = 2,000)(10). FIGURE 5b: Contours of axial velocity (D = 5,000)(10).

the Dean number is small (therefore the deviation from the

straight pipe flow is expected to be slight), it is appropriate to ψ = Kψ 1 + K 2 ψ 2 + K .......................................................................(11)
expand the solutions of the stream function and axial velocity
component in a power series of the Dean number. where w0, w1, ψ1, ψ2, w2,… are functions of r and α. By substitut-
ing these expressions into the ψ and w equations and equating
coefficients of the powers of K, Dean obtained the series solution
by successively solving for w0, w1, ψ1, w2, ψ2, … Note that w0 is
w = w0 + Kw1 + K 2 w2 + K ...............................................................(10) the solution for Poiseuille flow in straight pipe.

54 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

The similar approach was followed by Jones (11) for the could be maintained laminar for a much higher Reynolds number
Rivlin-Reiner fluid model, and Thomas and Walters(12, 13) for elas- than in straight pipes. This claim was verified by Taylor(42) in his
tico-viscous liquids in a curved pipe of circular and elliptic cross- experiments on the criterion of turbulence in curved pipes.
sections. The power series was also used by Larrain and Adler(9) closely examined the velocity distributions by experi-
Bonilla(14), Topakoglu(15), and Robertson and Muller(16). ments, and found that a velocity profile of laminar flow differs
Van Dyke(4) extended the Dean series by computer to 24 terms. greatly from the parabolic distribution, and a thin boundary layer
But, his result has caused controversies due to the fact that his was assumed. Ito(33) measured the frictional pressure losses of tur-
friction factor ratio correlation is not in agreement with other bulent flow in smooth curved pipes using water and drawn copper
studies(17). tubing at various curvature ratios. Mori and Nakayama(36) mea-
In addition to the power series, Fourier series development has sured velocity and temperature profiles in a curved pipe.
also been used for series solutions. McConalogue and Srinivasan et al.(43) measured pressure drops of water and fuel
Srivastava’s(6) results cover a range of Dean number of D from 96 oil in both helical tubes (with constant curvature) and spiral tubes
to over 600. Dennis and Ng’s(18) Fourier series solution covers the (with variable curvature). Experimental values were used to
range of Dean number D = 96 – 5,000. It is found that for D < develop equations to predict friction factors for laminar, transi-
956, the secondary flow consists of a symmetrical pair of counter- tion, and turbulent regions. Equations were also given to predict
rotating vortices. For D > 956, the secondary flow has a four-vor- critical Reynolds number for regime changes.
tex pattern consisting of two symmetrical pairs. Daskopoulos and Mishra and Gupta(44) investigated pressure drop of coils of vari-
Lenhoff(19) expressed their solution using Fourier series in the ous diameters and pitches. Their data covered laminar flow and
angular direction (α) and Chebychev polynominals in radius r. turbulent flows, and corresponding empirical correlations were
Most studies of series solutions assumed a small-pitch pipe coil proposed.
and neglected the effect of torsion. But, Germano(20, 21) and Kao(22) In addition to the gross flow experiments of measuring the flow
studied the effect of torsion as well as curvature ratio. resistance and rate, experiments were also made to understand the
instability and flow regime transition which will be discussed
Numerical Methods below.
If the curvature ratio (a/R) is small, the flow in curved pipe
depends on a single parameter—the Dean number. This is not the Flow Regime Transition
case if (a/R) is not very small. The Navier-Stokes equations for It is a known fact that the transition from laminar to turbulent
fluid flow in coiled pipes can be solved numerically. Generally, a flow in coiled pipes occurs at a higher Reynolds number than that
finite difference scheme has been adopted. These studies include in straight pipe. White(41) found that plots of flow resistance coef-
Truesdell and Adler(23), Greenspan(24), Patankar et al.(25), Collins ficient vs. Dean number fall on a single line predicted by the Dean
and Dennis (10) , Joseph et al. (26) , Dennis (27) , and Hsu and correlation. But, at high Dean numbers, data points of different
Patankar(28). In these studies, the Navier-Stokes equations were curvature ratios deviated from the Dean correlation, which was
simplified as stream-function/axial velocity or stream- based on the streamline motion assumption. It was concluded that
function/vorticity forms. Soh and Berger(29) used a finite-differ- a flow state that was different than streamline occurred with
ence scheme and the value of curvature ratio can be arbitrary. curved pipes and the onset of turbulence was delayed with
Austin and Seader (30) solved the Navier-Stokes equation in increase of curvature. These claims were confirmed experimental-
the stream-function/vorticity form, numerically using finite ly by Taylor(42) whose test result with a curved pipe of curvature
difference. ratio of 1/18 indicated that streamline motion persisted up to a
A few studies have been reported for simulation of turbulent Reynolds number of 5,830, i.e., 2.8 times Reynolds’ criterion for a
flows, such as Patankar et al.(31) and Lai et al.(32) straight pipe.
The challenges of numerical studies include determining accu- Ito(33) proposed the following empirical correlation for the criti-
rate and efficient numerical schemes, grid systems, and computa- cal Reynolds number:
tional algorithms.
Boundary Layer Approximation Methods ⎛ a⎞
NRec = 20,000
⎝ R⎠ .........................................................................(12)
The thickness of the boundary layer will become thinner with
increasing Dean number. This feature has been shown by experi-
ments(9) and numerical simulations(10, 18, 27). According to the theo- This equation provided good agreement with experimental
ry of the boundary layer approximation, the tube cross-section can results in the range 15 < R/a < 8.6 × 102. For R/a > 8.6 × 102, the
be divided into two regions: the central inviscous core region and critical Reynolds number for a curved pipe practically coincides
the thin boundary layer where the viscous effect is significant. with that for a straight pipe. Mishra and Gupta(44) reported that
Studies of this category include: Adler(9), Ito(33, 34), Barua(35), Mori Equation (12) is in good agreement with their experiments. But, as
and Nakayama(36), Mashelkar and Devarajan(37-39), and Riley(40). pointed out by Srinivasan et al.(43), Ito’s(33) correlation will not
To use the boundary layer method, order of magnitude analysis give NRec = 2100 for a straight tube where a/R = 0. Therefore, a
is carried out with the boundary layer and the forms of velocity new correlation was proposed based on the experiments by
distributions are assumed. The potential difficulty with this Srinivasan et al.:(43)
method is the boundary layer separation at the inner side of the
coil(34). Fortunately, for the purpose of correlating flow resistance, ⎡ ⎛ a⎞ ⎤
NRec = 2100 ⎢1 +12 ⎥
the boundary layer models are probably sufficient and their accu- ⎢⎣ ⎝ R⎠ ⎥
⎦ .................................................................(13)
racy has been verified by the experimental data(33, 34). This is prob-
ably because the contribution of the shear stress from the area at
the inner bend is not significant to the circumferential averaged The previous observations and correlations were based on mea-
shear stress. surements of global parameters, such as friction factor. Due to the
secondary flow effect, the transition behaviour on the plots of fric-
tion factor vs. Reynolds number is very gradual. Actually, it is
Experimental Studies very difficult to accurately identify when the onset of the turbu-
Experimental investigation of fluid flow in coiled pipes began lence occurs. If the fluid is non-Newtonian fluid, this transition
as early as the 1910s. Eustice(7, 8) used coloured filaments to would be even more gradual(45).
observe the streamline flow of water in curved glass tubes and Sreenivasan and Strykowski(46) found that the characteristics of
described the secondary flow streamlines. White(41) used the Dean the transition regime was dependent on the location in the pipe
number to correlate his experimental data on pressure drop cross-section. Using hot wire aneometers placed one quarter of the
through coiled pipes. He observed that the flow in curved pipe radius from the inner and outer walls, they found that turbulence

June 2004, Volume 43, No. 6 55

near the inner wall emerged by the gradual superposition of higher correlations of White(41), Srinivasan et al.(43), Hasson(48), Mishra
order frequencies on the fundamental frequency. In contrast, near and Gupta(44), and Majuwar and Rao(49) that were developed from
the outer wall, turbulence emerged by high frequency “bursts.” experimental data. It was found that, except for the Mujawar and
The sinusoidal oscillations at the inner wall always preceded the Rao(49) correlation, the other four correlations are in excellent
turbulent bursts at the outer wall. Recently, Webster and agreement. Therefore, it is appropriate to believe that the four of
Humphrey(47) provided quantitative time-dependent point mea- them are more realistic. Since the Mishra and Gupta(44) correlation
surements of velocity with a non-intrusive laser-Doppler covers the widest range of NDe, it is therefore used to further eval-
velocimeter (LDV) and indicated that the pipe curvature tends to uate the other theoretical correlations.
dampen high frequency turbulent fluctuations, hence the manner Generally, all the boundary layer approximation methods are
of “transition to turbulence” in a coiled pipe is ambiguous. very close to the Mishra and Gupta(44) correlations for a large
All the above experimental observations indicate that a much Dean number, such as NDe > 100, except the Adler(9) correlation
higher Reynolds number is needed to maintain turbulence in which is significantly lower for NDe < 2,000. The friction factor
coiled pipes than in straight pipes. predicted by the Mori and Nakayama(36) correlation is slightly
higher than the others.
Friction Factor Correlations The Dean(3) correlation is only valid for very small Dean num-
Based on the literature survey, the available correlations for ber. The Topakoglu(15) correlation fails to be close to any correla-
laminar Newtonian fluids in curved pipes are summarized in tion. Figure 6 shows that the van Dyke(4) correlation deviates from
Table 1. To evaluate these correlations, we first compared the the rest when NDe > 200. The Ito correlation is slightly lower

TABLE 1: Friction factor correlations of laminar Newtonian flow.

No. Authors Correlations Notes
⎡ ⎛ ⎤−1
K ⎞ ⎛ K ⎞4
fCL ⎢
⎢ ⎝ 576 ⎟⎠ (
= 1−⎜ 0.03058) + ⎜ ⎟ (0.01195)⎥⎥
fSL ⎣ ⎝ 576 ⎠ ⎦
1 Dean K < 576
⎧ ⎡ 1 0.45 ⎫
fCL ⎪ ⎢ ⎛ 11.6 ⎞0.45 ⎤⎥ ⎪
= ⎨1 − ⎢1 − ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ ⎬
fSL ⎪ ⎢⎣ ⎝ N De ⎠ ⎥⎥⎦ ⎪
⎪⎩ ⎪⎭
2 White 12 < NDe < 2,000
= 0.1064[ N De ]

3 Adler fSL Large NDe, say, NDe > 102

⎤1 2 ⎫⎪
fCL (1.122 ) ⎪ ⎡ 2 N
= ⎨1.181 + ⎢(1.181) + De ⎥ ⎬
fSL 4 N De ⎪ ⎢⎣ 6 ⎥⎦ ⎪⎭
4 Barua ⎩ Large NDe, say,
102 < NDe < 104
= 0.0969 N 1De/ 2 + 0.556
5 Hasson fSL 30 < NDe < 2,000
fCL 0.108 N De
= −1 2
6 Mori and Nakayama
fSL 1 − 3.253 N De Lagre Dean number, say,
NDe > 100
⎧ 2⎡ ⎫ −1
fCL ⎪ 1 ⎛ a ⎞ 1.541 ⎛ N Re ⎞
⎛ N ⎞2 ⎤⎪
= ⎨1 − ⎜ ⎟ ⎢ ⎜ ⎟ + 1.1⎜ Re ⎟ − 1⎥⎬
fSL ⎪ 48 ⎝ R ⎠ ⎢⎣ 67.2 ⎝ 6 ⎠ ⎝ 6 ⎠ ⎥⎪
7 Topakoglu ⎩ Small NDe
⎡⎛ ⎤
1.729 ⎞
= 0.1033 N De ⎢⎢⎜⎜1 +
fCL 12 1.315 ⎥
⎟⎟ − ⎥
1 2
fSL N De ⎠ N De ⎥⎦
8 Ito Large NDe, say, NDe > 100
= 0.41875N0De

9 Srinivasan et al. fSL 30 < NDe < 300,

0.0097 < a/R < 0.135

10 Collins and Dennis

{ −1 2
= 0.1028 N De 1 + 3.7 N De } 17 < NDe < 370
fCL 14
= 0.47136 N De
11 Van Dyke fSL Large NDe, say, NDe > 30
= 1 + 0.033(log N De )

12 Mishra and Gupta fSL 1 < NDe < 3,000

= 0.26( N De )

13 Mujawar and Rao fSL 35 < NDe < 2,200,

0.01 < a/R < 0.0695
⎡ 1 2⎤
⎢0.0908 + 0.0233⎛⎜ a ⎞⎟ ⎥N 1 2 − 0.132⎛⎜ a ⎞⎟ + 0.37⎛⎜ a ⎞⎟ − 0.2

⎢ ⎝ R ⎠ ⎥ De ⎝ R ⎠ ⎝R⎠
fCL ⎣ ⎦
= 1+
14 Liu and Masliyah fSL 1 + 49 N De 0 < a/R < 1, NDe < 5,000

56 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

FIGURE 6: Comparison of friction factor correlations of laminar
Newtonian flow. FIGURE 7: Result of water in 60.3 mm (23/8 in.) coiled tubing.

TABLE 2: Friction factor correlations of turbulent Newtonian flow.

No. Authors Correlations Notes
1⎧ −0.25 ⎫
⎡ ⎛ a ⎞2 ⎤⎥
1⎛a ⎞2 ⎪ ⎢ ⎪ ⎛ a ⎞2
fCT = ⎜ ⎟ ⎨0.029 + 0.304 N Re ⎜ ⎟ ⎬ 300 > N Re ⎜ ⎟ > 0.034
4⎝R⎠ ⎪ ⎢ ⎝ R ⎠ ⎥ ⎪ ⎝R⎠
⎩ ⎣ ⎦ ⎭
1 Ito
⎛ a ⎞0.2
0.084⎜ ⎟
fCT = 0.2
2 Srinivasan et al. N De NDec < NDe < 14,000
⎛a⎞ 12
fCT = fST + 0.0075⎜ ⎟ , fst =
3 Mishra and Gupta ⎝R⎠ 0.25
N Re 4,500 < NRe < 105

when NDe < 100. Interestingly, all four correlations—Ito (for NDe In recent years, the rapid increase of coiled tubing applications
> 100), Collins and Dennis(10), Liu and Masliyah(50), and Mishra in the oil and gas industry has driven the research activities of
and Gupta(44)—are in close agreement over a large range of Dean coiled tubing hydraulics using full-scale facilities. Azouz et al.(54)
number. measured frictional pressure losses of linear guar gum, hydroxy-
A few turbulent correlations are listed in Table 2. There is close propyl guar (HPG), and borate-crosslinked guar gum in 38.1 mm
agreement between them. (11/2 in.) coiled tubing reels. Willingham and Shah(55) reported an
empirical friction factor correlation based on a series of flow tests
with polymer solutions through 25.4, 38.1, and 60.3 mm (1, 11/2,
Non-Newtonian Fluid and 23/8 in.) coiled tubing reels. Their correlation constants are
The complex rheological behaviour of non-Newtonian fluids functions of apparent viscosity and tubing ID.
adds another dimension of complexity to the flow phenomena in McCann and Islas(56) generalized the Srinivasan et al.(43) corre-
coiled pipes. The flow of non-Newtonian fluids in coiled pipes lation for turbulent flow to non-Newtonian fluids and compared
has remained much less studied than Newtonian fluids. the generalized correlation with the full-scale tests of six fluids
Jones(11) considered the theoretical problem of the flow of a prepared using bentonite and lime.
non-Newtonian, visco-inelastic Reiner-Rivlin fluid in a coiled
tube. A number of investigators(12, 13, 51-53) have reported studies Shah and Zhou(45) discussed the characteristics of drag reduc-
on the effect of elasticity on fluid flow in coiled pipes. Jones and tion of polymer solutions in coiled tubing and affecting parame-
Davies’s(52) experiments showed that minute amounts of polymer ters such as curvature, tubing ID, and polymer concentration.
could significantly delay departure of flow rate from Poiseuille More recently, Shah et al.(57) experimentally investigated the flow
flow, a phenomenon called “drag reduction in the laminar region.” behaviour of hydraulic fracturing slurries in coiled tubing. An
Tsang and James(53) noted that polymer additives caused a reduc- empirical correlation of slurry friction factor as affected by sand
tion of the secondary motion and tried to explain the drag reduc- concentration was developed. The possible mechanisms of tubing
tion by estimating the cross-sectional stresses, based on Dean’s erosion in typical fracturing operations have been addressed.
solution and several molecular models.
The present review shows that, compared with its counterpart
Among the various studies of non-Newtonian flow in coiled
of Newtonian fluids, the flow of non-Newtonian fluids has
pipes, those by Mashelkar and Devarajan(37-39) deserve special
remained very much unstudied, either theoretically or experimen-
attention. Following Ito’s (34) boundary layer approximation
tally. Yet, most fluids used with coiled tubing operations in the oil
approach for Newtonian fluids, Mashelkar and Devarajan(37-39)
and gas industry are non-Newtonian, for example, polymer-based
theoretically analyzed and numerically solved the flow equations
solutions, and surfactant-based solutions for drilling, completion,
for a power-law fluid for the conditions of both laminar and turbu-
or wellbore cleanout. Slurries and foam fluids are also used with
lent flows. An empirical correlation for laminar flow was devel-
coiled tubing. The available correlations are not appropriate for
oped based on the numerical solutions and another correlation for
predicting friction pressure losses in these applications. Further
visco-elastic fluids in terms of the Weissenberg number based on
systematic research is required.
data of flow tests.
Mishra and Gupta(44) have also measured friction factors of As with the case of Newtonian fluids, we have summarized the
non-Newtonian fluids in coiled pipes and empirical correlations available friction factor correlations of non-Newtonian fluids in
have been obtained. coiled tubing in Table 3.

June 2004, Volume 43, No. 6 57

TABLE 3: Friction factor correlations of non-Newtonian fluid (laminar and turbulent).

No. Authors Correlations Notes

⎛a⎞ (−0.768+0.122 n)
( )
fCL = 9.069 − 9.438n + 4.374 n2 ⎜ ⎟
⎝ R⎠
N 'De
1 Mashelkar and Devarajan 70 < NDe’ < 400,
0.01 < a/R < 0.135

( )
4.0 ⎤ 16
fCL = fSL ⎢1 + 0.033 log N De2 fSL =
⎣ ⎥⎦ N Re 2
2 Mishra and Gupta
⎛a⎞ 0.079
fCT = fST + 0.0075⎜ ⎟ fST =
⎝ R⎠ 0.25
N Re d

1.06a ⎛ a ⎞
fCT = 0.8 b ⎜ R ⎟
log10 n + 3.93
g ⎝ ⎠
N Re a=
4 McCann and Islas 50

1.75 − log10 n ()

) ( )
B d, µ
fC = A d , µ @511 +
@ 511

N Re g
5 Willingham and Shah Expressions for A and B are given
in Reference (59)

TABLE 4: Dimension of coiled tubing reels.

CT OD CT ID Length Reel Diameter Curvature Ratio

Reel No. mm (in.) (mm) (m) (m) (a/R)

1 25.40 (1) 20.57 152.40 1.22 0.0169

2 25.40 (1) 20.57 304.80 1.83 0.0113
3 38.1 0 (1-1/2) 30.18 304.80 1.83 0.0165
4 38.1 0 (1-1/2) 30.18 609.60 1.83 0.0165
5 38.1 0 (1-1/2) 30.18 609.60 1.83 0.0165
6 60.33 (2-3/8) 52.40 304.80 2.82 0.0185
7 60.33 (2-3/8) 52.40 621.49 2.82 0.0185

Experimental Investigation Results and Discussion

Experimental Setup and Procedure Water Test
The full-scale coiled tubing flow loop used in the recent experi- For any coiled tubing reel, water tests were always first con-
mental study consists of seven reels of coiled tubing, fluid mixing ducted to establish the baseline for comparison with other test flu-
and pumping equipment, and a data acquisition system. Two 7.95 ids. Water tests were also required for a system calibration check.
m 3 (50 bbl) tanks are used for fluid mixing and storage. A Figure 7 shows the result of water in 60.3 mm (23/8 in). The flow
Galigher centrifugal pump is used to feed the triplex plunger regime is well within the turbulent region. Friction factor correla-
pump. The dimensions of the coiled tubing reels are shown in tions of turbulent flow by Ito(33), Srinivasan et al.(43), and Mishra
Table 4. The combinations of three coiled tubing diameters, i.e., and Gupta(44) were compared with the data. It is found that these
25.4, 38.1, and 60.3 mm (1, 11/2, and 23/8 in.), and three reel drum correlations underestimated the test data. The pipe roughness is
diameters, result in curvature ratio (a/R) values of 0.0113, 0.0165, believed to cause the differences since these correlations were
0.0169, and 0.0185. developed from smooth pipe data. If the Chen(58) correlation for
The primary measured data include the gross flow variables friction factor of rough pipe was incorporated into these correla-
such as frictional pressure drop at various flow rates. Rheological tions with an assumed roughness of 0.046 mm, much closer agree-
properties of fluids were evaluated using a Bohlin rheometer and a ment with the data was obtained.
model 35 Fann viscometer. More detailed descriptions of the
experimental facility and procedures can be found elsewhere(45, 55). Non-Newtonian Fluids
Fluids tested are typical drilling, completion, and stimulation
fluids currently used in the industry, including polymeric solu- Two examples are used to show the characteristics of non-
tions such as guar gum, xanthan gum, partially hydrolyzed poly- Newtonian fluid flow through coiled tubing. Figure 8 shows the
acrylamide (PHPA), and hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC), and sur- result of 4.8 kg/m3 (40 lbm/Mgal) PHPA in 60.3 mm (23/8 in.)
factant-based fluids, as well as an oil-based drilling mud. These coiled tubing. Ito(33, 34) correlations for both laminar and turbulent
fluids are typically non-Newtonian and exhibit various degrees of flow, Mashelkar and Devarajan(37) correlation for non-Newtonian
drag-reducing properties. More recently, fracturing slurries pre- laminar flow, and the 16/NReg relation are plotted to help the
pared with guar-based gels and 20/40 mesh frac sands were tested analysis. It is obvious that the data points are lower than Ito corre-
through the 60.3 mm (23/8 in.) coiled tubing. The effect of sand lations in both turbulent and laminar regions, indicating that this
concentration on the frictional pressure losses in coiled tubing was fluid exhibits significant drag reduction under these flow condi-
investigated. tions. The drag reduction in laminar flow for coiled tubing is

58 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

FIGURE 8: 4.8 kg/m3 (40 lbm/Mgal) PHPA in 60.3 mm (23/8 in.) FIGURE 9: 2.4 kg/m3 (20 lbm/Mgal) guar in 25.4 mm (1 in.) coiled
coiled tubing. tubing.

believed to be due to the reduction of the secondary flow by the NOMENCLATURE

polymer additives(53). Nevertheless, in the range of Reynolds num-
ber NReg = 700 – 2,000, the measured friction factor is higher than a = radius of pipe
16/NReg due to the extra resistance by the secondary flow. It is a/R = curvature ratio
found that the Mashelkar and Devarajan(37) correlation failed to A = correlation parameter(55)
predict the friction factor. The Willingham and Shah(55) correla- B = correlation parameter(55)
tion is in close agreement with the measured data. Another feature d = diameter of pipe
shown by Figure 8 is that there is no obvious indication of the D = Dean number, Equation (9)
onset of turbulence (if any) from the friction factor vs. Reynolds f = Fanning friction factor
number plot. As discussed before, the transition from laminar to G = pressure gradient, Equation (5)
turbulent in coiled tubing is very gradual, especially for drag K = Dean number, Equation (7)
reducing, non-Newtonian fluids.
K′ = consistency index
Figure 9 shows the result of 2.4 kg/m3 (20 lbm/Mgal) guar solu-
tion in 25.4 mm (1 in.) coiled tubing. This represents a typical n = flow behaviour index
flow condition of a less concentrated polymer solution in a small NDe = Dean number, Equation (8)
coiled tubing. The flow regime encountered is dominantly turbu- (2a )n vm2−nρ
lent for the flow rates tested. In this case, the measured friction NDe′ =
( a R)0.5
factor is significantly lower than predicted by correlations of tur-
bulent Newtonian flow, such as the Ito(33) correlation. Again, NDe2 = NRe2(a/R)0.5
among the few turbulent, non-Newtonian flow correlations, only NRe = Reynolds number
the Willingham and Shah(55) correlation gives a close match with NRe2 = Reynolds number based on pseudoshear vis-
the experimental data. cosity(44)
NRec = critical Reynolds number
NRed = Reynolds number based on differential viscos-
Conclusions NReg = generalized Reynolds number
1. The fluid flow in coiled pipes is featured by the secondary p = pressure
flow structure caused by the centrifugal forces in curved Qc = flow rate in coiled pipe
flow geometry. Qs = flow rate in straight pipe
2. Dean number and curvature ratio are two important parame- R = radius of coil
ters affecting the flow behaviour in coiled pipes. They have
u = velocity in r direction
been widely used for theoretical analysis and correlation
v = velocity in α direction
3. Previous theoretical studies can be categorized as analytical vm = mean velocity
solutions for small Dean number, numerical methods for w = velocity in θ direction
intermediate Dean number, and boundary layer methods for w0, w1, w2, … = series coefficients, Equation (10)
large Dean number. W0 = maximum axial velocity in cross-section
4. Various friction factor correlations have been analyzed and ψ1, ψ2, … = series coefficients, Equation (11)
evaluated for their applicabilities. α = angle, Figure 1
5. Experimental studies have shown that the transition from µ @511 = apparent viscosity at 511 s-1
laminar to turbulent flow is gradual in coiled pipes. The θ = angle of cross-section from a fixed plane
Reynolds number at the onset of turbulence in coiled pipes is ρ = density
much higher than in straight pipes. ν = kinematic viscosity
6. Compared with its counterpart of Newtonian fluid, the flow
of non-Newtonian fluid in coiled pipes has been much less Subscripts
c = coiled pipe
CL = coiled laminar
Acknowledgements CT = coiled turbulent
s = straight
The authors appreciate the continued support of the members
SL = straight laminar
of the Coiled Tubing Consortium and the assistance of the
research team at the Well Construction Technology Centre. ST = straight turbulent

June 2004, Volume 43, No. 6 59

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60 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

51. BARNES, H.A. and WALTERS, K., On the Flow of Viscous and
Elastico-Viscous Liquids Through Straight and Curved Pipes; Authors’ Biographies
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Vol. 314, pp.
85-109, 1969.
Yunxu Zhou received his B.S. and M.S.
52. JONES, W.M. and DAVIES, O.H., The Flow of Dilute Aqueous
Solutions of Macromolecules in Various Geometries: III. Bent Pipes degrees from the University of Petroleum,
and Porous Materials; Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, Vol. 9, China, both in petroleum engineering. He
pp. 753-770, 1976. then worked at the Jianghan Petroleum
53. TSANG, H.Y. and JAMES, D.F., Reduction of Secondary Motion in Institute doing petroleum engineering
Curved Tubes by Polymer Additives; Journal of Rheology, Vol. 24, teaching and research. He is currently a
pp. 589-601, 1980. Ph.D. candidate at the University of
54. AZOUZ, I., SHAH, S.N., VINOD, P.S., and LORD, D.L., Oklahoma. His research area includes theo-
Experimental Investigation of Frictional Pressure Losses in Coiled retical and experimental studies of fluid
Tubing; paper SPE 37328, presented at the Eastern Regional
flow in coiled tubing. He is a member of
Meeting, Columbus, OH, October 23 – 25, 1996.
55. WILLINGHAM, J.D. and SHAH, S.N., Friction Pressures of SPE and the American Society of
Newtonian and Non-Newtonian Fluids in Straight and Reeled Coiled Mechanical Engineers.
Tubing; paper SPE 60719, presented at the 2000 SPE/ICoTA Coiled
Tubing Roundtable, Houston, TX, April 5 – 6, 2000. Subhash Shah is Stephenson Chair
56. MCCANN, R.C. and ISLAS, C.G., Frictional Pressure Loss During Professor in the Mewbourne School of
Turbulent Flow in Coiled Tubing; paper SPE 36345, presented at Petroleum and Geological Engineering at
the SPE/ICoTA North American Coiled Tubing Roundtable, the University of Oklahoma (OU). He is
Montgomery, TX, February 26 – 28, 1996. also the director of OU’s Well Construction
57. SHAH, S.N., ZHOU, Y., and GOEL, N., Flow Behaviour of
Technology Centre. Previously, he served
Fracturing Slurries in Coiled Tubing; paper SPE 74811, presented at
the SPE/ICoTA Coiled Tubing Conference, Houston, TX, April 9 – as an interim director of the Mewbourne
10, 2002. School of Petroleum and Geological
58. CHEN, N.H., An Explicit Equation for Friction Factor in Pipe; Engineering at OU. Prior to joining OU ten
Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Fundamentals, Vol. 18, No. 3, years ago, Dr. Shah worked for almost 20
pp. 296-297, 1979. years in the oil and gas industry. He holds a
59. Technical Report; prepared by the Well Construction Technology B.S. from the University of Baroda, India, and M.S. and Ph.D.
Centre, University of Oklahoma, for the Annual Meeting of the degrees from the University of New Mexico, all in chemical engi-
Coiled Tubing Consortium, Houston, TX, May 1999. neering. His work has resulted in more than 140 technical papers
and two chapters in technical books. Dr. Shah’s research focuses
Provenance—Original Petroleum Society manuscript, Fluid Flow in on developing new procedures and methods to characterize and
Coiled Tubing: A Critical Review and Experimental Investigation understand the behaviour of fluids under reservoir conditions and
(2002-225), first presented at the 3rd Canadian International Petroleum other related issues in drilling, well completion, and stimulation.
Conference (the 53 rd Annual Technical Meeting of the Petroleum His research interests also include coiled tubing technology and
Society), June 11-13, 2002, in Calgary, Alberta. Abstract submitted for applications. He is a member of the Petroleum Society, SPE, the
review December 14, 2001; editorial comments sent to the author(s) International Coiled Tubing Association, the American Institute of
January 23, 2003; revised manuscript received February 27, 2003; paper Chemical Engineers, National Society of Professional Engineers,
approved for pre-press March 5, 2003, final approval May 7, 2004. and the Society of Rheology. Dr. Shah is a registered professional
engineer in the State of Oklahoma.

June 2004, Volume 43, No. 6 61