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SPE/IADC 125992

““PHPA” as a Frictional Pressure Loss Reducer and its Pressure

Loss Estimation”
C. Ercan, Turkish Petroleum Corp. (TPAO) and M.E. Ozbayoglu, SPE, Middle East Technical University

Copyright 2009, SPE/IADC Middle East Drilling Technology Conference & Exhibition

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE/IADC Middle East Drilling Technology Conference & Exhibition held in Manama, Bahrain, 26-28 October 2009.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE/IADC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have
not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the International Association of Drilling Contractors and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessari-
ly reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the International Association of Drilling Contractors, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of
any part of this paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the International Association of Drilling Contractors is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is
restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE/IADC copyright.

Significant circulating system pressure losses occur between mud and extreme long drill pipes during deep or ultra deep off-
shore drilling operations with the available fluid circulation technology. Therefore high pump horsepower is required to circu-
late the mud. Addition of a small amount of frictional drag reducer can decrease these circulating system pressure losses sig-
nificantly. As a result, pipe flow capacity can be increased with lower horsepower requirements. Frictional drag reducing po-
lymers are often composed of high molecular weight linear molecules and can be used with water or hydrocarbon based sol-
The performance of a liquid polymer emulsion which contains partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide/polyacrylate (PHPA) co-
polymer was studied in this paper. Straight cylindrical pipe flow experiments were performed at different concentrations of
solutions for measuring frictional pressure losses. Measured and theoretical frictional pressure loss values shows that as the
“PHPA” concentration increases, considerable drag reduction (as high as 60 %) can be obtained. The optimum concentration
for drag reduction purposes was estimated as 0.0020 (v/v). A new friction factor is proposed as a function of “PHPA” concen-
tration and Reynolds number, and the results showed that the pressure losses can be estimated with an error less than 15 % by
using the developed friction factor.

There are several studies about frictional pressure loss reducers in the literature but the mechanism behind is not fully unders-
tood yet. The first study was published by B. A. Toms (1948) and he has shown that addition of very small amount of certain
linear polymer can result in a lower pressure drop at high Reynolds numbers compared to the flow of solvent alone. Since then
this phenomenon is called as “Toms Effect”.
Polymers, surfactants and fibers are the main drag reducers used in the literature. Majority of the studies include experimental
analysis of drag reduction with polymers at turbulent flow conditions. Most of them are also used in drilling operations to re-
duce the circulating system frictional pressure losses between mud and drill pipe. They are also used in oil transportation by
pipeline to increase the pipe flow capacity. Moreover, during hydraulic fracturing jobs, drag reducers lower the pressure losses
especially for deep wells.
Three main mechanisms were proposed for drag reduction (Savins, 1964); boundary layer thickening, viscosity gradient and
viscoelasticity. Those proposed mechanisms are being investigated with the latest methods such as Direct Numerical Simula-
tions (Toonder et al, 1997). Although the mechanism is not fully understood yet the effect of these agents is lower friction fac-
tors at turbulent flow, compared to the solvent alone.
This paper presents drag reduction characteristics of PHPA solutions at straight turbulent pipe flow conditions.

Fanning friction factor is defined as the ratio of wall shear stress to kinetic energy of the fluid element and it is the most impor-
tant parameter in fluid flow analysis.

τ w 2τ w
ff = = (1)
K E ρv 2
2 SPE/IADC 125992


τw = (2)

Fanning Equation is obtained after substituting wall shear stress.

ΔP ( 2 f f ρv )

= (3)
ΔL d
In order to calculate pressure drop from the above equation, friction factor at turbulent or laminar flow must be estimated.
Another important parameter is Reynolds number and it is obtained from the following equation:

N Re = (4)

Friction factor can be evaluated using Dodge-Metzner’s (1959) equation for Power-Law fluids after calculating the Reynolds
number. But viscosity of the fluid must be estimated to obtain Reynolds number from the above equation. For that purpose
effective viscosity of the fluid is calculated using the measured rheological parameters for different concentrations and flow
rates. Effective viscosity of Power-Law fluids can be estimated using the following expression:

(1− n )
⎛ 3n + 1 ⎞
1 ⎛ d ⎞
μe = K⎜ ⎟ ⎜ ⎟ (5)
4 ⎝ 2v ⎠ ⎝ n ⎠

Where K and n are obtained with the measurements performed with Fann viscometer.
Virk et al. (1975) discovered that drag reduction starts after a certain wall shear stress is reached. This point is called onset of
drag reduction. They also proposed the idea of maximum drag reduction (MDR). It was explained that the maximum friction
reduction is limited by an asymptote, which is independent of polymer and pipe diameter. Maximum drag reduction asymptote
is given with the equation below:

f f −0.5 = 19.0 ⋅ log10 ( N Re ⋅ f f 0.5 ) − 32.4 (6)

Finally, drag reduction can be calculated with the following equation (Hoyt, 1972):

ΔPcal − ΔPme
% DR = x100 (7)

Experimental Work
A flow loop was used to perform the experiments consisting of a mud tank, a pump, a flowmeter, a flow control valve to adjust
flow rates, cylindrical pipe with an inner diameter of 0.42 inches and a differential pressure gauge. In order to obtain fully
developed turbulent flow at the test section of the pipe, the lengths of the upstream and downstream sections were calculated
according to the following formulas;

Lupstream = 50 ⋅ ( D) (8)


Ldownstream = 4.4 ⋅ ( N Re )1/ 6 ⋅ ( D) . (9)

SPE/IADC 125992 3

Figure 1 – Flow Loop used for frictional pressure loss measurements

The solutions were prepared by adding different amounts of PHPA to water in the mud tank and mixed manually to obtain a
homogeneous solution. PHPA was preferred because it has high molecular weight therefore it is easier to observe and record
drag reduction data and it mixes easily with fresh water. Major properties of PHPA are given in Table-1.

Table 1 – Properties of PHPA

Molecular Weight (4-6) x 10
Appearance Thick, opaque white liquid
Density 8.5 lb/gal (1.02 g/cm )
pH (1 quart per 100 gallons water) 8.5
Flash point, PMCC, °F (°C) >200 (>93.3)
Thermal stability, °F (°C) 250 (121)

Water flow tests were performed for the calibration of the system, and it is observed that the differential pressure values can be
estimated with an average error of 2%. Afterwards, differential pressure data were recorded for 8 different concentrations
(0.000313 - 0.000625 - 0.000938 - 0.00125 - 0.00156 - 0.00188 - 0.00219 and 0.00250 (v/v)) at 8 different flow rates. Flow
rates were increased from minimum to maximum with a constant increment then decreased to the minimum by the same in-

Rheological Measurements
Rheological measurements of solutions were obtained with a rotational viscometer at room temperature. The same concentra-
tions used for the flow tests were obtained by adding PHPA to the sample cup of the viscometer. Measured solution properties
are presented in Table-2. All solutions are assumed to be Power-Law fluids.

Table 2 – Rheological properties of solutions for different concentrations

PV 2
Conc. (v/v) θ 300 θ 600 YP (lb/100ft ) n K (cp)
0.000313 1.20 2.30 1.10 0.10 0.9381 1.76

0.000625 1.60 3.00 1.40 0.20 0.9064 2.87

0.000938 2.03 3.75 1.72 0.31 0.8849 4.16

0.001250 2.50 4.55 2.05 0.45 0.8634 5.85

0.001563 2.98 5.35 2.37 0.61 0.8430 7.92

0.001876 3.51 6.12 2.61 0.90 0.8007 12.16

0.002188 4.04 6.89 2.85 1.20 0.7686 17.09

0.002500 4.57 7.65 3.08 1.49 0.7434 22.62

4 SPE/IADC 125992

Results and Discussion

Flow experiments were performed for 8 concentrations at 8 flow rates and the results are presented in Figure 2. Significant
drag reduction is observed as the concentration of PHPA increased. Measured frictional pressure loss values are lower when
compared with “0” concentration case. Another important result is that, drag reduction effects are more pronounced for higher
flow rates. Moreover, Figure 2 indicates that increase of concentration does not result in further drag reduction after around
0.0020 (v/v). Therefore optimum concentration of PHPA for drag reduction can be considered as 0.0020 (v/v). Besides,
maximum drag reduction obtained was 59 % during our experiments. Hoyt (1972) stated that 80 % drag reduction could be
attained with PAM solutions.

Figure 2 – Flow rate vs. Frictional pressure loss results for different PHPA concentrations

50 0.000313
dP (in H2O)

30 0.001250
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Q (gpm)

In Figure 3, Reynolds number vs. friction factor data are presented on logarithmic coordinates. Since the pressure drop values
are measured, friction factors for different PHPA solutions are determined by inverse calculation method. Virk et al’s (1975)
Maximum Drag Reduction (MDR) curve and theoretical “0” concentration case curves are also plotted in Figure 3 to observe
the effect of concentration on drag reduction. It can be stated that, friction factors for different concentrations are aligned be-
tween Virk et al’s (1975) MRD asymptote and theoretical “0” concentration curve. Therefore, it can be concluded that Virk et
al’s (1975) MDR asymptote underestimates the friction factor and theoretical “0” concentration curve overestimates the fric-
tion factor.

Figure 3 – Friction factor vs. Reynolds number for different PHPA concentrations

Friction Factor

1.0E+03 1.0E+04 1.0E+05

Reynolds Number

0.000313 0.000625 0.000938 0.001250 0.001563

0.001876 0.002188 0.002500 Virk et al (1975) "0" conc.
SPE/IADC 125992 5

A correlation was obtained to calculate the friction factor for the PHPA solution as a function of Reynolds number and concen-
tration. The correlation obtained is as following;

f f = A ⋅ ( N Re ⋅ c )


A = 0.014068
B = -0.416477

The performance of this correlation is compared with the measured values, and presented in Figure 4. As it is observed from
Figure 4, the correlation can estimate frictional pressure losses within reasonable accuracy.

Figure 4 – Comparison of the correlation with the measured data


dP Calculated (in H2O)

40 0.000938


20 0.001876


0 10 20 30 40 50 60
dP Measured (in H2O)

We have performed straight pipe flow experiments to analyze the drag reduction (frictional pressure loss reduction) ability of
PHPA solutions at different concentrations. The followings can be concluded:
1. About 60 % drag reduction was achieved during the turbulent pipe flow experiments. Drag reduction was increased
with increasing concentration.
2. The optimum PHPA concentration for drag reduction purposes was 0.0020 (v/v). Above this value rheological
measurements and pipe flow experiments showed that increasing viscosity might be a major factor preventing further
drag reduction.
3. A friction factor correlation as a function of Reynolds number and concentration is obtained to estimate the frictional
pressure loss. Estimated pressure loss values are in good agreement with the measured values.

C = Concentration, v/v
DR = Drag reduction, −
d = Diameter, L
ff = Fanning friction factor, −
K = Consistency index, (m tn)/(L t2)
KE = Kinetic energy, m/(L t2)
L = Length, L
MDR = Maximum drag reduction, –
n = Flow behavior index, −
NRe = Reynolds number, −
PHPA = Partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide
v = Velocity, L/t
6 SPE/IADC 125992

Greek Letters
τ = Shear stress, m/(L t2)
τw = Wall shear stress, m/(L t2)
ρ = Density, m/L3
μ = Viscosity, m/(L t)
θ600 = Dial reading of viscometer at 600 rpm
θ600 = Dial reading of viscometer at 300 rpm

Dodge, D. W. and Metzner, A. B. 1959. Turbulent flow of non-Newtonian systems. AIChEJ 5: 189-203.
Hoyt, J. W. 1972. The effect of additives on fluid friction. Trans. ASME, J. of Basic Engng. 94: 258-285
Savins, J. G. 1964. Drag reduction characteristics of solutions of macromolecules in turbulent pipe flow. SPE 867 presented at the meeting
of AIChE, Houston, Texas.
Toms, B. A. 1948. Some observations on the flow of linear polymer solutions through straight tubes at large Reynolds number. Proc. First
Intern. Congr. on Rheology. North Holland Amsterdam. vol.II: 135-141.
Toonder, J. M. J., Hulsen, M. A., Kurken, G. D. C. and Nieuwstadt, F. T. M. 1997. Drag reduction by polymer additives in a turbulent pipe
flow: numerical and laboratory experiments. J. of Fluid Mech. 337: 193-231.
Virk, P. S. 1975. Drag reduction fundamentals. AIChEJ 21: 625.