MUltiphase Flow-induced Fluid-flexible structure InteractioN in Subsea applications (MUFFINS)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering


The MUFFINS project assembles a multidisciplinary team from Newcastle University, Imperial College London, Cranfield University, industrial partners including BP, Chevron, TOTAL and Forsys Subsea, who are members of the Transient Multiphase Flow and Flow Assurance Consortium, Wood Group, Xodus Group, Orcina and TNO in the Netherlands, and an academic partner, the National University of Singapore, to develop the next generation of pioneering technologies and cost-efficient tools for the safe, reliable and real-life designs of subsea systems (pipelines, risers, jumpers and manifolds) transporting multiphase hydrocarbon liquid-gas flows. This world-leading academia-industry collaboration will be the first of its kind to strengthen the UK international competitiveness in multiphase flow designs for offshore oil and gas applications.

The proposed framework will specifically address fundamental and practical challenges in areas of internal multiphase flow-induced vibration (MFIV), in combination with external flow vortex-induced vibration (VIV), whose fatigue damage effects due to complicated fluid-structure interaction mechanisms can be catastrophic and result in costly production downtime. From a practical viewpoint, liquid-gas slug flows induced by the pipe geometry, seabed topography or thermo-physic-hydrodynamic instability, are common and problematical. Such flows have a highly complex hydrodynamic nature as the different mechanical properties of the deformable and compressible phases cause spatial and temporal variability in the combination and interaction of the interfaces. Subsea layout architecture, operational lifetime and environmental conditions can all affect the flow-pipe interaction patterns. Nevertheless, reliable practical guidelines and systematic frameworks for the response, stress and fatigue assessment of subsea structures undergoing MFIV are lacking. Greater complexities and unknowns arise when designing these structures subject to combined MFIV-VIV. Through an integrated programme combining modelling, simulation and experiment, high-fidelity three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics will be performed and a hierarchy of innovative and cost-efficient reduced-order models will be developed to capture vital multiple MFIV and VIV effects, providing significant insights into detailed flow features and fluid-structure coupling phenomena. Validation, verification, uncertainty and reliability analyses will be carried out by comparing numerical results with experimental tests and industrial data to improve confidence in identifying the likelihood of fatigue failure and safety risks. Computationally-efficient tools and open-source codes will be advanced and utilised by industry and worldwide researchers. The project will minimise uncertainties in MFIV-VIV predictions associated with multi-scale multi-physics fluid-elastic solid interactions, ultimately delivering improved design optimisation and control of the most efficient multiphase flow features.

The UK oil and gas industry has been at the heart of the UK prosperity for five decades but has faced significant challenges recently. In October 2016, the UK Government founded the Oil & Gas Authority to safeguard collaboration, maximise resource recovery from the UK Continental Shelf, and maintain the UK competitiveness with future investments. In alignment with these strategies, the MUFFINS project will deliver the maximum benefits to and security of global oil and gas energy by means of cutting-edge technologies, cost-efficient tools and recommended guidelines to significantly improve the integrity, reliability and safety of subsea systems transporting multiphase flows. The project will upskill the next-generation engineers and scientists in the oil and gas sector. The technical know-how and deliverables will lead to a transformative improvement in structural designs and reduction of environmental impacts, operational and maintenance costs.


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