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The Evolution of Multiphase Flow Simulation Software in the Oil and Gas Industry


One significant challenge faced by oil and gas operators is the efficient and safe management of fluid flows, including oil, gas, and water, through wells and pipelines. Software simulation tools have played a crucial role in understanding how these fluids behave under various conditions, whether onshore or offshore. Since the beginning, about 50 years ago, the software used for simulating these complex flows has evolved, transforming the way the oil and gas industry approaches the design and daily operations of production systems.

The Beginning:

When the oil and gas industry first started using software for production modeling, simulations were limited to single-phase flows. These simulations focused on understanding the behavior of individual fluids in isolation, without considering how these fluids interacted with each other. However, as extraction efforts expanded to more complex environments and deeper reservoirs, it became evident that we could no longer ignore the complexities of multiphase flow phenomena. This realization spurred the development of software tools capable of modeling multiple flow phases and their interactions across a wide range of production scenarios.

The Rise of Multiphase Flow Simulation Software:

In the 1970s, as computer technology advanced and became more accessible, multiphase flow simulation software emerged as a game-changer. A notable example is the OLGA software developed in collaboration with major oil and gas operators. OLGA could simulate transient multiphase flow, revolutionizing the design and management of production systems. This innovation enabled more cost-effective field developments, allowing the safe transportation of multiphase flows over longer distances to processing facilities.

Advancements in Mathematics and Physics:

In the subsequent years, significant improvements were made in mathematics, physics, and computational techniques used in multiphase simulation software. Driven by ongoing research and the increasing computing power available, smarter algorithms were developed to accurately account for phase changes and the impact of solids on flow. These advancements enhanced the accuracy and reliability of multiphase simulations.

Real-Time Data Integration:

With the rapid digitalization of the oil and gas industry over the last 10-15 years, operators worldwide have increasingly utilized real-time data from sensor hardware for production monitoring and optimization. These sensors, including pressure and temperature gauges, now provide continuous input to their data management tools. New software applications leverage this real-time data in multiphase flow calculations, enabling operators to make on-the-fly adjustments to production strategies. As a result, multiphase flow simulators have become vital tools for production engineers, enhancing safety and efficiency in oil and gas operations.

Combining Physics and Machine Learning:

In the past six years, Turbulent Flux has led the way in combining traditional physics-based multiphase modeling with machine learning techniques. Physics-based models excel in applying fundamental laws but may not fully leverage additional production system information. Machine learning, on the other hand, excels in processing vast and diverse data to identify patterns but may struggle to make predictions beyond its training data. By integrating both approaches into one solution, we can harness their strengths while mitigating their respective limitations.

Conclusion and Way Forward with Turbulent Flux:

The development of multiphase flow simulation software has been led by continuous innovation, driven by the oil and gas industry’s pursuit of accurate, reliable, and efficient solutions. From its early days as a niche field design tool to its widespread use in real-time operations, the combination of physics-based models and machine learning represents a pivotal advancement. This hybrid solution is poised to play an even wider role in optimizing operational efficiency, enhancing safety, and contributing to sustainable energy development.

In 2016, Turbulent Flux, a pioneering software company, emerged in this evolving landscape. From its inception, the company developed a unique software solution that integrates advanced multiphase flow simulation with optimization and machine learning. This solution combines the predictive power of physics-based models with the agility and adaptability of machine learning. Turbulent Flux’s technology includes self-adjustment of the simulation model in virtual flow metering (VFM), ensuring accurate flow rate measurements over time by accounting for changes in production flow and conditions. This reduces the need for human intervention in model maintenance, resulting in cost savings, improved robustness, and making VFM a viable solution for assets with a high well count. Turbulent Flux’s multiphase simulation software is designed for the future, featuring cloud-native architecture and open integration access for third parties, making it a transformative force in the industry.

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