Simulating the Dynamics of Particulate Networks
Crude oil is a naturally occurring complex fluid with interesting flow characteristics. For example, crystallisation of high molecular weight hydrocarbons (waxes) occurs at low temperatures. When this happens, and if the particles are large enough in number, they deposit on the walls, slowly blocking the pipeline. This may sometimes also happen suddenly during shut-downs and if not managed properly, the pipeline may need to be abandoned. Prevention and management of blockage is thus a crucial problem for the petroleum industry.
In our lab, we have been working on solutions by intervening either before or after network formation such as: (i) Promoting isotropic growth of wax crystals so that they are unable to form a network. This is achieved using surface active polymeric additives which interfere with the growth of wax crystals. (ii) Disintegrating the solid-like network by applying high electric fields. While our experiments suggest these to be promising techniques, we are now looking for a motivated student to work on the modelling and simulation aspects of these processes. Interested student may meet us to discuss further.