Imaging of Gas-liquid Annular Flows for Underbalanced Drilling Using Electrical Resistance Tomography

Na Wei, Jiabin Jia, Xin Yu, Yousef Faraj, Qiang Wang, Ying-feng Meng, Mi Wang, Wantong Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The underbalanced drilling technique, which is also known as managed-pressure drilling, is playing an important role in oil and gas sector, as it reduces common conventional drilling problems such as minimal drilling rates and formation damage, differential sticking and lost circulation. Flow regime monitoring is one of the key topics in annular multiphase flow research, particularly for underbalanced drilling technique. Prediction of the prevailing flow regime in an annulus channel is of particular importance in the design and installation of underbalanced drilling facilities. Especially, for establishing a suitable pressure-drop model based on the characteristics of the active flow regime. The methods of flow regime prediction (or visualisation) in an annulus channel that are currently in use are very limited, this is evidently due to poor accuracy or they are simply not applicable to underbalanced drilling operation in practice. Therefore, this paper presents a monitoring method, in which Electrical Resistance Tomography (ERT) is used to rapidly image the prevailing flow regime in an annulus channel with a metallic inner pipe. Experiments were carried out using an air-water flow loop with a test section 50 mm diameter flow pipe. The two-phase air-water flow regimes are visualised in the upward vertical annulus channel with a radius ratio (r/R) 0.4. This paper highlights the visualisation results of only three flow regimes, namely bubble flow, transitional bubble-slug flow and slug flow. The flow regimes are visualised through axial images stacked from 50 mm diameter-pixels of 2D tomograms reconstructed with the Conjugate Gradient Method (SCG). Gas volume fraction profiles within the annulus flow channel are also illustrated. The profiles are extracted using the Modified Sensitivity coefficient Back-Projection (MSBP) method with a sensitivity matrix generated from a realstic phantom in the finite element method software. The results are compared with visual observations (e.g. photographs) of the active flow regime at the time of ERT measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319–326
JournalFlow Measurement and Instrumentation
Issue numberPart B
Early online date21 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Underbalanced Drilling technique
  • Annulus flow
  • Flow regime
  • Electrical Resistance Tomography
  • Flow regime visualisation


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