Paper presented at the 9th International Conference on Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics, Malta, 16-18 July, 2012.
This paper is concerned with two-phase liquid-liquid flows through orifice plates in horizontal pipes, and in particular with a phenomenon known as “phase inversion” that can occur in dispersed flow. Experimental investigations were carried out in which two-phase flows comprising oil and water were pumped via an inlet section into a horizontal pipe of diameter 25.4 mm and length 7 m. In one series of experiments the light phase (oil) was introduced into the inlet section above the heavier one (water), in a “stable” inlet configuration. This was followed by a set of experiments in which the water was introduced above the oil, in an “unstable” inlet configuration. Furthermore, tests were performed with and without the insertion of a static mixer just downstream of the inlet. The orifice plate was placed in two alternate positions with respect to the inlet: one near (1.30 m) the inlet, and one far (5.20 m) downstream, i.e., in both developing and fully developed flows.
The pressure drop across the orifice plate was measured with a differential pressure transducer in a series of independent experimental runs in which the two liquid flow-rates were varied independently in order to span a range of superficial mixture velocities and inlet phase fractions (water-cuts). From the data generated in the present experimental campaign, the pressure drop measured across the orifice plate showed a gradual increase as the mixture velocities were increased, as expected. However, for a given mixture velocity, a decrease in the pressure drop across the orifice plate was observed as the water-cut was varied. This decrease was observed at water-cut values that were close to those for which phase inversion was expected in our flows (~0.2-0.3). It is inferred that the phase inversion point may be associated with this decrease in pressure drop. This interesting finding is contrary to the increase in pressure drop demonstrated in previous studies involving two-phase pipe flow and has important implications for the design of pipeline systems that incorporate orifice plates for flow measurement. In addition, the inlet orientation appeared to have little effect on the phase inversion point.