Hydrate-phobic Surfaces: Fundamental Studies in Clathrate Hydrate Adhesion Reduction

TitleHydrate-phobic Surfaces: Fundamental Studies in Clathrate Hydrate Adhesion Reduction
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSmith J.D, Meuler A.J, Bralower H.L, Venkatesan R., Subramanian S., Cohen R.E, McKinley G.H, Varanasi K.K
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics

Clathrate hydrate formation and subsequent plugging of deep-sea oil and gas pipelines represent a significant bottleneck for deep-sea oil and gas operations. Current methods for hydrate mitigation are expensive and energy intensive, comprising chemical, thermal, or flow management techniques. In this paper, we present an alternate approach of using functionalized coatings to reduce hydrate adhesion to surfaces, ideally to a low enough level that hydrodynamic shear stresses can detach deposits and prevent plug formation. Systematic and quantitative studies of hydrate adhesion on smooth substrates with varying solid surface energies reveal a linear trend between hydrate adhesion strength and the practical work of adhesion (γtotal[1 + cos θrec]) of a suitable probe liquid, that is, one with similar surface energy properties to those of the hydrate. A reduction in hydrate adhesion strength by more than a factor of four when compared to bare steel is achieved on surfaces characterized by low Lewis acid, Lewis base, and van der Waals contributions to surface free energy such that the practical work of adhesion is minimized. These fundamental studies provide a framework for the development of hydrate-phobic surfaces, and could lead to passive enhancement of flow assurance and prevention of blockages in deep-sea oil and gas operations.