Calabrese, Richard V.
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
A. James Clark School of Engineering
Our interests are in the area of Enhanced Oil Recovery, Transport and Processing. In particular, we study the dynamics of water in oil dispersions that exist in petroleum wells and process pipelines. Conventional understanding of oil in water dispersions is based on custody transfer issues, where small amounts of water are present as fine droplets and a representative sample is required to accurately determine the oil fraction. However, current offshore oil reserves contain a substantial amount of water and are contained in deep sea wells that can be connected to the platform by 10 miles or more of pipeline. Conditions of high pressure and low temperature at the well head promote the formation of gas hydrates, which are ice like solids that form when water and natural gas chemically combine. If not controlled, they can grow to plug the pipeline. However, it may be possible to disperse the water as small droplets by installing high intensity mixing units in the lines. This could lead to controlled production of small solid gas hydrate particles that can be transported as a slurry without pipeline blockages.
Our expertise is in applied fluid dynamics, with emphasis on liquid-liquid and solid-liquid dispersion and the hydrodynamics of contacting devices for these operations. We conduct definitive experiments in high shear mixing devices to monitor water drop size distribution over a broad range of agitation rate and water fraction, in systems that mimic the spectrum of physicochemical properties and surfactant conditions that occur in petroleum transport lines. The data are analyzed to understand the drop breakup mechanism and to develop and validate mechanistic models that can be used to design pipeline mixers for slurry transport of gas hydrates. Prof. Calabrese is director of the University of Maryland High Shear Mixing Research program.