Putting Equipment Through It’s Paces to Understand True Thermal Hydraulic Performance

We build large-scale custom flow loops to evaluate equipment performance in complex flow and heat transfer scenarios. Thermodynamic and computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modelling are used during the design stage of a testing program to ensure the test setup simulates the required scenario. We also use modelling to ensure that the system can be operated safely. Automated test monitoring and control systems, including automatic emergency shut down, are customized for each test using LabView®.

Testing programs provide third-party validation of equipment performance. Results are often presented as performance curves of flow rate, pressure drop, power and efficiency over a range of operating conditions. High-speed data acquisition is often used to capture dynamic flow events such as cavitation, steam flashing and slugging. Pressure and temperature instrumentation can be installed at multiple points within the equipment to gather detailed information on flow characteristics.

Transparent sections of the test setup are often included to visualize the flow characteristics. Advanced data analytics, including time-domain analysis, are used to dissect the data and provide insight into flow behavior.

Flow loops can be arranged horizontally or vertically inside C-FER Technologies’ facilities to provide year-round climate-controlled testing environments:

  • Horizontal flow loops can be constructed with straight run sections over 25 m (85 ft) long.
  • Vertical flow loops up to 15 m (50 ft) tall can be set up in the high-bay laboratory.
  • Vertical wellbore flow loops up to 45 m (150 ft) long can be set-up in the Deep Well Simulator.
  • High-pressure and high temperature flow loops are installed within steel and concrete containment cells with fire suppression systems to ensure safety.
  • Flow loops with flammable, explosive, corrosive and poisonous fluids are installed inside explosion-proof Special Environment Chambers. Chemical scrubbing systems and incinerators are used to safely deal with noxious or explosive releases within these chambers.

We provide a range of flow testing capabilities including:

  1. Multi-phase flow;
  2. Slurry transport and erosion;
  3. Heat recovery and utilization; and
  4. External leak detection systems.

Multi-phase Flow: Complex Flow Regimes and Phase Behaviours

We use a variety of test fluids to simulate mixtures of liquids and gases. Liquids usually include combinations of water and oil either in segregated flow or as emulsions. Gases used in flow testing are generally inert and non-condensable under the test conditions. The most complex flow tests include conditions where components of the test fluids change phase: vaporizing at one point and condensing at another. In most industrial applications, water is the most likely to change phases. Liquid hydrocarbons and liquids with dissolved gases can also show very complex behaviours under pressure and temperature conditions that are common in industry.

Water: Phase Changes and Steam Quality

We test equipment over a range of pressure and temperature conditions where water may exist as a liquid or steam. Some tests require precise control of the ratio of gaseous to liquid water (steam quality) to mimic field conditions. Other tests monitor pressure and temperature to determine how changing operating conditions affect how much steam is present. This allows us to evaluate phenomena like steam flashing and gas locking in high temperature pumps. The liquid water phase in a flow test can also include a variety of additives to change the behaviour of the water. Chemical additives are used to increase density, change pH, increase viscosity or impede or stabilize emulsions.

Oil: Everything from Canola to Diluted Bitumen

We use stable, refined oil products to ensure repeatability in testing programs. Where high viscosity liquids are required, we use silicone oils prepared with specific viscosity characteristics. Heat transfer oil is used for high-temperature applications to minimize vaporization and fire hazards. Flammable products such as crude oil, diluted bitumen, oil-based drilling mud and refined petroleum products can also be used for testing. “Edible oils” have been used in some instances where environmental exposure concerns are heightened but these products are not generally stable for long-duration testing programs.

Gas: Non-condensable but Soluble

We typically use nitrogen for the gas phase in tests in place of more hazardous gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Even air can be hazardous at high pressure as there may be residual oil products in the flow loop that could auto-ignite at high pressure. Using an inert gas greatly reduces safety concerns and minimizes corrosion damage to the test setup.

Hazardous gases are required in some tests to properly represent the flow characteristics. This can include:

  • Partial pressure and phase change behaviour in the presence of other components, such as steam;
  • Solubility of the gas in the liquid phase; and
  • Corrosion of equipment components.

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Multi-phase Flow

Steam Fraction: 0 to 100%
Max Test Temp: 250 °C


  • Water
  • Silicone Oil
  • Petroleum Products
  • Edible Oils
  • Drilling Mud


  • Nitrogen
  • Hydrocarbon (CH4, C3H8)
  • Acid (H2S, CO2)

Slurry Transport and Erosion

We help visualize how solids are transported and deposited in fluid systems. Full-scale flow loops with transparent sections let our clients see the complex interactions between fluids, solids and equipment. Water and clear silicone oil are usually used for visualization experiments. Slurries, such as bentonite and water or opaque oils, can also be used if visualization is not required. Gases such as air or nitrogen can be used alone, or in combination with liquids.

Solids can include sand, gravel, rock fragments or manufactured particles similar to ceramic proppants used in hydraulic fracturing. The condition of the particles is monitored during tests to ensure that abrasion does not change the particle’s shape and size. This is especially important in wear and erosion testing.

The effects of erosion on equipment performance are often assessed in a three-part test program. The first step is to measure the flow characteristics of the device. This is done by operating the equipment over the full range of expected operating conditions. The second step is to operate the equipment in an erosive environment. To minimize the test duration, this environment is usually designed to be much more damaging than the actual expected operating environment. In the third stage, the flow characteristics of the equipment are measured again to determine the impact of erosion the devices’s performance. In most cases, two separate flow loops are used: one for flow characterization and a second for erosion. This protects the precise instrumentation needed to characterize the flow performance from erosion. It also allows the erosion loop to be designed to minimize erosion of the loop itself.

Examples of slurry and erosion testing include:

  • Methods to free drilling assemblies that are impacted by drill cuttings;
  • Erosion susceptibility of downhole flow control devices;
  • Drill stem testing tool performance with ceramic proppants;
  • Wear of sucker rod centralizers in progressing cavity pumping systems;
  • Produced sand transportation in heavy oil wells; and
  • Removal of settled sand from tanks.

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Slurry Transport and Erosion

Transport Media

  • Water
  • Drilling Mud
  • Air/Nitrogen


  • Sand
  • Ceramic Proppant
  • Rock Chips

Waste Heat Recovery from Industrial Processes

Testing heat recovery systems in real industrial settings can be challenging. Industrial operators are hesitant to install an unproven device in their process. It is also often difficult to significantly alter the process to evaluate the device over a range of operating conditions. Another difficulty is the installation the instrumentation required to fully characterize the process heat input and the device output.

We can simulate a wide range of industrial processes to evaluate the effectiveness of devices for recovering waste heat. A custom flow loop can provide precise fluid properties, flow rates and heat inputs to test devices over a broad operating range. Test conditions can be changed as required to measure how the heat recovery and energy conversion efficiency varies under different operating conditions. Tests can also be interrupted as needed to try different configurations without having to work around the maintenance schedule of an industrial operation.

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Waste Heat Recovery

Circulating Media

  • Water
  • Heat Transfer Oil

Max Temp: 250 °C

Leak Detection System Evaluation

We test the performance of instruments for detecting leaks. Full-scale tests are often required because of the difficulty in building scale-models that accurately represent real-world conditions. In most cases, actual products, such as crude oil or diluted bitumen, must be used instead of surrogates since the leak detection instrument responds to a specific characteristic of the fluid.

We operate a large-scale testing system that creates controlled releases of liquid hydrocarbons into soil or water. Real hydrocarbon products such as diluted bitumen are released at realistic flow rates and pressures. Various instruments are used to characterize the distribution of the leaked fluid.

Instruments can include:

  • Multi-point temperature measurements;
  • Single point hydrocarbon sensors;
  • Vapour recovery devices; and
  • Image capture.

Vapour containment and incineration systems are used to safely manage the volatile products of the releases. Contaminated soil and water are disposed of in compliance with local environmental rules.

Many of these tests include side-by-side, simultaneous comparisons of measurement technologies from different vendors. Special effort is made to ensure that the tests are unbiased and do not provide an advantage to one technology over another that does not exist in the real leak scenario. In many cases, these technologies have never been exposed to a real leak. These tests are sometimes the only opportunity for the technology vendor to observe how their system will perform.

We can evaluate the performance of the following leak detection systems:

  • Fibre optic and cable-based systems for underground leaks;
  • Single-point sensors for detecting hydrocarbons;
  • Non-contact systems for detecting oil on or in water;
  • Airborne systems for detecting gaseous components of hydrocarbon leaks;
  • Thermal imaging for liquid and gas leaks; and
  • Logging tools to detect gas and liquid leaks in wellbores.

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Leak Detection

Detection Scenarios

  • In Ground
  • On/in Water
  • Airborne

Leaked Products

  • Crude Oil
  • Diluted Bitumen
  • Methane/Pentane


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