Yield Power Law (YPL) rheological model is commonly used to describe the pipe and annular flow of drilling fluids. However, the hydrodynamic behaviour of fluids with yield stress are difficult to predict because they exhibit an inherent plug (solid like) region where the velocity gradient is zero. Moreover, it is not easy to identify the transition between this solid like and liquid regions.

Theoretical studies have been conducted in the past to describe YPL fluid flow in pipes and annuli. As a result, several models have been proposed for determining flow field characteristics (e.g. velocity profile, plug width, etc.) and frictional pressure losses. However, most of these models have been validated by limited experimental and/or field data. Similar future modeling studies may benefit from more data collected under controlled experimental conditions. Therefore, we have conducted an experimental study to investigate the hydrodynamic behaviour of yield stress fluids under laminar pipe flow conditions and the results are presented in this paper.

Water-based Yield Power Law fluids were prepared by using Carbopol® 940, a synthetic high-molecular-weight polyacrylic acid-based cross-linked polymer. Fluids with yield stresses varying from 0.75 Pa (1.56 lb/100 ft2) to 4.37 Pa (9.13 lb/100 ft2) were obtained by using Carbopol concentrations changing from 0.060% w/w to 0.073% w/w. A 9m long horizontal pipeline with, 95 mm diameter (ID) was used for the experiments. Reynolds number range varying from 97 to 1268 confirmed that all flow field characteristics measurements of YPL fluids were conducted under laminar flow regimes.

Experimental study provided detailed information about pipe flow characteristics of yield stress fluids, including full annular velocity profile, near wall velocity profile, wall slip velocity and the plug region thickness.

The study was concluded by comparing experimental results (i.e. full velocity profile, frictional pressure loss, and plug width) to predictions of models presented in the literature.

Practical implications of the results have also been discussed by considering the hydraulic design of some practical field operations such as hole cleaning.

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