Pipeline pigging is one of the most widely used wax remediation techniques in field practice. However, it still depends heavily on “rule-of-thumb” due to the limited understanding of wax deposit properties and wax removal mechanisms. By far, laboratory studies on pipeline pigging generally suffer a gross defect in test materials, i.e., the big discrepancy between the experimental wax samples and real wax deposits. To this end, this paper aims to explore the wax removal in pigging with naturally deposited wax, using a self-designed experimental facility. Wax deposit mass and wax content, two decisive indexes affecting wax removal, were also investigated. The experimental apparatus consists of two parts: a flow loop equipped with a detachable test section to achieve real wax deposits and a wax removal apparatus to perform pigging operations. The test section can be conveniently detached from the flow loop and/or mounted onto the wax removal apparatus for a quick conversion between wax deposition and pigging operation. The results indicate that a higher bulk flow temperature decreases the wax deposit mass and increases the wax content of deposit. Additionally, the distributions of wax content and wax layer thickness suggest that gravity settling plays no role in wax deposition. Moreover, the wax resistive force profile of naturally deposited wax presents four distinct stages, i.e., the build-up phase, the pre-plug phase, the plug phase and the production phase. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study on wax removal with real wax deposits. It paves the way for the application of previous artificial-wax-based researches to real wax deposit scenarios.

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