Lubricated pipelining: Stability of core-annular flow

Luigi Preziosi, Kangping Chen, Daniel D. Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


The stability of core-annular flow (CAF) in pipes is analysed using the linear theory of stability. Attention is confined to the potentially stable case of lubricated pipelining with the less viscous liquid, say water, in the annulus. The effects of surface tension and density are included, but gravity is excluded. We find upper and lower branches of the neutral curve in a Reynolds number (IR) Vs wavenumber (a) plane. A window of parameters is identified in which CAF is stable to small disturbances. When R is below the lower critical value, CAF is destabilized by surface tension and long waves break up into slugs and bubbles. The sizes of slugs and bubbles of oil in water observed by Charles, Govier & Hodgson (1961) are given by the wavelength of the fastest growing long wave. This long-wave instability is a capillary instability, modified by shear, which reduces to Rayleigh's instability in the appropriate limit. At higher R, the capillary instability is stabilized by shear. At yet higher R, above the upper critical value, the flow is unstable to generally shorter waves which leads to emulsification, water droplets in oil. The theory agrees with experiments. The analysis seems to be applicable to the design of lubricated pipelines; for example, there is an optimum viscosity ratio for stability, greater stability can be obtained by using heavy liquid as a lubricant when the flow is unstable to capillary modes on the lower branch and by using light liquids when the flow is unstable to emulsifying disturbances on the upper branch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-356
Number of pages34
Journaljournal of fluid mechanics
StatePublished - Apr 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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