Towards Tomography-Based Real-Time Control of Multiphase Flows: A Proof of Concept in Inline Fluid Separation

Matheus M. Garcia*, Muhammad A. Sattar, Hanane Atmani, Dominique Legendre, Laurent Babout, Eckhard Schleicher, Uwe Hampel, Luis M. Portela

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


The performance of multiphase flow processes is often determined by the distribution of phases inside the equipment. However, controllers in the field are typically implemented based on flow variables, which are simpler to measure, but indirectly connected to performance (e.g., pressure). Tomography has been used in the study of the distribution of phases of multiphase flows for decades, but only recently, the temporal resolution of the technique was sufficient for real-time reconstructions of the flow. Due to the strong connection between the performance and distribution of phases, it is expected that the introduction of tomography to the real-time control of multiphase flows will lead to substantial improvements in the system performance in relation to the current controllers in the field. This paper uses a gas–liquid inline swirl separator to analyze the possibilities and limitations of tomography-based real-time control of multiphase flow processes. Experiments were performed in the separator using a wire-mesh sensor (WMS) and a high-speed camera to show that multiphase flows have two components in their dynamics: one intrinsic to its nonlinear physics, occurring independent of external process disturbances, and one due to process disturbances (e.g., changes in the flow rates of the installation). Moreover, it is shown that the intrinsic dynamics propagate from upstream to inside the separator and can be used in predictive and feedforward control strategies. In addition to the WMS experiments, a proportional–integral feedback controller based on electrical resistance tomography (ERT) was implemented in the separator, with successful results in relation to the control of the distribution of phases and impact on the performance of the process: the capture of gas was increased from 76% to 93% of the total gas with the tomography-based controller. The results obtained with the inline swirl separator are extended in the perspective of the tomography-based control of quasi-1D multiphase flows.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4443
Number of pages33
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • electrical resistance tomography
  • gas– liquid swirl flow
  • hydrocyclone
  • inline fluid separator
  • multiphase flows
  • real-time control
  • swirl separator
  • tomography-based control


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