In pipelines, non-Newtonian fluids are generally pumped under turbulent flow conditions where frictional pressure losses are required for hydraulic design. The friction factor is a crucial parameter in calculating frictional pressure losses. However, determination of the friction factor is a decisive challenge, especially for turbulent flow of non-Newtonian fluids. This is mainly due to the large number of friction factor equations and the precision of each.

The main objective of the present paper is to evaluate the published friction factor correlations for non-Newtonian fluids over a wide range of friction factor data to select the most accurate one. An analytical comparative study adopting the recently introduced Akaike information criterion (AIC) and the traditional coefficient of determination (R2) is conducted. Data reported by several researchers are used individually and collectively.

The results show that each model exhibits accuracy when examined with a specific data set while El-Emam et al. model proves its superiority to other models when examining the data mutually. In addition to its simple and explicit form, it covers a wide range of flow behavior indices and generalized Reynolds numbers.

It is also shown that the traditional belief that a higher R2 corresponds to better models may be misleading. AIC overcomes the shortcomings of R2 as it employs the parsimonious principle to trade between the complexity of the model and its accuracy not only to find the best approximating model but also to develop statistical inference based on the data. Although it has not yet been used in oil and gas industry, the authors present the AIC to initiate an innovative strategy that has been demonstrated in other disciplines to help alleviate several challenges faced by professionals in the oil and gas industry. Finally, a detailed discussion and models’ ranking according to AIC and R2 is presented showing the numerous advantages of AIC.

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