The performance of artificial lift systems on horizontal wells is greatly influenced by both the volume of gas produced and the tendency for gas slugging. With a sucker rod pump (SRP) system, this behaviour leads to gas interference at the pump, reducing system efficiency and equipment run life. With an electric submersible pump (ESP), gas slugs can cause cycling of the ESP, which may significantly shorten its run life. A trial project was launched to evaluate the performance of two tailpipe systems that could be applied to both forms of artificial lift to achieve the following goals:
Reduce the frequency and magnitude of slugging behaviour seen at the pump,
Reduce the flowing bottomhole pressure without having to land pumps past the kick off point (KOP), and
Improve separation of free gas from the produced fluid before it reached the pump intake.
Two tailpipe systems were tested in a number of wells using both SRPs and one ESP for lift. The systems differ in both separator design and packer location. The first uses a conventional packer-style gas separator with a reduced inner diameter (ID) tailpipe extending below the separator and past the KOP. The second uses a specialty cyclonic separator with a reduced ID tailpipe, and the packer is located at the lower end of the tailpipe.
Some of these installations are outfitted with downhole gauges (DHGs) measuring pressure and temperature at several points along the tailpipe. The DHGs recorded pressure at the tailpipe inlet, tailpipe outlet, pump intake pressure, and pump discharge pressure. This surveillance package allowed for real-time monitoring of the performance of both the tailpipe and the artificial lift system, while also providing data for modelling the flow regime through the tailpipe. The modelling results were used to forecast long-term performance of the system as the well production declines over time.
Results from the field trial show the performance of each system from a variety of standpoints: changes in flowing bottomhole pressure, flowing behaviour through the tailpipe, separation effectiveness, and changes in production. Challenges were noted, and potential solutions or courses of investigation are proposed. Conclusions were drawn regarding the overall effectiveness of the concept, as well as the relative effectiveness of the two systems.
We examined the differences between two tailpipe systems regarding the isolation location, whether at the top or bottom of the tailpipe, to aid us in designing future systems. A comparison of the two separators was attempted, and various operational challenges are discussed so as to improve the design, installation, startup, and operation of these systems.