In unconventional shale plays, the production profile varies dramatically within an extremely short period of time. Wells often produce at extremely high rates when initially completed and deplete rapidly before reaching production plateaus. This rapidly changing production profile presents a significant challenge to engineers designing artificial lift systems. Because of the method's flexibility and tolerance to a variety of producing conditions, gas lift has become a popular artificial lift choice in these wells.

To achieve optimal system performance, engineers often design gas lift installations to produce up the casing early in the well's life. This configuration minimizes pressure losses in the production string, enabling deep injection, improved drawdown, and higher flow rates. As the wells deplete and the production rates decline, the wells must be converted to tubing flow to ensure well stability. As the wells further deplete, they are often converted to intermittent gas lift. Unfortunately, it is not feasible to produce wells with tubing flow gas lift or intermittent gas lift with the typical downhole equipment configuration used in annulus flow wells. Therefore, transitioning to these late-life artificial lift configurations has required a workover rig.

A novel downhole equipment configuration was developed to eliminate the need for a workover rig when transitioning from annulus flow to tubing flow gas lift. Side-pocket mandrels with a special pocket porting configuration were selected to enable annulus flow with enhanced gas passage early in the well's life. To transition from annulus flow to tubing flow, the slickline-retrievable valves were pulled and replaced with reverse-flow gas lift valves. A field trial was conducted to demonstrate and test this completion concept. While more investigation is required to justify full field implementation, the initial results have been promising.

This project demonstrated that it is feasible to produce wells in annulus flow, tubing flow, and even intermittent gas lift with a single completion using readily available, off-the-shelf artificial lift equipment.

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