This paper describes the measures undertaken to increase the run life of sucker rod pump (SRP) installations in the past five years in OMV Austria. Around 500 wells are currently operated with SRPs with an average water cut of 95%. Recurrent pump failures, caused by corrosion, mechanical wear, gas and sand production, significantly contribute to the operating expenditures of a mature oil field operator.

In the current low oil price environment the key strategy for economic oil production is seen in efficient low cost production optimization of the subsurface pump equipment. The primary objective was to reduce the life cycle cost (LCC) and deferred production - however, also the increase of production efficiency is an appreciated secondary effect.

Consequently, the failure analysis was completely revised and historic data was fed into a new database. A new process was implemented - starting with equipment details, determination of both failure cause and reason and resulting in a ranking for a detailed root cause analysis.

The results obtained from the failure analysis led to a profound understanding and rendered a prioritization of necessary actions possible. The optimization measures include design modifications, a stricter quality assurance of new pumps, material upgrades and special pump parts for the respective production environment. In addition an economic assessment of the LCC was conducted in order to quantify the cost impact of pump optimization.

The new failure statistic highlights the importance of certain failure modes. Accordingly the necessary pump upgrades were ranked, analyzed and successively executed. The continuous study already shows a change of failure proportions and furthermore improved the in-house knowledge.

Even though deploying SRPs for more than 60 years, a structured failure analysis led to new insights of material weaknesses. The introduction of non-API special parts allowed the customization of standard pumps in order to fit to the actual production environment and significantly enlarged the application area of SRPs. In-house material technology center and research laboratory offered valuable information for the root cause analysis. This created the basis for a stricter material specification than demanded by the API 11AX to avoid recurrent systematic failures.

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