Mechanical rod rotators have been used as part of the beam lift artificial lift system since the concept was first patented in the 1930's. By rotating the rods, the frictional wear surface can be distributed around the circumference of the rod, versus on a single side of the rod. By distributing the wear surface, the rod life can be significantly extended. In the same way, the industry has used tubing rotators to derive this same benefit on the tubing, distributing the wear around the inner circumference of the tubing.

One of the biggest challenges associated with operating rotators is being able to confirm that proper rotation of the rods is taking place. The speed of rotation is very slow and is not easily observable without carefully watching the rods for several strokes, and often requires an observer to be very close to the rod string. Because of this challenge, the failure or malfunction of a rotator can go undetected for long periods of time, which often results in premature failure of the rod system, leading to excess cost and downtime.

This paper will explore some of the traditional methods that have been used to monitor rod rotators, including some of the advantages and disadvantages of these methods. It will also introduce a new wireless sensor that is capable of remotely reporting not only the proper operation of a rotator, but also the actual speed of rotation, which is very useful to understand the rotator's performance and to detect progressive failure. Field trial data was gathered as the algorithms were improved to eventually yield accurate monitoring capabilities. This data will be presented, along with several conclusions. This innovative sensor is adaptable to existing rotators and can be easily integrated into existing pump-off controllers, so it is agnostic with respect to the manufacturer of the equipment and will have broad application for rod pump wells in the industry.

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