Approximately 40% of unconventional wells in the United States with artificial lift are using gas lift. One of the blessings of gas lift is that it is very forgiving and rarely fails. This has led some operators to the conclusion that gas lift doesn’t require a proper control and optimization scheme. The objective of this study is to use field data and show the importance and benefit of a controlled and optimized gas lift compressor to aid production.
The intelligent gas lift compressor utilizes a heavy computational process of taking a composite Vogel reservoir inflow model coupled with a Hagedorn & Brown outflow model that informs the Guo model to solve for a minimum critical rate to lift liquid droplets out of the wellbore. First, an empirical range of injection rates is used to find the rate with maximum unloading as indicated by a drop in casing injection pressure. Once this rate is found, reservoir inflow performance relationship (IPR) parameters are estimated to meet that condition. These parameters are held constant for a time period and injection rate needed is calculated based on production rate and pressure coming into the programmable logic controller (PLC) via digital connections. This approach is tested on a well and the production is monitored over a 3-month period. The collected data are used to analyze the benefits of an intelligent gas lift compressor control.
The data from a well with this intelligent gas lift system is monitored over a 3-month period. This includes a 20-day period of the compressor searching for an injection rate that shows to be the most efficient. Then the compressor control is set up with a critical rate control mode. This calculation is performed with an edge server that runs the intense calculations every minute to instruct the compressor what volume of injection it needs to achieve manipulation of an automated suction control valve and speed control of the engine driver. The surface casing pressure data shows a very stable unloading behavior profile, which is confirmed with very stable oil and gas production data over the observation period. An estimate of gained production during the periods of high line pressure along with stable unloading is given as the justification for outfitting the well site with the intelligent compressor controls. Despite gas lift’s importance as a lift technique, its control and optimization are still not properly addressed within the industry. This work’s proposed intelligent gas lift scheme can be a potentially valuable solution to unstable unloading of liquids, and benefit the operators significantly in production and revenues.