Electric submersible pump (ESP) applications with heavy oil pose substantial technical challenges: decreased pump head capacity, increased power requirements, and poor cooling capacity. This paper shares experiences, lessons learned, equipment standardization exercises, and improvements performed in a field with heavy oil (13º API to 15ºAPI) to extend mean time between failures (MTBF) in more than 3,000 days in a high ESP population with an average of 500 wells. To achieve production goals and extend ESP run life, the project tracks five elements of the ESP life cycle: design, optimization, failure analysis, monitoring, and equipment standardization.

As the field evolved, ESPs faced the challenges such as: increased production with increasing water cuts to higher flow rates in horizontal completions with high dogleg severity. Chronological performance of pump mean time between failure is shown before and after improvements. The ESP lifecycle is used as the basis to analyze several factors that caused either total system failure or inability to meet production expectations. This paper explains the implications of each factor and how they affect ESP components, through case studies of representative or repetitive failures and examples of how they were remediating without incurring the expense of oversizing the ESP equipment or completion.

This paper shares lessons learned in a five-year, dynamic heavy oil project and includes practical tools to improve ESP run life and optimize well production, which are applicable across the industry and around the world.

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