Production fluids with abrasive sand are a continuous challenge for artificial lift equipment (e.g. electric submersible pumps or ESPs) because these fluids generate wear, reduce lifting efficiency and increase the frequency of well interventions due to failures. This study summarizes the first implementation of hardened ESP stages in the Northern Llanos Field. The impellers used in the ESP system are made of a special alloy called Ni-resist Type 4. This alloy improves the resistance to erosion and abrasion over a traditional pump stage made of Ni-resist Type 1.

A candidate well with high flow rate 20,000 bbl/d (600 bbl/d of oil) was selected for a field trial with these special pump stages. The prior ESP's failed with an average run life of 72 days even though the flow rate was restricted producing approximately 75% of its real potential due to the high amount of sand produced. This well is completed in a formation that produces high solids between 50 and 1,000 ppm.

During the field trial of hardened stages, the candidate well reached a run life of 797 days, equivalent to 11 times the average of its previous ESP's with standard metallurgy. It also produced 20% above its fluid potential estimated by reservoir engineering and surveillance teams, and the frequency of well interventions was reduced. The paper shows a real case study that demonstrates production and run life increases as well as the capability of being replicated in other wells with high sand production.

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