The Shaya wells have vertical depths of 11,000 ft and are heavily depleted. They, therefore, require 10,000 ft of lift to achieve the target drawdown. Electrical submersible pumps (ESPs) were deployed, but because of the low flow rates (80 B/D), produced solids, and high free gas content, initial run lives were uneconomical. This 47-well case study demonstrates how a holistic design and operating procedure achieved both the target drawdown and an economical mean time between failure (MTBF).

"Learning from history" was the key method as there was sufficient ESP data to determine the root cause of ESP failures based on a combination of dismantle inspection and failure analysis (DIFA) and operating conditions. Moreover, production testing combined with real-time downhole gauge data enabled inflow characterization with both nodal and pressure transient analysis, thereby establishing the well potential and ensuring that the new proposed design was not only reliable but also achieved the targeted drawdown. An additional requirement was to handle both the current low rates and higher rates associated with future waterflooding.

A historical review of 9 wells was conducted, followed by a new ESP design that was proposed and installed in 47 wells, which achieved an MTBF of over 940 days, whereas previous designs in the same wells had an MTBF of only 650 days. This substantial improvement was achieved without compromising drawdown as the wells were produced with a flowing intake pressure of approximately 250 psia at setting depths of 9,500 ft. This result is particularly noteworthy when one considers the harshness of the well conditions and, in particular, bottom-hole temperatures of 240°F, fines migration, deviated wells with doglegs above 2.5°/100ft, intake pressures below bubble point and low productivity indices (PIs) of 0.2 B/D/psi. The high depletion combined with low PIs, which resulted in very low flow rates of as low as 50 B/D, was the most challenging factor of this application. Outflow modeling and wellbore hydraulics were also important considerations to limit solid fallback due to insufficient velocity in the production tubing as well minimize heat rise caused by startup transients, which can be long in low-PI wells.

ESPs are traditionally best suited to wells with liquid rates providing sufficient cooling for both the motor and the pump as well as short unloading transients during startup. This success story, therefore, provides an important reference for future ESP applications in very low flow rates in deep wells, which are beyond the recommended application envelope of alternative low flow rate artificial lift solutions such as progressive cavity pumps and sucker rod pumps.

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