SAGD ESPs run at the highest motor temperatures current technology allows. However, they cool very rapidly when shutdown. High cooling rates promote motor oil volumetric contraction, eventually leading to wellbore fluid ingress and short-circuited motors. The Paper presents successful field tests designed to decrease ESP cooling rates by inducing controlled deadheads, rather than shutting down ESPs. Various extended deadhead field trials (up to 70+ days duration) validated the approach, while confirming that no deadhead related ESP damage was induced.

ESP temperature changes were measured using fiber optics strings installed as part of the usual completion in 60+ wells, during a four week-long field-wide plant maintenance turn-around. While cooling rates varied somewhat from well to well, they all showed very similar behavior and were very well fitted with a log-normal distribution, R2factor > 95%. Most ESP temperatures decreased between 50°C to 120°C in a week. This data was used as a general baseline to support the deadheading field trials.

An ESP was fitted internally with an RTD at the base of the motor and externally with a clamped fiber optics string. This ESP was operated normally at 55 Hz for a few months. An 8-hour shut down test established an initial base line cooling rate of 6.6°C/hour. Subsequent 6-hour deadhead tests at 30Hz and 45 Hz showed decreased cooling rates of 4.0°C/hour and 2.2°C/hour, respectively. This result clearly established the potential to deadhead at different frequencies to obtain different lower cooling rates.

Finally, two extended deadhead tests (3 and 10 weeks in duration) were executed to help determine if it was possible to induce damage in SAGD ESPs by deadheading, as is usually the case in most non-thermal applications. These ESPs operated normally after the extended tests and one was dismantled upon failure, looking for any signs of deadhead damage.

Results presented show that deadheading SAGD ESPs provides the opportunity to safely minimize ESP thermal cycles, which could lead to a significant improvement in ESP run life.

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