One of the major challenges in SAGD Electrical Submersible Pump (ESP) operation is produced water flashing to steam when flowing pressure loss is significant, such as at an ESP intake.

"Bottom Feeder" style intakes are a standard SAGD ESP intake which has been applied in the SAGD industry for over a decade. However,it was identified in recent years at ConocoPhillips's (CPC) Surmont Oilsands operations that Bottom Feeder intakes can lead to steam flashing in pump at the right conditions. The flashed steam causes significant cavitation in pump, which in turn causes severe motor load chattering. Further to that, steam locking in the pump can occur, which is called a "no flow event" (NFE) in the SAGD industry.

ConocoPhillips and Baker Hughes have been working together to optimize SAGD ESPs by utilizing an integral intake to minimize the pressure loss across the intake ports. This would also streamline the connection between intake and pump housing to minimize pressure loss at these intake flow paths.

The improved design has been tested in Surmont successfully, and the integral intake has become an optional intake to be applied in the well cases where steam flashing has been known to cause operation interruptions or ESP damages.

This paper will review the process undertaken by CPC and Baker Hughes to study the ESP performance with the bottom feeder intake in comparison to the ESP performance with an integral intake.Design and field data will be presented and reviewed to highlight the performance of each system.

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