Heavy oil and bitumen wells were traditionally produced with beam pumping systems. However, in the early 1980's, the introduction of progressing cavity (PC) pumping systems presented an alternative to beam pumps that possessed attributes which were ideally suited for heavy oil applications, The functional design of PC pumps facilitates the handling of viscous and abrasive multiphase fluids, and the lower capital and operating costs of these pumping systems makes them attractive for marginally economic operations. Today, primary heavy oil and bitumen applications are almost exclusively produced with PC pumping systems.
To realize the benefits of PC pumping systems for heavy oil production, several issues must be considered. These include flow losses, sand production, rod string and tubing wear, low bottomhole pressures, power transmission/control and pump selection, sizing and reuse. Based on the results from numerical assessments, laboratory testing and field case histories, this paper presents system design, installation and operation guidelines which address these issues.