Artificial lift systems have encountered traditional challenges in the production of high viscosity oil-well fluids such as heavy and extra heavy crudes. These challenges included problems with sand abrasion, formation of emulsions (fluid shearing), high wellbore deviation (horizontal wells), scale deposition, and temperature and fluid rate limitations.
The development of ESPCP technology meant the synergy of PCP and ESP into a hybrid that takes advantage of the best qualities from both worlds. On one end, ESPCPs offer greater resistance to solids abrasion (solids production), high viscosity liquid production capability (positive displacement pump) and the low fluid shear characteristics of PCPs. On the other end, ESPCP systems may be deployed in high deviation wellbores, while still able to provide the substantial liquid rates and torque derived from ESP down-hole motors. The exploitation of unconventional resources, such as heavy oil thermal projects, has triggered the development and improvement of ESPCP technology for high temperature applications. In particular, the use of ESPCPs in heavy oil steam flood reservoirs with cyclic steam stimulation, such as in the well known Kern River field, poses a significant challenge to this artificial lift system.
This paper describes the experience and results of the first ESPCP pilot project known to the authors, where all parts of the subject unit are exposed to short, but direct cycle steam stimulation treatments.