As hydrocarbon reservoirs deplete and lose their natural energy to produce fluids to surface, Artificial Lift technologies become essential to maintain hydrocarbon production. Often Electric Submersible Pumps (ESPs) are selected as the optimum Artificial Lift method for a particular field/well but, typically run on jointed tubing, their limited ‘run lives’ require frequent heavy rig/hoist interventions to replace failed systems. This incurs significant production deferment, increased operating cost and unwelcome disruption to operations. Furthermore it often distracts the rigs/hoists from more profitable oil-generating activity.

In light of the above, there has been a persistent and continual drive to improve ESP performance and ‘run life’ but, nevertheless, any machine of electro-mechanical complexity will eventually fail, especially in the hostile downhole environment. Attention naturally turned to minimizing the impact of these inevitable ESP failures and focus shifted to ‘alternative deployment methods’ designed to eliminate the ‘turnaround’ time, production deferment and operating costs associated with heavy rig/hoist intervention.

Several ‘alternative’ ESP deployment options have been developed over the years but, for various valid reasons, none were readily embraced by the industry. Most recently a downhole electrical wet-connector technology has enabled ESPs to be ‘shuttled’ through tubing on wireline, coiled tubing, slickline or sucker rods and plugged into a downhole ‘docking station’ without the need of a rig or hoist. Although this technology has been successfully installed both onshore and offshore in Africa, Middle East and Far East, this paper reports the first successful installation in Latin America. Moreover, and more pertinently, the paper also reports on the expedient ‘rigless’ retrieval and replacement of the ESP system in response to an unexpected ESP system failure some months after initial installation. The latter substantiates the value proposition of this ‘alternative’ ESP deployment option. These operations took place in the PetroProducción Cuyabeno field, in Ecuador in September and December of 2012.

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