Plunger lift is a popular low operating and capital cost lift method for high gas-liquid ratio (GLR) wells that cannot unload naturally, particularly in deep, liquids-rich gas, horizontal plays common today. Plunger lift is challenged by lengthy plunger travel time, greatly increased GLR requirements, and liquid loading effects in the build section of the well.

This paper explores the implementation of an artificial lift technology designed to enhance the performance of artificial lifts systems and for cost-effective artificial lift transitions over the life of a well. It will extrapolate upon the challenges associated with developing a total life-cycle artificial lift strategy for today's unconventional plays in the Permian Basin.

Discussion begins with an overview of the theoretical challenges of designing a life cycle artificial lift strategy with a conventional system in the face of sluggy flow and high decline rates from the horizontal. The paper then proposes an artificial lift approach to suit this challenge.

The paper then presents an overview of plunger lift optimization challenges experienced in horizontal well production strategy from frac-flowback to abandonment. It explores the characteristics unique to plunger lift and demonstrates the connection between slug flow mitigation and improved plunger lift efficiency. The result is a discussion of a new, slickline swappable, artificial lift technology for plunger lift systems that mitigates slug flow, thereby enabling efficient plunger lifting at considerably lower GLRs, through the life of the well.

Case studies and field trials in the Permian field illustrate implementation and results of the artificial lift technology to cost effectively transition from natural flow to plunger lift and on to rod pumping, with optionality to provide low cost and safe frac-hit protection from offsetting wells. Results demonstrate production increases with reduced CAPEX and OPEX.

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