As a major unconventional resource play, the Williston basin contributes more than 10% of total U.S. crude oil production. Due to significant concerns about net present value and payback period, the process to select the optimum artificial lift method has always been a top priority for operators. In this case study, we investigate the potential artificial lift strategies for new wells in Williston basin. The objective is to propose an artificial lift strategy that handles the challenges associated with unconventional resources and that maximizes the asset value.

In this study, a novel workflow that replaces subjective decisions with objective analysis has been applied for the process of selecting the lifting strategy that will best achieve an operator's goal based on analysis of technical criteria and economic calculated results. An initial prescreening is performed to narrow down the number of applicable artificial lift systems that will meet the technical challenges of the well. Then, the selected artificial lift methods are evaluated combining a steady state flow simulator and a reservoir model to determine the well performance and response to each lift system. This response is integrated with an economic model to determine the net present value of the proposed strategy. Different strategies and sensitivities on key parameters as oil price, expected production, and water cut are performed to determine the optimum artificial lift approach. The ability to include future well performance based on a reservoir model helps in building a strong analysis that goes beyond current well conditions and includes the changes that occur to the reservoir during the production phase, such as pressure depletion and consequent production decline. Those changes drive the need to switch from one artificial lift system to another as conditions evolve. The workflow allows the user to determine the best time to start the selected artificial lift system and the appropriate transition time to a second artificial lift method.

For the Williston basin case study, only electric submersible pumps (ESP) and jet pumps (JP) can be implemented during the high-flow-rate period. As production declines, a transition to a lower-flow-rate method is required. Hydraulic rod pump systems are considered the most appropriate transition method because they make it possible to pump the required volumes from deep installations. A production forecast is combined with two different water cut scenarios to evaluate the impact on the economic results of the project.

The successful use of this workflow has proven its ability to analyze the life cycle of an unconventional well and establish a process for artificial lift selection. Furthermore, the current workflow is flexible enough to be extended to other fields with different input variables.

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