More than 450 Electrical Submersible Pumps (ESP) have been installed in Saudi Arabia's Northern Area fields. Saudi Arabia's producing wells are characterized by high reservoir pressures, high production rates, H2S and low to mid-level water cuts. The produced reservoir formations are both carbonate and sandstone. ESPs are not only installed in low production wells but also in naturally flowing high rate wells where the ESP is left idle until incremental flow rate is needed at a later date.

This paper will highlight the major issues encountered with the utilization of ESP operations, together with the technical developments applied to realize longer ESP run-life objectives. Also presented are the field observations and analyses from troubleshooting, ESP pulls, and Dismantle Inspection and Failure Analysis (DIFA) procedures, implemented to enhance ESP run life. This data is combined to redefine the ESP design philosophies on a field-by-field basis. The technical enhancements made were to improve ESP performance in H2S, scale forming and corrosive environments.

The focus will be on case histories to discuss what was implemented and the methodologies that were used to overcome specific challenges encountered with the use of ESPs. The analysis will be an overview of more than 130 ESP failures from the period 2006 to 2013. During this time, more than 70 DIFA procedures were conducted and many recommendations were implemented, resulting in enhanced ESP run life for these fields. Based on the DIFA results, most failures were attributed to three main causes; damaged or burned Motor Lead Extension (MLE), burned motor and damaged penetrator. These three main causes of ESP failure will be the focal point for the case studies.

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