An oil company in South America that was operating a mature field in the middle of the Amazonian jungle wanted to reduce the number of wellsite visits required for electrical submersible pump (ESP) monitoring to avoid the field's complex logistics while optimizing field personnel resources. The planning of field trips included radio communication coordination, the granting of permits to work in local communities (some wells were near households), specific safety and security risk assessments, the accompaniment of security forces so that night driving would be possible and dealing with locals on strike to access remote well pads. These obstacles had to be sorted out to maintain wells production and optimize lift system efficiency and run life.
In the field, of the more than 230 oil-producing wells that were using artificial lift systems, more than 90% were artificially assisted by ESPs, while others were produced using sucker rod pumps and hydraulic pumping units; in general, all the lifting systems worked under challenging downhole conditions such as pump-setting depths > 10,000 ft, motor temperatures > 300°F (> 149°C), and gas and solids production (e.g., scale, paraffin, and asphaltenes). This difficult production scenario combined with the large number of artificial lift systems in use resulted in frequent wellsite visits by monitoring crews to solve production-impacting events such as shutdowns, gas locks, and stuck pumps.
With an average interwell spacing of 22 miles and the numerous variable-speed drive (VSD) configuration and frequency changes required for optimal operation, field staff were traveling more than 87 miles on average per 12-hour shift. The impossibility of resolving all critical events in a timely manner resulted in shutdowns, delayed restarts, and production deferment. Moreover, hazardous driving conditions, including night driving, and increasing insecurity in the region posed additional safety and security risks that compounded the operational challenge. Therefore, the field operator and ESP provider worked together to implement a full production life cycle management service to streamline real-time surveillance and remote interventions.
The life cycle management service was built on clear channels of communication, efficient surveillance workflows, and an advanced monitoring system, with the primary objective to cope with as many field requests as possible. This service focus resulted in multiple VSD configuration changes, such as modifications to the drive frequency for optimal production, being accomplished remotely and much faster than previously possible; at the end of the 29-month period of study, the remote surveillance support had performed 1,195 VSD adjustments, 23% of the total. As a result, field staff drove 26,141 fewer miles, including 10,631 fewer miles at night, saving a minimum of 497 work hours of driving. Efficient operational procedures and close cooperation between the operator and the service company have significantly improved performance without the economic impact of increasing field crews’ capacity.
This paper presents a workflow to enable remote operations in this type of environment and the results obtained in this specific project through the implementation of a surveillance service for production life cycle management.