Intensified US exploration and production activity in the liquids-rich shale plays has tended to overshadow issues with base gas production, particularly the continuing struggle to remediate liquid loading and return pressure-depleted wells to production. In recent years, Devon Energy has intensified efforts to maximize base gas production through deliquification of its mature East Texas wells. Accordingly, the operator has realized tremendous success with artificial lift, which is generating an average 50% rate of return and effectively breathing new life into many of its old and struggling wellbores. More recently, Devon has focused its efforts on the use of Hydraulic Pumping Units (HPU), which have recorded an amazing track record in deliquifying and returning to production low-rate gas wells that no longer respond to plungers, soap or velocity strings.

This paper examines Devon's experience using HPU to deliquify East Texas wells in reservoirs that vary from very low bottomhole pressure with high permeability to higher pressure with very low permeability and everything in between. The targeted wells range in depth from 5,000 ft to 10,000 ft with wellbores between 2 7/8 to 7 in. diameters. All of these well types have been put on pump and responded very favorably.

The authors will review case histories from several divergent East Texas well types to illustrate the efficiency of pumping units in restoring production to these lower fluid rate wells. The discussion will focus on a newly engineered HPU, which comprises a vertical hydraulic cylinder on the wellhead to reciprocate the rods and pump and offers a number of HSE, operational and economic advantages over conventional pumping units. The specific features that make the HPU a very viable and often preferred alternative to conventional pumping units will be detailed, as will the growing pains and subsequent lessons learned in the East Texas deliquification campaign. Owing largely to the impressive results in the East Texas production-restoration program, HPU technology has since expanded throughout other US gas basins where liquid loading has become a predominate issue.

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