A tapered electric submersible pump (ESP) is mainly used to pump wells with high gas oil ratio. Free gas is separated and vented via a shroud or gas separator. Or, it is compressed using a tapered larger-than-normal pump or specially-designed gas handler below the "normal" pump. Although tapered ESP has been used for decades in petroleum production, few articles have discussed its design. After studying the pressures and flow rates stage by stage using a computer program, the paper presents basic criterion to design a tapered pump.

Free gas in pumped fluid stream reduces pump performance, and may cause surging and gas lock. For tapered pumps the free gas effect becomes vital since generally tapered pumps handle considerable amount of free gas. The paper discusses traditional homogeneous model and multiphase pumping model. By comparing pump performances of the two models using examples, the paper presents that the traditional model designs fewer stages and will produce smaller rate than desired rate. Further, without considering free gas effect, the pump above bottom pump may work out of its operating range. For a tapered pump, pumping stability should be checked and pump degradation should be included in stage by stage calculation. Also, fluid flow pattern should be checked to avoid slug flow at the place of pump intake.

Also presented are optimal design methods for both single and tapered pumps. Widely used design methods are using desired liquid rate at surface or the liquid rate at pump intake to select a pump with closest best efficiency point. The paper illustrates by examples that the two liquid rate methods fail to design high efficiency when pumping high gas/liquid fluid, and proposes two methods of using total rate at pump discharge and using average total rate. The two design methods will improve a well's pumping efficiency and running life.

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