Tracking the fall of the plunger down the tubing can be used to optimize the operation of plunger lifted wells. Acoustic fluid level instruments can be used on plunger lifted wells to acquire a series of plunger/fluid level soundings and/or to record the acoustic signal produced as the plunger falls down the tubing. Five different data acquisition and analysis methods can be used to monitor the position of the plunger, as the plunger falls down the tubing during the controller’s shut- in time period. The acquired data is used to determine the 1) fall velocity of the plunger 2) depth to the plunger and 3) time for the plunger to fall to fluid. Results acquired from field case studies from 15 sessions at various wells are used to correlate the various construction features of different types of plungers with their fall velocity. Some construction features cause a plunger to fall rapidly through the tubing, while other features cause the plunger to have a slow fall velocity.
By accurately measuring the plunger fall velocity, the proper shut-in time for the plunger lift installation can be determined. The plunger trace measurements will ensure that the plunger has reached the fluid at the bottom of the tubing by the end of the shut-in period. Setting the well’s controller to have the shortest possible shut-in time period to allow the plunger to fall to bottom can maximize oil and gas production from plunger lift installations.