High-speed rotordynamic pump operation for downhole or surface production is required and also beneficial to handle very high gas volume fraction (GVF) flows. Operating speeds of these pumps can be in excess of twice those of conventional pumps. This study presents results showing a high-speed helico-axial pump (HAP) can operate satisfactorily at intake GVFs up to 98%. The findings increase capabilities of field engineers and operators to boost and maximize production from high gas-content wells.
The HAP tested had a housing outer diameter of 4.00-inch and operated at a rotational speed of 6000 revolutions per minutes (RPM). Air and water were the test fluids with the water volume flow rate held constant while the air volume flow rate was varied. The liquid and gas volume flow rates varied from 63 to 143 barrels per day (BPD), and 549 to 3238 BPD, respectively. Intake pressures varied from 14 to 76 psig, with average inlet temperature of 18°C. The corresponding discharge pressures and temperatures were recorded for each test point and observed for stable pump operation.
The results showed that the HAP had stable operation during the tests for intake GVF range from 84% to 98%. Pump discharge pressures for this range of high intake GVF varied from 21 to 89 psig. The corresponding differential pressures across the HAP all had positive magnitudes indicating that at such high-speeds, the HAP was still able to add energy to the fluid even with the high gas content at intake. Analysis at fixed intake pressure with varying GVFs showed that the discharge-to-intake pressure ratio decreased with increasing intake GVF. For instance, at 33psig intake pressure, increasing the intake GVF from 84% to 94% decreased the discharge-to-intake pressure ratio from about 1.27 to 1.20, respectively. It was also observed that tightening the clearance between the impeller and diffuser of the HAP increased the discharge pressure compared to when the clearance was loose. Furthermore, ensuring the upstream flow is properly conditioned also improved the stable operation of the HAP. Overall and in conclusion, running a HAP at high speeds in addition to optimizing certain features of the HAP can result in stable pump operation and enhanced pressure boosting in high-GVF flows.
This study mainly highlights the importance of operating HAPs at high speeds of up to 6000 RPM. Tightening clearances between rotordynamic components as well as tailored inlet flow conditioning are also additional features that enhance pressure boosting. This architecture opens up opportunities for field operators, and engineering personnel to maximize hydrocarbon production from their very high-gas content field assets, thereby increasing the economic bottomline for the stakeholders.