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ESP Technologies

for Operating in
High-Gas Environments

Why is gas a problem?

Gas avoidance techniques

Gas separation

Gas-handling solutions

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ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / Title Page


Oil-producing wells with high gas volume
fractions (GVF)

The application of ESPs is growing rapidly, often

Oil-producing wells with nonvented


pushing the technology envelope for solutions to higher

temperatures, pressures, abrasives, and gas content.

Gas lift for wells converted to electrical

submersible pumps (ESPs)

With the latest advances in gas handling technology,

Dual liftgas lift and ESP wells

wells that were previously considered too gassy for

Subsea oil wells

ESP systems can now be pumped successfully.

Gas wells with liquid loading

Increased production and field life through
maximized drawdown
Increased production through fewer
shutdowns caused by gas locking
Extended ESP system run life
Reduced operating costs through
elimination of workovers

Vortex gas separators capable of greater
than 90% separation efficiency
Centrifugal gas handlers capable of
ingesting free gas of 45% at low pump
intake pressures
Poseidon multiphase pump systems
capable of ingesting free gas of 75%
Superior, patented, abrasion-resistant

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ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / Overview


Why is gas a problem?

Gas interference is a partial blockage of the

impeller flow path, resulting in degraded pump
performance and low production. Gas locking
is complete blockage of the flow path, requiring
a pump shutdown. Gas and gas locking can be
detected from pressure fluctuations measured
by a downhole sensor or from erratic current
fluctuations from an amp chart.




Without effective applications of gas technology

to prevent excessive gas accumulation, either
gas interference or gas locking will occur.

Gas Interference


Extreme differences in the densities of liquids and

gases create a low-pressure area in the impeller
eye, which results in gas accumulation. Free
gas in the stage impellers displaces liquid and
restricts the volumetric efficiency of the pump.
The accumulation of free gas results in lower lift
per stage and a decline in expected production.

The three basic methods to minimize the amount

of gas entering the pump are


How does gas affect ESPs?

Minimizing the effects of gas


Wells are routinely produced below the

bubblepoint pressure to maximize drawdown and
increase total hydrocarbon production. Higher
drawdowns require the pumping system to
handle higher volumes of gas. ESP systems can
typically manage between 10% and 25% of free
gas before performance degradation and gas
locking occurs.

Gas Lock Shutdown

When gas first enters an ESP system, the amperage becomes unstable,
causing interference in the flow. As more gas enters the system, the
operation becomes more and more unstable until the ESP system shuts
down on undercurrent. Multiple shutdowns from gas interference cause
fatigue on the ESP system as well as lost production.

Gas is typically associated with most oil-producing wells. As

the well is drawn down to achieve production targets, gas
will break out of solution. A portion of the gas will enter the ESP system and
affect the operation of the ESP. Natural separation is the portion of the gas
that bypasses the ESP intake and travels up the annulus to the surface.

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ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / Why is gas a problem?


Gas Avoidance Techniques

The Bottom Feeder intake is specifically designed for horizontal wells to allow fluid entry from the bottom portion of the wellbore. It is
constructed so that gravity causes the intake ports to orient toward the bottom of the well. This enables the fluid to enter the pump from the
bottom and the gas to bypass the intake on the top.

Gas avoider intake systems

Shrouded systems

Gas avoider intake systems feature an eccentric

weighted outer sleeve to provide a self-orienting
intake with inlet ports at the lower side of the
casing annulus. Designed for use in highly
deviated or horizontal wells, the light phase (gas)
flows past the top of the device while the heavier
liquid phase flows into the inlet ports and into the
pump or other gas handling devices. The system
can also be installed below the ESP on a tailpipe
connected to a shroud.

Shrouded systems are gas avoidance measures

that enhance natural separation and reduce
free gas at the pump. After shrouding, the gas
continues up the annulus and the fluid is diverted
into the pump, creating a separation. There are
two methods of shrouding. First, a shroud can
be used to encase the pump, and the system
is placed below the perforations. The shroud
can also be inverted and placed above the
perforations. These systems usually require
smaller-diameter ESP systems and may limit

An inverted
shroud is a piece
of casing with the opening above
the ESP. This system induces
natural separation by creating a
reversal of the flow path for the
fluid to enter into the ESP system,
and the gas travels up the well to
the surface. This system is limited
by drawdown and pump size.

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ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / Gas avoidance techniques


When a portion
of the wellbore
extends below the perforations, a
sumped shroud is used to install
the pump below the perforation,
inducing natural separation as
the fluid and gas travel out of the
perforations and flow down and
around the shroud to enter the
pump intake.

Gas Separation
Natural gas separation occurs because of the
differences in density and buoyancy between the
gas and the liquid phases. A number of factors
make it difficult to estimate the efficiency of
natural gas separation.
Mechanical gas separators are classified as
either static or dynamic. Static gas separators
are designed to keep free gas from entering
the pumpwithout applying any additional
mechanical force. They provide a tortuous
path that turns the fluid stream and moves it
down toward the inlet ports. Some of the free
gas accompanies the liquid to the intake and a
portion is separated, limiting overall separation
efficiency. Dynamic gas separators, on the
other hand, actually impart energy to the fluid to
separate the vapor from the fluid.
Factors impacting natural and mechanical
separation include
casing and equipment size

The Vortex gas separator

The Schlumberger Vortex gas separator is a
dynamic gas separation device that uses a
natural vortex action created by a specially
designed inlet configuration, axial flow inducer,
propeller, retention chamber, and discharge
crossover. It provides greater efficiency over
a broader range of flow conditions than earlier
rotary separators.
The Vortex gas separator features a patented
compliant-mount zirconia radial-bearing
technology to enhance reliability in sandy
and abrasive conditions. To further extend life
expectancy, the design sends very little energy
to the solid particles that are produced through
the separator. The advanced hydraulic design of
the Vortex gas separator uses state-of-the-art
computational fluid dynamics and solids modeling
technology. The improved hydraulics enable more
effective gas separation at higher fluid flow rates.

free gas volume percentage

pump intake pressure and temperature

hydrocarbon composition

bubblepoint pressure

casing pressure

flow rate

obstructions or restrictions

operating frequency.

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When a moderate amount of gas can be effectively separated from the liquid at the desired drawdown, the Vortex
gas separator uses an inducer and propeller to induce slippage between the
phases. The heavier liquid naturally moves to the outside, and the gas stays
near the center. As the fluid separates and travels up the gas separator, the
gas is expelled back into the annulus and the fluid enters the pump intake.

ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / Gas separation


Gas-Handling Solutions
Gas-handling solutions for ESP operations fall into
the following two technology groups:
advanced gas handler systems with highspecific-speed centrifugal gas handlers for the
gassy ESP market up to 45% GVF at low intake
axial flow technology for ultrahigh-gas-cut ESP
market with GVF up to 75%.

Proven field results

An AGH system installed in a European well
with all other downhole equipment remaining the
sameincreased production from 800 bbl/d,
with a GOR of 925 ft3/bbl, to 1,250 bbl/d. The gas
locking was also eliminated and 23% of free gas
was produced through the pump. In addition,
eliminating cycling resulted in a longer-thanexpected equipment run life.

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As reservoir pressure is depleted and gas breaks out of solution, producing

the wells becomes increasingly difficult. By using the Poseidon gas-handling
system, the producer can extend the field life and continue producing the
wells beyond their previous economic limit, thus adding to the recoverable

Natural flow
ESP, no Poseidon pump
ESP with Poseidon pump

Production, m 3/d

The AGH* advanced gas-handling device was

designed to improve the overall lift efficiency of a
submersible lift installation by maintaining a higher
gas-to-liquid ratio in the tubing string. The systems
higher GVF reduces the hydraulic horsepower
required to lift fluid to surface. The AGH system
uses a unique centrifugal stage design to alter the
pressure distribution of the impeller, creating a
homogenized mixture with reduced gas bubble size.
This conditioned fluid behaves as a single-phase
fluid before entering the pump.

Conventional Gas
Handling System

Oil Production

Poseidon System



Gas locks
ESP failure
Power interruption

x xx x x


Time, months

With the ability to manage more gas through the pump comes the requirement to implement a new way of operating. By installing a thermocouple in
the motor winding and using a sensor to transmit the data to surface, the
ESP system can be shut down using motor temperature to protect the ESP
system and enable the system to ride through gas slugs.

ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / Gas-handling solutions

The AGH advanced gas handler is a high-speed centrifugal

pump that homogenizes the gas and fluid. As the gas and
fluid enter into the AGH system, the impellers break the bubbles into smaller
and more manageable sizes and compress some of the bubbles back into
solution, so the ESP system can pump the mixture.


The Poseidon system

The Poseidon system is a multiphase, axial flow
gas-handling device installed below the main
production pump to allow the production pump to
efficiently handle higher percentages of free gas.
The system can be installed either above a gas
separator when gas can be vented into the casing, or it can be installed above a standard intake
if all the produced gas has to go through the
pump. In many wells with high gas volume, the
Poseidon system can increase production and
extend the use of submersible pumps in gassy
oil wells where production is limited by the centrifugal pumps ability to handle gas. The Poseidon gas-handling system is designed to improve
pumping stability in gassy wells, provide better
slug handling in horizontal wells, and increase
the production rate, recovered reserves, and ESP
effectiveness. It can also be used in wells with
nonvented packers that are typically found in
subsea and offshore completions.

System development
The Poseidon system was developed by Institut
Francais du Petrole (IFP), Total, and Statoil as the
next step in the historical evolution of advanced
gas handling. Schlumberger uses the Poseidon
system to enhance production in oil and gas wells
with gas-locking problems.

When enough gas accumulates, the pump gas

locks and prevents fluid movement. The Poseidon
gas-handling system is a multiphase helicoaxial
pump installed between the intake (or gas
separator) and the pump. The specially designed
axial flow stages prime the main production pump
and push the gas-liquid flow stream through
the ESP stages. Gas volume is reduced by
compression. In laboratory tests and field trials,
the Poseidon system operated successfully in
the ultrahigh-gas ESP market, with GVF up to
75%, exceeding the 40% to 45% GVF limitations
of existing gas-handling devices. Combination
systems can be used with GVF up to 95% to
further reduce the GVF entering the pumping
system to acceptable levels.
Because of its special design, the energy transfer
of Poseidon axial flow stage is more efficient,
resulting in trouble-free operation at a high GVF.
The Poseidon system maintains a high boosting
pressure with increasing amounts of gas fraction
and handles up to 75% of free gas ingested into
the pump without gas locking.

Most gas-handling systems currently rely on

centrifugal force to transfer energy to the liquid/
gas mixture. If there is a high percentage of free
gas in the vanes, the liquid and gas will separate,
lowering energy transfer efficiency.

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ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / The Poseidon system

The Poseidon multiphase pump operates on the same

principles as the large seabed multistage pumps. An axial
stage accelerates the gas and fluid into the ESP system and, by forcing the
mixture through the pump in the process, prevents the first few stages of the
ESP from becoming gas locked.


A new way of operating

Related Resources

Unconventional wisdom

Variable speed drives

Products and Services

When operating in high-gas environments, the

conventional wisdom of using amperage to
protect the motor does not apply. Because highgas environments generally have extremely
volatile flow regimens, the load on the motor has
wide swings, which causes erratic amperage
readings. For this reason, downhole monitoring
systems, variable speed drives (VSDs), and
remote montitoring and control systems are
useful tools.

VSDs are used as the surface control package in

all wells with high volumes of gas because they
provide pump operational flexibility for flow rate
and total dynamic head generation. Another key
benefit is the VSDs ability to control and manage
startup and operations in gassy environments.
Current, frequency, and pressure modes provide
three modes of operation for the operator to use
the downhole monitoring system to keep the well
producing longer through gas slugging flows.
Combining the downhole monitoring system and
the VSD is a highly effective method of operating
ESPs in gassy environments.

Advanced Lifting Services

Variable Speed Drives

Vortex Gas Separator

AGH Advanced Gas Handling Device

Poseidon Multiphase ESP Gas Handling


Downhole monitoring
All submersible pumps in high-gas environments
should be equipped with downhole monitoring
tools. These tools are equipped to monitor motor
winding temperature through a thermocouple
attached directly to the motor winding. This
protection for the ESP system uses more stable,
faster acting, measured data. In addition, these
tools protect the downhole equipment and are
valuable sources for providing operational and
production data and for monitoring pump intake
pressure, pump discharge pressure, wellbore
temperature, internal motor winding temperature,
current leakage, and vibration. Using the motor
winding temperature mode for ESP protection
enables riding through gas slugs and unstable
production periods. In addition, using the pump
intake pressure allows for current mode operation
and further extends uptime.

Monitoring and control

High-GOR wells are unstable and unpredictable
and, therefore, should be closely monitored.
By connecting to the espWatcher Web-hosted
surveillance and control system, a well can
be monitored from any computer that has
connectivity. This system has the capability to
allow for adjustments in operation as well as to
shut down and start up. A previously challenging
well can be effectively produced by implementing
a holistic approach.

Case Studies

Advanced Lifting Services Dramatically

Increases Production

Phoenix MultiSensor Monitoring System

Motor Temperature Protection Prevented
ESP Failure

Poseidon Pump Increases Oil Production

and Life of Gassy Well for Canadian

Visit the Gas Solutions Web Site.

*Mark of Schlumberger.
Other company, product, and service names are the properties of their respective owners.
09-AL-0042 Copyright 2009 Schlumberger. All rights reserved.

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ESP technologies for operating in high-gas environments / A new way of operating