Artificial Lift Techbook 2019

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48 | April 2019 | ARTIFICIAL LIFT: AUTOMATION AND WELLSITE MONITORING wells are producing under their potential, just by the fundamentals of how they designed that well. We are allowing them to actually get back up to their theoretical production potential." Holsey said his company's automation systems have helped realize a 25% reduction in mainte- nance costs through efficient equipment opera- tions and, ultimately, somewhere between 5% to 10% production improvement. "So just by operating the equipment better, we're get- ting more production based on our algorithms," he said. Makin said Silverwell has worked with multiple operators to predict the value of optimizing single and multiwell gas-lifted systems and routinely realizes a 10% to 20% production increase. "Additional to that, there is a goal of achieving optimization without any intervention," he said. "So there is no intervention to change out gas-lift valves, to change injection rates and to collect pressure and temperature data." Robart explained that the value derived from arti- ficial lift automation and monitoring systems is typ- ically dependent on the age of the well and how it's being run. He cited a case of a set of horizontal wells in the Bakken for which Ambyint's systems have helped increase production by about 5%. By fine-tuning the number of SPM, the optimization process helped reduce electricity costs, minimizing energy usage and reduce potential damage to over-pumping wells. "We're not fundamentally changing the nature of the reservoir," he said. "That reservoir is going to produce fluids that the reservoir—combined with the stimulation—is going to produce. What we are doing is enabling [operators] to actually produce up to the potential of that well based on the reservoir and the stimulation implemented at that reservoir." BHGE employs a manage-by-exception meth- odology in its remote monitoring and automation systems, one that Wadhwa said doesn't necessarily analyze every datapoint at all times, but instead rec- ognizes special patterns and sends notifications if an anomaly is detected. The benefits of this approach include high reliability and scalability. "We want to help operators reduce their operating costs," Wadhwa said. "We want to reduce the number of trips field technicians need to make to see what is going on at the wellsite. They should focus on just a few wells, not hundreds." With a goal of sustaining maximum hydrocarbon production while minimizing costs, optimizing arti- ficial lift operations helps ensure setpoints match reservoir inflow and maintain a full pump, as Equinor and Ambyint explained in their recent case study. A properly dialed-in well helps ensure maximum pro- duction over a longer run time as well as limited exposure to potential failures. "People wouldn't be adopting this system unless we were saving them lots of money or giving them an uplift in production," Robart said. Leveraging fi eld experience In an industry that places a high value on personal relationships and in-the-fi eld know-how gained from decades of experience, companies have often been reluctant to adopt digital and automation tech- nologies. The argument is that Big Data can't replace gut instinct. However, companies that apply auto- mation to artifi cial lift say their technologies only serve to enhance that know-how and also allow fi eld workers and production engineers to focus their time and attention on more important tasks. Holsey explained how field operations technicians have become responsible for increasingly more wells over the course of the past several years, and now might be in charge of ensuring that hundreds of wells are run- ning properly and up to their full production potential. "[The field operations technician] just can't go to all the wells," he said. "So he spends his day chasing what went down, how to get that well back in produc- tion. That's where technology steps in and helps him. That algorithm is running 24/7 in the background. But I don't think it's any smarter than that 35- or 40-year-old oilfield veteran out there. It just makes his work more efficient." Paul Mahoney, president, Production and Auto- mation Technologies at Apergy, said his company has been investing in artificial intelligence and predictive capabilities to better predict well performance early detection of failure modes. But he said in many of Aper- gy's early cases, many of the predictive results would be mirrored by more senior experienced engineers. "Our experience highlights the need to marry tech- nology/reliable data with strong formulaic calculations and downhole experience for actionable insights as the predictive models iterate, having subject matter expertise installed base experience is essential," he said. Silverwell's Makin said the adoption of automation systems helps enable a more collaborate, cross- functional approach to operations so that everyone has an understanding of the value associated with the technology. "We make the hidden value visible," Makin said. "We make it easier to act on it, but we still need the same basic engineering and analytical skillset in the minds of the people doing it. We just make it easier to do." ■

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