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Artificial Lift Techbook 2016

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ARTIFICIAL LIFT TECHBOOK: TECHNOLOGY 26 | May 2016 | T he evolution of automation in the oil feld has been an interesting one to watch. Arti- fcial lift methods have been around for decades, but only recently have operators begun to adopt the types of technologies that truly help optimize their production. "Starting out, switchboards were used for sub- pumps," said Stewart Reed, Ph.D., artifcial lift engineering discipline manager for Halliburton. "A switchboard is just a switch—it's either on or off. There is no mechanism to speed up, slow down or respond to any kind of dynamic event. "It's a dumb device, but a lot of fuid was pro- duced using that technology." Variable speed drives (VSDs) have since entered the fray, and with systems like electric submersible pumps (ESPs) that can be dramatically affected by gas slugs or solids events, these drives have the potential to provide a second step change, Reed said. VSDs have now been in use for ESP operation for many years, but it's taken operators a while to catch on to their true utility, he said. "Real automa- tion is there if we choose to use it, but our culture needs to keep evolving so that we continue going down a more refned path," he said. The initial benefts of VSDs were soft starting, the ability to change the pump's operating speed during oper- ation and automatic fault protection. Now there is a movement to actually use the more sophisti- cated abilities of the VSD, mainly dynamic control to respond to spontaneous load changes. "Most advanced usage of VSDs in the recent past were, at best, dabbles in the industry," Reed said. "What we are now experiencing is an undeniable univer- sal need and awareness brought on mostly by the dynamics common to unconventional wells." Older felds are less likely to require enhanced automation, he added, but unconventional wells need all of the bells and whistles. "These are the most chal- lenging wells we've seen for artifcial lift," he said, add- ing that the presence of unpredictable dynamic events can wreak havoc on an ESP if it's not optimized using sound methodologies and a total system approach. "You can have phenomena like gas locking, which causes immediate heating problems through- out the entire ESP string, not just the motor," he said. "You have to plan for dynamic events and rapid well changes. Expectations for responsiveness and timely communications need to be established The digital oil feld is overtaking artifcial lift, and the industry is a better place because of it. Automation Leads to Optimization By Rhonda Duey Executive Editor Automation and improved technology result in increased production, uptime and runlife. (Photo courtesy of Schlumberger)

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