The lifting business

Audrey Leon

March 1, 2017

Audrey Leon chats with Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford to learn about the latest technologies available for artificial lift.

Dedicated Schlumberger surveillance engineers monitor alarms to prevent or mitigate adverse events, diagnose probable causes, and recommend remediation measures—all in real time. Image from Schlumberger.

OE: What’s your latest innovation/product in artificial lift technology? Please explain the technology and how it works.

Khaled Elsheikh, vice president of marketing and technology, Schlumberger Artificial Lift Solutions: The industry is moving to a digitally enhanced age where it is critical to pair equipment with data collection and precise interpretation to expand well performance. The Lift IQ production lifecycle management service is the premiere monitoring and surveillance platform for optimizing artificial lift systems. From monitoring hardware in a single well to optimizing equipment and operations across an entire field, customers can choose the level of service to suit their needs. The Lift IQ service taps into the renowned engineering, manufacturing and surveillance expertise of Schlumberger with access to global service centers 24/7/365.

Monitoring and surveillance minimize downtime, maximize production, and reduce total operating cost. Once considered only for high-value offshore wells, the Lift IQ service is increasingly important for achieving economic targets in large brownfields, especially where wells are widely dispersed or where in-person troubleshooting expertise is limited. Data is transferred via satellite or cellular connections to and from remote locations, hostile environments, and sites with limited or no data acquisition capabilities. Schlumberger Artificial Lift Surveillance Center engineers use the data to correct discrete problems, update pump regimes to match fluctuating conditions, or identify underperforming wells that could benefit from further pump optimization.

The Lift IQ service provides access to all critical wellsite data in one cohesive, solutions-based software platform. It seamlessly merges data for quick and easy management of all monitoring and troubleshooting requirements: well and field performance indicators; alarms and events management; and diagnostics and optimization.

Optimizing wells through monitoring and surveillance is proven to minimize downtime, maximize production, and reduce total operating cost. Image from Schlumberger.

Nathan Holland, product line director, Artificial Lift Systems, Baker Hughes:

TransCoil RIgless Deployed ESP System. Image from Baker Hughes.

Baker Hughes recently launched the TransCoil rigless-deployed electrical submersible pumping (ESP) system. The TransCoil system – developed in participation with Saudi Aramco – features an inverted ESP system with the motor connected directly to a new, proprietary power cable configuration, eliminating the traditional ESP power cable-to-motor connection. This improves overall system reliability. Unlike wireline-deployed ESPs, the fully retrievable TransCoil system does not have an in-well wet connection, which requires a rig to pull and replace it if the wet connection fails.

The power cable design enhances the reliability of the deployment string compared to coiled tubing-deployed ESPs that simply pull the power cable through the coiled tubing. The TransCoil system cable design also extends the operating range to 12,000ft compared to traditional coiled tubing-deployed ESP systems, which are limited to approximately 7000ft because, at greater depths, the weight of the power cable will cause it to collapse inside the coiled tubing, creating an electrical failure.

Steven Seale, global director, artificial lift software and automation hardware, Weatherford: Weatherford has introduced the WellPilot ONE – a life-of-well controller. A well typically comes online flowing before moving to artificial lift. With our new life-of-well controller, operators are able to use the same hardware and software license as the well transitions to each phase. This gives operators greater freedom to shift to the optimal form of lift at the right time without worrying about changing monitoring platforms.

In the market today, we are starting to see operators in the shale plays move to gas lift earlier on in the cycle, in part because of advances in gas-lift technology. These new technologies reduce capital equipment expenses and increase cost savings. WellPilot ONE enhances these savings by enabling operators to manage injection gas use, and optimize the performance curve of the well. The system informs your decision making so you can inject just enough gas to get the oil lifted. Any extra gas can then be sold.

The system works with both intermittent gas lift and continuous gas lift systems. We have a couple of control algorithms that have been very effective for operators in south Texas and the shale plays.

The same technology applies to an offshore environment such as the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea, where gas lift is used frequently. Gas lift is one of the predominate lift technologies in an offshore platform environment. It’s very common.

Of course, one of the benefits of the WellPilot ONE controller is that you can use it for many different lift applications. This enables you to continue with the same controller across all forms of lift needed for the life of the well.

OE: Where do you see artificial lift technology going in the future?

Khaled Elsheikh: Three key technology advances are occurring in artificial lift.

First, is the digital era of artificial lift. The progression of artificial lift is twofold: the advancement of equipment functionality running in parallel with gathering and interpreting data metrics for well optimization. Adding sensors and measurements is the first step to run-life improvements; however, analyzing and interpreting this data is critical for enhanced well performance. This next generation of artificial lift closes the loop to achieve a holistic approach to run-life. Providers must configure all aspects of digital innovation including connectivity, data security and transmission, automation, custom calibration, interpretation, and response speed—all in real-time. The end game is to avoid shutdowns and prevent failures with automated feedback control, which leverages machine learning, robust analytics, and engineering expertise to optimize well operations.

Secondly, alternative deployment technology is a key area of development for the industry and all service companies are introducing some great innovations in this area. ESPs are often selected as an optimal artificial lift method; however, conventional ESPs are run on heavy jointed tubing, which frequently requires a rig or hoist for maintenance and failures. These interventions defer production, increase costs, and delay operations. One example of alternative deployment technology is the ZEiTECS Shuttle rigless ESP replacement system, which “shuttles” standard ESPs through tubing on wireline, coiled tubing, or sucker rods without a rig or hoist. This technology minimizes production deferment, operating costs, HSE risks, and disruptions to operations. Moving forward, new technology in alternative deployment will further advance artificial lift wells by simplifying preventive maintenance and lifecycle management in changing reservoir conditions.

Thirdly, managing the production lifecycle is critical to overall well success. Operators change from one lift methodology to another throughout the well’s life. It is beneficial to make these transitions as seamless as possible, ensuring timely changes and choosing the best technology for well optimization. Companies utilizing the full suite of artificial lift will benefit directly from the industry moving toward a comprehensive approach to enrich well life.

Nathan Holland: In the current “lower for longer” crude oil pricing environment, it is more important than ever that operators get the most out of existing assets where the cost of development has already been absorbed.

Artificial lift is an important part of improving recovery from existing fields or accessing stranded reserves in satellite fields that can produce back to existing production facilities.

Based on these market drivers, technology development is centered around three primary areas of focus: alternative deployment methods to drive down intervention costs; smaller diameter systems that can be installed and retrieved through the production tubing; and long-life systems.

Recovery factors from offshore fields are much lower than onshore fields and artificial lift methods used most often in offshore fields are not the ideal solution to improve the recovery factor. ESP systems more effectively draw down the reservoir pressure to release additional hydrocarbons and improve reserve recovery, but the high cost of intervention to install and retrieve ESPs in offshore wells limits the use of this technology. Therefore, a major initiative by the industry is to develop new technology innovations designed to extend the life of the ESP and to reduce the cost of deployment by eliminating the need for a rig. In mature fields, being able to install artificial lift systems through the existing tubing is critical to minimizing costs. But, that requires smaller diameter equipment that fits inside the tubing and can handle the production rates typically found in offshore wells.

Baker Hughes Artificial Lift Systems is continually communicating with operators to determine the most critical technology innovations to meet the future production needs of the industry.

TransCoil is a good example of technology innovations geared toward meeting these industry challenges. By eliminating the need for a rig, operators can lower the cost of installing and retrieving ESP systems. And, by eliminating in-well wet electrical connections the system offers greater reliability vs. other alternative deployment options.

Steven Seale: Weatherford is working to harness the Internet of Things (IoT), or in our case the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and specifically Edge Analytics.

WellPilot ONE, closed (left) and open (right). Images from Weatherford.

If you look at IIoT – most of the discussion is focused on cloud computing. There’s a lot of terminology and hype around moving everything into the cloud and applying analytics, but if you look at large IT companies, they are pushing the Edge. When we talk about the Edge, we mean the edge of the network, which is where the WellPilot ONE operates today.

To give a general example of how the Edge differs from the cloud: there are refrigerators now that can tell you when you need to buy milk. The fridge in this case has Edge technology built into it. Information from the fridge can flow up into the cloud and an online retailer can enable you to make a decision to buy the milk and have it delivered.

In the oilfield, those Edge devices are at the well. The WellPilot ONE is known as an Edge device because it is at the well site. And a lot of intelligence and analytics are taking place at the well site using sophisticated control techniques on our Edge devices. The data and analytics from the well site would make their way into the cloud through Edge devices.

When operators run a SCADA system, it gathers information from Edge devices—which are simply known as controllers or RTUs (remote terminal unit) in today’s world—and that information flows into your master data repository, your data historian, which is essentially in the cloud.

This is important because in the oilfield space, the RTU or controller is at a well site and the central database system and IT infrastructure is, for the most part, at the central headquarters.

For example, any alarms that we use today flow from the system at the wellsite into the central headquarters where you typically have a team of people monitoring the field.

As we continue forward and more computing power is available in the market with Edge devices like the WellPilot ONE, better decisions can be made closer to the well and the assets.