Trying to perfect a sucker rod pump design in a South Texas horizontal well can sometimes be compared to pushing a chain. As hard as one may try, the laws of physics simply don’t make it easy to achieve sustained efficiency. However, by understanding what you are up against and taking necessary steps, a productive design can be attained.
Because we love efficiently pumping wells, let’s take a look at some commonly faced challenges so that you can be prepared for your next design. When operating a well with a sucker rod pump in the Eagle Ford you are bound to encounter issues caused by either particulates, gas (locking & interference), and bore deviation.
Horizontal wells have a tendency to accumulate particulates on the bottom side of the lateral well bore. This buildup can cause major problems by damaging softer pump components and gumming up the entire pumping process. This is one of the reasons that many designers choose to set their pump prior to the curve, effectively missing out on much of the intended pay zone. There are many other inefficiencies associated with this method, but that is a topic for another article.
Gas is another major contributor to down-hole woes. When free gas is introduced between the valves of a pump, gas lock can occur. This renders the pump useless while continuing to consume power at the pumping unit. Free gas does not always cause lock to occur but simply interferes with maintaining a constant fluid column in the pump, consequently robbing efficiency.
Whether intentional or unintentional, well bore deviation introduces yet another variable to be taken into account when optimizing a sucker rod pump design. Excess friction between rods, couplings, and tubing can create major problems in no time. Degree of deviation will ultimately dictate which methods are to be used, but issues can typically be addressed by adding a combination of rod guides and tubing anchors to problem areas.
As always, knowledge is power, so be sure to consult with local experts in your area of operation. They will have first-hand experience and understand the challenges that you are facing in your wells. An experienced sucker rod pump expert will be able to diagnose problems and provide valuable recommendations to ensure that your next design is as efficient and resilient as possible.
It is ultimately up to operators and engineers to strike the most efficient balance between mechanical optimization and operating costs. This is where Catalyst Artificial Lift can help. By providing operators and pump techs with the material and design options they need to tackle the toughest of well conditions, Catalyst Artificial Lift can help strike that balance.