American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - 46

SpecialReport: Multiphase Oil Recovery

Technology Simpliļ¬es Well Facilities
By Ankush Gupta
and Jeremy Pitts
HOUSTON-The top priority of any
operator is capturing as much value as
possible from each asset. Once an investment has been made to drill a well
and build the infrastructure to produce it,
the operator strives to have the well produce as much oil and gas as possible for
as long as possible. Achieving that simple
objective can be challenging in liquidsrich shale plays, where rapid decline rates
and multiphase production flows make
getting extended, sustained production
more difficult.
Liquids-rich natural gas plays, in particular, present significant challenges to
keeping wells flowing and maximizing
production. As daily rates decline, the
liquid-carrying capability of the gas decreases to the point where it becomes
insufficient to keep liquids entrained in
the gas stream. High-velocity flow may
appear as more of a liquid "mist," but as
gas production and velocities decline,
liquids begin to collect on the tubing
walls, slugs start forming, liquids begin
accumulating in the bottom of the well,
and eventually, the liquids may stop gas
production entirely.
Many strategies exist to keep liquidsrich gas wells flowing and avoid loading
problems, but wellhead compression is
the first tool in the life of a gas well to
keep it deliquified. Compression lowers
wellhead pressures and increase flowrates
to eliminate liquid loading. By reducing
pressures, compressors increase gas velocities and allow more hydrocarbons
and water to remain in a vapor state.
However, traditional compressor designs
cannot tolerate high liquids content, requiring additional infrastructure and fa-

cilities to separate, store and transport
the liquids.
Another compelling solution that is
gaining favor in shale plays is multiphase
production facilities, which eliminate the
need for liquids handling infrastructure
at the wellhead by moving multiphase
flow downstream to a central facility for
processing. However, multiphase pump
systems can have low efficiencies in the
high gas volume fraction (GVF) conditions
typical of liquids-rich gas wells.
Multiphase compression technology
is a new concept that is designed to combine the benefits of multiphase production
with operating efficiencies similar to that
of a traditional reciprocating compressor.
The technology potentially can give producers a new option to maximize the
production of multiphase wells with high
gas-to-liquids ratios. It has been tested
on multiple Statoil-operated wet gas
wells in the Eagle Ford, successfully
handling multiphase streams coming
from wells without any additional separation facilities.
Avoiding Liquid Loading
A number of techniques have been used
to avoid liquid load-up conditions and improve well performance, including:
* Changing tubing sizing or using
smaller-diameter "velocity strings" to increase flow velocity;
* Installing wellhead compression;
* Installing plunger lift;
* Installing lift systems such as beam
pumps, electric submersible pumps and
progressive cavity pumps;
* Employing gas lift;
* Injecting surfactants; and
* Implementing regular swabbing.
Each technique has pros and cons.
Compression, for example, is not only

FIGURE 1
Cutaway Views of Multiphase Compression Technology

46 THE AMERICAN OIL & GAS REPORTER

helpful in deliquifying wells, lowering
wellhead pressures, and increasing gas
velocity, but deliquifying a gas well and
lowering wellhead pressures can result
in substantial production and reserves increases. When compression on its own is
not sufficient, it can also help other types
of artificial lift systems work more
effectively. On the other hand, a traditional
compressor requires installing a separator,
heater treater, storage tanks and other facilities to remove liquids from the well
stream before entering the compressor.
An alternative is moving to multiphase
production facilities. Multiphase production requires only a multiphase pump/compressor and perhaps a multiphase meter
on location (either at the wellhead or at a
compressor station fed by multiple wells).
All the other facilities can be moved to a
centralized location, which achieves
economies of scale and dramatically reduces compressor installation capital
costs. In addition, the operating costs associated with extra liquids facilities, most
notably trucking costs required to remove
liquids, are eliminated. Health, safety
and environmental risks also are dramatically reduced by not storing hydrocarbons
on site, eliminating the risks of spills and
fugitive emissions.
Multiphase compressor technology
combines the benefits of both approaches.
It represents a new class of rotary compressor with a stationary vane design. As
shown in Figure 1, the vane moves in and
out of the casing, staying in contact with
a rotor and spinning inside of the chamber.
The rotor is a non-circular shape, and dynamically balanced for concentric motion
and minimal vibrations as the rotor spins.
The rotor contains a constant radius
"dwell" portion, which creates a noncontacting seal with the casing.
The left panel in Figure 1 shows the
full intake volume, with suction occurring
at the bottom left of the machine. As the
rotor sweeps around in a clockwise direction, the dwell portion of the rotor
and the vane each create a seal, allowing
pressure to begin building. Once the pressure inside the chamber exceeds the downstream pressure, valves open to allow the
working fluid to be discharged. The
sweeping motion of the rotor and the location of the discharge allow liquids to
be swept out of the compression chamber
during each rotation, eliminating liquid



American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018

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