[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the June 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]
Since the 2015 market downturn, U.S. land operators have trialed using different forms of artificial lift to meet operational and financial objectives. It resulted in most oil and gas operators using two or three types of artificial lift during the life cycle of a typical unconventional well.
Before the downturn, most U.S. land operators would complete and flow the well before placing on artificial lift, which was predominantly rod lift. Today, most land operators elect to use either gas lift or electric submersible pump (ESP) systems as their first form of artificial lift while rod lift is rarely used as the first form of lift for unconventional wells.
The preference of using ESP as the first form of artificial lift is driven by the desire to maximize IP rates, but these benefits were often offset with short run times and associated ESP failure due to sand, solids, debris, gas slugging and deposits such as scale.