As well complexities, temperatures, pressures and lateral lengths increase, so do the demands placed on service companies to provide capable rigs and technologies that operate in an efficient and safe manner. With many service companies taking a measured approach to increasing operating costs, oftentimes new pressure pumping equipment is not in the budget. New pumps are an expensive investment, causing many service companies to make existing equipment work. However, money is being invested in consumables (packing, pistons, valves, plungers, etc.), allowing older pumps to continue running even in today’s harsh conditions.

Until recently, consumables have not been given much consideration, and there were not any distinguishable characteristics between them, allowing service companies to choose the cheapest and/or most convenient options. As the industry exited the downturn, customers simply had to find ways to be more efficient and extend their equipment’s life without breaking the bank.

Packing is the critical sealing system in the heart of the pump, which creates a barrier between the high-pressure fracturing fluid and environment. Generally, packing is the second most common reason service companies have to tear into a fluid end, resulting in costly nonproductive time (NPT). Historically, packing has to be changed out/serviced between 50 hours and 250 hours of run time, depending on the shale play. This leads to unwanted downtime, causing safety risks and costing operators money.

Frequent packing changes and shortened service intervals add additional strain on available horsepower to complete a fracturing operation. Every time field personnel have to open up a fluid end, it puts them at risk to pinch points, heavy loads and challenging working conditions (consider winter in North Dakota or August in South Texas). Packing changes also can introduce operational installation errors that can lead to costly fluid end washouts and premature fluid end failures.

Extending product life

Gardner Denver launched the first of its Redline Consumables, Redline Packing, in February after two years of R&D and extensive field testing in both Gardner Denver and competitor fluid ends. The company’s product development team conducted research into packing failures, product design and property makeup in an effort to improve packing performance and extend product life in fracturing operations. In preliminary field trials in the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Colorado, Redline Packing outperformed its predecessor by nearly 700 hours.

With redesigned header and pressure rings and refined material makeup, Redline Packing can withstand increased heat, friction and abrasion resistance in high-pressure environments, ultimately leading to longer product life. Redline Packing’s improved performance in harsh wells extends maintenance intervals, reducing downtime and increasing margins. The increased asset utilization rate allows packing to be changed at the maintenance facility rather than at a field location, decreasing NPT.

Case studies

In December 2017 Gardner Denver teamed up with a service company to run Redline Packing in the Scoop and Stack plays in western Oklahoma, where high pressures and challenging conditions are standard.

Conditions included 9,500-psi average pressures, 100-mesh sand and 105- bbl/min flow. Upon test completion, 144 stages were completed. The incumbent averaged 50 stages with 32 failures out of 45 sets of packing (a 71.1% failure rate). Redline Packing had one failure out of 40 sets of packing (a 2.5% failure rate).

Since the conclusion of preliminary results and compilation of data into definitive results, the customer has installed Redline Packing on more of its fleets, which continue to increase asset utilization and lower its cost of ownership.

In another field test, the customer wanted to determine how long it could push Redline Packing. The incumbent packing lasted 50 stages at 2 hours per stage. After seven complete jobs, Redline Packing completed more than 280 stages with only three packing bore failures, saving the customer in excess of 55 hours of scheduled maintenance, not including all the pump downtime. These time savings equated to lower NPT, faster fleet turnarounds and increased productivity. These factors translated into the customer earning two additional days of pumping, which generated an additional $2 million in revenue. Because Redline Packing lasted well past the service company’s scheduled maintenance intervals, downtime and exposure time were reduced and crews were kept safer.

In another example, a customer was interested in solving premature packing failures in South Texas and was running 200 mesh sand at over 10,000 psi. The customer’s existing packing system did not last more than 35 hours before failure (Figure 1), and crews could not keep the pumps in service and were washing fluid ends. The team decided to test Redline Packing to determine if it could improve its operations. Not only did Redline Packing surpass the 35 hours, the new packing ran for the remainder of the job—more than 138 hours without failures (Figure 2). The customer decided to adopt Redline across its entire operation.

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