Unconventional oil wells in the continental US commonly deploy electrical submersible pumping (ESP) systems to extend production life. Newly fractured wells produce at high initial rates but rely on ESPs to boost production as fractures close and reservoir pressure drops.

As liquid rates decline, the reservoir releases higher volumes of free natural gas that hinder pump performance due to cycling and gas locking. This creates low-flow/no-flow conditions in the ESP that interrupt production, increase downtime, and limit ultimate recovery.

Service providers have attempted to address ESP gas challenges with technologies like high-tolerance pumps, gas handling equipment, and gas separators. Many of these offerings are standalone solutions that cannot resolve all ESP performance challenges as free gas volumes increase.

Driving ESP efficiency with a complete gas solution
Recognizing the need for an all-encompassing solution to improve ESP performance and enhance oil production, Baker Hughes has developed a premier holistic Gas Management service. Combining a complete set of tools with intelligent algorithms, the service effectively manages gassy applications to keep ESPs running smoothly.

The service includes intelligent production optimization driven by MaxRate gas mitigation software. While other software offerings only speed up or slow down the pump, this new software continuously measures a range of process variables related to motor and pump performance. With these real-time variables as inputs, the software’s algorithms quickly identify changes to gas content and send commands to the variable speed drive to customize pump speed and optimize production.

The service’s unique gas map testing offers further optimization opportunities. Pump data collected in a liquid-gas test loop are graphed to create curves that map pump performance as gas conditions change. Gas mapping removes much of the guesswork of understanding pump performance at different gas levels. And by integrating standardized gas maps into proprietary sizing software, ESP designs are optimized to minimize derating effects and enhance production.

The Gas Management service offers a complete set of pump solutions deployed stepwise, depending on free gas levels in the fluid stream.

Avoid the gas. The first strategy for protecting the ESP is to limit gas entry. Gas avoider technologies include pump intakes that preferentially prevent lighter-density gas from entering the pump. The service also includes multiphase encapsulated solutions, like the CENesis PHASE multiphase ESP system, that shroud the system to naturally separate gas slugs from the production stream before they can enter the pump.

Separate the gas. As free gas content increases, downhole gas separators offer improved gas handling for enhanced pump protection. Specially designed intake and discharge head assemblies increase pressure in the separator chamber to divert gas to the well annulus—eliminating gas locking and extending the ESP’s application range in multiphase fluid wells.

Handle the gas. At even higher free gas levels, gas handling pumps compress the free gas into solution and move it through the pump as part of the production stream—not as a separate fluid phase. Some pump designs, like the ACE Plus and MVP pumps, can process up to 75% free gas without locking at low intake pressures, which increases lift efficiency while ensuring reliable and uninterrupted oil production.

Expanding service scope with boosted gas innovations 
The Gas Management service is currently boosting ESP efficiency and oil production in unconventional wells in the US Rockies and Permian as well as high-gas, conventional oil wells in Latin America. SAGD operations in Canada use gas avoiders and handlers to manage the gaseous components of heavy oil created during steam injection downhole.

As the demand for greater ESP optimization continues, the Gas Management service keeps expanding its technology portfolio. Recent innovations include a newly designed boosted gas separator that increases total flow rates through the pump while improving separation efficiency. Following successful computational fluid dynamics simulations, the boosted gas separator was successfully deployed in seven high-gas unconventional wells in the Rockies.  While field trials continue, early results prove promising.

Watch the video to learn how Baker Hughes Gas Management services can help turn your gas challenges into smooth operations.