You are on page 1of 13

Distinguished Author Series

Nodal Systems Analysis of Oil and Gas Wells

By Kermit E. Brown, SPE, and James F. Lea, SPE

Kermit E. Brown is F.M. Stevenson Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the u. of

Tulsa. Since 1966 Brown has served as head of the Petroleum Engineering Dept., vice president of research, and chairman of the Resources Engineering Div. He has conducted many courses on gas lift, multiphase flow, and inflow performance and served as a Distinguished Lecturer during 1969-70. Brown holds a BS degree in mechanical and petroleum engineering from Texas A&M U. and MS and PhD degrees from the u. of Texas, both in petroleum engineering. Brown served as the SPE faculty advisor for the U. of Tulsa student chapter during 1982-83. He also served on the SPE board during 1969-72, the Education and Professionalism Committee during 1966-67, and the Education and Accreditation Committee during 1964-66 and was Balcones Section chairman during 1964-65. He is currently on the Public Service Award Committee. James F. Lea is a research associate in the Production Mechanics Group of Amoco Production Co. in Tulsa. He works on computer implementation of existing design and analysis methods for artificial lift and improved application techniques. Previously, he worked with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and Sun Oil Co. and taught engineering science at the university level. Lea holds BS and MS degrees in mechanical engineering and a PhD degree in thermal/fluid science from Southern Methodist U., Dallas.


Nodall analysis, defined as a systems approach to the optimization of oil and gas wells, is used to evaluate thoroughly a complete producing system. Every component in a producing well or all wells in a producing system can be optimized to achieve the objective flow rate most economically. All present components-beginning with the static reservoir pressure, ending with the separator, and including inflow performance, as well as flow across the completion, up the tubing string (including any downhole restrictions and safety valves), across the surface choke (if applicable), through horizontal flow lines, and into the separation facilities-are analyzed.


The objectives of nodal analysis are as follows.

1. To determine the flow rate at which an existing oil or gas well will produce considering well bore geometry and completion limitations (first by natural flow).

2. To determine under what flow conditions (which may be related to time) a well will load or die.

3. To select the most economical time for the installation of artificial lift and to assist in the selection of the optimum lift method.

4. To optimize the system to produce the objective flow rate most economically.

Copyright t 985 Society of Petroleum Engineers


5. To check each component in the well system to determine whether it is restricting the flow rate unnecessarily.

6. To permit quick recognition by the operator's management and engineering staff of ways to increase production rates.

There are numerous 011 and gas wells around the world that have not been optimized to achieve an objective rate efficiently. In fact, many may have been completed in such a manner that their maximum potential rate cannot be achieved. Also, many wells placed on artificial lift do not achieve the efficiency they should.

The production optimization of oil and gas wells by nodal systems analysis has contributed to improved completion techniques, production, and efficiency for many wells. Althou~h this type of analysis was proposed by Gilbert in 1954, it has been used extensively in the V.S. only in the last few years. One principal reason for this was the changing of allowable producing rates, and another has been the development of computer technology that allows rapid calculation of complex algorithms and provides easily understood data.

Past conservation practices in the V. S. more or less restricted operators to 2 - and 2 V2 - in. [5.08- and 6.35-cm] tubing and 4 shots/ft [13.1 shots/m] for perforating. The use of larger tubing (4'/2 and 5 V2 in.


LIPs Pwh - Psep FLOWLINE Fig. 1-Possible pressure losses in complete system.

[11.43 and 13.97 cm)) and 16 shots/ft [52.5 shots/m] is common today.

Although the increase in flow rates in highproductivity wells has popularized nodal analysis, it is, nevertheless, an excellent tool for low-rate wells (both oil and gas) as well as for all artificial lift wells. Some of the greatest percentage increases in production rates have occurred in low-rate oil wells (from 10 to 30 BID [1.59 to 4.77 m3/d)) and low-rate gas wells (from 50 up to 100 to 200 Mscf/D [1416 up to 2832 to 5663 std m3/d)). Numerous gas wells have needed adjustments in tubing sizes, surface pressures, etc., to prolong the onset of liquid loading problems. Nodal analysis can be used to estimate the benefits of such changes before they are made.

One of the most important aspects of nodal analysis is to recognize wells that should be producing at rates higher than their current rate. Therefore, it can serve as an excellent tool to verify that a problem exists and that additional testing is necessary. For example, assume that a well is producing 320 BID [51 m 3 Id] of oil. Applying nodal analysis to this well shows that it is capable of producing 510 BID [81 m 3 I d]. This difference may be attributed to several factors, but nodal analysis can determine which component is restricting the rate or can determine that incorrect data are the cause of the higher predicted rate. A basic requirement for well analysis is the ability to define the current inflow performance relationship (IPR) of the well. Accurate well test data must be obtained and the proper IPR applied for successful analysis. Then


models of other well components can be used to complete the predicted well performance.

Fig. 1 shows components that make up a detailed flowing well system. Beginning with the reservoir and proceeding to the separator, the components are (1) reservoir pressure, (2) well productivity, (3) wellbore completion, (4) tubing string, (5) possible downhole restrictive device, (6) tubing, (7) safety valve, (8) tubing, (9) surface choke, (10) flowline, and (11) separator.

To optimize the system effectively, each component must be evaluated separately and then as a group to evaluate the entire well producing system. The effect of the change of anyone component on the entire system is very important and can be displayed graphically with well analysis. Some aspects of the IPR component are covered in Appendix A; discussion of multiphase-flow pressure-drop correlations for pipelines is found in Appendix B.

The most common positions for nodal analysis graphical solutions are listed below.

1. At the center of the producing interval, at the bottom of the well. This isolates the well's inflow performance.

2. At the top of the well (wellhead). This isolates the flowline or the effects of surface pressure on production.

3. Differential pressure solutions (t..p) across the completion interval to evaluate the effect of the number of perforations on production in gravel-packed or standard completion wells.



BHP or ~P


Fig. 2-Constructed IPR curve.

4. Solutions at the separator, especially with gas-lift wells. This isolates the effect of separator pressure on production.

5. Other solution positions for graphical solution are at surface chokes, safety valves, tapered string connection points, and downhole restrictions.

The user must understand how pressure-flow components of the well are grouped to form a graphical solution at a node point. For example, if the solution is plotted at the bottom of the well (center of completed interval), then the reservoir and the completion effects can be isolated completely from the entire piping and production system.

Caution should be taken in neglecting even 200 to 300 ft [61 to 91 m] of casing flow from the center of the completed interval to the bottom of the tubing. Because of lower velocities, the larger pipe may not be flushed out with produced fluids. This large section of pipe still can be nearly full of completion fluids (water and mud), even though the well may be producing 100% oil. Numerous flowing-pressure surveys have verified this occurrence. A major company recently surveyed a well producing 1,600 BID [254 m 3 Id] of oil up 2Ys-in. [7.3-cm] tubing. Because of a dogleg, tubing was set 1,000 ft [305 m] off bottom in the 1l,000-ft [3353-m] well. Both water and mud were found in the 7-in. [17.8-cm] casing below the tubing, even though the well produced 100% oil. Cleaning this well resulted in an increase of the rate to more than 2,000 BID [318 m 3 I d] of oil. This points out one type of practical limitation of nodal analysis when tubing-pres sure-drop calculations are used to calculate accurately a bottornhole flowing pressure (BHFP). Here, the analysis showed that the rate should be higher and, hence, served as a diagnostic tool that prompted the running of a pressure traverse. In many cases, the analysis predicts what should be expected, and the operator is advised to look for problems if the well is producing below that prediction.



BHP or ~P


Fig. 3-Constructed tubing intake curve.

Specific Examples

A limited number of examples are presented here; numerous examples, however, appear in the literature.J'P

Two specific subjects have been selected for example solutions.

1. The effect of the downhole completion on flow rate is illustrated. An example solution for both a gravel-packed well and a standard perforated well is presented. Procedures to optimize the completions are outlined.

2. Quick recognition of those wells with a greater predicted potential than the present production mte is covered. These situations may be caused by a restriction in one of the components in the system.

Gravel-Packed Oil and Gas Wells

A paper presented by Jones et al. 4 seemed to be the catalyst that started operators looking more closely at their completions. This paper also suggests procedures for determining whether a well's inflow capability is restricted by lack of area open to flow, by skin caused by mud infiltration, etc.

Ledlow and Granger ' have prepared an excellent summary of background material on gravel packing, including details on mechanical running procedures and selection of gravel size.

The nodal analysis procedure for a gravel-packed well, illustrated with a sequence of figures, is presented here. The appropriate details, additional references, and equations can be found in Ref. 3.

The following procedure is valid for either an oil or gas well with the solution node at bottornhole.

1. Prepare the node IPR curve (Fig. 2). (This step assumes no t..p across the completion.)

2. Prepare the node outflow curve (tubing intake curve in Fig. 3), which is the surface pressure plus the tubing pressure drop plotted as a function of rate,



BHP or ~P


Fig. 4- Transfer Ap.

3. Transfer the differential pressure available between the node inflow and node outflow curve on the same plot (Fig. 4) to a /lp curve.

4. Using the appropriate equations.P:" calculate the pressure drop across the completion for various rates. Numerous variables have to be considered here, including shots per foot, gravel permeability, viscosity and density of the fluid, and length of the perforation tunnel for linear flow. Add this /lp curve on Fig. 4, as noted in Fig. 5.

5. Evaluate this completion (Fig. 5) to determine whether the objective rate can be achieved with an accepted differential across the gravel pack. Company philosophies on accepted /lp values differ. A reasonable maximum allowable /lp that has given good results ranges from 200 to 300 psi [1379 to 2068 kPa] for single-phase gas or liquid flow. Most operators will design for smaller /lp's for multiphase flow across the pack.


BHP or ~P


Fig. 6-Evaluation of various shot densities.



BHP or ~P


Fig. 5-Construct Ap across gravel pack.

6. Evaluate other shot densities or perhaps other hole sizes until the appropriate /lp is obtained at the objective rate (Fig. 6). Perforation efficiency should be considered at this time. A good review on perforating techniques, which points out such factors as the number of effective holes expected and the effect of the number of holes and hole sizes on casing strength, was presented by Bell. 6

7. The /lp across the pack can be included in the IPR curve, as noted in Fig. 7.

Example Problem-Typical Gulf Coast Well With Gravel Pack. Below is a list of given data.

Pr = 4,000 psi [27.6 MPa],

D = 11,000 ft [3352 m] (center of perforations), k = 100 md (permeability to gas),

h = 30 ft [9.1 m] (pay interval),

hp = 20 ft [6.1 m] (perforated interval),


BHP or ~P


Fig. 7-Gravel pack solution by including Ap completion in IPR curve.


: .

4 4
DEPTH 11,000'
(f) Pwh= 1200 PSI
U5 3 ~P <\1>-'t-~0 n, 3
n, 0\~ ~\~ M
M '0~\~ """v 0
< b. \\'2- x
x a,
n, 2 <l 2
<l 0
0 o,
o, DEPTH = 11,000' I
I Pwh= 1200 PSI lD
~P (f) o,


M o

x 2 o,



Pr = 4000 PSI DEPTH = 11,000' K = 100 MD




Fig. 8-IPR curve for gas well-gravel-pack analysis.

40/60-mesh gravel-packed sand, 640-acre [259-ha] spacing,

8%-in. [2l.9-cm] casing; 10~-in. [27.3-cm]

drilled hole, 'Y g = 0.65,

screen size = 5-in. [12.7-cm] OD, gas-sales-line pressure = 1,200 psi [8273 kPa], short flowline.

This well is to be gravel packed. The tubing size and the number of shots per foot are to be evaluated with an underbalanced tubing-conveyed gun. It is assumed that there is no computable zone restriction


Fig. 10-Ap available from sandface to tubing intake.




DEPTH = 11 ,000' Pwh = 1200 PSI

x n, I lD



Fig. 9-Evaluation of tubing sizes.

around the perforation because of unconsolidated formation-that is, sand flows immediately into all perforated holes until properly prepacked.


l. The IPR curve is prepared with Darcy's law, and the additional turbulence pressure drop" is included (Fig. 8).

2. Tubing sizes of 2,%, 3V2, and 41/2 in. [7.3, 8.89, and 11.43 em] are evaluated at a wellhead pressure of 1,200 psi [8272 kPa], which is needed to flow gas into the sales line. From analysis of Fig. 9, 41/2-in. [11.43-cm] tubing is selected. Note that, if market


Fig. 11-Ap across gravel pack at 4, 8, 12, and 16 shots/ft.


>< 2 a..



DEPTH = 11,000' 41/2" TUBING Pwh = 1200 PSI


Fig. 12-Completion effects included with IPR-gravelpacked well.

conditions permitted, much higher rates could be projected with adequate sand control.

3. The Ap is transferred, as noted in Fig. 10. This is the Ap available across the gravel pack.

4. The Ap across the pack for 0.75-in. [1.905-cm] -diameter holes with 4, 8, 12, and 16 effective shots/ft [13.12, 26.2, 39.4, and 52.5 effective shots/m] (Fig. 11) should be calculated with Jones et al. 's equations or with modifications of these equations adjusted to fit field data.

5.Figs. 11 and 12 show the final two plots indicating that 16 shots/ft [52.5 shots/m] are necessary to obtain a Ap of about 300 psi [2068 kPa] at a rate o'f 58.5 MMscf/D [1.7XI06 std m3/d]. Additional perforations could bring this Ap below 200 psi

[1379 kPa].

6. To bring this well on production properly, one more plot (such as Fig. 13) should be made with several wellhead pressures so that Ap across the pack can be watched through the observation of rate and wellhead pressure. This procedure is described by Crouch and Pack 5 and Brown et al. 3

Nodal Analysis To Evaluate a Standard Perforated Well

In 1983 McLeod 7 published a paper that prompted operators to examine completion practices on normally perforated wells. Although numerous prior publications 8-10 discussed this topic and companies had evaluated the problem, this paper sparked new interest. A modification of this procedure is presented in Ref. 3.

The procedure is similar to that offered for gravelpacked wells, except that the equations used for the calculation of pressure drop across the completion have been altered to model flow through a perforation



Ci5 3
.., -
n, 2

Fig. 13-Effects of wellhead pressure-gravel-packed well.

surrounded by a low-permeability zone. They still incorporate basic concepts suggested by Jones et al. 4 for gravel-packed wells.

Example Problem and Procedure for a Perforated Well

In this section, a sample oil well with a low GOR, a low bubblepoint pressure, and assumed single-phase liquid flow across the completion will be analyzed.

The reason for this selection is that current technology has offered solutions only for single-phase flow (gas or liquid) across such completions. When two-phase flow occurs across either a gravel-packed or a standard perforated well, relative permeability effects must be considered. Additional turbulence then occurs in gravel-packed wells and creates more energy losses.

McLeod 7 noted that most of the pressure drop can occur across a compacted zone at the perforation wall because of turbulence. He analyzed a gas-well

example and showed that 90% of the total Ap across the completion, in fact, was caused by turbulence across the approximately V2-in. [1.27-cm] -thick compacted zone. (Refs. 3 and 7 provide more details).

To use this technique, the crushed-zone thickness, e c» the permeability, k co the perforation-tunnel diameter, d p' and the length, L p' must be known.

Obviously, because of the many input variables required, the technique can only be approximate and indicate trends. It is hoped that future research in this area will lead to more accurate models of pressure drop through perforations shot in both over- and underbalanced conditions.

Example Problem,

fir = 3,500 psi [24.1 MPa], D = 8,000 ft [2438 m],


3.0 ~~0 3.0
" -<'_V DEPTH = 8000'
'0\'0 Pr = 3500 PSI
2.5 ~--\'" 2.5 TUBING 1.0. = 2.992"
t>-v' /,0
vt>-<? (j) 'S>
ii5 2.0 eo " 2.0
o, 0
" x
1.5 u, 1.5
x <l
o, 0
I o,
CO 1.0 I 1.0
DEPTH = 8000'
.5 Pr = 3500' .5
Pwh = 140 PSI o


2000 3000 4000 5000


Fig. 14-IPR and tubing curves for perforated oil well.

36° API [0.84-g/cm3] oil,

Solution GOR = 180 scf/bbl [32 std m 3 1m 3], 80-acre [32.3-ha] spacing,

5V2-in. [13.97-cm] casing,

8I/2-in. [21.59-cm] hole,

Lp = 4-in. [10.16-cm] perforation tunnel (see Table 6 of Ref. 7 for tabulated values), e , around perforated tunnel = 0.5 in. [1.27 em],

v» = 800 psi [5515 kPa],

h = 30 ft [9. 1 m],

hp = 20 ft [6.1 m],

Y s = 0.7,

T = 180°F [82°C], and Pwh = 140 psig [965 kPa].


1. Prepare the IPR curve with Darcy's law, assuming no /lp across the completion.

2. Plot the node outflow curve (tubing intake) for 2%- 2Ys-, and 3V2-in. [6.03-,7.3-, and 8.89-cm] tubing. This determines the pressure required at the bottom of tubing for flow through the tubing. Steps 1 (IPR) and 2 (tubing intake) are shown in Fig. 14. Assume 3I/2-in. [8.89-cm] tubing is selected.

3. Transfer the /lp curve, as shown in Fig. 15.

4. Using the appropriate equations from McLeod 7 (and as discussed by Brown et al. 3), determine the Sp'« across the completions listed in Table 1.

An analysis of Fig. 16 shows the importance of perforating underbalanced. Of course, the best fluids and techniques should be used.

Recognition of Components Causing Restricted Flow Rates in a Well

Example Problem-Analysis of Flowline Capacity. The following well is on gas lift.





Fig. 15- Transfer for Ap curve-perforated oil well.

D = 8,000 ft [2438 m], 2Ys-in. [7.3-cm] tubing,

Pr = 2,100 psi [14.5 MPa], 35° API [0.85-g/cm3] oil,

50 % water [-y w = 1. 07],

solution GOR=300 scf/bbl [54 std m3/m3], separator pressure =60 psig [413 kPa], flowline length=4,000 ft [1219 m],

well test: 500 BID [79.5 m ' Id] at 1,740 psi [12 MPa], Pb = 2,400 psi [16.6 MPa],

'Yg = 0.7, and

tubing size = 2V2-in. [6.35-cm] ID.

Sufficient gas pressure is available (2,000 psi [13.8 MPa]) to inject gas near the bottom, and a total gas/liquid ratio of 800 scf/bbl [143 std m3/m3] is maintained for gas lift. The flowline might be restricting the rate. With nodal analysis, a graphical solution can be generated quickly at the wellhead location.

Examination of the results in Fig. 17 indicates that the flowline is a restriction because the pressure loss in the flowline (2I/2-in. [6.35-cm] ID) shows a significant increase in pressure loss with rate and is angled

sharply upward at the intersection point between the two curves shown. The intersection point of the pressure required at the flowline intake and the IPR pressure minus the pressure drop in the well from sandface to the wellhead is the point of predicted flow from the well.

A 3- and 4-in. [7.62- and 10.16-cm] flowline is then evaluated on the same plot. As soon as the slope of the flowline intake pressure vs. rate becomes small (showing very little increase of Sp with rate), then the flowline diameter is sufficiently large. The diameter should not be oversized because additional slugging and heading may occur. Some operators just add a


Feet Perforation kc as % of
Number Shots/Ft Perforated Condition k f Formation
4 20 Overbalanced with 10
filtered salt water
2 8 20 Overbalanced with 10
salt water
3 4 20 U nderbalanced
with 30
filtered salt water
4 8 20 Underbalanced
with 30
filtered salt water parallel line instead of replacing the current line with a larger size.

Restriction Caused by Incorrect Tubing Size. The tubing may be either too large (causing unstable flow) or too small (reducing flow rate). This can be recognized immediately on a nodal plot and is as important in high-rate gas lift wells as in low-rate gas wells.

A weak gas well is chosen to show how to determine when the tubing is too large and to predict when loading will occur. The Gray 11 correlation is recommended for use in the calculation of tubing pressure drops in gas wells that produce some liquids.

Example Problem-Weak Gas Well with Liquid Production.

P r = 3,200 psi [22 MPa],

30 bbllMMcf [168 X 10 -6 m3/m3] condensate, 5 bbllMMcf [28.1 x 10 -6 m 31m 3] water,

D = 10,000 ft [3048 m],

h = 15 ft [4.57 m],

320-acre [129-ha] spacing, T = 200°F [93°C],

k = 0.12 md,

Pwh = 100 psig [689 kPa], hp = 15 ft [4.57 m],

't e = 0.7,

hole size = 81/2 in. [21.6 ern], and no skin effects.

Evaluate 31/2-, 2Ys-, 2%-, and Biz-in. [8.89-, 7.3-, 6.35-, and 3.81-cm] tubing (1.66-in. [4.21-cm] ID) and l-in. [2.5-cm] tubing (1.049-in. [2.66-cm] ID) for this well.

Note in Fig. 18 that all sizes of tubing are too large for this particular case except the 1.049-in. [2.66-cm] -ID tubing. Unstable flow is indicated by the tubing curves crossing the IPR at a point to the left of the minimum for the larger tubing. The J .O-in. [2.54-cm] tubing shows stable flow.

The same type of analysis can be made for oil wells for various tubing sizes.

3.0 500
DEPTH = 8000'
2.5 TUBING I.D. = 2.992"
Pr = 3500 PSI u; 400
u; 0...
0... 2.0 u.i DEPTH = 8000'
M a:: TUBING I.D. = 2.441"
0 => 300
(j) Pwh "" 60 PSI
x (j)
0... 1.5 w Pr = 2100 PSI
<l 0...
5 0 200
0... «
I 1.0 w
co I
.5 ~ RATE, BID

Fig. 16-Production vs. various perforated completions.



Fig. 17-Wellhead nodal plot-flowline size effects.


c, I
S 15 I
x 0
0 w
n, r
I 10 w o
CO > 0
w w
(f) a:
CO c,
5 0 I
200 250 00 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 Well Inflow and Completion Restrictions. It is very important for operators, engineers, and managers to recognize inflow restrictions immediately. Some companies have arranged their computerized well records to do such things as call up a group of wells in one field in descending-kh-value order. In addition, all other available pertinent information, including the latest test data, can also be printed out.

Example Problem. Compare predicted performance to actual oil well performance.

k = 50 md (cores),

h = 30 ft [9.14 m] (logs), 35° API [0.85-g/cm3] oil, casing = 7 in. [17.78 em], tubing = 2% in. [6.1 cm],

D = 7,000 ft [2134 m], 'Y g = 0.65,

T = 1700P [77°q,

Pr = estimated 2,400 psi [16.5 MPa], and Pwh = 250 psi [1723 kPa].

The latest well test shows this well producing 600 BID [95 m 3 Id] oil (no water) with a GOR of 400 scf/bbl [71.2 std m3/m3] (natural flow).

Determine whether this well is producing near its capacity. It is the engineer's responsibility to recognize this well's potential quickly and to recommend additional testing, a workover, a change in tubing, or other action.

A very quick estimate of the productivity index can be estimated from the product kh in darcy-feet.

50(30) BID

kh=--== 1.5-.

1,000 psi


DEPTH = 10,000' Pwh = 100 PSI

Pr = 3200 PSI





~ 1.5

x c,

ffi 1.0




100 150


Fig. 18- Tubing-diameter effects-weak gas well.




n 0.7 0.8 0.85 0.9 1.0


[m3/d x 10 -51

7 38 90 211 1,157

2 11 92 60


A closer estimate can be made from

(50)(30) BID

--=------==1.56 -,

(1,000)(0.8)(1.2) psi


but it requires that P-o and B; are known. One can recognize that a 35° API [0.85-g/cm3] crude at 1700P [77 0q with 400 scf/bbl [71 std m 3 1m 3] in solution will have a viscosity less than 1 and that the product P-oB 0 will be close to 1. Heavy crudes, of course, will have high viscosities, and a larger value must be used in estimating the productivity index.

Also, a reasonable estimate at lower pressures is that about 500 psi [3447 kPa] is required to place 100 scf/bbl [17.8 std m3/m3] in solution giving a bubblepoint pressure, Pb, of 2,000 psi [13.8 MPa]. Standing' s 14 correlation shows the P b to be very close to 2,000 psi [13.8 MPa] for these conditions. This permits a quick calculation of the maximum flow rate.

JPb qmax =q b + 1.8

1.5 (2,000) =1.5 (2,400-2,000)+---- 1.8

=600+ 1,667

=2,267 BID.


Fig. 19-Predicted vs. observed oilwell performance.


CD 1.0
.5 DEPTH = 7000' TUBING 1.0. = 1.995"







Fig. 20-Wellhead pressure effects on rate-nodal plot.

The IPR curve can be drawn quickly and the tubing curve imposed on the sample plot (Fig. 19). The intersection shows a rate of 760 B/D [121 m3/d] of oil.

The question of whether this well is worth spending sufficient money to determine why the rate is less than the predicted rate now arises. The source of error could be with two bits of information. Is the permeability of 50 md (obtained from cores) correct? Is there a completion problem? For this well, the possibility of additional production justifies the expenditure to run a buildup test to verify kh/ J.I-.oB 0 and to check for skin. A high skin may indicate that further testing is needed to determine whether a ratesensitive skin exists to decide whether stimulation or reperforating is required.

Restricted Gas Well

Many operators fail to recognize the significance of the exponent n for gas-well IPR equations obtained from four-point tests. It is common to see exponents of 0.7 to 0.8 or less in gas wells. For example, the following equation was obtained from a U.S. gulf coast well after data were plotted on log-log paper.

q gsc =0.0463[(5,000)2 -p w/] 0.7 Mcf/d.

The operator of this well had a market of 15 MMscf/D [424 x 10-3 std m3/d]. Note that this well has an absolute 0j'en-flow potential (AOFP) of 6,984 Mcf/D [198xlO m3/d]. See Table 2 for AOFP's for higher values of n.

Obviously, this well has a serious completion restriction. Sufficient data are already available to plot in the form suggested by Jones et at. 4 They suggested plotting (Pr2-Pw/)/qgsc on the ordinate vs. qgsc on the abscissa to evaluate the need for opening more



U5 Q_

ui 400 a:



[B 300 a:


o 200



:::l 100 w




TUBING 1.0. = 1.995" DEPTH = 7000'




1000 1200



Fig. 21-Production vs. wellhead pressure.

area to flow than to stimulation. Refs. 3 and 4 provide more details on this procedure.

Effects of Wellhead And Separator Pressure Specific cases of gas wells and gas-lift oil wells may be influenced significantly by changes in separator pressure and/or wellhead pressure.

A good plot for both oil and gas wells is a deliverability plot of wellhead pressure vs. rate and, in tum, separator pressure vs. rate. This plot also can show the loading or critical rate and offers immediate selection of rates based on wellhead pressures. The sample data used to construct Fig. 19 are used to construct Fig. 20 at various wellhead pressures. From this graph, data are used to construct Fig. 21, which demonstrates the well response as a function of surface pressure.

Summary and Conclusions

Nodal analysis is an excellent tool for optimizing the objective flow rate on both oil and gas wells. A common misconception is that often there are insufficient data to use this analysis. This is true in some cases, but many amazing improvements have been made with very few data. The use of nodal analysis has also prompted the obtaining of additional data by proper testing of numerous wells.

Another common statement is that there is too much error involved in the various multiphase-flow tubing or flowline correlations, completion formulas, etc., to obtain meaningful results. Because of these possible errors, it is sometimes difficult to get a predictive nodal plot to intersect at exactly the same production rate of the actual well. Even if current conditions cannot be matched exactly, however, the analysis can show a percentage increase in production with a change, for instance, in wellhead pressure. These


predicted possible increases often are fairly accurate even without an exact match to existing flow rates.

Two detailed illustrations are given in this paper to show the effect of perforation shot density in both gravel-packed and standard perforated wells on production.

Nodal analysis has completely altered perforation philosophy in the U.S. and has encouraged higherdensity perforating and use of open-hole completions when practical. One of the most important aspects of nodal analysis is that it offers engineers and managers a tool to recognize quickly those components that are restricting production rates.

Although not discussed in this paper, nodal analysis is used to optimize all artificial lift methods. 3 Rate predictions, along with horsepower requirements for all lift methods, can be predicted, thereby permitting easier selection of lift methods.

Finally, some very complex network systems, such as ocean-floor gas-lift fields (including gas allocation to maximize rates) and most economical gas rates, can be predicted with this procedure.

Nodal analysis, however, should not be used indiscriminately without the recognition of the significance of all plots and the meaning of each relationship. Engineers should be trained to understand the assumptions that were used in developing the various mathematical models to describe well components. Also, recognizing obvious error and using practical judgment are necessary. Experience in different operating areas can indicate the accuracy to be expected from various correlations used in nodal analysis well models.


B; FVF, bbllstb [m3/stock-tank m3]

C 1 numerical coefficient

dp perforation-tunnel diameter, in. [em]

D depth, ft [m]

e c crushed-cone thickness, in. [cm]

h height of pay interval, ft [m]

hp height of interval perforated, ft [m]

J = productivity index, B/D/psi [m3/d/kPa] k = permeability

k; = permeability of crushed zone around perforation, md

kf = formation permeability, md

Lp = length of perforation tunnel, in. [em] P = pressure, psi [kPa]

P» = bubblepoint pressure, psi [kPa] P r = reservoir pressure, psi [kPa] Pwf = BHFP, psi [kPa]

Pwh = wellhead pressure, psi [kPa]

Sp pressure difference, psi [kPa]

qb flow rate at the bubblepoint, Mscf/D [103

std m3/d]

qrnax maximum flow rate, BID [m3/d]

qf liquid flow rate, BID [m3/d]


T = temperature, OF [0C] 'Y g = gas gravity (air= 1.0) 'Y w = water gravity

/-to = oil viscosity, cp [Pa- s]


1. Mach, J., Proano, E., and Brown, K.E.: "A Nodal Approach for Applying Systems Analysis to the Flowing and Artificial Lift Oil or Gas Well," paper SPE 8025 available at SPE, Richardson, TX.

2. Gilbert, W.E.: "Flowing and Gas-Lift Well Performance," Drill. and Prod. Prac., API (1954) 126-43.

3. Brown, K.E. et al.: "Production Optimization of Oil and Gas Wells by Nodal Systems Analysis," Technology of Artificial Lift Methods, PennWeli Publishing Co., Tulsa (1984) 4.

4. Jones, L.G. Blount, E.M., and Glaze, C.E.: "Use of Short Term Multiple Rate Flow Tests to Predict Performance of Wells Having Turbulence," paper SPE 6133 presented at the 1976 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, Oct. 3-6.

5. Crouch, E.C. and Pack, K.J.: "Systems Analysis Use for the Design and Evaluation of High-Rate Gas Wells," paper SPE 9424 presented at the 1980 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Dallas, Sept. 21-24.

6. Bell, W.T.: "Perforating Underbalanced-Evolving Techniques," J. Pet. Tech. (Oct. 1984) 1653-62.

7. McLeod, H. O. Jr.: "The Effect of Perforating Conditions on Well Performance," J. Pet. Tech. (Jan. 1983) 31-39.

8. Locke, S.: "An Advanced Method for Predicting the Productivity Ratio of a Perforated Well," J. Pet. Tech. (Dec. 1981) 2481-88.

9. Hong, K.C.: "Productivity of Perforated Completions in Formations With or Without Damage," J. Pet. Tech. (Aug. 1975) 1027-38; Trans., AIME, 259.

10. Klotz, J.A., Krueger, R.F., and Pye, D.S.: "Effect of Perforation Damage on Well Productivity," J. Pet. Tech. (Nov. 1974) 1303-14; Trans., AIME, 257.

11. Gray, H.E.: "Vertical Flow Correlation in Gas Wells," User Manual for API 14B, Subsurface Controlled Safety Valve Sizing Computer Program, App. B, API, Dallas (June 1974).

12. Vogel, J. V.: "Inflow Performance Relationships for Solution-Gas Drive Wells," J. Pet. Tech. (Jan. 1968) 83-92; Trans., AIME, 243.

13. Fetkovich, M.J.: "The Isochronal Testing of Oil Wells," paper SPE 4529 presented at the 1973 SPE Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, Sept. 30-0ct. 3.

14. Standing, M.B.: "Inflow Performance Relationships for Damaged Wells Producing by Solution-Gas Drive," J. Pet. Tech. (Nov. 1970) 1399-1400.

15. Eickmeier, J.R.: "How to Accurately Predict Future Well Productivities," World Oil (May 1968) 99.

16. Dias-Couto, L.E. and Golan, M.: "General Inflow Performance Relationship for Solution-Gas Reservoir Wells," J. Pet. Tech. (Feb. 1982) 285-88.

17. Uhri, D.C. and Blount, E.M.: "Pivot Point Method Quickly Predicts Well Performance," World Oil (May 1982) 153-64.

18. Agarwal, R.G., AI-Hussainy, F., and Ramey, H.J. Jr.: "An Investigation of Wellbore Storage and Skin Effect in Unsteady Liquid Flow: 1. Analytical Treatment," Soc. Pet. Eng. J. (Sept. 1970) 279-90; Trans., AIME, 249.

19. Agarwal, R.G., Carter, R.D., and Pollock, C.B.: "Evaluation and Performance Prediction of Low-Permeability Gas Wells Stimulated by Massive Hydraulic Fracture," J. Pet. Tech. (March 1979) 362-72; Trans., AIME, 267.

20. Lea, J.F.: "Avoid Premature Liquid Loading in Tight Gas Wells by Using Prefrac and Postfrac Test Data," Oil and Gas J. (Sept. 20, 1982) 123.

21. Meng, H. et al.: "Production Systems Analysis of Vertically Fractured Wells," paper SPE/DOE 10842 presented at the 1982 SPEIDOE Unconventional Gas Recovery Symposium, Pittsburgh, May 16-18.

22. Greene, W.R.: "Analyzing the Performance of Gas Wells," Proc., 1978 Southwestern Petroleum Short Course, Lubbock, TX (April 20-21) 129-35.


23. Hagedorn, A.R. and Brown, K.E.: "Experimental Study of Pressure Gradients Occurring During Continuous Two-Phase Flow in Small-Diameter Vertical Conduits," J. Pet. Tech. (April 1965) 475-84; Trans. AIME, 234.

24. Duns, H. Jr. and Ros, N.C.J.: "Vertical Flow of Gas and Liquid Mixtures in Wells," Proc., Sixth World Pet. Congo (1963) 451.

25. Orkiszewski, J.: "Predicting Two-Phase Pressure Drops in Vertical Pipes," J. Pet. Tech. (June 1967) 829-38; Trans., AIME, 240.

26. Beggs, H.D. and Brill, J.P.: "A Study of Two-Phase Flow in Inclined Pipes," J. Pet. Tech. (May 1973) 607-14; Trans., AIME, 255.

27. Aziz, K., Govier, G.W., and Fogararasi, M.: "Pressure Drop in Wells Producing Oil and Gas," J. Cdn. Pet. Tech. (July-Sept. 1972), 38-48

28. Dukler, A.E. et al.: "Gas-Liquid Flow in Pipelines, 1. Research Results," AGA-API Project NX-28 (May 1969).

29. Dukler, A.E. and Hubbard, M.G.: "A Model for Gas-Liquid Slug Flow in Horizontal and Near Horizontal Tubes," Ind. and Eng. Chern. (1975) 14, No.4, 337-47.

30. Eaton, B.A. et al.: "The Prediction of Flow Patterns, Liquid Holdup and Pressure Losses Occurring During Continuous TwoPhase Flow In Horizontal Pipelines," J. Pet. Tech. (June 1967) 815-28; Trans., AIME, 240.

31. Cullender, M.H. and Smith, R.V.: "Practical Solution of GasFlow Equations for Wells and Pipelines with Large Temperature Gradients," J. Pet. Tech. (Dec. 1956) 281-87; Trans., AIME, 207.

32. Poettmann, F.H. and Carpenter, P.G.: "The Multiphase Flow of Gas, Oil and Water Through Vertical Flow String with Application to the Design of Gas-Lift Installations," Drill. and Prod. Prac., API (1952) 257-317.

APPENDIX A Inflow Performance

Inflow performance is the ability of a well to give up fluids to the wellbore per unit drawdown. For flowing and gas-lift wells, it is plotted normally as stock-tank barrels of liquid per day (abscissa) vs. bottomhole pressure (BHP) opposite the center of the completed interval (ordinate). The total volumetric flow rate, including free gas, can also be found with production values and PVT data to calculate, for instance, a total volume into a pump.

Brown et al. has given detailed example problems for most methods of constructing IPR curves. Nothing, however, replaces good test data, and many procedures, in fact, do require from one to four different test points-that is, a stabilized rate and corresponding BHFP, as well as the static BHP, are usually a minimum requirement for establishing a

good IPR.

IPR Methods for Oil Wells

For flowing pressure above the bubblepoint, test to find the productivity index, or calculate the productivity index from Darcy's law.

For two-~hase flow in a reservoir, apply Vogel's procedure 1 or Darcy's law using relative permeability data.

For reservoir pressure greater than bubblepoint

(Pr >Pb) and BHFP above or below the bubblepoint, use a combination of a straight-line productivity index above P» and Vogel's 12 procedure below.


The Fetkovich procedure 13 requires a three- or fourflow-rate test plotted on log-log paper to determine an equation in the form of a gas-well backpressure equation with a coefficient and exponent determined from plotted data. This is equivalent to analysis of an oil well with gas well relationships.

Standing's 14 extension of Vogel's work accounts for flow-efficiency values other than 1.00. Jones et al. 's4 procedure will determine whether sufficient area is open to flow.

Future IPR Curves

The prediction of future IPR curves is critical in determining when a well will die or will load up or when it should be placed on artificial lift. The following procedures can be used: (1) Fetkovich 13 procedure, (2) combination of Fetkovich and Vogel's equation.P (3) Couto's 16 procedure, and the (4) pivot point method. 17

Transient IPR Curves

Oil or Gas Wells. A time element allowing the construction of IPR curves for transient conditions can be brought into Darcy's law. This is important in

some wells because of the long stabilization time. (See Ref. 3 for discussions by several authors.)

Fractured Oil and Gas Wells. The construction of IPR curves for fractured oil or gas wells has been treated in the literature by Agarwal et al., 18,19 Lea, 20 and Meng.F! Fractured wells can show flush production initially but drop off considerably in rate at future times.

IPR Methods For Gas Wells. Generally, a three- or four-flow-rate test is required for a gas well from which a plot is made on log-log paper and the appropriate equation derived.

where q is the rate of flow, C 1 is a numerical coefficient, characteristic of the particular well, P r is the shut-in reservoir pressure, Pwf is the BHFP, and n is a numerical exponent that is characteristic of the particular well. (See Ref. 22 for a discussion on gas well performance). Also, Darcy's law can be used, and the turbulence terms should always be included 6 for all but the lowest rates.

Fractured and transient wells have also been treated in the literature.


Multiphase Flow Correlations

The use of multiphase-flow-pipeline pressure-drop correlations is very important in applying nodal analysis.

The correlations that are most widely used at the present time for vertical multiphase flow were


developed by Hagedorn and Brown,23 Duns and Ros,24 Ros modification (Shell Oil Co., unpublished), Orkizewski.P Beggs and Brill,26 and Aziz.27 These correlations calculate pressure drop very well in certain wells and fields. However, one may be much better than the other under certain conditions, and field pressure surveys are the only way to find out. Without knowledge of a particular field, we would recommend beginning work with the correlations listed in the above order.

Horizontal MultiJ>hase-Flow Pipeline Correlations. Beggs and Brill,2 Dukler et al. ,28 Dukler and Hubbard,29 Eaton et al., 30 and Dukler using Eaton's holdup28,30 are the best horizontal-flow correlations. Again, we recommend to begin work using them in the order given.


Vertical Gas Flow. The procedures by Cullender and Smith 31 and Poettmann and Carpenter-? are recommended for gas-flow calculations in wells.

Wet Gas Wells. We recommend the Gray correlation II for wet gas wells.

SI Metric Conversion Factors
bbl x 1.589 873 E-Ol m3
cu ft x 2.831 685 E-02 m3
ft x 3.048* E-Ol m
in. x 2.54* E+OO cm
psi x 6.895757 E+OO kPa
• Conversion factor is exact. JPT Original manuscript (SPE 14714) received in the Society of Petroleum Engineers office Aug. 19. 1985.