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A R T I F I C I A L

L I F T

PROFITABLE CONTINUOUS-FLOW GAS


LIFT IN 18,000-FT WELLS WITH LOW
RESERVOIR PRESSURES
Pemex is committed to increase daily oil
production each year by use of such methods as drilling, stimulation, or artificial lift.
Two fields near Villahermosa, Tabasco,
Mexico, were difficult to produce with gas
lift because the wells are very deep and reservoir pressure is low. In both fields, 1,000-psi
gas-lift systems were installed and performed
effectively for several years. As reservoir
pressure declined, gas had to be injected
deeper in the well to maintain production
rates. To provide higher gas-injection pressures for deeper injection depths, skidmounted compressors were installed at 10
wellsites during 199596 and at 16 in 1997.
SAMARIA-IRIDE AND
C ARDENA S FIELDS

Reservoir pressures decreased rapidly in


both reservoirs. Tests were performed in the
Cardenas field with coiled tubing (CT) and
nitrogen to evaluate gas lift as an artificiallift system for the field. These tests showed
that gas lift could increase production if the
gas-lift injection pressure was high enough
to inject deep into the wells. Tests and computer analyses indicated that a surface
injection pressure greater than 1,800 psi
would be required to lift these 18,000-ft
wells efficiently. A skid-mounted compressor located at the wellsite can provide highpressure injection gas to individual wells
without interfering with the operation of
other gas-lift wells in the field. It also allows
gas-supply lines that may be many miles
long to operate at a lower pressure. Highpressure gas lift also requires fewer gas-lift
This article is a synopsis of paper SPE
39765, Profitable Continuous-Flow
Gas Lift in 18,000-Ft TVD Wells With
Low Reservoir Pressures, by Ed
DeMoss, SPE, CEALC Inc.; Sal RuizGarca, IMP; Salvador SarmientoMendoza and Alfredo Prez-Fuentes,
Pemex; and Steve Gossell, SPE, CEALC
Inc., originally presented at the 1998
SPE Permian Basin Oil and Gas
Recovery Conference, Midland, Texas,
2326 March.
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valves. The following compressor specifications would meet the needs of each field.
Suction pressure of 800 psi.
Discharge pressure of 2,500 psi.
Compression capacity of 1,500 Mscf/D.
The compressors are skid mounted with
suction and discharge scrubbers and gaslift-system controls and measurement
instruments. The skid-mounted compressor, located at least 164 ft from the wellhead, can operate at 2,300 to 2,500 psi for
kickoff and continuously at 2,000 psi, with
rates of 300 to 1,500 Mscf/D.
The Samaria-Iride field has a static reservoir pressure of 3,342 psi at 14,750 ft. This
field has 50 wells and produces 107,850
BOPD. The 1,000-psi gas-lift system was
used to gas lift 29 wells. Six compressors
were installed during 199596 at these gaslift wells, and production increased 6,595
BOPD. All gas-lift designs had a kickoff
pressure of 2,300 to 2,500 psi, with injection-pressure-operated valves for unloading.
Static reservoir pressure in the Cardenas
field ranges from 2,715 to 2,794 psi at
depths of 18,056 and 18,446 ft, respectively.
This field has 22 wells and produces 37,500
BOPD. Six wells were gas lifted with the
1,000-psi gas-lift system. When four compressors were installed during 199596,
production increased by 5,258 BOPD.
C A SE HISTORIES

Iride 148. This well was completed in 1978


with three perforated intervals. Initial flow
rate was 12,750 BOPD at a formation
gas/oil ratio (GOR) of 749 scf/bbl. By May
1995, the production rate had declined to
3,931 BOPD, and the formation GOR was
570 scf/bbl. Studies performed with 950-psi
surface injection pressure indicated that the
gas-lift injection point would be at only
9,500 ft, not deep enough to provide sufficient drawdown across the formation for a
significant increase in production. Several
different flow-path configurations were
examined with a 2,000-psi gas-lift injection
pressure. The most practical solution was
to punch a hole in the tubing at 11,139 ft,
inject gas down the tubing, and flow the

production fluids and injection gas up the


annulus. The analysis program predicted a
4,500-BOPD production rate at a gas-injection rate of 1,091 Mscf/D. Actual well performance was 5,100 BOPD at a gas-injection rate of 1,286 Mscf/D. The well has
declined slowly to a production rate of
3,950 BOPD.
Iride 164. This well was completed in
December 1983 with perforations from
12,632 to 12,730 ft. It flowed naturally at
818 BOPD until March 1990 when it died.
A gas-lift system designed for a 1,000-psi
kickoff pressure was installed. The well was
gas lifted at a rate of 1,365 BOPD and
declined over several years to a rate of only
164 BOPD in May 1995. Declining static
reservoir pressure caused this production
decline. In 1995, production engineers and
consultants decided that a higher gas-lift
injection pressure was necessary to restore
production. A combination gas-lift-valve
design that would work with a low-pressure injection gas until conversion to a
high-pressure system was installed in the
well. The top five side-pocket mandrels
(SPMs) were equipped with gas-lift valves
and the bottom two SPMs were equipped
with dummy valves. The low-pressure gaslift system produced 1,510 BOPD up the
tubing. When the compressor arrived on
location, all gas-lift valves and dummy
valves were pulled. The decision was made
to operate this well by annular flow with
the high-pressure gas. A gas-lift valve without a check valve was installed at 7,500 ft
and an orifice valve without a check valve
was installed at 10,545 ft. The five SPMs in
between were filled with dummy valves.
The well produced more than 3,000 BOPD
for a few months, then slowly declined to a
daily rate of 2,150 BOPD.
Cardenas 104A. Cardenas 104 began production in 1982 at 4,000 BOPD and reached
its maximum production of 10,000 BOPD
in 1987. By 1991, its performance was intermittent before it died. CT was installed to
16,405 ft, and gas injected down the CT to
JULY 1998

A R T I F I C I A L

achieve a production rate of 2,705 BOPD.


When trouble developed in the well, the CT
parted and the fishing job was unsuccessful.
The well had to be plugged and abandoned.
When Cardenas 104A was drilled, the decision was made to use 95/8-in. casing with a
7-in liner so that larger tubing could be
used. All the wells completed during the
development drilling of the field were completed with 75/8-in. casing and 5-in. liners.
In August 1996, Well 104A was equipped
with 41/2- and 31/2-in. tubing and 27/8-in.
SPMs. The gas-lift design was performed by
a computer program that considers dynamic gas-lift-valve performance.
Very low flowing gradients can be
achieved by injecting gas very deep in these
wells. When gas is injected at 11,055 ft, the
average flowing gradient is 0.079 psi/ft. If
gas is injected at 16,312 ft, the average
flowing gradient is 0.11 psi/ft.
Cardenas 114B. This well was completed
in April 1984 but did not produce reliably.
In 1993, the well was kicked off with nitrogen injected down CT; however, it only
flowed for a short time after kickoff. The
decision was made to evaluate a simple
form of gas lift by punching a hole in the

JULY 1998

L I F T

tubing and using a skid-mounted compressor at the wellhead to supply high-pressure


injection gas. The punched hole filled with
trash and could not be reopened. During
the next few weeks, several more holes
were punched in the tubing and each was
plugged very quickly. When the last hole
was plugged, the casing pressure became so
high that the tubing collapsed. The collapsed tubing parted as it was being pulled,
and the fish could not be retrieved. The
well was plugged at 11,123 ft, and a window was opened in the casing to sidetrack
around the fish. The well was completed
with a 31/2- and 27/8-in. tapered tubing
string. Gas-lift analyses and designs,
including dynamic gas-lift-valve performance data, indicated that 41/2-in. tubing in
the upper part of the well would have
allowed more than 500 BOPD additional
production, but 41/2-in. tubing was not
available for this completion. Even though
the 31/2-in. slim liner at the bottom of the
well and the 23/8-in. SPMs necessary to fit
in the 5-in. liner restrict production, the
well has been producing on a regular daily
basis for 2 years. Production peaked at
approximately 1,629 BOPD and has gradually declined to 1,470 BOPD.

CONCLUSIONS

1. The use of skid-mounted compressors


at the wellsite increases the gas-injection
pressure of existing gas-lift systems.
2. Continuous-flow gas lift can efficiently provide production from wells that are
18,000 ft deep and have low static bottomhole pressures.
3. In these fields, 41/2-in. tubing provided
more efficient continuous-flow operation
than 31/2-in. tubing when the production
rate was 1,200 BOPD or greater.
4. Use of reduced-diameter SPMs deep in
the well does not cause excessive pressure
drops in the production tubing.
5. Both 1.0- and 11/2-in.-outer-diameter,
retrievable, injection-pressure-operated,
nitrogen-charged gas-lift valves have been
used in these wells since early 1995 with
no valve problems caused by the high-pressure gas.

Please read the full-length paper for


additional detail, illustrations, and references. The paper from which the synopsis has been taken has not been peer
reviewed.

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