Artificial Lift

Topics: Artificial lift

One of the more exciting aspects of artificial lift is the constant influx of new technologies and new ideas that the discipline invites. Inventors appear to be regularly developing “the next new thing” in artificial lift. Some ideas are so brilliant and so obvious, you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Other ideas seem so zany and so ill-conceived, you ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” In every case, these new technologies have the same goal: To produce more oil and gas more reliably and more cost-effectively.

One of my artificial-lift mentors has such a long history of developing and championing new downhole pumping technologies that he once described his career as the “relentless pursuit of the everlasting pump.” Even in retirement, he continues this lifelong passion. Yet, it occurs to me that the everlasting pump may actually exist today—through the correct application of field-proven technology. Although we seem to have a never-ending supply of new artificial-lift technologies, the technologies that consistently allow us to achieve our technical and business goals are usually the old ones. There is a catch, however: You need to apply those technologies correctly.

Applying artificial-lift technology correctly means selecting the right lift method in the first place, selecting the right system components, installing the equipment correctly, performing effective surveillance, and performing root-cause failure analysis so that we can learn from our mistakes and enable continuous improvement. All of this requires a coordinated effort, not just between vendors and operators but also between the various groups within the operating companies themselves. Each of these groups has a stake in the success of the well and should be aligned around a common set of goals to ensure that the artificial-lift system performs reliably and delivers optimal production and does so in a cost-effective manner.

All of the papers selected for this section concern the correct application of field-proven artificial-lift technology. Paper SPE 181216 describes the surveillance methods used by one operator to improve the reliability and performance of their beam pumping systems. Paper SPE 186254 describes a method to deploy electrical submersible pumps in gassy horizontal wells to improve gas handling and mitigate slugging. Paper SPE 186110, written by one of our recent Legends of Artificial Lift inductees, provides new insights into the application of injection-pressure-operated gas-lift valves, to allow operators to improve the design and overall reliability of gas-lift installations.

To see more great artificial-lift papers like these and to welcome our latest class of Legends, I invite you to join us for the 2018 SPE Artificial Lift Conference and Exhibition—Americas on 28–30 August 2018 in The Woodlands, Texas, USA.

This Month's Technical Papers

Effect of R Ratio on Performance of Injection-Pressure-Operated Gas-Lift Valves

Artificial-Sump-Pumping System Improves Production in Unconventional Oil Wells

Rod-Pump Optimization: Big Data Helps Accelerate and Improve Operations

Recommended Additional Reading

OTC 28123 A Step Change in Safety and Quality for ESP Deployment in the North Sea by L. Pastre, Schlumberger, et al.

SPE 190090 Detecting Failures and Optimizing Performance in Artificial Lift Using Machine Learning Models by Mike Pennel, OspreyData, et al.

SPE 187490 A Novel Approach to Distributed Field-Based Gas-Lift Facilities by Siddharth Mullick, Anadarko Petroleum, et al.

Greg Stephenson, SPE, is a senior engineering adviser for artificial lift in Occidental Petroleum’s Worldwide Engineering and Operations Group in Houston. In this role, he provides technical support, mentoring, and training on all forms of artificial lift used throughout the company. Stephenson specializes in the various aspects of artificial lift, production surveillance, automation, and optimization. He has taught numerous industry courses throughout the world and has written a variety of technical papers and publications on the subject. Stephenson currently serves on the JPT Editorial Committee, is an Associate Editor for the SPE Production & Operations journal, is the program chairperson for the 2018 SPE Artificial Lift Conference and Exhibition—Americas, serves on the board of directors of the Artificial Lift Research and Development Council, and is an active contributor and voting member for a variety of international standards and recommended practices related to gas lift technology through API Task Group 19G. Stephenson can be reached at

Artificial Lift

Greg Stephenson, SPE, Senior Engineering Adviser, Occidental Petroleum

01 July 2018

Volume: 70 | Issue: 7



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