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(COVER STORY: PRODUCTION Alternative gas -lift design for unconventional wells Make more fluid with less gas. Petia eta [rztiseria dicason of dierent git design ‘methods, the theory behind them and considering current practices, one running theme tends to rear its hhead time and time again: valve spacing. In the existing plays being sought after in the Permian Basin and else- ‘where, a new design method may be more beneficial In early 2019, Concho Resources and Production Lift Com- panies ran a new gaslift design method in two uncon- ventional wells in the Permian Basin This new method is designed to exploit the initial high bottombole pressure (BHP) in nconventional wells to produce higher rates that, before now, vere only possible with an electric submersible pump. Getting trough the highest volumes of the eauliest production and continuing to be an effective form of artificial lit into the well’ ater years, this lfe-of-vell design also will follow the well’s decline and efficiently produce the well at lower rates. When completed correct, the well can be switched to plungerasssted gas lit, plunger lift or gasassisted plunger lift without the need for rig inter- Vention, thus there is no tubing pull required. ‘The Austin Chalk horizontal wells of South Texas and Louisiana changed everything in the gastift world, The waditional gaslift design methods used to design verti cal wells would not work for horizontal wells. The best gavlift design method for horizontal Austin Chalk wells is to run unloading valves until reaching a minimum spacing of 152 m (500 ft) (Figure 1) and then continue the 152m spacing down to the packer. The 152m spac- ing is an aubitrary spacing that is not based on engineer. ing principles. A group of gaslift professionals came up ‘with 152m spacing by trial and error in the late 1980s, Since it worked in the Austin Chalk horizontal wells, this method was thought to be best for al horizontal ‘wells and adopted by the industry at that time as a “best practice” and has remained the standard today. Bracketed gas-lit designs The oil and gas industy naturally had to adjust from mostly vertical wells to the up-and-coming horizontal ‘wells in the 1980s. Many adaptations happened to make oh ‘hun Vea! De 700 Press pe) HOURE 1. This chart ‘Companies and Concho Res downhole tools work horizontally that were designed to ‘work vertically, and those adaptations are still happen- ing today. From completion techniques to artifical lit methods, constant revisions and iterations of tools and designs already in use are taking place. Following suit, the gaelift industry had to adapt too. ‘At the time, most garlift designs were sill being done by hand, and the Austin Chalk horizontal wells performed differently than the vertical wells of yesteryear. They headed teribly and no longer had predictable inflow per~ formance. They made lots of gas, they slugged, made fines and lent themselves to gas lift very well given gas lift thrives in gassy wells producing solids, Many things were tied to lift these wells. Gaslift valves were run around the comer into the open hole. Dip tubes also were used in an attempt to lower the pressure and make more fluid. Alas, this did not help to make more fluid, Those early attempts to lift these wells worked but were very limited in what they could produce. The next adaptation for horizontal gas lft that was attempted was the bracketed gaslift design. COVER STORY: PRODUCTION Bracketing the valves is practice whexe garlift valves are run on the tubing at an equal spacing below unload- ing valves to a depth where nodal analysis shows to be the ideal place to inject gas. This method was typically used in high-rate vertical wells where the productivity index is known and relatively constant Bracketing eventually evolved into a standaed practice in horizontal wells, because lite reservoir information ‘was known, An equal spacing (like 152 m) allows the lift system to remain in the hole and follow a well's decline ‘without intervention on the well Recent flowing BHP surveys have shown that the nodal-based unloading sections of the Austin Chalk designs, with the 152m brackets, are actually slowing the unloading process and causing problems in uncon- ventional horizontal wells, The unloading valves are routinely spaced too wide, which retards the transfer to the next gasift valve and inhibits the unloading pro- cess, making the possible drawdown of the formation Iessened and hindering early time production. The EVOLVE, ALWAYS That’s geoLOGIC baginINTEL powered by Bataz SAVE MORE TIME FORECASTING! 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The surveys identified bad valve spacing as well as communication between the tubing and annu- lus in places where none should be present, indicating a possible tubing leak of some kind and gave rise to the thought that nodaFbased designs may be missing some- thing in unconventional horizontal shale wells. Nodal-based gas-lift designs Nodal-based gaslift designs have previously worked great for traditional vertical wells where nodal analysis is used to create an inflow performance relationship cue to pre- dict well performance and determine the best depth, or point of injection, at which to lift fluid from within a well. Conventional vertical wells typically have a constant BHP, consistent dive mechanism and support a relatively constant productivity index. In wells lke these, the use of| nodal analysis to predict well performance and aid in the gaslift design is very common and unmistakably useful Unfortunately, nodak-based well analysis is not a valid ‘method to predict an unconventional well’s performance over the long term. This method measures a fixed perfor mance point, but today’s shale wells cannot be gauged by this metric, With such rapid decline rates in production, dropping the productivity index and reductions in BHP, ‘unconventional wells change too quickly for nodal to give an accurate answer (o the longterm performance model, ° 00 2.000 | 2.000 ‘000 5.000 Pros se) ° 680 LOURE 2. Designing for OLR ib Indicates where formation drawdown be 000 nga mil of OLR curves (b). The SBHP line Unconventional GLR-based gas lift The new High Rate Unconventional GLR-Based Gas Lift Method can produce higher rates than typical 152-m, bracketed designs and transition from top valve to bot tom with ease, using fever valves The design works best when the gasliquid ratio (GLR), static BHP (SBHP), flowing BHP and productiv. ity index are known. With that information, the point of injection can be pinpointed and will determine where the bracketed valves need to start. Inthe SBHP is known, or merely estimated, and nothing else is avail- able, then the GLR-based method can indeed be used, although it will require some guesswork by the gaclit designer, The GLR-based design starts by frst plotting the SBHP on the graph (Figure 2a) and adding a family of GLR curves (Figure 2b). The bracket is started at the highest rate achievable with the given SBIIP and GLR. This is an estimated depth and becomes more accurate as more offset well data are acquired and wtilized, “Multipoint injection is considered a bad thing with respect to traditional single-point injection gas lift Gastift valves are primarily a low contol device and, ‘ypically, injecting through one at a time is normally desired to get the best well performance High-rate gas lit is a nodab-based gaslift design, method introduced in the mid-1980s where gaelift valves are placed in proximity in the tubing sting, sometimes as closely as 30 m (100 ft) apart. Doing so ‘ill purposefully cause them to interfere with each, other and ultimately keep the valves open, Interference COVER STORY: PRODUCTION of two valves with one another is known as multipoint ing. The intention of purposely multipointing is to assist in the injection of higher volumes of gas into the sane area while retaining the fexibility of certain valve and port sizes, Shifting from upper to lower valves, the reservoir no longer gives up fluid at the same rate it did initially, thus it’s easier to keep up with unloading and allovis transition more slowly from one valve to the next, This provides for the ability (0 adjust the anti- quated 152m spacing that was arbitrary to begin with, and adopt a more modern, tailored and suitable lower valve spacing for unconventional horizontal wells, Multiple valves open within that close ofa proxim- ity allows more gas to be injected easier, introduces more gas in one section of the wel, will lighten the Auid column and produce move fluid, This allows the natural reservoir pressure of the formation to become more effective in overcoming the hydrostatic head of the uid column and push the uid to the surface. Differential pressure is needed to inject gas through the valve from the higher pressured casing to the lower pressued tubing. A Lin, port valve is used to inject hundreds of cubic fect of gas into the tubing string and, given ample clearances in the production casing, a 1.5- in, gaslift vale is typically used too, “Multipointing isan inefficient use of lift gas and should be eliminated when possible,” said Kenneth Decker of Decker Technology. "The achievement of this goal is based on the assumption that the gavdift valve has the capacity to flow the required amount of gas to achieve wh Pass (i) (Gource: Production Lit Companies and Concho Resources Inc.) a a COVER STORY: PRODUCTION the desived GLR given the current pressure conditions. ‘When lifting from live valves, as is the case when using 2s lift early in the life of unconventional wels, the flow performance of the valve is much less than an otifice and, consequently, a single vale is not capable of flowing the volume of gas needed to achieve single-point injection, "This is particularly wue for Lin. valves and less so for 1 5:in, valves. Trying to achieve single-point injection in an unconventional well while the reservoir pressure is declining rapidly should not be a design goal, nor should time and expense be put forth to remediate multipointing at this time, When the reservoir pressure hhas declined to a faily stable value, engineering efforts ‘can be initiated to achieve single-point injection, These case study wells were completed with 5.5-in. production casing. Asa result, L5in, gasdift valves can- not be used because that size gasift valve requires a laxger outer diameter mandrel and will not fit into 5.5 in, production casing when ran on 2%in, production tubing. These unconventional wells require the use of Jin, gaslift valves in a 2%in, tubing mandrel. The valve performance with a Lin, gaslift valve will not allow an, operator to use ports big enough to inject the gas vol- ‘umes needed to produce higher rates in these wells. Spacing several smaller port valves within proximity, multipoint injection will occur and allow an operator to inject enough gas in one area of the well to produce the highest rates possible at depth in unconventional ‘wells. By spacing these unloading valves so closely, the opportunity to transfer down through the valves is sped. up; thus, getting to lower valves sooner is possible, This theory takes advantage of the early time production and productivity index of a newer shale well, where produc tion declines are known to be more severe. Backpressure in a gasifted well will reduce the amount of fluid the well can produce, not only now but for the life of the well. Every pound of pressure expended to overcome excess surface tubing pressure is a pound of pressure that could have been lifting fluid. It is very important to conserve the well’s BHP to produce every barrel possible. In gas lift, there is a finite amount of pressure available to lft fluid Understandably, while anany flowing tubing pressures will be limited by surface facilities and in turn will be dictated by sales gas line pressures, getting them as low as possible will have great ellects on overall production, Reducing backpressure is not always easy, and there are many factors that cause backpressure. Flowline size, number of 90-degree turns in distance from the tank battery can all be a cause of excess backpressure, along with many other factors, For whine, chokes and PIL LGcL ncaa FIGURE 4, A consistent drawdown trom th fon efficient gat It process demonstrates _n. (Source: Concho Retources Ine.) the best performance, backpressure should be kept at a minimum and ideally at or below 125 psi Conclusion The High Rate Unconventional GLR-Based Gas Lift Method (Figure 3) has plenty of merit in today's uncon- ventional shale plays. The wansition from upper valves to lower valves can be greatly expedited on these uncon ventional wells by closely spacing the higher valves, This allows the rapid unloading process to create a higher rate in the critical early time of production. Itis at this point where the highest natural reservoir pressure is helping the lifting process, and the productivity index will be the greatest in the well’ life, The opposite can be said when getting down to the valves in the lower portion of the well Achieving 2,500-plus bbl/d total fluid rates is well within the grasp of the High Rate Unconventional GLR-Based Method. Utilizing this system, 270-plus psi of drawdown (Figure 4) within several days has been seen following installation of lift, Based on data from aan installed BHP gauge, accurate pressures have been tacked and production rates have reached volumes of more than $,000 bbI/d, All this is from individual well- head compression in the form of a three-stage 200-hp, gaepowered natural gas compressor with an operating discharge pressure of 1,250 psi Continued installations may be needed to gather more conclusive data regarding the broad application of this system, Higher rates can be achieved and fewer valves can be used, There is no need to valves to the tight 152m spacing based on the status quo or arbitrary existing practices. EP the bottom