Plunger Lift Studies

Rodrigo Acosta, Research Assistant, MSc Student

Plunger lift systems are widely used as a dewatering method for gas wells. This artificial lift method has many advantages that make it an attractive solution to liquid loading, including very low investment and operational costs, no need for external energy sources, increased production, and prevention of paraffin, wax and scale deposition.

The main objective of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of plunger lift performance in horizontal wells as an artificial lift method. However, in the first stage, the plunger lift will be studied experimentally in a vertical pipe, comparing the effectiveness of various plunger types by changing flow conditions. A 2-in. ID tubing is placed concentrically inside a 6-in. ID casing, and plunger is flowing vertically inside the tubing between the bumper spring at the bottom and lubricator at the top. The varying flow parameters include gas and liquid flow rates, casing pressure, plunger type, liquid slug volume, and perforation location relative to EOT. The pressure gradient along the tubing, liquid removal efficiency, and plunger fall and rise velocities are measured to better understand the plunger lift procedure. In the next stage, a lateral section will be added to analyze the performance of plunger lift in a horizontal well.

This study will provide operators with experimental data to help optimize system performance. In addition, it will determine the best plunger type for certain operating conditions. Furthermore, modeling will be performed simultaneous with the experimental work. A plunger fall velocity model will be developed to predict the time that a particular plunger requires to reach the EOT. Operators may use this model to optimize the well efficiency. The present research will provide new design criteria, supported with experimental data and a theoretical model to optimize well deliquification.

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