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SPE 57313

SPE 57313 Gas Lift Optimization Efforts and Challenges Y.C. Chia, SPE and Sies Hussain, SPE, Esso
SPE 57313 Gas Lift Optimization Efforts and Challenges Y.C. Chia, SPE and Sies Hussain, SPE, Esso

Gas Lift Optimization Efforts and Challenges

Y.C. Chia, SPE and Sies Hussain, SPE, Esso Production Malaysia Inc.

Copyright 1999, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 1999 SPE Asia Pacific Improved Oil Recovery Conference to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 25–26 October 1999.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

Abstract Gas lift plays an important role in Esso Production Malaysia Inc. (EPMI) oil production operation. As oil fields mature, the production facilities need to handle increasing water and gas. Gas lift optimization is crucial to ensure maximum oil production within facility constraints. Nodal analysis, Gas lift Optimization Allocation model (GOAL), gas lift databases and Gas Lift Monitoring System (GLMS) are among the tools applied to meet the objective. Some of the challenges encountered during the gas lift optimization efforts are dual gas lift optimization, tight dummy valve retrieval at one particular platform, production from thin oil column, emulsion and sand production.

Introduction Continuous gas lift is the only artificial lift method used in EPMI oil fields. Today, about 150 gas lift completions producing 35% of EPMI total oil production. Gas lift becomes critical to sustain production as oil fields mature. Increasing watercut and decreasing reservoir pressure eventually cause wells to cease natural flow. Subsequently, gas lift is required to kick off and sustain flow from these wells. It is important to have good surveillance tools to ensure successful gas lift operation. Sub-optimized gas lift operation not only wastes the gas compression capacity, but also results in system bottleneck if wrong well mix is selected. Gas lift optimization requires a lot of effort, and faces many challenges in the process of implementation. However, the gain

is significant, and always perceived as the most cost effective

restoration method.

Gas Lift Optimization Tools As mentioned, 35% of the EPMI oil production is gas lift dependent. Gas lift optimization is key factor to enhance the production performance in a maturing environment, where natural production depletes rapidly. To achieve the objective, several gas lift optimization tools are developed and applied aggressively.

Nodal Analysis. Nodal analysis is defined as a system analysis

to the complete well system from the outer boundary of the

reservoir to the sand face, across the perforations and completion to the tubing intake, up the tubing string including any restrictions and downhole safety valves, the surface choke, the flowline and separator 1 . Basically, a nodal analysis can be terminated at any node as long as the condition of the node is

known. In this paper, all single well nodal analysis is terminated

at upstream of production choke, whereas for a production

system analysis, it is terminated at production header, while the rest of the surface facilities are modeled by separate application. Many commercial nodal analysis programs are available; however, EPMI is using the in-house software for the purpose. Nodal analysis is a very useful tool for well performance prediction.

Gas Lift Optimization Allocation Model (GOAL). GOAL is a comprehensive PC based production system model. It simulates

a production system network all the way from reservoir,

downhole tubular, surface flowlines, pipelines to a pre-selected sink (normally the receiving separator). A nodal analysis program is used to generate well performance curves for each well in GOAL model (Fig. 1). An example of surface network, which represents the surface facilities, is shown in Fig. 2. These two systems are interactive to model a comprehensive production system. User can define objective (e.g. maximize oil, liquid etc.) and constraints (e.g. gas, water handling limitation etc.) of a system. GOAL model will determine optimum gas lift gas allocation,

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recommend shutting in or choking back wells in the system to meet the preset objective and constraints. Both tabulated and graphical reports are generated. GOAL model is a very powerful tool to optimize and de-bottleneck a production system. It is also an efficient way to simulate various operating conditions and constraints for sensitivity evaluation before a real field trial is conducted.

Gas Lift Surveillance Databases. A complete database to capture lessons learned from both successful experience and failure in the past, is important to improve future operation and ensure successful gas lift operation. Several databases are developed to keep track of gas lift surveillance and troubleshooting, gas lift valve installation and problem. The databases are updated regularly and made available on LAN.

Gas Lift Monitoring System. Gas Lift Monitoring System (GLMS) is an automated real time gas lift measurement and monitoring system. It is based on Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) / Personal Computer (PC) technology (Fig. 3). Transmitters measure pressure and flow rate parameters. The analog signals are sent to PLC located at each satellite platform to be converted to digital signals. Finally, these digital signals are fed back to PC at mother platform via subsea cables for unit conversion and display. GLMS measures gas lift flow rate, pressure for gas lift headers and gas lift flow rate, tubing head pressure, production casing pressure for each gas lift wells. The parameters are displayed in real time, as well as stored in the hard disk of the monitoring PC. The monitoring system can store eight days of data for historical trending. The PLC/PC based GLMS has a lot of benefits over the conventional three pen recorder, which are listed as follow;

GLMS

1. Provides Intuitive data display.

2. Can display all gas lift wells at the same time.

3. Stores 8 days of data without human intervention.

4. Allows remote monitoring.

5. Displays gas lift gas rate besides production casing and tubing pressures.

Three Pen Recorder

Needs some interpretation and calculation.

Can display only one well at a time.

Needs to change out chart every 24 hours manually.

On-site monitoring only.

Displays only production casing and tubing pressures.

GLMS provides continuous gas lift monitoring. Furthermore, with the use of PC, data analysis can be done easily. Both

graphical and tabulated reports are available to facilitate gas lift surveillance and problem troubleshooting.

Gas Lift Optimization Efforts During initial stage of gas lift operation, the focus is to kick off dead wells; less attention is put in optimization effort. The initial oil production buildup is substantial as dead wells resumed production. With the increasing numbers of gas lift wells online, gas lift optimization efforts become critical to maximize oil production within system constraints.

Production System Pressure Reduction. Pressure of a production system is carefully preset to meet specific delivery requirement. In certain circumstances, production system pressure may be reduced, which translates to less surface backpressure to wells. With lower backpressure, a well can produce at higher drawdown, hence higher flow rate.

q l = Productivity Index * drawdown

(1)

However, a thorough evaluation is necessary before commitment is made as they are certain setbacks, e.g. lower compressor discharge pressure, lower sales gas volume etc. Also, not all wells will respond to the lower backpressure. A low Gas-Oil ratio (GOR) well is more likely to respond to the lower system pressure. Whereas for a high GOR well, choke is normally installed to control drawdown. In this case, the backpressure exerted on the well is the high tubing head pressure upstream to the choke due to restricted flow across the choke. Reduction in production system pressure downstream to the choke has no impact to the well. Seligi field, which has about 140 producing wells (about 50 of them are on gas lift production), was selected for production system reduction trial. GOAL model was used to simulate the performance under different system pressure. Fig. 4 demonstrates the effect of sink pressure on well mix management effort. High GOR wells are shut in one at a time indicated by reducing main oil line (MOL) pressure. The same sequence is repeated for different sink pressures. Evaluation was done to weigh the benefit of incremental oil production against lower compressor discharge pressure. A multi-disciplinary team comprised of gas lift, reservoir and machinery engineers was set up to coordinate the effort. The result was very encouraging. It was also observed that some wells that were unable to flow naturally resumed production under the lower production system pressure.

Well Mix Optimization. Optimum well mix is imperative to maximize oil production. Before the development of GOAL model, well mix selection was done manually based on Total Gas-Oil Ratio (TGOR) seriatim.

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GAS LIFT OPTIMIZATION EFFORTS AND CHALLENGES

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TGOR = (q gf + q gl ) / q o

(2)

All producible wells in a system are ranked on TGOR from low to high. Gas or water handling capacity determines a cut off line. All wells within the constraints will be produced. This method is acceptable if production of one well is independent of others. However in a production system, all wells are interactive. Producing wells at higher TGOR end may cause system pressure to rise if there is bottleneck in the system. The result will be higher backpressure, which may back off weaker wells. The loss in production from these weaker wells may exceed the benefit of producing the higher TGOR wells. Seligi field was evaluated. It has 7 satellite platforms tied back to the mother platform production system. The focus was put on Seligi D and Seligi F platforms. The reason being Seligi F production is routed via Seligi D before reaching mother platform, which means that Seligi F system pressure is a function of Seligi D system pressure. As Seligi D wells are mainly high GOR, it is expected the potential benefit of well mix optimization will be significant. System pressure can be reduced considerably by shutting in high GOR wells without much production loss, and the benefit gain from Seligi F is expected to exceed the loss. Fig. 5 demonstrates the evaluation. High GOR wells at Seligi D are shut in one at a time. The result indicates that after the highest GOR well is shut in, the total oil actually goes up due to the lower system pressure. Even after the second highest GOR well is shut in, although the total oil rate slightly drops, it is still higher than the initial rate when all wells are online. A field trial will be conducted in near future to confirm the evaluation.

Gas Lift Training. Skilled and knowledgeable on-site operators are imperative to ensure close gas lift surveillance and prompt reaction to diagnose and restore gas lift production should any problem arise. In line with the view, a comprehensive training program was developed for offshore production operators. Under the program, production operators from all location with gas lift operation attend a training session with Gas Lift Team. They spend 4 days of 2 working weeks for 2 cycles in the office to go through basic gas lift principles, unloading procedures and troubleshooting technique, with the help of gas lift simulator (Fig. 6). After which, they will be given gas lift related assignment when they return to work to apply the knowledge. The result is very encouraging. Significant improvement is observed in gas lift surveillance, troubleshooting and restoration. The training session is conducted regularly with the target to provide full coverage to all production operators involve in gas lift operation.

Four-Point Test. To evaluate the production performance of a well, regular well test has to be conducted. For gas lift wells, there is an extra requirement to conduct four-point test. In general, the liquid rate increases initially with the increase of gas lift gas rate, until it reaches the outflow limit, after which the liquid rate declines as more gas lift gas is injected due to gas friction losses (Fig. 7). The optimum gas lift gas rate to maximize oil production is dependent on a combined factors of tubing size, formation fluid properties, watercut and GOR. Nodal analysis is used to determine the optimum gas lift gas required. However, the accuracy of the analysis very much depends on the understanding of well performance, selection of well flow correlation etc. The only way to find out the actual optimum gas lift rate is to conduct a four-point test. To conduct a four-point test, four evenly spread gas lift rates are selected within normal operating range. The test normally starts from low to high gas lift gas rate for flow stability reason. Sufficient time is allowed after each gas lift gas rate increment to stabilize the well flow. The optimum gas lift gas rate can then be accurately determined from graphical plot of the four data points. The result is also used to calibrate the nodal model.

Gas Lift Challenges Many challenges were encountered during the gas lift implementation and optimization. Some are common to gas lift operation and some are specific to fields due to their reservoir characteristics or facility design.

Dual Completion Gas Lift Operation. Due to multiple reservoir production, dual completion is very common in EPMI fields. In the event both strings are on gas lift, gas lift gas has to be shared through the common production casing - tubing annulus (Fig. 8). This poses a challenge during both gas lift unloading and operating stages. Unloading Stage. It is especially crucial during gas lift unloading, when progress in one string can interfere or even stymie the unloading process of the other string due to pressure drop in annulus, regardless whether both strings are unloaded simultaneously or sequentially. The pressure drop is intended to transfer unloading process from top to bottom gas lift valves. To prevent interference, production pressure operated (PPO) gas lift valve is used as unloading valve in dual completion gas lift. Tubing pressure instead of production casing pressure controls a PPO gas lift valve, hence eliminate the interference in common annulus. Operating Stage. In dual completion gas lift, as both strings share gas lift gas through the common annulus, it is difficult to determine the exact individual gas lift rate of each string. To work around the problem, only one string is brought online first during the start-up of a dual completion gas lift. Assume that this string is called string A and the other string is called string B, the GOR of the string can be determined by :

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GOR = (q gtA - q glt ) / q oA

(3)

This GOR is then used as assigned GOR (AGOR) for the string. Subsequently, the gas lift gas rate is calculated as follow :

q glA = q gtA - (AGOR * q oA )

and

q glB = q glt - q glA

(4)

(5)

However, there is a weakness in this method, i.e. the assigned GOR is assumed to be constant, which may not be valid for most wells. For reservoir that is susceptible to gas coning, GOR increases above critical oil production rate. It is impractical to shut in well from time to time just to obtain current assigned GOR as it costs oil production. As the result, it remains as a challenge to estimate individual gas lift gas rate in dual completion gas lift, especially in reservoir, which GOR is not constant.

Tight Dummy Valve Retrieval. All gas lift completion in EPMI is wireline retrievable type. In a new completion, gas lift valves can either be pre-installed in gas lift mandrels before running in hole, or through wireline after completion. In the second case, the gas lift mandrels will be equipped with dummy valves, to isolate tubing from production casing communication. In later stage, when gas lift is required, dummy valves are retrieved and installed with gas lift valves, with wireline. A conventional installation or retrieval system comprises of wireline unit with either 0.092" OD or 0.108" OD slickline, hydraulic jar to provide downward or upward impulse, kickover tool to orientate and extend valves to mandrel pocket, and finally running or pulling tool to hold and release valves accordingly. This conventional wireline running and pulling tools are normally very reliable. However, EPMI encountered several failed attempts to retrieve the dummy valves on one of the platform. They were all related to tight dummy valves. In the attempt, the pulling tool either broke into pieces due to high pull force, or failed to grip on dummy valve latches. Several attempts with high strength wireline, chemical treatment and modified fishing technique were made with mixed results. Higher Strength Wireline. Instead of 0.092" OD slickline, 0.108" OD slickline was used. It requires the use of heavy duty pulling tool to cope with the higher pull force. However, a new problem arose with this combination; as both wireline and pulling tool have been strengthened, the weak point was transferred to kickover tool arm. In few cases, it has caused the kickover tool arm to break and left in the gas lift mandrel. Chemical Treatment. As mentioned earlier, in some cases the pulling tool failed to grip on dummy valve latches. It was suspected that either scale or wax has covered the latches.

Selected wells were treated with chemicals to remove the scale and wax. However, no significant improvement was observed after the chemical treatment. Modified Fishing Technique. It was observed in trial using 0.108" OD slickline that the wireline strength could not be fully utilized due to the weak point at kickover tool arm. A completely revamped system was designed based on fishing technique. In this modified fishing technique, heavy duty pulling tool and rope socket were run using kickover tool and left seated on dummy valve latches, to provide an extension above side pocket mandrel. During the retrieval run, kickover tool was not used; instead a bell guide was attached to the pulling tool, using 0.108" OD slickline (Fig. 9). The bell guide helps to latch on the rope socket extension of a dummy valve. With the elimination of weak point at kickover tool arm, greater pull force up to the limit of 0.108" OD slickline can be applied to pull the dummy valves. The result from the field trial using the technique has been very encouraging. More than 70% of success rate was recorded. Although the modified fishing technique was deemed to be successful, however, the actual cause of the tight dummy valves is still unknown. An arrangement is being made to cut open few gas lift mandrels which were retrieved recently in a workover campaign at Seligi E platform. It is hoped that the problem can be thoroughly evaluated in order to design a more efficient tool to retrieve the remaining tight dummy valves.

Thin Oil Column. Some of the oil fields with gas lift operation are producing from thin oil column (10 to 20 meters) with overlaying large gas cap and underlying aquifer. Thin oil column reservoir is vulnerable to gas and water coning. The critical oil production rate that will initiate water and gas coning is determined using Chierici's equations 2 :

q

and

q

oc

oc

,

,

w

g

=

=

3 .073 (10

3 .073 (10

-

-

3

3

)

)

È 2

h

Í

Î

È

Í

Î

h

2

D

r

wo

k

h

B

o

m

o

˘ Ê

˙

Ë

˚

Y

Á r

De

D

r

og

k

h

B

o

m

o

˘

˙

˚

Y

Ê

Á r

Á

Ë

De

,

,

f

b

f

b

,

,

h cw

h

ˆ

˜

¯

h

cg

h

ˆ

˜

˜

¯

(6)

(7)

The intention to show the Chierici's equations is not for discussion in detail. They demonstrate that the critical oil production rate that will initiate coning is a function of oil zone thickness (h), and the distance from edge of perforation to water or gas (h cw and h cg ). The coning problem further complicates gas lift operation, which will be discussed in detail. Production Choke. To minimize gas or water coning, production choke is used to control drawdown and stay below critical oil production rate. Although adjusting gas lift rate can achieve the same result, however, choke regulation is perceived as more intuitive and accurate for the purpose. Choking a gas lift

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GAS LIFT OPTIMIZATION EFFORTS AND CHALLENGES

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well reduces gas lift efficiency due to the additional surface backpressure. The results are less produced liquid rate and higher gas lift gas consumption. Efforts are underway to evaluate choke removal on gas lift wells to maximize oil production. GOAL Model. Well performance curves generated by nodal analysis program represent each well in a GOAL model. As gas or water cones in, GOR or watercut changes. The performance curves, which are constructed, based on original GOR or watercut will not be valid anymore. It needs tremendous effort to update each performance curve in a big GOAL model, e.g. Seligi model, which comprises of about 170 wells.

Emulsion and Sand Production. Emulsion and sand producing wells impose negative impact on gas lift operation. Emulsion. The relationship between emulsion and gas lift is two-way; gas lift may initiate emulsion production, and emulsion production will reduce gas lift efficiency. In typical gas lift system, gas lift gas enters tubing through gas lift mandrel, with the flow stream countercurrent to formation liquid stream. This action can create significant turbulence, which could become the catalyst that promotes the formation of emulsion 3 . On the other hand, the viscous emulsified flow regime creates excessive pressure drops in the tubing that adversely affect the gas lift efficiency. Gas lifting emulsion- producing wells remains a big challenge in gas lift optimization process. Sand. The major stresses causing sand production usually result from fluid flow, which is proportional to the pressure drop between the wellbore and the reservoir 4 . This pressure drop is also termed as drawdown. The main objective of gas lift is to aerate and lighten the liquid column in tubing, which increases drawdown. For this reason, gas lifting a sand producing well, if not carefully regulated, may aggravate the problem. To a consolidated sandstone, sand production will only occur if the compressive strength is substantially exceeded 3 . Empirical data also indicates that sand production will remain minimal, until the drawdown exceeds a critical limit, after which the sand production rate will increase rapidly. It is crucial to control the gas lift gas rate in a sand producing well, in order to keep the drawdown below the critical point.

Conclusion Gas lift optimization is crucial to ensure maximum oil production within facility constraints. GLMS, GOAL, gas lift surveillance database and training are the tools used to assist in the optimization process. Some of the major gas lift optimization efforts that are being or have been attempted include production system pressure reduction, well mix optimization, gas lift training and four-point test. Gas lift optimization requires a lot of effort, and faces many challenges in the process of implementation, e.g. dual completion gas lift

operation, tight dummy retrieval, thin oil column, emulsion and sand production. Gas lift is always perceived as the most cost effective production restoration method.

Nomenclature AGOR = assigned gas-oil ratio, scf/STB

B o = oil formation volume factor, res. bbl/STB f b = dimensionless completion interval GLMS = Gas Lift Monitoring System GOAL = Gas Lift Optimization Allocation model GOR = gas-oil ratio, scf/STB

h = oil column thickness, ft

h cg = distance from GOC to top of completion interval, ft h cw = distance from OWC to base of completion interval, ft k h = horizontal permeability, md MOL = main oil line PC = personal computer PLC = programmable logic controller q g = gas rate, mscf/day q gf = formation gas rate, mscf/day q gl = gas lift gas rate, mscf/day q l = liquid rate, STB/day q o = oil rate, STB/day q oc,w = water coning critical oil production rate, STB/day q oc,g = gas coning critical oil production rate, STB/day r De = dimensionless radius of drainage TGOR = total gas-oil ratio, scf/STB

m o = oil viscosity, cp Dr og = oil-gas density difference, gm/cc Dr wo = water-oil density difference, gm/cc y = Chierici dimensionless function

Subscripts

A = string A

B = string B t = total

Acknowledgements The authors would like to express their appreciation to the Management of PETRONAS and EPMI for their permission to publish this paper and to thank EPMI staff who contributed to the gas lift optimization efforts.

References

1. Mach, J. et al.: "A Nodal Approach for Applying System Analysis to the Flowing and Artificial Lift Oil or Gas Well," paper SPE 8025, 1979.

2. Brown, Kermit E. et al.: The Technology of Artificial Lift, PennWell Publishing Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1984, Volume 4, 306.

3. Hahn, D. et al.: "Production Enhancement of Prolific, Extended- Reach Gas-Lift Oil Wells," JPT (Mar. 1999) 62.

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SPE 57313

4.

Penberthy Jr., W.L and Shaughnessy, C.M.: Sand Control, SPE, Richardson, Texas, 1992.

SI Metric Conversion Factors

bbl

x

cp ft ft 3 x

1.589874

x 1.0

x 3.048

2.831685

md x 9.869233

E-01

E-03 = Pa.s E-01 = m

= E-04 = mm 2

E-02

=

m 3

m 3

E-01 E-03 = Pa.s E-01 = m = E-04 = m m 2 E-02 = m
E-01 E-03 = Pa.s E-01 = m = E-04 = m m 2 E-02 = m

Fig. 1 - Well performance curves used in GOAL model Fig. 2 - Surface network of a GOAL model. Each small dot is a well represented by well performance curves. All the wells are connected to various manifolds via flowlines or pipelines. The system is terminated at a pre-selected sink, which is V125 vessel in this case.

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GAS LIFT OPTIMIZATION EFFORTS AND CHALLENGES

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SPE 57313 GAS LIFT OPTIMIZATION EFFORTS AND CHALLENGES 7 Fig. 3 - Gas Lift Monitoring System

Fig. 3 - Gas Lift Monitoring System comprises of pressure and flow transmitters, PLC on each location and monitoring PC on mother platform.

PLC on each location and monitoring PC on mother platform. Fig. 5 - Seligi F production

Fig. 5 - Seligi F production performance is affected by Seligi system pressure. As high GOR wells at Seligi D are shut in, Seligi F production increases. The net gain is positive after shutting in 2 highest GOR wells at Seligi D.

positive after shutting in 2 highest GOR wells at Seligi D. Fig. 4 - GOAL model

Fig. 4 - GOAL model can be used to demonstrate effect of sink pressure on production performance.

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8 Y.C. CHIA, SIES HUSSAIN SPE 57313 Fig. 6 - Gas Lift Simulator is used in

Fig. 6 - Gas Lift Simulator is used in training session to enhance understanding of gas lift principles, unloading and troubleshooting.

of gas lift principles, unloading and troubleshooting. Fig. 7 - Liquid rate builds up initially with

Fig. 7 - Liquid rate builds up initially with the increase in gas lift gas rate. Once the outflow limit is exceeded, the liquid rate will decline with further increment in gas lift gas rate. Nodal analysis is used to determine the optimum gas lift gas rate.

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SPE 57313 GAS LIFT OPTIMIZATION EFFORTS AND CHALLENGES 9 Fig. 8 - In a dual completion

Fig. 8 - In a dual completion gas lift operation, both short and long strings share the gas lift gas through the common annulus.

Modified Tool with Kickover Tool Arm 1.5" Rope Socket 1.5" HDPT 1.5" Rope Socket and
Modified
Tool with
Kickover
Tool Arm
1.5" Rope
Socket
1.5"
HDPT
1.5" Rope
Socket and
HDPT seated
on DV
1" DV
1" DV
1" DV

1.5" Pulling

Bell Guide

Fig. 9 - Modified fishing technique was designed to tackle tight dummy valve problem. Rope socket and heavy duty pulling tool are seated on dummy valve to form an extension. Pulling tool with bell guide is run without kickover tool subsequently to retrieve the dummy valve.