Technical Paper: Artificial Lift ESP Solutions for the Unconventional Plays in Eagle Ford Shale

Society: SPE
Paper Number:
Presentation Date: 2013
 Download: Artificial Lift ESP Solutions for the Unconventional Plays in Eagle Ford Shale (3.76 MB PDF) Login | Register



One of the critical challenges faced when producing unconventional liquid-rich fluids is the rapid production decline profile. The applications in the Eagle Ford shale deal with hydraulically fractured, large horizontal wells that pose numerous challenges to artificial lift systems, with the foremost challenge being the unique reservoir characteristics and fluid behaviour.

Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation (MHR) divided the production development of their Eagle Ford shale operations into three main stages: initial production, transitional artificial lift, and artificial lift for the remaining of the life cycle of the well. MHR began the transitional artificial lift stage for their Eagle Ford operations in July 2011, following common industry procedures for electric submersible pump (ESP) systems. After three consecutive infant failures in only a few weeks into operations, it was clear that the typical ESP operating approach is not a viable solution in the unconventional plays.

Following a comprehensive investigation, MHR and the service company successfully implemented an unconventional ESP solution based on four pillars: fit-for-purpose hardware technology (downhole and surface), customized procedures (installation and operation), real-time surveillance and remote control, and dedicated field personnel and engineering expertise. This systemic approach challenges some of the traditional concepts of ESP operation and field development, such as executing cyclic ESP operation with intermittent natural flow versus continuous ESP operation and seeking to maximize recovery via a controlled drawdown whilst at the same time accelerating production by using an ESP.

The first unconventional ESP system was pulled after 365 days. During this time, the ESP accumulated 1,478 start/stop cycles and effectively managed the production decline, from 600 BFPD to 75 BFPD, following a controlled drawdown scheme. This unconventional ESP system continues to be deployed as the traditional artificial lift method in all of the operator's wells.

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