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SPE 106465 Foam-Assisted LiftImportance of Selection and Application

B.P. Price, SPE, and B. Gothard, SPE, Multi-Chem

Copyright 2007, Society of Petroleum Engineers This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2007 SPE Production and Operations Symposium held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.A., 31 March3 April 2007. 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, Texas 75083-3836 U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

pressure declines, production rates are reduced. The production of a well will always result in a reduced reservoir pressure over the life of the well. Loading occurs on all wells. The question that must be answered for each well is When will this well load? Wells with low bottomhole pressure require a means of artificial lift to transfer fluid from the wellbore to surface treating equipment. Conventional methods of artificial lift are pumps (rod, hydraulic, ESP, etc.), gas lift, and plunger lift. Conventional methods of unloading wells include flaring, blowing down, nitrogen stimulation, or rocking. In recent years, foaming agents have been broadly applied with success as a means of artificial lift and for unloading loaded wells. Foam assisted lift (FAL) has become an integral part of extended production plans for many wells considered to be marginal producers. Foaming agents have been used globally for removal of water from loaded wellbores for many years. Most producers think back to the days of using soap sticks to unload wells. In some areas, liquid and/or powdered detergents have also been utilized to create foam for liquid removal from a wellbore. Often, the use of soap was a part of a last ditch effort to get a well flowing this was one of the tricks of the trade in the oil and gas industry. Recent applications indicate that FAL can not only be an integral part of mature production, it can be utilized on adolescent producers to improve production rates by returning wells to their unimpeded production potential. With gas consumption becoming an increasingly more important part of global energy supply, producers are focusing on efforts to support the demand by increasing production from all wells. This paper will address issues related to FAL that must be considered for long term success. Three steps for FAL success are: (1) proper well diagnostic, (2) proper foaming agent selection and (3) proper application and assessment. Well Diagnostic Evaluation of a well for FAL starts with properly diagnosing the well. This process involves a bit of education, a bit of experience, and a bit of speculation. Data collected for this effort is as follows: Well name Bottomhole temperature, static Flowing wellhead temperature

Abstract The use of foamers to remove water from wells that are challenged by hydrostatic head pressure is common practice. The success of the process, however, is predicated on the proper selection of candidate wells, the proper selection of foaming agent, and application. Foam assisted lift does not work on all wells. At a time when resources are in short supply, dividends are returned by applying resources to candidate wells that have been thoroughly screened to improve the success rate related to foam assisted lift technology. Properly formulated foaming agents will offer better value and return on investment than marginally performing products. Comprehensive evaluation of the application is critical to achieving the desired results of a foam assisted lift program. Experience has demonstrated the importance of selection and application to the success of foaming agents. Foam assisted lift for economical production of adolescent and mature wells adds tremendous value and is a viable alternative for challenges related to liquid loading. Continuous improvement based on well changes must be considered as a significant part of the process. Adopting a comprehensive process related to a deliquification strategy will allow for extended success of foam assisted lift programs, improved production rates and revenue, and improved resource utilization related to a better return on capital and resources expended. Introduction Virtually all producing wells produce a liquid of some type either hydrocarbon or water. For the production process to occur, liquid must be removed from the wellbore. Accumulated liquid can create a hydrostatic head pressure that impedes removal of fluid from the wellbore. As reservoir

SPE 106465

Bottomhole pressure, flowing Bottomhole pressure, static Flowing wellhead pressure System pressure at each component Tubing inside diameter Casing inside diameter Packer depth (if applicable) Depth to end of tubing Depth to top perforation Total casing depth Capillary/velocity string/coil? If yes, info on capillary/velocity string/coil Size Material Depth Complete water analysis Oil/Condensate Gravity Gas analysis Static fluid level Flowing fluid level Gas production rate Water production rate Oil/condensate production rate Well deviation Horizontal completion? If yes, Diameter of each lateral Length of each lateral

Loaded Well This is a well that will not flow due to a standing fluid column exerting hydrostatic pressure. May be due to production circumstance that allowed loading to occur. Typically occurs as reservoir pressure declines. Well with Inflow Issue(s) This is a well that has restricted flow into the wellbore. Water cannot migrate from the reservoir to the wellbore due to scale, iron sulfide, paraffin, sand, salt, etc. Remediation must be performed to return this well to production. Depleted Well This well may be in a depleted reservoir. In some instances, the completion package for the well may not meet the reservoirs capability (basically an oversized completion). A determination should be made to distinguish reservoir depletion from completion depletion. Characterization of a well is key to returning the well to its full FAL production potential. Each of the well types mentioned exhibit unique challenges that must be addressed. Unlocking a wells potential can be expedited by correctly diagnosing the issue causing reduced production. It is important to note that most wells that producers initially select for FAL evaluation are: (1) Loaded Well, (2) Depleted Well or (3) Well with Inflow Issue(s). Many producers do not contemplate the application of FAL to flowing wells yet this is where the most potential lies for increasing production and revenue. Each well requires relatively the same amount of time for evaluation. With most companies operating with limited resources, it is strongly recommended by the authors that flowing wells be evaluated prior to non-flowing wells if a producers goal is to increase revenue from a portfolio of wells. The well can be profiled using various assessment programs as illustrated in Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3, and Figure 4.

A completion diagram, production history and operator notations are also very useful for the evaluation. This information can be used to evaluate the well and characterize it into one of several categories: Flowing Well partially loaded producing water This is a well that flows below its potential. It maintains a measurable fluid level in the wellbore under flowing conditions. Measurable water is typically associated with condensed water from the vapor phase. Flowing Well partially loaded not producing water This is a well that flows below its potential. It maintains a measurable fluid level in the wellbore under flowing conditions. It does not produce water, as condensation of water vapor occurs in the tubing and condensed water falls back into wellbore. Flowing Well transient loading This is a well that flows at its potential some of the time and below its potential some of the time. Loading likely occurs due to transient production events. Water may cycle from the wellbore in slugs.

Figure 1

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Figure 2

Figure 4 The assessment program should allow the user to determine important information about the well. Correlation can be made between hydrostatic head pressure and fluid volumes. The location of the fluid can be addressed to determine the best application method for removal. Figures 3 and 4 illustrate the fluid residence in a wellbore and the corresponding placement of the fluid above the perforations. Velocities can also be evaluated to determine if the well can flow above critical rate as illustrated in Figures 1 and 2. The use of a computer to crunch data can yield results for an educated consideration of the issues at hand. It should be noted, however, that reliance on computer generated data can lead to erroneous assumptions and/or conclusions. The data derived from such exercises is only as valid as the data entered into the process. Many times, static data does not reflect the reality of a dynamic production system. Additionally, analyzed data may be erroneously applied to incomparable field observations. Caution and experience should be utilized when applying processed data to the well assessment. We recommend avoiding broad extrapolations of processed data. Figure 3 After an assessment is conducted, it may be advisable to consider further tests to assess fluid levels, bottomhole pressures (flowing and static), inflow capabilities, impact of surface pressure reductions, etc. Any well that is stifled by fluid production (related to fluid accumulation and increased hydrostatic pressure) and would benefit from the reduced density of a gas/liquid mixture is a good candidate for FAL. Once it is determined that a well is a suitable candidate for FAL, the factors that must be addressed are related to the foaming agent and identification of a suitable application method.

SPE 106465

Foaming Agent Selection An effective FAL program must have a foaming agent suitable for completion of the task. Testing must be conducted on fluid from each well in order for a program to achieve a sustainable and/or substantial increase in production. Foaming agents are not all the same they will perform differently on fluid of varying compositions. A product that works on a given well may or may not be effective on wells within a reasonable proximity. You should always apply a product that has been specifically tested on fluid from the applicable well. Experience has demonstrated that selection of a foaming agent cannot be completed in a lab under all circumstances. Field testing and selection of foaming agents is necessary to obtain accurate results. We recommend that fresh field fluids be utilized for selection of the foaming agent. Testing of synthetic fluids can lead to erroneous results and the increased likelihood of application failure. There have been several methods of testing recommended by various companies involved in FAL programs. These methods include blender testing, malt mixer testing, sparge column testing, or well simulators. All of the various methods have merits and the methodology for each method can be verified for given circumstances. It has been our experience that malt mixer testing works best with our selection and application methodology. This method has proven to be reliable and delivers results that can be correlated to application performance. Beyond the selection of product based on performance as a foamer, it is also important to consider other product related concerns prior to applying the foaming agent. Items that should be addressed are: Compatibility with produced fluids (solubility/dispersibility) Incorporation of other treating chemicals Product compatibility with metals and elastomers in the injection system and production components Temperature stability of the product in relation to temperatures encountered in the application Residence time of the product in the injection system and related production components

1. 2. 3.

Diagnostic Treatment(s) Routine Application Application Administration

A diagnostic treatment with foaming agent should allow the producer to gauge the wells response to the effort. Depending on the complexity of the loading condition, various treatments may be required to fully assess and remediate the loading condition. These types of treatments may also incorporate mechanical methods to apply product and/or manipulate fluid or pressures on the well. Correlation or repudiation of information derived from the well diagnostic phase can often be determined during the diagnostic treatment process. After a well has been successfully unloaded, routine applications can be established to maintain production at the wells full FAL potential. The optimum application method will vary from well to well this goes back to the initial characterization of the well discussed previously in this work. The diagnostic treatment results, well characterization and the completion design are the primary factors to consider when establishing the routine application method. Common methods for routine application of foaming agents are: Manual batch treatment tubing Manual batch treatment annulus Automated (cyclical) batch treatment tubing Automated (cyclical) batch treatment annulus Continuous application annulus Continuous application capillary string Continuous application velocity string Continuous application coil tubing Continuous application gas lift Intermittent application plunger lift

In many cases, foaming agents are formulated for specific fluids and/or specific applications. Having the right product in place will increase the likelihood that favorable results will be achieved from the FAL program. Application and Assessment Application of the foaming agent may be oversimplified in many instances. The idea that the product can merely be pumped down the tubing or annulus can lead to failure of the treatment. Many wells do not respond to simple treatments of a foaming agent. The initial application(s) of a foaming agent to a well should be viewed as part of the diagnostic process for the well. Application and assessment of foaming agents should be broken down into three segments:

The method applicable to a given well is determined by the parameters associated with the well. Some wells may require a trial of different methods to determine the best mode of application to obtain full FAL potential. The chosen method should consider other production challenges such as surface equipment constraints, other production treating concerns (corrosion, scale, salting, bacteria, dehydration, H2S, etc.), and reliability of injection equipment. Application administration will allow for extended success of a FAL program. Personnel responsible for maintaining production of the well should have an understanding of the FAL process as it relates to the well. Transient conditions will likely occur that will cause the well to load. Unloading of the well and returning the well to the routine application should be understood. Inevitably, characteristics of the well will change. These changes will have an impact on the FAL program and the viability of the application. The initial program established for a well utilizing FAL will likely change as the well ages. Periodic well reviews should incorporate the three

SPE 106465

steps for FAL success as outlined in this work: (1) well diagnostic, (2) foaming agent selection and (3) application and assessment. Case Study #1 This strategy was applied to a package of wells in a large field of approximately 700 gas wells. The wells were approximately ~8000 foot deep completions with no packer. The producer had been using liquid foamer from supplier B. The product was mixed with methanol and continuously applied down the annulus to 154 wells in the field. The application resulted in an average gain in production of 22 MCFD per well. Emulsion problems related to the foamer created operational cost increases that detracted from the benefits of gained production. Production increase with this application was 3,388 MCFD. The treated wells were reevaluated using the steps outlined in this work. A detailed FAL process was developed and implemented. Foaming agent from supplier M was chosen to replace the previously applied product. Wells were unloaded via batch treatments and placed on continuous injection down the annulus. The revised application resulted in an average gain in production of 114 MCFD per well. Emulsion problems were eliminated. Production increase with this application was 17,556 MCFD. The increase in production related to the change in application resulted in a net production gain of 14,168 MCFD, or a 418% increase. At a gas sales price of $5.00 per MCF, this change resulted in a revenue increase of $70,840 per day ($25,856,600 per year). Case Study #2 A single well producing 600 MCFD would load after flowing for 2 week intervals. The well would remain shut-in for 3 weeks for build-up before it would flow again. An evaluation indicated that the well was subject to transient conditions that caused loading to occur. A batch treatment program was initiated that allowed the well to unload within 12 hours of loading. The reduction in well downtime allowed for a significant revenue increase. Prior to FAL, the well flowed 40% of the time. The FAL application increased flowing time to 98%. At a gas sales price of $5.00 per MCF, the FAL program increased revenue by $635,100 annually. Case Study #3 A well that was thought to be depleted had been purchased from the initial owner. The well was not producing at the time of the sale. Prior to shutting in, the well had been producing 600 MCFD and 400 BWPD. Initial production from the well was 12 MMCFD with no water. The well was a horizontal completion under packer with ~14,000 foot of 3 inch tubing. A capillary was installed and foamer from supplier X had been applied. Nitrogen stimulation was also applied, but the well would not flow.

The treated well was reevaluated using the steps outlined in this work. A detailed FAL process was developed and implemented. Foaming agent from supplier M was chosen to replace the previously applied product. A continuous application of foaming agent was initiated via the capillary. The response to this application was unloading of the well and consistent production of 1.6 MMCFD with 650 BWPD. At a gas sales price of $5.00 per MCF, the properly applied FAL program increased revenue by $2,920,000 annually. Case Study #4 A mature offshore field was evaluated to determine if FAL would be applicable. Five wells were reviewed. Of the five wells, two were flowing and three were not flowing. Review and diagnostic treatments indicated that four wells were experiencing loading and one well had inflow and/or depletion issues. The four FAL candidate wells were batch treated for diagnosis and observation. The treatments resulted in a production gain of 9.5 MMCFD. Work is ongoing to determine the best longterm application strategy related to FAL. At a gas sales price of $5.00 per MCF, the properly applied FAL program has the potential to increase revenue by $17,337,500 annually. Conclusion Foam assisted lift has been utilized with great success as a method for restoring production to loaded wells. This technology can be broadly applied to a variety of adolescent and mature wells to boost production. Restoring production to liquid loaded wells has allowed producers to further exploit the potential of booked reserves. Extending the life of a wellbore by implementing a FAL program can allow for substantial revenue increases with minimal capital expenditures. The keys to successful utilization of this technology are: (1) proper well diagnostic. (2) proper foaming agent selection. (3) proper application and assessment. The three key areas must all be addressed in detail to realize the full benefit of a FAL program. Each of the three areas requires emphasis for full realization of a wells FAL potential. Lack of attention to detail can lead to failure in the FAL process or under realization of capability. Every well loads over the course of its existence. Increased understanding of FAL technology can only increase the odds that the technology will be appropriately utilized in applicable situations. The global energy supply can be significantly augmented by improving production rates from existing wellbores. The net result for producers is a substantial increase in delivery of reserves to the market. The net result for consumers is an extended supply of natural gas for improved quality of life.