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Chapter 1

Inflow and Outflow Performance


Michael L. Wiggins, U. of Oklahoma


1.1 The Production System
Understanding the principles of fluid flow through the production system is important in esti-
mating the performance of individual wells and optimizing well and reservoir productivity. In
the most general sense, the production system is the system that transports reservoir fluids
from the subsurface reservoir to the surface, processes and treats the fluids, and prepares the
fluids for storage and transfer to a purchaser. Fig. 1.1 depicts the production system for a sin-
gle well system. The basic elements of the production system include the reservoir; wellbore;
tubular goods and associated equipment; surface wellhead, flowlines, and processing equip-
ment; and artificial lift equipment.
The reservoir is the source of fluids for the production system. It is the porous, permeable
media in which the reservoir fluids are stored and through which the fluids will flow to the
wellbore. It also furnishes the primary energy for the production system. The wellbore serves
as the conduit for access to the reservoir from the surface. It is composed of the drilled well-
bore, which normally has been cemented and cased. The cased wellbore houses the tubing and
associated subsurface production equipment, such as packers. The tubing serves as the primary
conduit for fluid flow from the reservoir to the surface, although fluids also may be transported
through the tubing-casing annulus.
The wellhead, flowlines, and processing equipment represent the surface mechanical equip-
ment required to control and process reservoir fluids at the surface and prepare them for
transfer to a purchaser. Surface mechanical equipment includes the wellhead equipment and
associated valving, chokes, manifolds, flowlines, separators, treatment equipment, metering de-
vices, and storage vessels.
In many cases, the reservoir is unable to furnish sufficient energy to produce fluids to the
surface at economic rates throughout the life of the reservoir. When this occurs, artificial lift
equipment is used to enhance production rates by adding energy to the production system. This
component of the system is composed of both surface and subsurface elements. This additional
energy can be furnished directly to the fluid through subsurface pumps, by reducing the back-
pressure at the reservoir with surface compression equipment to lower wellhead pressure, or by
injecting gas into the production string to reduce the flowing gradient of the fluid.
Recognizing the various components of the production system and understanding their inter-
action generally leads to improved well productivity through analysis of the entire system. As