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Lessons Learned

from Natural Gas STAR Partners

Installing Plunger Lift Systems In Gas Wells

Executive Summary

Technology Background

In mature gas wells, the accumulation of fluids in the well can impede and sometimes halt gas production. Gas flow is maintained by removing accumulated fluids through the use of a beam pump or remedial treatments, such as swabbing, soaping, or venting the well to atmospheric pressure (referred to as “blowing down” the well). Fluid removal operations, particularly well blowdowns, may

result in atmosphere.

substantial

methane

emissions

to

the

Liquid loading of the wellbore is often a serious problem in aging production wells. Operators commonly use beam lift pumps or remedial techniques, such as venting or “blowing down” the well to atmospheric pressure, to remove liquid buildup and restore well productivity. These techniques, however, result in gas losses. In the case of blowing down a well, the process must be repeated over time as fluids reaccumulate, resulting in additional methane emissions.

Installing a

plunger

lift

system

is

a

cost-effective

alternative for removing liquids. Plunger lift systems have the additional benefit of increasing production, as well as significantly reducing methane emissions associated with

blowdown operations. buildup in a well to lift

A plunger lift uses gas pressure a column of accumulated fluid out

of the well.

The plunger lift

system helps

to maintain gas

production

and may reduce

the need for

other remedial

operations.

Natural Gas STAR Partners report significant economic benefits and methane emission reductions from installing

plunger reported

lift systems in gas wells. annual gas savings averaging

Companies

have

600 thousand

cubic

feet

(Mcf)

per

well

by

avoiding

blowdowns.

In

addition,

increased

gas

production

following

plunger

lift

installation

has

yielded

total

gas

benefits

of

up

to

18,250

Mcf

per

well,

worth an estimated $127,750.

Benefits from

increased gas production and emissions savings and reservoir-specific and will vary considerably.

are

both well-

Plunger lift systems are a cost-effective alternative to both beam lifts and well blowdowns and can significantly reduce gas losses, eliminate or reduce the frequency of future well treatments, and improve well productivity. A plunger lift system is a form of intermittent gas lift that uses gas pressure buildup in the casing-tubing annulus to push a steel plunger, and the column of fluid ahead of it, up the well tubing to the surface. The plunger serves as a piston between the liquid and the gas, which minimizes liquid fallback, and as a scale and paraffin scraper. Exhibit 1 depicts a typical plunger lift system.

The operation of a plunger lift system relies on the natural buildup of pressure in a gas well during the time that the well is shut-in (not producing). The well shut-in pressure must be sufficiently higher than the sales-line pressure to lift the plunger and liquid load to the surface. A valve

mechanism, controlled by input to the casing and

a microprocessor, regulates gas

automates

the

process.

The

controller is normally powered by a solar battery and can be a simple timer-cycle or have

recharged solid state

Method for Reducing Natural Gas Losses

Install a Plunger Lift System

Potential Gas Savings from Increased Gas Production and Avoided Emissions (Mcf)

4,700 - 18,250a per year per well

Value of Natural Gas Production and Savings ($)

Implementation Cost ($)

Payback (Months)

$3 per Mcf

$5 per Mcf

$7 per Mcf

$3 per Mcf

$5 per

Mcf

$7 per

Mcf

$14,100 - $54,750 per year

$23,500 - $91,250 per year

$32,900 - $127,750 per year

$2,591 - $10,363 per year per well

1-9

1-6

1-4

Economic and Environmental Benefits

General Assumptions: Based on results reported by Natural Gas STAR Partners. a

1

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