The energy we waste while producing oil

We’re wasting much energy while pumping oil from the ground. And we are leaving a lot of that oil in the well. Ironic isn’t it? Here’s a potential solution.

Oil extraction needs help – and, no, I don’t mean oil prices need help. I mean oil needs help to get out of the ground. Those of you working in the oil exploration and recovery business likely know that in most cases oil doesn’t simply flow out of the ground. It requires assistance.

The term “Artificial Lift” covers various pumping methods such as classic rod pumps (pictured), electric submersible pumps (ESP), progressive cavity pumps (PSP) and other oil-lifting pumps. Artificial lift is needed to assist over 95% of the world’s 1 million oil and gas producing wells. Less than 5% of the oil wells flow naturally without assistance.

Artificial Lift needs help

Artificial Lift pumping methods make oil extraction possible, but they are far from perfect. In fact, they are quite imperfect, although today there are new solutions which are offering big improvements.

One of the problems with Artificial Lift is incomplete extraction, which leaves much of the oil in the well. Other issues include high energy costs for running the pumps and motors and challenging maintenance and ‘wear and tear’ problems that lead to equipment breakdowns and downtime.

The digital oilfield offers true potential

An area which is highly interrelated with Artificial Lift is the digital oilfield. This loosely means taking advantage of new digital communications to improve a wide variety of oilfield production and maintenance tasks over long distances and for remote locations. Yet the concept has been painfully slow in progressing. We are not even close at this point.

Help is on the way

As the world’s largest producer of variable speed drives, ABB has seen that significant benefits can be gained rather easily by building oil-specific functionality into our ACS880 industrial drive platform. The new Artificial Lift Drive is the result. Designed for oil-pumping applications, the device includes custom algorithms and routines that optimize specific pumping criteria and operating parameters to improve oil pump efficiency, productivity and operating lifetime. An intuitive menu enables the drive to calculate the most profitable flow rates, at the lowest power consumption. Simultaneously, safety routines protect your assets and people from harm with functionality like backspin control and safe-oil-level monitoring.

50% higher output at 30% less energy

To get an indication of the benefits of Intelligent Artificial Lift we obtained drive testing data, based on real-life customer sites at nine oil wells using rod pumps. The results showed the potential to increase oil inflow by 50% while reducing pumping energy consumption by 30%. This does not mean it applies to every oil well, but it certainly gives an indication of what is feasible with fairly little effort and investment.

Waste turns to profit instead

Waste generally occurs in oil fields in three main areas: waste due to oil left in the ground, waste in electrical energy efficiency for running the pumps, and waste caused by unnecessary damage to equipment that is not being run correctly.

With the installation of ABB’s Artificial Lift drive, this waste can be turned around completely. On the most commonly used oil pumps like rod pumps, PCPs and ESPs, the extraction process can be fully optimized with just a few parameter settings. In addition, remote condition monitoring and process tuning become easily feasible.

Profitability, of course, is the real driver. The ability to get more oil out of your well, while reducing pump energy costs and breakdowns, is what makes this a genuine ‘Win-Win’ economic opportunity. Progressive oil producers are already seizing this opportunity and, at the same time, starting to use the drive’s new digital communication capability to bring the digital oilfield a few steps closer.

To learn more about how ABB’s Artificial Lift Drive can deliver more profit during the times of low oil price and give you a rapid payback by turning waste into profit in your oil operations click here.

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About the author

Markus Eklund

I joined ABB in 2000 and since then I have worked in various sales positions. A big part of these years I have worked with our customers in chemical, oil and gas industries and have focused on finding the optimal solutions for them. I’m excited about the energy saving potential and performance increase the VFDs bring to many industrial applications.
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