IBP 1542_12 SIMULATOR OF ARTIFICIAL LIFT METHOD PLUNGER-LIFT André Maitelli¹, Andres Ortiz², Felipe Novaes³, Danielson

Xavier4, Erick Cortez5

Copyright 2012, Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute - IBP
This Technical Paper was prepared for presentation at the Rio Oi & Gas Expo and Conference 2012, held between September, 17-20, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro. This Technical Paper was selected for presentation by the Technical Committee of the event according to the information contained in the final paper submitted by the author(s). The organizers are not supposed to translate or correct the submitted papers. The material as it is presented, does not necessarily represent Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute’ opinion, or that of its Members or Representatives. Authors consent to the publication of this Technical Paper in the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 Proceedings.

This paper explains the artificial-lift simulator utilizing the plunger-lift method, developed by PETROBRAS and the Laboratory Automation in Petroleum from Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (LAUT/UFRN). The plunger-lift method comes to give an alternative for the wells which utilizing others lift methods, since that the well has a high GLR, and this software simulates all the operations of a well equipped with the Plunger-Lift system. The objective from this simulator is offer to the user the values and graphics of pressures, flow, volumes, speeds and other significant variables which helps the users to understand, preview and control all the operationThe mathematical model and the algorithm in C++ are based in the work of the Eng.José Octavio Baruzzi and Eng. Know Il, from Petrobras. In the current phase, the software is working fine and usable by calculating and plotting the results consistent and has an user manual and executable file.

When an oil or gas reservoir has a enough high pressure, their fluids can reach the surface without difficulties. This kind of lift is called “natural” and the wells were called insurgents. However when the natural reservoir pressure is not enough to elevate their fluids, because the well maturation with the time, they do not reach the surface. In this moment is need the utilization of artificial methods in order to elevate them. So is called “artificial” lift when is used a technology to insert energy in the well to elevate the bottom pressure. With the daily growth of petroleum industry, the artificial methods has been gradually more researched and enhanced because the progressive well maturation. In accord with the wellbore characteristics, is chosen the appropriate artificial method to elevate the oil. Second Thomas(2001), in case the reservoir has the Productivity Index lower than 1,0 m³/dia/kgf/cm², the static pressure insufficient to support a fluid column with the length of 40% of the total deep of the wellbore and a good gas oil reason (GOR), is indicated to use the intermittent gas lift method. This technique consists in displacing slugs of liquid from the tubing bottom until the surface by a high pressure gas injection in the slug base. The gas enters in the tubing by a valve, placed near the wellbore bottom, elevating the slug. In order to increase the method efficiency, is used a mechanic interface between the liquiq slug and injected gas, called plunger. The plunger is piston that helps to boost the liquid to the top. When the method uses the plunger is called Plunger-Lift (PL). Second Baruzzi (1994), the utilization of the plunger promoves the growth of 23% in the liquid production, if was compared with the method without the piston and brings some economic and environmental benefits too in reservoir with high GLR. The wellbores which utilizes the PL method normally are old and does not produces volumes of oil economically feasible. The United State is the country that has the most number of wellbores equipped with the PL method, due the high maturation of their reservoirs. Nowadays, some wells in Brazil already use the method, for
1 Doctor,Professor-UFRN 2 Doctor,Professor -UFRN 3 Undergraduated in petroleum engineering-UFRN 4 Graduated in computer engineering -UFRN 5 Undergraduated in computer engineering -UFRN 1

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example, in Mossoró in the Rio Grande do Norte state. However, in the future, the demand for wells that will need to use this technique will increase significantly. The efficiency of the method is comproved to in the economic point of view. An example is the company Natural Gas Star report significant economic benefits and methane emission reductions from installing plunger lift systems in gas wells. Companies have reported annual gas savings averaging 600 thousand cubic feet (Mft³) 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 both increased gas production and emissions savings are well and reservoir-specific and will vary considerably. Table 1: Economic and Envorimental data reports by Natural Gas Star after use the plunger-lift method (data from USA Government Plunger Lift Manual).

Economic and Environmental Benefits
Method for reducing Natural Gas Losses Install a Plunger Lift System Potencial gas savings from increased gas production and avoided emissions(Mft³) 4,700-18,250 per year per well Value of natural gas production and Savings($) $3 per Mft³ $14,100 $54,750 per year $5 per Mft³ $23,500$91,250 per year $7 per Mft³ $32,900$127,750 per year Implementation cost ($) $3 per Mft³ 1-9 Payback (months)

$5 per Mft³ 1-6

$7 per Mft³

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


The Petrobras has a PL simulator, but this software do not has many interactivity and along the years became obsolate. In this scenary, firstly, the petrobras wants modernize its actual PL simulator in order to increase the user interactivity, the data collection, the way to view the graphics, create a 3D animation, the mathematic model realism in relation with the real phenomenon,between other new facilites in the simulator.

The Plunger-Lift
In accord with the USA Government Plunger Lift Manual, the PL 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. Figure 1 depicts a typical plunger lift system.


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Figure 1: Plunger Lift system The main function of the plunger is do that the slug reaches the surface. In other words, the principal fuction is avoid that the fluid returns in the tubing (fallback). Sometimes, in the tubing happens the paraffin deposition troubles, and the piston carries out removal of the accumulation of paraffin by frequent climbs and descents of the piston in the column. This function is as important to avoid the fallback. The method can be instaled in the differents ways: the conventional Plunger-Lift, the Plunger-Lift equipped with a packer and the intermittent Gás-Lift (GL) equipped with a piston. The difference between the convencional and the gas-lift methods is the provenance of the gas. In the first, the gas belongs to the reservoir and in the other the gas comes from an external source. And the packer type is used only in the gas wellbores. The software developed by the Autopoc team simulates the convencional PL and intermitent GL with plunger types. In both cases the gas expansion is controlled by a motor valve.

Dinamic model
The mathematics model of the method consists in a cycle that has four steps: ascent of the plunger; production of liquid ; afterflow, characterized by the gas production after the piston arrive; and the build-up, that is the growth of the gas pressure inside the well, waiting the pressure be strong enough to lift the liquid column to the surface. The wellbore can be equipped with a gas injection or drain line in the annulus, in order to provides that the well works in a specific GLR. The illustration about the steps can be seen in the figure 2:

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Figure 2: Left: A convencional Plunger-Lift scheme; Right: the four step of the cycle (ascent of the plunger, production of liquid, afterflow and build-up). The method operates as follows, the motor valve opens and therefore happens the gas decompression, the plunger which was in the bottom is booster ascendantly by the gas force, such as in the operation of a fire gun. The piston lifts, elevating the column of liquid which had been formed at the tubing bottom. In accord with Baruzzi (1994), with the advent of the piston in the process, the recovery of liquid is 23% higher. While the upstream pressure is higher than the downstream pressure, will occur the positive displacement, as can be seen in equation (4): (1) (2) (3) So,

(4) Where, PplgM: Upstream pressure in the plunger; PplgJ: Downstream pressure in the plunger; AItbg: Tubing internal area; Lslg:); Length of the liquid column ahead the plunger(slug); Mplg: Plunger mass; and g: gravity acceleration. Just at the moment that the slug arrives at the tubing top, it is tranfers to the production line. Finishing the production of liquid step and begining the Afterflow step. The plunger stays in the top of the tubing, in a equipement called lubrificator, and is kept by force transmitted by the gas being produced. In the lubrificator, the piston arrival is damped by a spring. Is important to note that the control algorithm must be careful enough so that the arrival rate of the piston is not very high, in order to avoid damage in the equipement. The gas, which boostered the plunger, has been produced, flowing from the tubing to the line of production, until the moment that the motor valve is closed.

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So, there is not force which support the plunger, that begins it free fall in the tubing, firstly in the gas column and after in the column of liquid at the bottom, which accumulates continuously due to flow from the reservoir. When the piston arrives in the end of the tubing is damped by other spring, and is waited until the predetermined time to the gas pressure be enough to lift the liquid column, and after is open the motor valve. The accumulated gas expands and booster the plunger to top again, beginning thus a new cycle. The equation which implemente the number of gas moles in wellbore in order to increase the pressure is:

(5) Where, Ntotal: total number of moles; Qlres: liquid flow from reservoir; GLR: gas liquid reason; Pstd: standart pressure; Tstd: standart temperature; I: estimating loss index of the gas through the piston. In some cycles, the pressure (energy) is not enough the support the liquid column in all ascedant traject to surface. So, in this cycles there are not the production of liquid and Afterflow steps. If this situation persists indefinitely,is said that the well “drowned”. The control algorithms should be developed to avoid this situation, in the convencional PL, the unique agent is the motor valve. In the assisted PL case, the algorithm can also control the flow of gas injected or drained from the casing. The sensors disponibles to the process monitoring are the manometers in the top of the tubing and casing, and also a magnetic sensor to indicate the plunger arrival.

Software Architecture
When a software is projected,should be fainced the challenges as the constant changes of requirements in the sistems to appropriateness to the client system. The challenge was overcome with a developement process of incremental software in which there is development of features and then collecting new requirements to develop and so on until it has a functional software. The incremental process is recommended when client is unclear initial requirements, it helps the customer know what they want and also helps create a system by verifiable parts. Typically, systems built by incremental process are not well architected, because always show up new parameters to code in the software. The architecture was designed from the start that there were not problems in the future. The architecture used in the system was the MVC architecture (Model View Controller). In this model has an explicit separation of funcinal parts of the system. MVC divides the program in three parts:    Model – Model stores all the code related to logic, mathematics and communication with the database; View – stores all the code related to the interfaces of the system that communicates with the user; Controller – stores all the code for the control of messages between the model and views.


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Figure 3 - System Architecture That way is possible separate the parts of the system in order to change them when necessary, without the need to modify all other parts of the system. Is possible to granted security when adding functionality to the system, since it is known which part should be coded to follow the project. To make the project a long life, must pay attention to the software documentation. For this simulator has been developed a range of documentation about system, as the mathematic model and how the controller sends ans recives the requests, for example. For that were used multiple diagrams of UML (Unified Modeling Language) that allow you to specify several characteristics about the internal structure of the computer system. Were used class diagrams to document how the system classes are related and how are compounds the packets that made part of the system. Activity diagrams to show step by step how to give a certain activity with a natural language. Sequence diagrams that show the sequence of messages that are exchanged between running objects on the system to achieve a certain goal. Use case diagrams are used to document the functional requirements and how they are related to each other keeping a document with details about each of the requirements. The following an example of each of these diagrams to order documentation:

Figure 4 - class diagram


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Figure 5 - Activity diagram

Figure 6 - Sequence diagram

Figure 7 - Use case diagram

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GUI (graphical interface)
In order to facilitate the use and handling of the simulator was developed a graphical interface that provides intuitive user access to the same set of features available in the simulator, from this set is possible for the user mining the simulation data. Is possible see in Figure 8 below the graphical interface that has as its main element the Home screen, which is subdivided into the following parts:       Menu Bar; Toolbar; 3D animations; Graphic simulation; Historical simulation, and Simulation options.

Figura 8: Home Screen. The menu bar provides the user access to a subset of system functionality, through the tab file the user can input information from a new well, generate reports and exit the application. If the user wants to use the tab tools is possible make registration of new simulation equipment such as tubbing, casing, valve, production line and plunger. Finally, through the tab help the user can get help on the operation of the simulator. The toolbar provides the user the option to track the progress of the simulation, providing support for some operations, such as: simulation start and stop, forward and backward simulation cycles, remove and add 3D animations, change settings and update simulation data.

Figura 9: graphics of simulation.


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As can be seen in the figure# above, the simulator comprises two windows images which can be used to display the variables graphics of the simulation in accordance with the user's desire. For this as it is shown in the figure# the user can enable and disable the visibility of these variables in graphical windows via the options "L1" and "L2"(figure10) the respective variable and then enable the option to show on screen the exact point desired simulation through the options "P1" and "P2". The option "P1" can be enabled only when "L1" is enabled and "P2" is enabled only after "L2" respectively.

Figure 10: variables of similation. At the bottom of the main screen you can also observe the presence of the tab history allows the user to view simulation information, are these:  Average speed of the piston on the rise;  Time of arrival of the slug;  Time of arrival of the plunger;  Speed impact;  Production;  Duration of ascent of the piston;  Duration of production;  Curation Afterflow;  Build-up duration; and  Cycle time . For each information exists the variable value for all cycles covered during the simulation. The 3D animations of the simulator were developed using the OpenGL API [1] and provide the necessary support so that the user can view the well of three different perspectives: View from the top of the well, the bottom view, overview of the well. From these perspectives is possible to visualize the different elements of a Plunger Lift System and its evolution during the simulation. Figure 11 shows how works the animations and their different perspectives. Finally, at the right of the main screen of the simulator have the simulation options that allow the user the opportunity to change the simulation data of the piston (sealing efficiency, length, weight, speed of the liquid drop, drop in gas velocity, diameter) and the simulation time (valve open time of valve closed afterflow time, gas flow). It is important to note that the simulation options can be changed before and during the simulation, is necessary to choose update data in toolbar to validate the new changes.


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Results analisys
The simulator works well, with the mathematical model running associated with the graphical interface shown for the user. To be made the communication between these two processes, There is another process for the sole purpose of making the communication, for example, sending data to the model calculated to be shown in the graphic interface. This communication between processes requires some time and then there is a limit on the program on the amount of points that are stored in a state of waiting to be shown on screen. How do mathematical calculations is faster than displaying data on screen, the model generates points with a velocity faster than the speed that the points are plotted, affecting the speed of the program by memory consumption. For this reason it is necessary to administer this waiting. When the queue of points fills up the model’s calculations, the points should be paused and only resume when there is space in the queue. The process of model checks these conditions, leaving only the interface with the responsibility to show results. In general, for each feature involves the template is a message sent through the processes in order to execute a determined command.

The software is doing what has been proposed, is ploting the correct graphics and calculating consistent values , in accord with the plunger-lift simulator into effect on Petrobras. Also features small operational errors to be corrected in the coming months. And for the future, the equations are more realistic and the interface will have more features and a more aesthetic appearance.

BARUZZI, J. O. A. Modelagem do Plunger-lift Convencional, 1994. BOLONHINI, E. H. Plunger Lift Conceituação fundamental, 2005. USA Government Plunger Lift Manual http://www.opengl.org/ ABERCROMBIE,B. Plunger Lift, Technology of Artificial Lift Methods, Vol. 2b, 1980. AVERY,D.J.and EVANS,R.D. Design Optimization of Plunger Lift Systems, 1988. CASTRO,C.G; SOUZA,B. Simulador computacional para o método de elevação artificial Plunger Lift, 2010. BEAUREGARD,E.M. and FERGUSON,P.L.Introduction to Pluger Lift:Aplications,Advantages and Limitations ,1981. BEESON, C. M.; KNOX, D. G. and STODDARD, J. H. , Free Piston Lift , 1959.