# J. F.

Lea
Petroleum Engineering Department, Texas Tecti University, P.O. Box 43111 Lubbock, TX 79409-3111 e-mail: JLea@coe.ttj.edu

Plunger Lift Versus Velocity Strings
Plunger lift and velocity strings are two common methods of attacking liquid loading problems in gas wells. This paper shows how to compare the calculated performance of both methods at downhole producing conditions on one plot.

Introduction
As gas wells deplete, the velocity in the tubing becomes lower. Eventually, the gas velocity will become low enough such that the flowing gradient in the tubing begins to rise because liquids begin to accumulate in the tubing. There are many solutions to liquid loading problems in a gas well. They include use of foams, use of smaller tubing (velocity strings), use of intermittent gas lift, use of plungers (which is essentially intermittent gas lift with a traveling pig), and many pumping methods to lift liquids from a lowpressure gas well. Depending on well conditions, often the choices are between installing smaller tubing (velocity strings) or leaving in the larger tubing and employing plunger lift. This paper shows how to compare the performance of plunger lift versus velocity string applications in a manner not previously possible. Velocity Strings A velocity string is a small-diameter string used to increase the fluid velocity in the tubing in order to produce a low-pressure gas well that produces some liquids associated with the gas. The tubing could be coiled tubing or regular tubing. One approach is to use a formula for the critical velocity and size the tubing string to try to produce above the critical velocity. Turner et al. (1969) developed formulas for the critical velocity for gas production when producing water or condensate. Their formula for critical gas velocity is c(p,-0.00279P/Z)' (0.00279P/Z)"^ (1)

upward to the right) intersects the well inflow curve (slanting downward and to the right), at the point of predicted production. For stable flow, the tubing curve should intersect the inflow curve at a point to the right of the minimum point on the tubing curve. Tubing too small should not be used to avoid excess friction. With the information in Fig. 1, the largest tubing size indicates the highest rate, but it shows flow at a point that may be to the left of the minimum point on the tubing curve or very close to the minimum. At this point, unstable flow would be predicted and could result in lower than expected production. If velocity string performance is compared to plunger lift performance, it is desirable to have a plunger lift model that is plotted with the velocity string performance on the same coordinates as shown in Fig. 1. The method of plunger lift is first discussed and an example is given on how to calculate data for plotting plunger lift performance in a manner similar to that of tubing performance.

Typical Plunger System
Plunger lift is an artificial lift method, which normally uses only the existing energy from the well. Plunger lift can produce liquids from the well using gas pressure that has built up in the well when the surface production valve is closed. One type of a typical plunger lift installation is shown in Fig, 2. The components in the Fig, 2 installation include: • • • • • • A downhole bumper spring to catch the falling plunger. It can be installed by wire-line into the well, A plunger which travels from bumper spring to well head and back as it cycles, bringing liquids to surface more efficiently as it rises to the surface, A wellhead designed to catch the plunger and allow flow around and/or under the plunger to continue at the surface. A motorized valve, which can open and close the flow line, either by manual action or using computerized controls. A sensor on the wellhead to signal the arrival of the plunger. An electronic controller containing logic to control plunger trips, flow periods, and shut-in periods in order to maximize production.

where c = 5.3 for water or 4,03 for gas-condensate. In Eq. (1), p, is the liquid density in Ibm/ft' (67 Ibm/ft' used for water and 45 Ibm/ft^ for condensate). The variable, P, is the pressure at the location analyzed in the tubing, and Z is the compressibility factor at P and temperature 7". The critical velocity Vg is for water or condensate produced with gas, depending on the appropriate constant, c. If both water and condensate are present, Turner recommends using the constant for water. Turner et al. (1969) used 60 dynes/cm for water droplet interfacial tension and 20 dynes/cm for condensate. The temperature was taken to be 120''F. Typically, these formulas have been used at surface conditions, but they can be used anywhere in the well where the P and T and other parameters are known. Another technique for sizing the velocity string is to look at the shapes of calculated curves of the flowing bottom-hole pressure required to produce fluid from tubing at various flow rates. Various tubing sizes can be examined. An example may be seen in Fig. 1. In this figure, the calculated performance for various tubing sizes is plotted. The tubing performance curve (in general slanting
Contributed by the Petroleum Division and presented at the 20th Annual EnergySources Technology Conference and Exhibition, Houston, Texas, February 1-3,
1999, of THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERS. Manuscript received by

the Petroleum Division, October 23, 1998; revised manuscript received September 3, 1999. Associate Technical Editor: C. Sarica.

Cycle Description To better introduce how a plunger functions, the events of a plunger lift cycle are illustrated in Fig. 3, showing the surface recorded casing and tubing pressures during a complete plunger cycle. The plunger cycle begins when the plunger and a quantity of liquid are at bottom hole. At this time the casing pressure is allowed to build up to a value necessary to lift the plunger and liquid to the surface of the well. The tubing valve opens, tubing pressure begins to drop, and the plunger and liquid start up the tubing. The arrival of the plunger and slug is shown as a pressure spike on the tubing pressure plot. The plunger can then be held at the surface for a predetermined period of time to continue gas production if the well produces little liquids compared to gas production. When a specified low flow rate or low tubing pressure criteria are reached, the flow line valve is closed and the plunger Transactions of the ASME

234 / Vol. 121, DECEMBER 1999