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Review of Electrical-Submersible-Pump

Surging Correlation and Models

Jose Gamboa and Mauricio Prado, The University of Tulsa

Summary which cannot be captured for the Sachdeva (1990) model because
Head deterioration observed in electrical submersible pumps of the assumption that fluid flows in streamlines.
(ESPs) under two-phase flow is mild until a sudden performance Minemura and Uchiyama (1993) observed that the initiation of
breakdown is observed in the pump head curve at a certain volu- surging point is caused by a flow-pattern transition from a bubbly
metric gas fraction. This critical condition is termed surging. Con- flow to slug-flow-like flow pattern. By analogy to two-phase flow
sequently, the head that the pump generates with two-phase flow in pipe, Minemura and Uchiyama (1993) argued that it may occur
depends on whether the stages operate under conditions before at a certain critical gas void fraction. On the basis of simulations,
(mild performance deterioration) or after (severe performance Minemura and Uchiyama (1993) realized that the critical gas void
deterioration) the surging point. fraction at which the surging occurred changed as a function of
The surging, for engineering purposes, can be predicted by liquid-flow rate. Then, the critical gas fraction could not be deter-
published correlations, but the lack of a theoretical basis is a limit- mined on the basis of operating conditions and geometry alone,
ing factor for their application. Mechanistic models seem to be the but experimental data are required.
proper alternative. However, the poor understanding of the physical Estevam (2002) conducted the first visualization study of fluid
mechanism that causes the surging hinders the development of such flow into an ESP impeller. Estevam (2002) classified the pump
mechanistic models. This paper reviews some of these correlations operation in bubbly flow, transition flow, and elongated-bubble
and mechanistic models by comparing the correlation predictions flow. The initiation of the surging is then defined as the transition
against experimental data acquired in a closed loop with water and between bubbly flow and the transition regime. Estevam (2002)
air using a commercial 24-stage ESP. The data cover a wide range observed that the bubble size varied with the volumetric gas frac-
of volumetric gas fractions, rotational speeds, and intake pressures. tion and that it reached a critical size between 2 and 3 mm at the
As a consequence of this analysis, a new correlation has been for- initiation of the surging point.
mulated. This correlation predicts the initiation of the surging as a On the basis of observations in Estevam (2002), Prado (2005)
function of rotational speed and fluid properties. proposed that the initiation of the surging point may be related
to the bubble size and the forces that act on bubbles into the
Introduction impeller. Applying Newtons second law and instability theory of
Lea and Bearden (1982) classified the two-phase performance of ordinary differential equations, Prado (2005) studied the condi-
an ESP into four categories: nongas interference, gas interference, tion that triggers the instability on the radial position of a bubble
intermittent gas lock, and gas lock. The operating condition that in a centrifugal field. Prado (2005) demonstrates that bubbles of
marked the onset of the intermittent gas-locking regime was termed a certain size cannot escape the impeller because the buoyancy
the surging point by these authors. The initiation of the surging force overcomes the drag force, reaching an equilibrium position
point then became important for practical purposes because the (similar to that of a satellite around the Earth) into the impeller.
instability on the pump operation coincided with the surging. The radial position of a bubble with a size larger than the critical
Sachdeva (1990) hypothesized that the surging occurred once size becomes instable, causing it to flow back to the impeller eye.
the gas velocity into the impeller became zero, which led to the Prado (2005) hypothesized that the surging point may be initiated
formation of a stagnant gas pocket at the impeller inlet region. The by those bubbles flowing backward, which may increase the num-
initiation of the surging is then a consequence of the gas-pocket ber of collisions between bubbles, leading to their coalescence and
formation. Sachdeva (1990) proposed that the surging could be creating the gas pocket.
determined by forcing the gas velocity to zero in his mechanis- Barrios (2007) followed the approach of Prado (2005) and
tic model of the pump head. This mechanistic model is a 1D demonstrated that the surging is not initiated by bubbles orbiting
approximation of the fluid flow through the impeller and diffuser at radial position equivalent to the outer impeller diameter, as origi-
based on a two-phase-model approach. A closure relationship is nally proposed by Prado (2005). Barrios (2007) showed that the
then required for obtaining a numerical solution to the problem. surging is triggered by bubbles that reach a radial equilibrium posi-
Sachdeva (1990) proposed a ratio of drag coefficient to bubble size tion at the inlet of the impeller channel. Besides, the experimental
as the closure relationship. He noticed that the model predictions data show that surging occurs only when bubbles reach a certain
fall off from the experimental data when well-known correlations critical size, confirming the observations of Estevam (2002). Bar-
for drag coefficient in an infinite medium [see, for example, Ishii rios (2007) proposed that the critical volumetric gas fraction (C)
and Zuber (1979)] were used for predicting the two-phase pump that leads to the surging can be predicted from Eq. 1:
performance with his model. Sachdeva (1990) then proposed a 3/ 5
new closure relationship that is based on the experimental data, d b _ surge = 0.0348 N 0.8809C1/ 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . (1)
which improved the model predictions. It implied that the model l (N r )
3 2 2/ 5
cannot be used unless experimental data are available for verifying
Sachdevas ratio of drag coefficient to bubble size correlation. In Eq. 1, r1 is the impeller channel inlet radius and N is the pump
Barrios (2007) observed that bubbles were dragged from one rotational speed. The critical bubble size at the surging (db_surge)
channel to the other by a severe liquid recirculation between impel- can be obtained from Eq. 2, which describes the radial equilibrium
ler channels. This caused an increase of the local gas void fraction, position of a bubble in a rotating field:

3 m
( 2 N )2 r1 ( l g ) (Vrl )2 CD = 0. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (2)
Copyright 2011 Society of Petroleum Engineers
4 d b _ surg
This paper (SPE 140937) was accepted for presentation at the SPE Production and The model of Barrios (2007) underpredicts by orders of mag-
Operations Symposium, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, 2729 March 2011, and
revised for publication. Original manuscript received for review 24 January 2011. Revised nitude the critical volumetric gas fraction at the surging-point
manuscript received for review 4 May 2011. Paper peer approved 21 June 2011. initiation.

314 November 2011 SPE Production & Operations

Researcher Correlation

Turpin et al. (1986) 2000 qg

Turpin = (original)
3Pi ql
Dunbar (1989), 1
Pessoa (2001) qg 1.724
Pi = 935
Cirilo (1998) C = 0.0187Pi 0.4342
Romero (1999) C = 0.004 (Pi 14.7 )

Estevam (2002) ISS = 31.92 32.15 (1 C ) (first stage)

ISS = 77.44 75.92 (1 C ) (second stage)

Duran (2003) C3 C1 = 5.580
qg g q
= C1 + C2 l C2 = 0.098
qmax l q m ax C3 = 1.421
Zapata (2003) q
C1 l
qg q C1 = 0.027
= max
qmax q C2 = 0.9001
C2 + l
q max

Gamboa (2009) continued the visualization work conducted The lack of a suitable mechanistic model for predicting surging
by Barrios (2007) in the impeller channel of an ESP pump. He has motivated the development of correlations. Table 1 summa-
concluded that the initiation of the surging is associated with the rizes some of these correlations, which are obtained from multi-
gas-pocket formation, as mentioned by Murakami and Minemura variable regression analysis of experimental data.
(1974). However, the gas-pocket behavior depends of the liquid- Fig. 1 compares the performance of these correlations for a
flow rate. At liquid-flow rates higher than the best efficiency point generic pump at 2,400 rev/min and 150 psig, handling air and water
(BEP), the gas pocket is unstable (it is formed and is broken up) [The correlation of Estevam (2002) is not included in the analysis
and it reaches stability only at higher volumetric gas fraction than because it is not clear from this study how to calculate the critical
that at the surging initiation. On the other hand, the gas pocket bubble at the surging.] In this figure, one can observe that correla-
is stable for liquid-flow rate equal to or smaller than the BEP. At tions such as Turpin et al. (1986), Dunbar (1989), Cirilo (1998),
higher volumetric gas fraction than that at the surging initiation, and Romero (1999) predict a critical volumetric gas fraction that
the gas pocket can be segregated at the top shroud, resembling is independent of the liquid-flow rate and rotational speed, while
stratified flow in pipes. Experiments in Gamboa (2009) indicated Duran (2003) and Zapata (2003) show gas volume fraction at the
that the gas-pocket formation is a function of stage intake pressure, surging initiation that is a function of the liquid-flow rate. How-
rotational speed, gas density, and surface tension. ever, these two correlations exhibit different behaviors, which is


Zapata (2003)
Critical Volumetric Gas Fraction - c , %

Turpin et al. (1986)


Cirilo (1998)
Duran (2003)

Dunbar (1989)
Barrios (2007)

0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000
Liquid Flow Rate, B/D

Fig. 1Surging-correlations comparison for a generic pump at 2,400 rev/min and 150 psig with air and water.

November 2011 SPE Production & Operations 315


Romero (1999)

Critical Volumetric Gas Fraction - c , %


Dunbar (1989)

Turpin et al. (1986) Cirilo (1998)


Duran (2003)

Barrios (2007)
20 Zapata (2003)

0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000
Inlet Pressure, psig

Fig. 2Surging-correlations comparison for a generic pump at 2,400 rev/min and 4,300 B/D with air and water.

a strong indication that the criterion to determine the initiation of most of the mechanistic models and correlations formulated for pre-
surging experimentally may differ between these two authors. dicting this transition have a strong empirical component, and their
The critical volumetric gas fraction predicted by these cor- application to different fluids and pump models is questionable.
relations as a function of the inlet pressure is compared in Fig 2. In part, this problem is caused by a lack of experimental data
Note that the correlation of Zapata (2003) is independent of the and local measurements of variables such as gas void fraction,
inlet pressure, so a constant value is obtained. The remaining cor- liquid and gas velocities, pressures, and bubble size, which hinders
relations show trends that differ from each other. Romero (1999) the development of a mechanistic model. This study intends to
predicts critical volumetric gas fraction above 100% for pressure shed light on the problem by presenting experimental data acquired
above 3,500 psig. Currently, there is no experimental evidence that from the 10th stage of a 24-stage commercial ESP handling air
supports the high critical volumetric-gas-fraction values predicted and water.
by the correlations of Turpin (1986), Dunbar (1989), and Cirilo
(1998). All of these correlations are independent of the fluid Experiments
properties, except that of Duran (2003) in which the ratio of the Experimental Setup. The experimental tests for this study were
gas density to the liquid density is included. carried out in the facility shown in Fig 3. It consists of a 150-hp
The differences between these correlations mean that the main two-stage centrifugal pump that serves as booster pump for the
mechanism that initiates the surging in the pump performance and facility and which is connected to a 500-bbl bolted tank. A Coriolis
causes the pump-head breakdown is currently unknown. Therefore, flowmeter (M-1) at the discharge of the booster pump measures



Air + Water



M-1 Air + Water

Storage tank


Fig. 3Experimental-facility layout.

316 November 2011 SPE Production & Operations

Single Phase Operating Operating
Window-Lower Window-Upper
11 Limit BEP Limit

q gd = 0.01
q gd = 0.02
Pressure Increment, psi

5 q gd = 0.03

3 q gd =0.04

1 0 q gd = 0.05
2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000
q gd = 0.08

3 q gd = 0.10

q gd = 0.12
5 q gd = 0.15
Liquid Flow Rate, B/D

Fig. 4Stage performance curve from mapping-test procedure at 2,400 rev/min and 150 psig.

the water density and mass rate. The water-flow rate is regulated ql
by the pneumatic valve (VCF-2) and manual bypass valve in the qld = , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (4)
pump recirculation line.
The air is supplied from a group of high-pressure bottles. These
bottles are charged by a stationary air compressor up to a pressure where ql is actual liquid-flow rate.
of 800 psig. The pneumatic valve (VCF-1) regulates the air-flow The tests used two different procedures: mapping test and
rate coming from the bottles. The density and mass rate of air are surging test. In the mapping-test procedure, the two-phase perfor-
measured by another Coriolis flowmeter (M-2) upstream of the mance curve is obtained by continuously reducing the normalized
pneumatic valve (VCF-1). The air is injected into an ESP inlet liquid-flow rate, while the normalized gas-flow rate, the rotational
pipeline 10 ft from the pump intake. Downstream, the gas and liquid speed, and the intake pressure are fixed at their setting values. In
mixture is discharged into a horizontal separator, where the air is the surging-test procedure, the two-phase performance curve is
vented and the water flows back to the storage tank [for a detailed obtained by continuously increasing the normalized gas-flow rate,
description of the facility, see Pessoa (2001) and Duran (2003)]. while the normalized liquid-flow rate, the rotational speed, and the
The pump tested is a 24-stage mixed-flow-type commercial intake pressure are held at their setting values. The test is stopped
ESP, commonly used in the production of heavy-oil and gassy once volumetric gas fraction is greater than 70% in both cases.
wells. At the BEP, this pump can handle 6,480 B/D and can gen- Based on the normalized gas- and liquid-flow rates, an experi-
erate up to 15.5 psig per stage at 3,600 rev/min with water. Its mental matrix with 128 performance curves was carried out at
specific speed is estimated at 3,300 rev/min. The pump is instru- inlet pressure between 150 and 250 psig and rotational speeds
mented with a differential-pressure transmitter located at the 10th between 1,500 and 3,000 rev/min. Some of the experimental results
stage in order to measure the stage head. The stage inlet pressure obtained are presented in Figs. 4 and 5.
is measured by an absolute-pressure transmitter, while temperature Fig. 4 presents mapping-test performance curves at 150 psig,
transmitters are installed at the pump inlet and discharge. A torque 2,400 rev/min, and normalized gas rate between 0.01 and 0.15.
cell on the ESP drive shaft is used for measuring rotational speed Each curve represents the stage pressure increment as a function
and torque [for further description of this instrumentation arrange- of liquid-flow rate at a constant volumetric in-situ gas-flow rate,
ment, see Pessoa (2001) and Duran (2003)]. rotational speed, and inlet pressure. Dashed lines have been added
to this figure to indicate the manufacturer-recommended operating
Experimental Program. The experimental matrix is based on two window and the BEP, respectively.
parameters: normalized gas rate (qgd) and normalized liquid rate Observe that the difference between the single-phase and two-
(qld). The normalized gas-flow rate (qgd) is defined as phase performance curves is clearer as normalized gas-flow rate
is increased. As observed in the single-phase performance curve,
qg the stage pressure increment increases as the liquid-flow rate is
qgd = , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (3) reduced in the two-phase performance curves. At a certain liquid-
flow rate, a sudden breakdown on the stage pressure increment is
where qg is gas-flow rate at stage intake condition and qmax is the observed. This operating condition marks the surging-point onset.
single-phase open-valve flow rate at given rotational speed. The The surging-point onset moves toward higher liquid-flow rates
single-phase open valve corresponds to the water-flow rate at as the normalized gas-flow rate is increased. Similar results are
zero pressure increment at given rotational speed. The normalized obtained at other rotational speeds and stage intake pressures, as
liquid-flow rate qld is given by mentioned in Gamboa (2009).

November 2011 SPE Production & Operations 317


8 q Id = 0.4

q Id = 0.5

q Id = 0.6
p , psi

q Id = 0.7

2 q Id = 0.8

0 5 10 15 20 25 30

, %

Fig. 5Stage performance curves from surging-test procedure at 2,400 rev/min and 150 psig.

The performance curves at 150 psig using the surging-test proce- Immediately after the surging point occurs, the stage pressure
dure are presented in Fig. 5 for a rotational speed of 2,400 rev/min increment quickly falls down in a short range of volumetric gas
and normalized liquid rates between 0.4 and 0.8. The pressure incre- fractions. Notice that the surging-point initiation occurs at higher
ment at zero volumetric gas fraction corresponds to the single-phase volumetric gas fractions for normalized liquid-flow rate located at
condition; therefore, a higher stage pressure increment is observed the right-hand side of the BEP. However, the pressure increment
as normalized liquid rate is reduced. The performance remains equal becomes zero at smaller volumetric gas fraction for these liquid-
to the single-phase performance for volumetric gas fractions smaller flow rates.
than 2%, which may vary depending on the liquid-flow rate. Next,
the performance deteriorates at a constant rate until the initiation Experimental Surging Points. The experimental critical volumet-
of surging occurs. At this operating condition, the stage pressure ric gas fractions at the surging-point onset for different rotational
increment has dropped approximately 20%, as compared with the speeds at 150 psig are presented in Fig. 6. The BEP of the pump
pressure increment developed under single-phase condition. tested is located at approximately 0.6 normalized liquid-flow rate.

25 Zapata (2003)

20 Turpin et al. (1986)

Critical Volumetric Gas Fraction c , %

Cirilo (1998)
Duran (2003)

Romero (1999)

Dunbar (1989)
3,000 rev/min
2,400 rev/min
1,800 rev/min
1,500 rev/min
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2
Normalized Liquid Rate, fraction

Fig. 6Critical volumetric gas fraction at 150 psig.

318 November 2011 SPE Production & Operations

(c) (b) (a) Single-Phase Performance
Mapping Test Two-Phase
Surging Initiation Loci
Experimental Surging Initiation
Experimental Point from Mapping Test
(2) Second Transition Onset
Third Transition Onset


q ld

q ld,1 > qld,2 > qld,3

P (c) q ld,1 (a)
q ld,2 (b)
q ld,3 (c)
Surging Initiation Loci
Experimental Surging Initiation
Experimental Point from
Mapping Test

Fig. 7(a) Mapping-test performance curve at constant rotational speed and stage intake pressure. (b) Surging-test performance
curve at constant rotational speed and stage intake pressure.

The data show that the surging-point onset is reached at volumet- test procedures. In these figures, the circled points represent the
ric gas fraction between 10 and 15% at liquid-flow rates at the operating conditions where the initiation of the surging occurs.
right-hand side of the BEP, while the surging occurs at critical The dotted line across the circled points corresponds to the surg-
volumetric gas fraction as low as 3% for flow rates located at the ing-initiation loci for different liquid-flow rates and volumetric
left-hand side of the BEP. The data also demonstrate that faster gas fractions.
rotational speeds increase the gas volume fraction at which the The diamond and squared points (termed second and third) in
surging initiates. Fig. 7a are the other discontinuities observed on the mapping-test
The predictions from the Table 1 surging correlations are plot- performance curve. The vertical dashed lines a, b, and c in this
ted in the same figure for comparison purposes. Note that the figure are liquid-flow rates at which the performance curves (using
correlations of Turpin et al. (1986) and Cirilo (1998) predict a the surging-test procedure) are obtained, while the triangle points
critical volumetric gas fraction that is independent of the liquid- 1, 2, and 3 are operating conditions at which both tests coincide
flow rate, while the values predicted are larger than any of the val- in the gas- and liquid-flow rates.
ues measured experimentally. The correlations of Dunbar (1989) The surging coincides with the maximum pressure increment
and Romero (1999) are also independent of the liquid-flow rate; (P) developed by the stage in the mapping-test performance
however, these correlations provide predictions that fall within the curve, which corresponds to Point 4 in Fig. 7a. It means that
range of the experimental data. the operating condition at Point 1 is in the regime that precedes
The correlation of Duran (2003) captures the dependency of the surging, Point 2 is in the regime that follows the surging, and
liquid-flow rate observed in the experimental data, but the trend Point 3 is in the regime that is enclosed by the third discontinuity
differs from that obtained experimentally. The correlation of Zapata in the pump head.
(2003) shows the best performance. Although this correlation The determination of the surging initiation from the surging-test
matches the experimental data, the model predicts a volumetric gas performance curve is more complicated because it corresponds to
fraction of infinity for the initiation of the surging at 0.75 normal- operating conditions where the curve curvature changes (Gamboa
ized liquid-flow rate. None of the correlations evaluated capture the 2009). It implies that the deterioration rate is constant at gas
effect of rotational speed shown by the experimental data. volume fractions smaller than that at the surging initiation. Then,
the deterioration rate becomes a function of the volumetric gas
Pump-Performance Regimes. Fig. 7 is a representation of the fraction. The initiation of the surging is represented in Fig. 7b as
performance curves obtained using surging-test and mapping- circled points for three normalized liquid-flow rates: qld,1, qld,2, and

November 2011 SPE Production & Operations 319


Open Flow Negative Pump Head


Mid Performance
Normalized Liquid Rate
0.80 Deterioration Surging

Single Phase Performance

Performance Reverse Slope

Second Boundary

Severe Performance Deterioration

Third Boundary

Nil Performance
0 0.05 0.1 0.15
Normalized Gas Rate

Fig. 8Pump two-phase operating regimes at 2,400 rev/min and 150 psig.

qld,3. Note that these points correspond to the same circled point in represented by triangles and circles, respectively. The diamonds
Fig. 7a for the liquid-flow rates at Lines a, b, and c. Thus, qld,1 is the correspond to the liquid- and gas-flow rates where the pressure
largest normalized liquid-flow rate, while qld,3 is the smallest. increment is zero. This boundary has been designed as an open-
When Operating Conditions 1, 2, and 3 are mapped onto the flow boundary in this study. Some of the points in the open-flow
surging performance curves, Operating Condition 1 is again in the boundary are located in the right-hand side of the surging initia-
regime that precedes the surging initiation. However, Operating tion, which implies that these points are in the other performance
Conditions 2 and 3 are both in the regime that follows the surg- regime rather than the mild performance deterioration. This result
ing. Nevertheless, the performance deterioration after the surging means that the physical mechanism that triggers the initiation of the
is greater in Curve c than that of Curve b, which coincides with surging in the stage operation can also be observed at zero pressure
the pressure-increment performance observed in the mapping-test increment. It indicates that the physical phenomenon that initiates
performance curve. This implies that the second and third boundar- the surging is affected by the stage pressure increment but is not
ies are transitions between a mild head deterioration regime to two originated by the stage pressure increment.
other regimes that differ from each other.
Fig. 8 illustrates how the two-phase stage performance is brack- Surging Correlation
eted by these discontinuities. In this figure, the points represent the Manzano-Ruiz (1980) formulated eight dimensionless groups with
normalized liquid- and gas-flow rates where the discontinuity is which the two-phase performance of a centrifugal pump could be
identified from the experimental data. The dashed lines illustrate normalized. Some of these dimensionless numbers could be dis-
the trend followed by these boundaries in analogy to the flow- regarded on the basis of the order of magnitude of their values, as
pattern map in two-phase flow in pipes. One can notice that the explained in Appendix A. Thus, the two-phase stage performance
stage performance is mapped into four regimes: mild performance could be represented as
deterioration, performance reverse slope, severe performance dete-
rioration, and nil performance. The single-phase stage performance p q q  D 2  g 
= f l 3, g3, l , , . . . . . . . . . (5)
is represented in this figure as a vertical line lying on the y axis. l  D
2 2
D D l l l  2 D 3
The initiation of the surging corresponds to squared points
in Fig. 8, which represent the onset of the pump performance The experimental data shows that the dimensionless stage pres-
reverses at normalized liquid-flow rate between 0.4 and 0.8. In this sure increment at surging initiation remains constant; however, the
regime, the reduction of liquid-flow rate caused a decrease of the volumetric gas fraction at the initiation of the surging changes as
stage pressure increment. At normalized liquid-flow rate between a function of the intake pressure and rotational speed. Thus, one
0.2 and 0.4, the initiation of the surging marks the transition to can assume that the right-hand side of Eq. 5 remains constant at
a severe-performance-deterioration regime where the liquid-flow the initiation of the surging. It implies that different combinations of
rate has little or no effect on the head production. Finally, the the dimensionless groups in the left-hand side of Eq. 5 can provide the
surging initiation is the limit for the transition from mild-perfor- same critical dimensionless pressure increment. On the basis of this
mance-deterioration regime to nil-performance regime (zero head assumption, a functional relationship between these dimensionless
creation) at normalized liquid-flow rates smaller than 0.2. There- groups can be proposed at the surging initiation, as shown in Eq. 6:
fore, the initiation of the surging is a transition boundary whose
physical mechanism depends on the liquid-flow rate.
ql q  D 2  g 
There are other boundaries represented in Fig. 8. These bound- = f g3, l , , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (6)
aries correspond to the second and third discontinuities that are D 3
D l l l  2 D 3

320 November 2011 SPE Production & Operations




Normalized Liquid Rate, fraction

0.6 1,500 rev/min 150 psig
1,800 rev/min 150 psig
2,400 rev/min 150 psig

0.4 3,000 rev/min 150 psig

1,500 rev/min 250 psig
1,800 rev/min 250 psig

0.2 2,400 rev/min 250 psig

3,000 rev/min 250 psig

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002
Corrected Normalized Gas Rate, fraction

Fig. 9Experimental surging points.

This equation states that the dimensionless liquid-flow rate at the shown in Fig. 9. The single trend observed in Fig. 9 implies that
surging initiation is related to the dimensionless local gas-flow a unique correlation for corrected normalized gas-flow rate can
rate and three other dimensionless groups associated with the be obtained independently of rotational speed and stage intake
fluid properties. For the sake of consistency, the dimensionless pressure. The estimated values for C1, C2, and C3 are 0.2, 0.4,
groups related to the liquid- and gas-flow rates are replaced by and 1, respectively.
the normalized-gas-flow-rate and the normalized-liquid-flow-rate Using only the experimental data at 2,400 rev/min and 150 psig,
definitions given in Eqs. 3 and 4, respectively. Thus, Eq. 6 can the following correlation is obtained:
be reduced to
qgd = 2.2378 10 1 ln qgd

( )
+ 2.2896 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (11)
 D 2  g 
qld = f qgd , l , , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (7)
    2 D 3
l l l
Replacing the corrected normalized-gas-flow-rate definition
given in Eq. 10 leads to the following correlation:
On the basis of the Buckingham  theorem, one can combine the
dimensionless groups on the right-hand side of Eq. 7 to form a new 
D 2

0.102 exp ( qld )

dimensionless quantity, which is shown in Eq. 8. This new dimen- qgd = g . . . . . . . . . . . (12)

sionless group is named corrected normalized gas-flow rate (qgd ): l

  D 2 This equation allows for determination of the normalized gas-flow

qgd = g l qgd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (8)
l l rate at surging-point initiation as a function of the gas density, liq-
uid density, rotational speed, nominal impeller diameter, kinematic
Observe that the dimensionless group that contains the surface- viscosity, and the normalized liquid-flow rate. The correlation
tension term is omitted in Eq. 8. This is because of the limited set performance at other rotational speeds and stage inlet pressures is
of experimental data where the effect of this group is observed. On presented in Figs. 10 and 11. In these two figures, the experimental
the basis of the corrected normalized gas-flow rate, one can assume surging points are presented for comparison purpose. An average
that the relationship given in Eq. 10 can be simplified as error of 7.58% in the prediction of surging-initiation volumetric
gas fraction is determined for all different rotational speeds. This
( )

qld = f qgd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (9) error can be as large as 10% at higher pressures.
The performance of the developed correlation with respect
When the surging-initiation experimental values are plotted to the intake pressure is presented in Fig. 12. The Turpin (1986)
using the dimensionless groups defined in Eq. 9, a considerable and Dunbar (1989) correlations are plotted in the same figure for
amount of scatter is observed, complicating the formulation of a comparison purposes. The new correlation shows that the critical
correlation. Therefore, a modified form of Eq. 8 is found applying volumetric gas fraction is asymptotic with the increase of intake
a heuristic procedure, which is presented in Eq. 10: pressure, while the Turpin et al. (1986) and Dunbar (1989) cor-
relations predict volumetric gas fraction close to 100% for intake
 D 2 2 C3
pressure greater than 5,000 psig. Thus, the stage has a limited
qgd = g qgd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (10)
l gas-handling capacity even at very high intake pressure. In addi-
tion, the new correlation predicts different critical volumetric gas
The values of coefficients C1, C2, and C3 are such that the fractions depending on the normalized liquid-flow rate, so that
surging-initiation experimental points for the different stage intake the recommended operating windows of the pump stage can be
pressures and rotational speeds collapse into a single curve, as predicted at any pressure.

November 2011 SPE Production & Operations 321

3000 rev/min
2400 rev/min

Critical Volumetric Gas Fraction c , %

20 1800 rev/min
1500 rev/min
New Correlation


0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
Normalized Liquid Rate
Fig. 10Comparison between experimental surging point and model prediction at 150 psig.

Conclusion bubbles flowing through the impeller plays a key role in this
Experimental data presented demonstrate that current models phenomenon.
and correlations predicting the surging in ESPs are not able The surging marks the onset point for the transition between
to capture the effect of rotational speed and liquid-flow rate different operating regimes. Because the operating regimes vary
observed in the experiments. as a function of the liquid-flow rate, the physical mechanism that
The surging always coincides with the pump head breakdown, triggers the transition or the surging also varies.
indicating a change in the pump performance. It always occurs A new correlation based on the regression of the experimental
at a certain critical pressure increment independent of inlet pres- data acquired at 2,400 rev/min and 150 psig is obtained. This
sure, which seems to indicate that the force balance around the correlation fairly predicts the surging at other operating condi-

3000 rev/min
Critical Volumetric Gas Fraction c , %

2400 rev/min
20 1800 rev/min
1500 rev/min


0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
Normalized Liquid Rate, fraction
Fig. 11Comparison between experimental surging point and model prediction at 250 psig.

322 November 2011 SPE Production & Operations

Turpin et al.
30.00 (1986)
Dunbar (1989) Correlation

25.00 New Correlation at qld =0.8

Critical Volumetric Gas Fraction c , %


New Correlation at qld =0.6



New Correlation at qld =0.4

0 200 400 600 800 1,000

Intake Pressure, psig

Fig. 12Predicted intake pressure effect.

tions and captures the effect of rotational speed, intake pressure, Acknowledgments
and liquid-flow rate on the surging. The authors appreciate the technical and financial support of the
Tulsa University Artificial Lift Projects member companies. The
progress in this work is the result of support from Baker-Hughes
Centrilift, Chevron, Eni, Kuwait Oil Company, Pemex, Petrobras,
C = empirical constant Shell International, Total, and Wood Group ESP.
CD = drag coefficient
db_surge = bubble diameter References
D = impeller diameter or outer diameter of blade tip Barrios, L. 2007. Visualization and Modeling of Multiphase Performance
H = head Inside an Electrical Submersible Pump. PhD dissertation, The Univer-
ISS = Estevams surging indicator number sity of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
N = rotational speed Cirilo, R. 1998. Air-Water Flow Through Electric Submersible Pumps. MS
Pi = pump intake pressure thesis, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
q = flow rate Dunbar, C.E. 1989. Determination of Proper Type of Gas Separator. Pre-
sented at the Microcomputer Applications in Artificial Lift Workshop,
qgd = corrected normalized gas flow rate
SPE Los Angeles Basin Section, Los Angeles, California, USA.
r1 = impeller-blade-tip inner radius Duran, J. 2003. Pressure Effects on ESP Stages Air-Water Performance.
p = stage pressure increment MS thesis, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
= predicted two-phase pressure increment Estevam, V. 2002. Uma Anlise Fenomenolgica da Operao de Bomba
 = density difference Centrfuga com Escoamento Bifsico (A Mechanistic Approach on Gas-
C = critical volumetric gas fraction at surging Liquid Flow Centrifugal Pump Performance Prediction). PhD thesis,
 = viscosity Campinas (October 2002).
= kinematic viscosity Gamboa, J. 2009. Prediction of The Transition in Two-Phase Performance
 = dimensionless group of an Electrical Submersible Pump. PhD dissertation, Petroleum Engi-
 = density neering Department, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma (July
 = surface tension
Ishii, M. and Zuber, N. 1979. Drag Coefficient and Relative Velocity in
= rotational Bond number Bubbly, Droplet or Particulate flows. AIChE J. 25 (5): 843855. http://
 = rotational angular speed
Lea, J.F. and Bearden, J.L. 1982. Effect of Gaseous Fluids on Submersible
Subscripts Pump Performance. J Pet Technol 34 (12): 29222930. SPE-9218-PA.
C = critical
Manzano-Ruiz, J. 1980. Experimental and Theoretical Study of Two-Phase
g = gas
Flow. PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cam-
gd = normalized gas-flow rate bridge, Massachusetts.
l = liquid Minemura, K. and Uchiyama, T. 1993. Three-Dimensional Calculation of
l = normalized liquid-flow rate Air-Water Two-Phase Flow in Centrifugal Pump Impeller Based on a
m = mixture Bubbly Flow Model. J. Fluids Eng. 115 (4): 766771. http://dx.doi.
max = maximum pump flow rate or open-valve flow rate org/10.1115/1.2910210.

November 2011 SPE Production & Operations 323

Murakami, M. and Minemura, K. 1974. Effects of Entrained Air on the l
Performance of a Centrifugal Pump: 1st Report, Performance and Flow 3 = ,
l D 2
Conditions. Bulletin of the JSME 17 (110): 10471055.
Pessoa, R. 2001. Experimental Investigation of Two-Phase Flow Perfor- 4 = , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (A-4)
mance of Electrical Submersible Pump Stages. MS thesis, The Univer- l D 2
sity of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Prado, M. 2005. Solid Sphere in Rotating Flow. Note Lecture, The Uni- 
5 = ,
versity of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma. l  2 D 3
Romero, M. 1999. An Evaluation of an Electric Submersible Pumping
System for High GOR Wells. MSc thesis, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, 6 = ,
Oklahoma (August 1999). 2 D
Sachdeva, R. 1990. Two-Phase Flow Through Electric Submersible Pumps.
MS thesis, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma (May 1990). 7 = ,
Turpin, J.L., Lea, J.F., and Bearden, J.L. 1986. Gas-Liquid Through Cen- D 3
trifugal Pumps- Correlation of Data. Proc., Third International Pump q
 8 = g 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (A-5)
Symposium, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA, D
May, 1320.
Zapata, L. 2003. Rotational Speed Effects on ESP Two-Phase Performance.
Group 6 defines a relationship between the centrifugal and the
MS thesis, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma (November
gravitational accelerations. In the range of impeller diameters used
in ESPs, the centrifugal acceleration is always dominant, unless the
rotational speed is reduced below 300 rev/min for a 1-in. impeller
Appendix ADimensionless Analysis diameter or to 136 rev/min for a 5-in. impeller diameter. Both rota-
tional speeds are much lower than the minimum rotational speed used
The dimensionless analysis is conducted on the basis of the Buck- in practice. Therefore, this group is discarded from the analysis.
ingham  theorem. Therefore, it is assumed that The gas viscosity is on the order of O(105), so group 4 does
( )
P = f l ,  g , l ,  g ,  , , g, ql , qg , D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (A-1)
not vary for the type of fluids and operation conditions handled by
ESPs. Thus, this group is also left out from the analysis. The dimen-
sionless groups 5 and 2 change according to the type of fluid.
If l, , and D are taken as independent variables, the following
dimensionless group are obtained: Jose A. Gamboa is post-doctoral research associate for the
Tulsa Artificial Lift Project at The University of Tulsa. He holds
 1 = pl  D ,
a b c
a BS degree in mechanical engineering from Universidad
Metropolitana, an MS degree in mechanical engineering from
Universidad Simon Bolivar, and a PhD degree from The University
 2 =  g l a  b D c , of Tulsa. Gamboa worked for 8 years in different assignments
for the Research and Development Center of Petrleos de
Venezuela, Intevep, in Venezuela. He has recently served as a
 3 = l l a  b D c ,
senior consultant for multiphase system integration. Gamboas
main areas of interest include artificial lift, production optimi-
 4 =  g l a  b D c, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (A-2) zation, sand transport, uncertainty analysis, and multiphase-
flow modeling. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum
Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Mauricio G. Prado is an associate professor in the McDougall
 5 = l a  b D c , School of Petroleum Engineering at The University of Tulsa and
is the director of The University of Tulsa Artificial Lift Projects, an
 6 = gl a  b D c, industrial academic cooperative research consortium formed
in 1983 to conduct research on artificial lift. He joined the
Petroleum Engineering department in 1999. Prado holds a BS
 7 = ql l a  b D c, degree in metallurgical engineering from Instituto Militar de
Engenharia, an MS in petroleum engineering from Universidade
Estadual de Campinas, and a PhD degree from The University
 8 = qg l a  b D c. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (A-3) of Tulsa. Besides his academy experience, Prado has 16 years of
industrial experience, working as a production engineer in the
Solving the equation system, we obtain the following dimension- areas of artificial lift and multiphase flow for Petrobras in Brazil.
less groups: His main areas of interest include artificial lift, production opti-
mization, and multiphase-flow modeling. Prado is a member
p of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the American Society
1 = , of Mechanical Engineers, and the Petroleum Society of the
l  2 D 2 Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum. He has
g authored many peer-reviewed papers and given many presen-
2 = , tations in the area of artificial lift. Prado is currently the chairman
l for the Artificial Lift Technical Interest Group of SPE.

324 November 2011 SPE Production & Operations