Artificial Lift - Thermal

Brian Wagg, reviews the challenges of using artificial lift for SAGD in the Canadian Oilsands. 

Featured in the March 2015 issue of Oilfield Technology.

The RLX database enables users to capture:

  • Well and Field Data
  • Equipment Data
  • Runtime Data
  • Production Data
  • Fluid and Reservoir Data
  • Failure Data

The software database is specifically designed for capturing artificial lift equipment run-life data.

Specialized database

The Industry Challenge:

Thermal recovery techniques, like Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD), are now very common in Western Canada.  Over the last 20 years, thermal operators have gained access to specialized technology and best-practices that make it possible to produce under these very challenging conditions.  Despite these advances, there are still some major challenges associated with the Artificial Lift (AL) systems tasked with pumping fluids to surface. 

  • The presence of a depleted or...

The Industry Challenge

Operators need to understand the influence of wear on the performance and volumetric efficiency of Artificial Lift (AL) systems.  More than that, they need to understand the relationship between wear and cost, where sometimes spending more money on exotic materials is not the best approach. 

They also want to test technology in the lab, and not in the field where learning is much more expensive.  This is best accomplished with a full-scale laboratory apparatus that’s...

C-FER designed and built a multiphase flow loop capable of testing artificial lift systems under high-GVF conditions.

This flow loop is unique in its ability to handle tests with water, air, and live steam (or combinations thereof) at high temperatures and pressures. It also allows for temperature and pressure monitoring via specialized high-resolution instrumentation at each pump stage.

Previous experimental work at C-FER illustrated some fundamental differences in pump behavior when different...

The High Temperature Flow Loop is used to carefully test the performance of downhole pumping systems over a range of operating temperatures, pressures, flowrates and gas/liquid ratios. 

This custom loop includes an 90 ft long, 244.5 mm OD (9 5/8", 40 lb/ft), casing section that’s orientated at 3° off horizontal to mimic a “typical” SAGD production well where the AL system can be positioned. 

Over the years the C-FER flow loop has been upgraded numerous times, and used to independently test the...


Centrifugal pumps are known to show a surging behavior; at certain conditions of free gas and liquid flow rate at the intake. In the surging region on a pump characteristic curve, the head generated is significantly lower than if the pump was handling gas-liquid bubbly mixture. The surging happens due to the existence of an elongated bubble; at the inlet region of the pump impeller. The existence of this elongated bubble at the rotor entrance has dramatic effects on the energy transfer...


ConocoPhillips has been on a quest to find a high volume artificial lift system that will operate reliably in a 250°C (482oF) downhole environment, which exists in certain SAGD applications. This presented two problems: 1) there were no commercially available technologies for such a high temperature; and 2) there were no facilities capable of testing these systems.

This paper describes the complexity of building and operating a high temperature flow loop rated for 250°C, and the...


ConocoPhillips has been on a quest for a high-volume artificial lift system that will operate reliably in a 250°C (482°F) downhole environment. This paper will describe the testing and results of a high-temperature electric submersible pump (ESP) system in a flow loop built to validate downhole equipment for thermal applications, primarily for steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) developments. What makes this test program unique from previous tests is the longer duration (4+ weeks),...


When performing statistical analyses on PCP run-life data, one can easily reach incorrect conclusions if subtle but important issues are not fully understood.  This paper illustrates some of these issues using examples from analysis work conducted recently with a relatively large and complete set of data collected from several large operators.  Issues examined include misinterpretation of single-variable correlation results and run-life measures.  It is impractical to design and...