Corbin Coyes, TangentFlow Inc.
To increase recovery rates – the greatest challenge facing the industry – operators must not only look to step-change technologies, but improvements to existing technology. Even incremental increases in recovery rates can impact economics when multiplied across numerous wells. For example, approximately two-thirds of onshore wells use beam operated pump jacks with reciprocating rod pumps. Our objective was to improve the efficiency and reliability of sucker pumps by engineering a new ball valve insert. Prototype testing demonstrated that the lowest pressure drop was provided by an insert design with the tangent angle equal to Pi (3.14, π), as it forced the fluid into a vortex spin. Based on a number of flow rates (including two phase flow) the TangentFlow Insert decreased pressure drop by 40% on average resulting in 58% more flow than the bar-bottom inserts. In addition, compared to the bar-bottom inserts, which produced significant ball chatter, the TangentFlow Insert had a consistently low decibel reading with increasing flow rates, as the ball remained stationary. This results in reduced gas breakout, which in turn further reduces pressure drop, fluid pound and pump damage. One-year field results from 50 wells in the Red River reservoir of Montana and North Dakota demonstrate that the TangentFlow Insert reduced pressure drop across both the standing and traveling valves to increase average surface flow by 8%. Considering the average water to oil ratio in the area, this provides an additional 3.1 bbl/day/well. This increase applied over 50 wells translates to approximately 54,603 bbl/year, or $3.33MM in revenue at current oil prices. The design of the TangentFlow Insert improves the efficiency and reliability of sucker rod pumps by minimizing the effects of pressure drop, gas breakout, solids accumulation (wax), casing wear and ball wear, which together improve pump efficiency and production flow. Because the design enables the ball to remain stationary, smaller and lighter balls can be used, allowing for higher flowback solids and reduced cage wear, respectively. The TangentFlow Insert is manufactured to replace conventional bar-bottom inserts without needing to change out the entire pump assembly, making them applicable to 90% of pumps presently used in the industry.