Friction Reduction in Sucker Rod Pumping Systems


Mark Turland, Western Falcon Energy Services

This presentation will explore and discuss technology and operational factors that will reduce downhole friction in sucker rod pumping systems resulting in fewer failures and lowering Lease Operating Expenses (LOE) and Workover (W/O) costs. 

Sucker rod pumping systems (SRPS) are the most common form of artificial lift used around the world, the 2019 report from Kimberlite International Oilfield Research shows a worldwide dominance of Rod Lift systems with 34% versus Gas Lift at 24% market share. In the United States, the Rod Lift system share even climbs to 47%, with 66% market share for secondary installs. 

Energy (HP) is applied at the surface usually via an electric motor, through a pumping unit into a sucker rod string and down to the pump, where the mechanical action of the pump displaces well fluid to the surface. Unfortunately, by the time the energy that was applied at the surface reaches the pump, friction would have consumed the majority of it in various “energy loss” forms.  

Downhole friction in SRPS is a combination of rod-tubing drag and fluid friction, rod-tubing drag friction is the main cause of HP losses and downhole wear. Friction, drag, HP losses and wear are all amplified considerably in deviated and directionally drilled wells. The drag friction related wear exacerbates the downhole erosion/corrosion, which is a major contributor to many sucker rod, pump and tubing failures. Reducing friction has a positive effect on all SRPS components; all monitored critical parameters in the system improve as friction is reduced.  

In most fields, the monthly electric bill is the single largest reoccurring LOE. Therefore, innovative technologies that can be utilized to reduce friction in SRPS will have an immediate positive effect on LOE, profits and ultimately oil reserves.