While there are different types of pumping units, beam pump systems have been used for well over a century and remain one of the most important and widely used types of rod pumps in the oil and gas industry, serving 21% of all wells in the country.
Beam Pump vs Rod Pump
In the oil and gas industry, pump equipment and rod pumping systems are extremely important to profitability and production. There are a few different types of pumps that may be mentioned. But, did you know the rod pumps and beam pumps are essentially the same thing, or at the very least they refer to the same thing. A beam pump is commonly a part of a rod pump system.
How do Beam Pumps Work?
Basic Components of a Beam Pump
Beam pumps, or sucker rod pumps (srp), operate off a walking beam and are essentially a four bar mechanical linkage, with a sucker rod attached to a “horsehead” at the end of the beam. The four bar mechanical linkage is made up of the crank arm, the pitman, the portion of the walking beam from the equalizer to the center bearing, and the crankshaft.
There are actually a few different beam pump types as well, but the basic components of these machines are relatively the same. All beam pumps contain a prime mover that helps to rotate the crank arm. The beam is attached to a polished rod by a variety of cables hung from the head of the beam. The rod passes through a stuffing box, which is attached to the rod string. The rod string is what moves and enables the downhole pump to capture and lift the fluid, completing the pumping process.
A beam pump essentially functions first with the motor using electrical energy to create rotational motion, which is then transformed into a vertical reciprocating motion at the horsehead. The sucker rod attached to the horsehead follows this vertical motion to drive the pump into the oil well.
Maximizing Profitability with Improved Beam Pump Performance
The Need for Efficiency in Beam Pump Performance
Although there are many advantages to using beam pumps in oil and gas operations, such as their reliability and durability, ease of maintenance, and simplicity in its structure, there are some downfalls of using beam pump units that influence their efficiency. For example, research has shown that the energy consumption of beam pump units can be up to 33% of total operation energy usage, while only reaching an efficiency rating of 30%.
Reducing operating costs and maximizing profitability is important in the oil and gas industry. With current demand and economic conditions, it is important now more than ever for operators to evaluate their pumping systems and determine how to optimize their pumping practices and take action.
How to Improve Beam Pump Performance
1. Beam Pump Design and Installation
The first way actually begins before the beam pump for your operation is developed and installed. Wells cannot “adapt” to pump units, so beam pumps must be designed to meet the correct specifications that result in productivity when pumping a well. This includes taking into account things such as well depth, expected fluid levels and well loads, and desired lift load to make the proper calculations for successful design and implementation.
Although beam pumps have been used successfully for a long time, it is vital to stay up to date on new methods and technologies for designing and operating a beam pumping system. Advancements have been made in design processes, such as using AI software to run calculations and simulations to determine the effectiveness of the pump.
2. Follow Beam Pump Best Practices
There are many recommendations for best practices when operating and maintaining a beam pump unit. First, maintaining high efficiency can be done by eliminating gas interference, controlling run time to allow the use of full pump capacity, and running a pump that matches well-bore inflow.
Consistent analysis of pump performance can help to identify when operational adjustments and modifications can be made and how. This is true for elements such as pumping speed, mechanical and electrical balancing, and meter calibration. It is also possible to identify if there are opportunities for greater production than expected.
3. Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance largely involves understanding the lifetime of the various pieces of equipment/parts involved in the beam pump system and how the well conditions may influence their working condition. Additionally, frequent inspection of equipment conditions can help catch unexpected malfunctions before they occur and cause system down time. Corrosion is one example of something to look out for when planning for maintenance activities.
One approach to predictive maintenance is the use of remote monitors for tracking pressure and flow conditions. By keeping up with current and past trends in data, it is much easier to identify changes in efficiency and equipment performance.
4. Energy Saving Technologies
In recent years, engineers have worked to develop energy saving technologies for pumping units. Some research has focused on the structure of beam pumping units, and the influence of the torque curve of the gearbox and magnitude of the fluctuation ratio has on load impact and motor efficiency. Some of these energy saving technologies include load reducer devices, variable speed drive devices, and lower barbell pumping units.
5. Beam Pump Optimization with Automation
Automated and/or remote beam pump controls, paired with remote monitoring systems, are an ultimate game changer that can increase over-all efficiency and reduce operating costs. In fact, oil wells can be turned into “smart wells” by utilizing such technology.
When automated controls are paired with remote sensors, pumps can be turned on/off automatically in response to well conditions. This can help prevent critical conditions from developing by shutting down systems if an issue is detected. This includes the risk of spills, unexpected rise/fall of pressure, and heightened motor temperature. It can also save energy by turning off pumps on and off routinely.
Remote sensing and automated controls can also help with following best practices. Pump productivity and efficiency can be indicated by the data being tracked, and help inform opportunities to make adjustments that can increase productivity.
With maximizing profitability being a major goal in oil and gas operations, staying up to date on current technology and following best practices can keep your operations efficient and competitive. Beam pumps are the cornerstone of a great number of oil and gas operations, and improved beam pump performance can go a long way.