The well discussed in this paper has a history of sand production and has exhibit long cyclic slugging behavior with a frequency of several days and reduced average production. The lower completion has a 2000-ft gap between the mule shoe and the packer that is exposed to the larger diameter of 7-in. liner. It is not fully understood whether the slugging is caused by the gap at the lower completion or by sand transportation or both.
Dynamic wellbore modelling with sand particle transport is essential to model the abovementioned complex slugging behavior. A stepwise approach was adopted to allow systematic evaluation of this complex slugging phenomenon. Initially, a lumped inflow with no sand transportation was assumed. In the next stage, sand transportation was included with zonal inflow details added. Several sensitivities on sand particle sizes, particle density, zonal productivity index, etc. were carried out, all of which were aimed at reproducing the long cyclic slugging behavior observed in the field.
Transient simulations successfully produced the slugging behavior observed in the field. Cyclic slugging was seen to be caused by the flow dynamics generated by particles of small to medium size. Some of the key findings were complete blockage by porous sand stationary bed at the lower completion gap (with subsequent pressure buildup), transition from stationary bed to moving bed, rate-dependent velocity of a slow-moving particle bed (eventually producing to surface), and fresh sand particle production from the reservoir at increased drawdown. Measured data from the sand detector confirmed the production of sand, particularly around the same period as predicted by simulation.
Potential slug mitigation solutions were established that should help to achieve higher and stable production. One solution was to achieve higher flow velocity and therefore enable sand transportation as a continuous moving bed (i.e., no blockage), such as reducing the gap size at the lower completion section together with either tubing size reduction or electric submersible pump (ESP) installation. The other solution was to implement an appropriate sand control/sand consolidation method.
Sand production is a common flow assurance issue and sometimes can result in unstable flow behavior causing reduced production. This work is the first attempt to implement particle transport modelling in transient multiphase flow simulation to successfully address a slugging issue in a real well. The analysis helped in understanding the mechanism causing the slugging and arriving at a potential mitigation solution. Further, it provides a step-by-step workflow and a template to address such problems.