Hydrate Mitigation and Flare Reduction Using Intermittent Gas Lift in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria

Aoun, Ala Eddine (Sonatrach) | Maougal, Faouzi (Sonatrach) | Kabour, Lahcene (Sonatrach) | Liao, Tony (Halliburton) | AbdallahElhadj, Brahim (Halliburton) | Behaz, Sabrina (Halliburton)



Hassi Messaoud (HMD) is a mature oil field with approximately 1100 production wells. About half of the wells are natural flow and the other half are continuously gas lifted (CGL) with concentric (CCE) strings. CCE gas lift is different from conventional gas lift as the lift gas is injected in the well through the CCE string while production is from the annulus between the CCE string and the tubing. The typical production tubing size is 4 ½". The sizes of the CCE strings include 1.315", 1.66", and 1.9". The 1.66" CCE is most commonly used in gas lift wells. The typical gas lift injection line on the surface is 2" from the gas network to the wellhead. A choke is used on the gas lift line to control the lift gas injected into each well. As the injection gas pressure is high from the source of available lift gas, large pressure drops across the lift gas injection chokes exist in some wells. Due to the Joule-Thompson effects, a big temperature drop is associated with the large pressure drop across the lift gas injection choke. This temperature drop can result in hydrate formation in the lift gas line downstream of the gas lift choke. Hydrate formation in the gas injection lines, especially in winter has seriously disrupted production due to plugging of lift gas lines.

Salt deposition is a big challenge in Hassi Messaoud field operation. The reservoir interstitial water contains high salt concentration in excess of 300 g/l. During well production, salt deposits in the wellbore and across the production choke. Periodically, water is required to be injected into the well to dissolve the salt and restore well productivity. A CCE string allows water to be injected into the wellbore either concurrently with injection lift gas or separately by itself for a specific period of time.

High volumes of lift gas are injected in many wells due to the lack of effective control in the lift gas injection rates. The excessive gas from lift gas injection and production in the system can lead to the need to flare occasionally when the facility gas capacity limit is exceeded.

In order to reduce the usage of the high volume of lift gas, Intermittent Gas Lift (IGL) was selected in a pilot project to evaluate its applicability in the Hassi Messaoud field.

Three CGL wells were selected for this pilot project. The selected wells are characterized by high GOR, low PI and without continuous concurrent water injection (with lift gas) to dissolve salt deposited down-hole.

IGL operation parameters were designed by using modified empirical correlations to those presented in the API Recommended Practice for Intermittent Gas Lift. The modifications were suited for the operating conditions in Hassi Messaoud Field. Static and dynamic well and network models were created to simulate the field test results and guide new designs and future applications.

This paper presents the pilot test programs and the results from this project in mitigating both the excessive lift gas injection problem and injection line blockage due to hydrate by converting certain CGL wells to IGL. It also highlights the application conditions for the future. Finally, the plan for the expanded application of IGL in Hassi Messaoud is discussed.