Plunger Lift Technology on Gas Wells

When looking at wells we began to notice that some had additions to the wellhead that others did not. There was a tubular device at the top of the wellhead with welded grips, often the device was painted blue. Next to the wellhead there was a mast with a small solar panel on top, a closed box that appeared to be a meter of some sort, and tubes going from the box to various parts of the wellhead.

What we were seeing were the outward aspects of a device called a plunger lift which existed in the well and was used to move produced water and other fluids up through the tubing where they would be diverted to the tank.

This is a typical wellhead with the exterior plunger lift apparatus. This photo was taken in 2008 at 47-039-05714.

Note the mast with small solar panel, enclosed control box, and tubing and the blue tubular device on the top of the well's Christmas tree. We have seen other wells which also appear to use plunger lift technology but without the mast with solar planel and control box (for example, 47-079-01155) or with the solar panel and control box without a mast (for example 47-039-05772).

Here's a video which explains how a plunger device works.

And here's a paper produced by the EPA encouraging use of plunger lift technology along with a brochure created by a company to explain the technology.

In January 2015 we photographed a rig set up at 47-039-02026. The crew had pulled more than 5000 feet of narrow diameter tubing from the larger production casing.

A temporary wellhead was created with natural gas going directly to the nearby separator.

The tubing was set on thick black plastic surrounded by straw bales. More black plastic surrounded the wellhead and was laid alongside the truck.

Parts of the wellhead's Christmas tree plumbing were laid on the bank of the tank's secondary containment. The mast lies nearby.

This is what the wellhead with Christmas tree and mast normally looked like in 2008.

The well's casing head.

The steel tubing has threaded joints. The pieces are stacked so that the male threads won't be damaged. The female threads are set within a collar.

We are not sure exactly how the lowest portions of tubing were configured. There was a threaded section called a packer which sealed off the annulus above the packer between the tubing and production casing. Below the packer a short section of tubing is attached called a shoe. This short section lay behind the elevated piece of tubing.

Laid out on a shelf on the rig were parts of the plunger lift and packer. The plunger lift parts are to the right. A large spring upon which the plunger rests when it returns to the bottom of the well lies to the left of the plunger itself. The packer is a mechanical device with expandable wedges that when extended seal the annulus. These wedges are lying in the center of the photo.

To work on this well the crew had to spend at least a day releasing the packer, and pulling up and unscrewing the tubing a piece at time. The well's 1965 completion report shows how deep the tubing went within the production casing (5082 feet).

All the natural gas wells we have seen which have storage tanks for produced fluid have that fluid delivered to the tank by natural gas under pressure (including during plunger lift operation if used at the well). These storage tanks all vent directly to the atmosphere. Methane gas, much more than other forms of carbon emissions, is a powerful agent contributing to global climate change.



Gas Well Site Visits

Examining Well Sites
How We Examined Well Sites
Environmental Assessment

Table with Links to Wells Visited

47-039-05714 Environmental Assessment
47-079-01492 Environmental Assessment
47-039-02026 Environmental Assessment

2013 Gas Well Workshop

The Details

Plunger Lift Technology on Gas Wells
Fluids Brought to the Surface during Production
Plugging a Well
How To Read a Lab Report
Information the Completion Report Provides
Casing and Cementing

Gas Well Study is the examination of natural gas wells in West Virginia.

Underground Injection Control Class 2 Wells
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Gas Well Study Site Visits
Annual reports, environmental assessments, and individual well information.

YouTube Videos
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