Well Site – Soap Sticks

Equation 5 implies that the lower the density of the liquid accumulating in the tubing, the lower the entrainment velocity. This means that less gas flow is required to keep a well unloaded of liquids, when the liquid density is reduced. Addition of soap sticks to a well is a simple method to reduce the density of liquids in the tubing. Adding soap sticks achieves this objective by causing the water to turn to froth. The soap sticks are approximately 18 in. long by 1 1/2 in. in diameter and consist simply of soap. They are dropped down the well by placing them into the wellhead tree between the two master valves on the vertical section of the tree. A typical rate of soap-stick addition is two sticks every four days.

Two different types of soap sticks are available: A hydrocarbon soluble stick for removing naphtha-i.e., natural gas condensate from the tubing and a corresponding water-soluble stick. Using both types in conjunction is often an effective means of stimulating gas flow. Note: Hydrocarbon-soluble sticks may create an emulsion in the naphtha that may subsequently have to be chemically treated in order to sell the condensate.

Improper and excessive use of soap sticks can damage the gas bearing sand formation. Dropping sticks into a shut-in well and permitting the soapy solution to permeate back through the perforations in the casing should be avoided. Also, the froth carried out of a well after soap sticking may over-load the high pressure separator and result in the entrainment of liquid to down stream equipment. This can be an especially troublesome problem when compressors are located downstream of wells being soap sticked.

Often the most cost effective method to unload wells is to increase the velocity of gas flowing through the tubing by reducing the wellhead pressure. For example, if the wellhead pressure is reduced from 315 psig (i.e. 330 psig) down to 150 psig (i.e. 165 psig), the velocity in the tubing string will double. However, according to Equation 5. VE, the entrainment velocity, will also increase by 41%. This occurs because halving the pressure also halves Pv, the vapor density, and this increases VE by the [math]sqrt{2}[/math] The sum of these effects is to reduce the SCFD of natural gas required to exceed the entrainment velocity by 30%, when the wellhead pressure is halved. The most cost effective method to cut the wellhead pressure is to install a small, reciprocating, gas engine driven compressor at the well-site down stream of the high pressure separator.

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