Exploration and Production Technologies
Stripper Well Consortium Last Reviewed 5/15/2012

Goal 
The goal of the Stripper Well Consortium (SWC) is to enhance the ability of the domestic production industry to keep stripper wells producing at economic production rates in an environmentally safe manner, maximizing the recovery of domestic hydrocarbon resources.

Performer 
The Pennsylvania State University (Energy Institute), University Park, PA 16823

Background 
The United States has more oil and gas wells than any other country. As of December 31, 2004, there were more than half a million producing oil wells in the United States. That is more than three times the combined total for the next three leaders: China, Canada, and Russia. With nearly as many producing natural gas wells, the United States is the worldwide leader in that category as well. However, most of these wells produce relatively small volumes of oil and gas, often on an intermittent and marginally economic basis. Wells that produce 10 barrels of oil or less per day, or 60 thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas or less are commonly called “stripper” wells. The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), which reports the annual status of U.S. stripper wells, recorded 394,016 stripper oil wells producing an average of 1.9 barrels of oil per day, and 326,750 stripper natural gas wells producing an average of 19.3 Mcf per day, as of January 1, 2010.

The number of producing stripper wells changes depending on how many wells enter the ranks (by declining in production) and leave the ranks (by increasing production or being plugged and abandoned) each year. The United States’ stripper oil well population has been gradually declining over the past decade. Although a net of about 8,000 aging oil wells drop to stripper status each year, roughly another 14,000 are plugged and abandoned, leaving a net reduction in the oil well total of about 6,000 wells per year. At the same time, a net of nearly 14,000 gas wells per year, on average, have dropped to stripper well status over the past decade (about 17,000 per year during 2000 – 2003). Roughly 3,000 – 4,000 stripper gas wells are plugged and abandoned in the United States each year on average, resulting in an average net increase in the stripper gas well population over the past decade of about 10,000 wells per year.

The SWC is a partnership that includes domestic oil and gas producers, service and supply companies, trade associations, academia, the Department of Energy’s Strategic Center for Natural Gas and Oil (SCNGO) at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Leadership and active industrial participation are essential to making the SWC a success. The SWC has a constitution and bylaws, and each SWC member appoints one representative to a Technical Advisory Committee. The Technical Advisory Committee is responsible for steering the technical direction of the consortium and for electing a seven-member Executive Council. The Executive Council is responsible for selecting from solicited proposals, the research projects to be funded.

Research is conducted in three broad areas identified as key challenges to stripper well productivity: reservoir remediation, wellbore clean-up, and surface system optimization. Research outside of these three areas may be considered pending approval of the program sponsors. Specific research projects are developed by the membership using a standardized proposal template. Proposal submission is limited to full members of the consortium and collaboration among full members is encouraged. Projects are funded on an annual basis. Project participants must contribute at least 30 percent of the cost of each project in the form of cash or in-kind support.

Of the current total of 65 members, more than 80 percent are companies within the domestic industry, split roughly between producers and service/supply companies.

Each year, the SWC holds two open technology transfer workshops where the results of the research are presented to the industry. The SWC also publishes a newsletter on its website and highlights specific projects in other DOE publications. A complete listing and abstracts for all of the funded projects, as well as other SWC information, are available online at http://www.energy.psu.edu/swc [external site].

Impact
Stripper wells contribute to the economy by supporting employment in smaller communities throughout the United States, and by helping to avoid an even greater transfer of American wealth overseas in return for imported oil. Because most stripper wells are operated by small companies in communities far from major cities, the economic benefits from stripper production remain focused at the regional or local level. The IOGCC estimates that for every $1 of stripper oil or gas production, $1.01734 of economic activity is created. About 10 American jobs are dependent on each million dollars of stripper production.

One way to look at the economic impact of stripper wells is to calculate the loss to the economy when stripper wells are plugged and abandoned. For example, roughly 160,000 jobs are dependent on stripper well production. If the U.S. had to import all of the oil and gas currently provided by stripper wells, it would cost Americans nearly $45 million each day. The loss of severance tax revenue from stripper wells plugged in 2003 cost producing states more than $19 million dollars. If all stripper wells were to be plugged, the states would lose nearly $700 million in annual revenue.

The Stripper Well Consortium (SWC) develops low-cost technologies that help keep these stripper wells operating. The benefit to the rural areas where stripper well production plays an important economic role will be job creation and enhanced economic growth. The benefit to the larger citizenry will be reduced oil and gas imports.

Accomplishments 
The Stripper Well Consortium (SWC) has been active since 2001, funding between 9 and 14 projects per year. A total of 91 projects have received cost-share funding under the SWC program. This project summary focuses on work completed since May 2004. Some of the technologies that have been successfully developed by the SWC include:

  • A gas-operated automatic plunger lift tool to remove fluids from stripper wells that operates automatically, has low maintenance and service requirements, and requires no external energy source and limited manpower to operate
  • A revolutionary tool for removing liquids from gas wells and gathering lines that operates by accelerating the velocity of flowing water and reducing pressure drops
  • A new type of electric submersible pump (which has proven to be tolerant of fines and highly efficient) based on a hydraulic driven diaphragm, resulting in reduced electric costs
  • A novel type of variable capacity compressor/pump for low productivity gas production operations that is substantially smaller and lighter than existing products on the market
  • A low-cost, real-time wireless gauge that can be used in both permanent and service applications
  • A pumper/well tender PDA software program
  • A simple, economical chemical delivery system that reduces wellbore corrosion and lowers maintenance costs
  • A low-cost control box which optimizes production
  • A low-cost soil amendment technology for remediation and re-vegetation of brine contaminated soils
  • A pumper/well tender Smartphone software program

Technology transfer is very important ot th success of this project. The SWC has published a brochure, "Keeping the Home Wells Flowing: Helping Small Independent Oil and Gas Producers Develop New Technology Solutions,” that highlights the importance of stripper wells and the role they play in helping to meet the nation’s energy demand. They have also developed a Public Broadcasting program, “Independent Oil: Rediscovering Americas Forgotten Wells,” which presents a similar message. Both of these products have been widely distributed.

Since May 2004 the SWC has completed a number of tasks:

  • In May 2004 the SWC reviewed nineteen proposals and committed $1.0 million to co-fund ten projects.
  • In March 2005 the SWC reviewed seventeen proposals and committed $1.55 million to co-fund thirteen projects (six projects for full funding and seven projects for partial funding).
  • In April 2006, the SWC reviewed eighteen projects and committed $1.24 million to co-fund nine projects.
  • In May 2007, the SWC reviewed fifteen projects and committed $1.16 million to co-fund ten projects (nine projects for full funding and one project for partial funding).
  • In April 2008, the SWC reviewed twenty projects and committed $833,840 to co-fund eight projects.
  • In September 2008, the SWC reviewed twelve projects and committed $722,276 to co-fund six projects.
  • In July 2009, the SWC reviewed twelve projects and committed $650,589 to co-fund five projects.
  • In June 2010, the SWC reviewed nineteen projects and committed $904,485 to co-fund eleven projects.
  • The SWC constitution and bylaws were revised to include a new membership group: Supporting Members. These members do not pay an annual fee, but pay a registration fee for each meeting they attend and can submit proposals.
  • Two Technology Transfer meetings were held in the fall of 2004. The first meeting was held in conjunction with the 2004 Oklahoma Oil and Gas Trade Expo on October 26, 2004 in Oklahoma City, OK. The SWC rented twelve booths for consortium projects and also made eight presentations at the meeting. The Expo was attended by over 1200 people. The second meeting was held November 17, 2004 in State College, PA, during which eleven projects were presented to over forty attendees. Two additional Technology Transfer meetings were held in the fall of 2005. The first meeting was held in Warren, PA on October 18. The second meeting was held in Midland, TX on Oct. 27. Both meetings were attended by about forty people and results from ten projects were presented.
  • The SWC held two technology transfer workshops in the fall of 2005. The first was held October 17, 2005 in Warren, PA. There were thirty-five attendees at the meeting where nine presentations were given on existing projects. The "Independent Oil" DVD was also shown to the attendees. The second meeting was held October 27, 2005 in Midland, TX, and there were forty attendees. Once again, results from nine projects were presented as well as the DVD.
  • Two Technology Transfer Meetings were held in the fall of 2006 to disseminate project results. The first meeting was held on October 26, 2006 in conjunction with the 2006 Oklahoma Trade Expo in Oklahoma City, OK. The SWC rented ten booths at the expo where nine projects resulting in new technologies were displayed by SWC. The second meeting was held Nov. 9 in Pittsburgh, PA. This meeting was held in conjunction with the Gas Storage Technology Consortium tech transfer meeting which was held on Nov. 8.
  • The SWC organized and hosted an open house and field tour of the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center in Casper, WY, on August 20, 2007. Forty-six people attended the tour and meeting.
  • Two technology transfer meetings were held in the fall of 2007 to disseminate project results. The first meeting was held on September 20, 2007 in Roanoke, WV. Thirty people attended the meeting featuring technology updates from eight of the 2006 and 2007 projects. A special session entitled “Opportunity meets Potential” was conducted and invited speakers that were not funded by the SWC, but have contacted the SWC administration to inquire about funding, were included. The second meeting was held in Wichita, KS on October 30, 2007. This meeting offered technology updates from eleven 2005, 2006, and 2007 projects. Prior to the start of the general meeting, the Kansas Geological Survey and American Energies Inc. conducted a field trip to the Micro-scale N2 rejection plant being built at Elmdale field, Chase County, Kansas. The SWC also participated and exhibited at the 2007 Oklahoma Oil and Gas Trade Expo, Oklahoma City, OK on October 18, 2007 to highlight projects and achievements, attract new members, and introduce the SWC to attendees.
  • Two technology transfer meetings were held in the fall of 2008 to disseminate project results. The SWC participated in the 90th Annual POGAM Meeting and Tradeshow, in Erie, PA on September 9-10, 2008. The SWC showcased technology findings from nine current projects, and maintained an SWC informational booth. Over 450 people attended the 100+ exhibit booths and special sessions. The SWC presented eight projects to showcase their technology as part of the 2008 Oklahoma Oil and Gas Trade Expo, in Oklahoma City, OK on October 16, 2008. The show featured 225 booths and was attended by over 2000 people.
  • The SWC published a brochure, "Keeping the Home Wells Flowing: Helping Small Independent Oil and Gas Producers Develop New Technology Solutions". The publication highlights the importance of stripper wells and the role they play in helping to meet the nation’s energy demand. Also included were twelve case histories of technologies developed through the SWC. The brochure is available from the SWC and is free upon request, either through its website at http://www.energy.psu.edu/swc [external site], or by phone at 814-865-4802. The brochure will also be distributed at various industry meetings.
  • The SWC developed a Public Broadcasting program, “Independent Oil: Rediscovering America’s Forgotten Wells,” which highlights the importance of stripper wells. The DVD includes a twenty-six-minute public program and a twenty-minute section on technologies developed through the consortium. The DVD is available free upon request.
  • The SWC contributed a technology section to the 2008 IOGCC Marginal Wells Report.
  • The SWC held its 2009 Fall Technology Transfer Meeting on December 15, 2009 in State College, PA. Updates on eleven ongoing projects, several nearing completion, were provided to approximately thirty-five attendees. Technologies covered by the projects included remediation of brine contaminated soil, pumps to control boxes, and green energy use at the well site.
  • The SWC provided multiple speakers for three PTTC workshops in August 2010 that focused on technologies for mature fields.
  • The SWC held its 2011 Spring Meeting on May 23, 2011 in Seven Springs, PA. Results of 8 projects were presented to the 26 attendees.
  • • The SWC held its 2011 Year End Project Review Meeting on December 14, 2011 in Pittsburg, PA. The results of 6 projects were presented to 20 attendees.

Current Status (May 2012) 
The project is complete and all R&D projects funded under this agreement have been completed. PSU is in the process of writing their final report and closing out each subcontract. The SWC is continuing under agreement DE-FE0003616, which runs through 2016. Details and results from the projects funded through the SWC can be found on the SWC website [external site].

Project Start: May 1, 2004 
Project End: December 1, 2011

DOE Contribution: $7,116,000
Performer Contribution: $1,779,000

Contact Information:
NETL – Gary Covatch (gary.covatch@netl.doe.gov or 304-285-4589)
PSU – Joel Morrison (jlm9@psu.edu or 814-865-4802)

Additional Information:

“Keeping the Home Wells Flowing” brochure available upon request at http://www.energy.psu.edu/swc

“Independent Oil: Rediscovering America’s Forgotten Wells” video available upon request

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