It's amazing who you meet on the airplane and the things you talk about, isn't it?
Flying home and happened to sit next to a senior engineer with a major Houston based engineering contractor. Seems they've recently been contracted by a major operator with a production operating agreeement in Brazil. His engineering company is to provide project management and engineering/testing supervision and approvals for a significant ESP contract award with one of the Big 3 ESP manufacturers in Oklahoma.
He is one of the engineers and inspectors to oversee a first article Sub Sea pump system, with one of those 1500 hp esp motors. This is known to be state of the art for the ESP industry in terms of motor horsepower ( and getting rid of all that heat), thrust handling (those big pumps create lots of thrust- that cycles too ), stage design, and coating systems, and all the other engineering issues you would see in a subsea application.
Anyway, we all know about first articles, and that's the way progress happens. First articles are always exciting and full of new problems to solve.
But our conversation was not
about the subsea environment, nor the efficacy of a 1500 hp motor, fluid characteristics, VSD drive systems, starting characterisitics for high HP applications, gas handling, emulsification issues, abrasives, pump curve operating limits, thrust concern / bearing systems, and or any other of the various subjects and quandries that ESP engineers commonly discuss.
It was about standards. And testing. And specifications.
It seems that the ESP industry and API haven't done much since the first draft of API RP11 was being negotiated by oil & gas operators and esp manufacturers back in the mid - 1980's.
And has anything changed in the esp industry since 1985 ?
I think so. Things have changed a lot. But not much with API Standards.
Which makes you wonder? Are operators asleep at the wheel? And do operators understand the financial and operating consequences?
This engineer was lamenting how there's not much substance to the testing standard in terms of inspection in API RP11S2. In fact, it's void of most anything.
The entire recommended practice is exactly 12 pages. The first 5 pages are title pages, outline, forward, special notes - in other words empty pages. The last page (page 12) is nothing more than an API logo, and an order number G11S22 to make it real easy to say what you want when you call API to order it.
What's in between, is ... well , - who remembers the classic Wendy's hamburger advertisement by the cranky old lady - she exclaimed. " WHERE'S THE MEAT?!?"
My new found engineering buddy on the flight was flabbergasted! Never before in his career had he ever seen anything like this. Had the manufacturing industry been pulling the wool over API's eyes and also been able to blind the oil & gas operators?
In reviewing all the subclasses 1,2,3,4,5,6 of API RP11S relating to the ESP, there's really very little pump material, manufacturing tolerance, and testing standards with tolerances that have normal rotating equipment performance metrics.
We're talking about a subsea application, a multi billion dollar project with very high visibility, and significant intervention costs and of course, billions of dollars of revenue stream, ... and the pumps to produce the oil have
API RP11S2 AS THE TESTING INSPECTION STANDARD ! OUCH! Could anything less comprehensive as an inspection standard be imagined!
I had to concur. Anybody who knows anything about esp's and their performance characteristics through the years knows what the backgrounder is about this.
He pulled his copy of API RP11s2, and I've got to say our conversation became quite interesting and rarified from there on. Made the flight go by fast, and I just hope we did not bore the passengers around us too much.
So what does the standard comprise?
After some definitions of terms and a review of simple hydraulics and the affinity laws, etc, you get down to 4.9 that talks about instrumentation accuracy during testing. By the way, it really made us wonder how the esp manufacturers promote all this great accuracy for their new down hole monitoring gauges, but the flow and pressure accuracy during testing at the factory are far more lenient with wider tolerance ranges, than all that new equipment can measure downhole? See an extract of API RP11S2 below. Hmmm, got to think what's up with that one! That's a wake up call, isn't it?
And the real meat ... ahem ... the real meat TEST CERTIFICATION in Section 5, well, - that really tells the story! Better set the alarm clock with both the radio and buzzer set for high.
Pump test acceptance levels of :
Head - flow rate plus/minus 5% head AND plus / minus 5% flow rate. OUCH!
BHP - flowrate - a whopping plus / minus 8 % allowance !!!
Pump efficiency - flow rate - get this, who would believe it in today's world - 90% of efficiency at rated flow!!!
Operators, do you know what all the above parameters translate to in terms of pump performance, for a 1500 hp system?
Extract from API RP11S2
But you know what, after that, - the rest of the standard was just a pump curve example and two charts showing acceptance level bands on a sample curve.
How was he supposed to provide acceptance based on this loose and empty standard ?
And most important, wasn't approval rather insignificant since there is so much latitude for performance misses? In addition, how could the operator possibly accept such wide margins of non compliance for pump and power efficiency performance? The performance standards of a pump specification like API 610 are the norm, and why should ESP pumps be able to get away with so much less?
Flight attendents came by to make sure seats were in the upright position and prepare for landing.
We hurriedly jotted down notes and an outline of what the API standards should contain, and promised to meet up again and see what can be done.
Before sharing our outline and suggestions for a real inspection standard, what do you
think about the current standard? Does it need to be revised? What changes would you
How about posting your thoughts. Or give me a call, or send me an email. Let's do something about it.
Until next time,
my email is : dpdavidson at gmail.com