The ESP system is an important artificial lift method commonly used for medium- to high-flow-rate wells for subsea developments. Multiphase flow and viscous fluids can cause severe problems in pump applications. Free gas inside an ESP causes operational problems and lead to system failures. Under two-phase flow conditions, loss of pump performance or gas lock condition can be observed. Under viscous fluids, the pump performance degrades as well. This paper provides a model on the effects of viscosity and two phase (liquid & gas) fluids on electric submersible pumps (ESPs), which are multistage centrifugal pumps for deep boreholes. The theoretical study includes a mechanistic model based on Barrios (2011) for the prediction of the degradation due to bubble accumulation. The model comprises a one-dimensional force balance to predict occurrence of the stagnant bubbles at the channel intake as a main cause of deviation from homogeneus flow model.

The testing at Shell's Gasmer facility revealed that the ESP system performed as theoretical over the range of single flowrates and light viscosity oils up to Gas Volume Fractions (GVF) around 25%. ESP performance observed gas lock condition at gas fraction higher than 45%. Homogeneous Model has a fairly good agreement with pump performance up to 30% GVF. Pump flowrate can be obtained from electrical current and boost for all range of GVF and speed. Correlation depends strongly in fluid viscosity and pump configuration.

The main technical contributions of this study are the determination of flow patterns under two important variables, high viscosity and two-phase flow inside the ESP to predict operational conditions that cause pump head degradation and the beginning of bubble accumulation that lead to surging Barrios (2011). For similar applications, pump performance degradation can be predicted in viscous environment and two-phase flow conditions.

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