Considerations For Liquid Measurement In Production Applications

Author: Joey Raskie

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With the proliferation of horizontal drilling allowing access to tight oil formations, liquid production in the U.S. has significantly increased over recent years. Consequently, there is renewed interest in accurate measurements for both custody transfer and allocation purposes. Advances in measurement automation have yielded operators’ savings in the millions of dollars annually.

Over the last several years, the increase of shale play drilling has created a problem within the industry. Most of the shale plays have been developed in primarily natural gas production areas, where a lack of liquids measurement knowledge may exist. While there certainly are knowledgeable people in these areas, measurement personnel can be spread thin due to the many active drill sites. Both allocation measurement and custody transfer measurement occur in these areas, so measurement personnel must be well versed on both. Typical questions that come up are: What is the right technology to use in each of the areas of measurement? Should I use turbine meters, Coriolis meters, or maybe just orifice meters? What data do I need to get back to my host system? Should I just count barrels or do I want to get some real insight into the process?

In years past, most people just wanted to know how many barrels they produced into their knockout pots. Sometimes they did not even care about that, as that was just a bi-product of what they really wanted to measure – GAS! With the shale plays producing hydrocarbon liquids that are very high in energy value (BTU content) yet very light, these liquids have become much more valuable, especially since the quantities have increased from 10-15 barrels per day up to 1,000-3,000 barrels per day. At its highest point, oil was selling at about $120 per barrel, so how important is it to measure that oil accurately? In my estimation, it is very critical not only to measure the product accurately, but also, to make sure the equipment used to measure the product is always working properly.