Plunger lift use rises in Permian Basin as producers cut costs

Plunger lift offers lower capital and operating costs for Permian Basin wells

Mike Swihart says many Permian Basin oil companies that may have been too busy to check out plunger lift at $100 oil are making the switch in the current low-price environment because they save a lot of money on their lifting costs.

plunger lift“Management is telling their engineers to innovate, to look at every available option, don’t just automatically ‘cadillac’ everything,” said Swihart, owner and CEO of Production Lift Systems Inc., which is located in Midland, Texas and focuses on servicing Permian Basin oil and gas producers.

“In the Permian Basin right now we’re putting a lot of plunger lifts on wells that have brand new pumping units on them. Other times pumping units don’t even come into play. Operators are saying, lets not move everything in until we need it.”

Plunger lift advantages include:

  • Low capital costs
  • Low operating costs
  • Uses well’s gas pressure, no need for other energy source
  • Plunger lift can often be used to well depletion

A big advantage provided by Production Lift Systems is offering a complete package of plunger lift-related products and services. Plunger Lift Systems Inc. is comprised of four companies providing plunger lift, remote well monitoring, wire line, and swabbing.

plunger lift“We promote that as a real strength to our customers,” said Swihart. “One call can basically take care of the entire job. And we take responsibility for the entire job. All four companies are motivated to do the best job for the customer.”

Another advantage offered by Plunger Lift Systems Inc. is separating sales reps and field technicians, unlike other plunger lift companies that require one person do both sales and service. Swihart has found over the years that sales and service are very different skill sets.

“Our sales people are highly trained professionals. Some of them are engineers. They provide better feedback and reporting to the customer, more monitoring at a higher level of expertise,” he said, noting that the quality of the customer account is improved with a professional sales person.

“Field service people are very highly trained and good at what they do. They focus on being excellent technicians, which is what our customers want.”

Plunger Lift Systems Inc. grew 40 per cent last year and will experience similar growth in 2016. Swihart says that continued low oil prices and operator priorities to lower costs will drive his company’s business expansion.

“I don’t see oil going to $100 any time soon. We’re probably in a long, slow process here in the Permian Basin, so interest in our technology is going to increase for quite awhile,” he said.

“The Permian is where we got started 27 years ago and we think this is the best place to grow the plunger lift technology.”

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