What is Artificial Lift?

Pump Jacks in a Field

What is Artificial Lift?

We define artificial lift as anything a producer uses to add energy to the well. Four of the most common types of artificial lift are pump jack, electric submersible pumps, gas lift, and plunger lift.

Pump Jack

The most common example and recognizable method of artificial lift is the pump jack.

The pump jack goes by many different terms, including sucker rod pump (SRP), horse head, dinosaur, and nodding donkey. A pump jack uses sucker rod string and pump to pressurize the well downhole and bring resources up to the surface piping and equipment.

The pump jack is powered by electricity or gas.

A pump jack’s production varies widely.

Electric Submersible Pump

Producers also use electric submersible pumps (ESPs) to push production out of the well. ESPs sit below the reservoir fluids at the bottom of the tubing string and connect to a long electric motor. The pump has blades that move the fluids in the well. It is powered electrically, with a cable running from the surface downhole to the pump.

An ESP can produce over twenty-thousand barrels of fluid per day.

Gas Lift

Gas lift is other way to lighten the load on the reservoir, which can push the product to the surface.

To employ gas lift, a producer sends low-pressure gas from the well through a compressor. They then send it back down the well. This pressurizes the well and forces liquids back up to the surface piping and equipment.

Gas lift valves sit at calculated depths to inject the high pressure gas into the tubing, which lifts the liquids from that zone.

Gas lift can production ranges widely, from hundreds to several thousand barrels of fluid per day.

Plunger Lift

Plunger lift can be used to create a pressure differential and draw liquid up the casing to production equipment.

Plunger Lift systems use a piston between formation gas and produced liquids. During higher flow rates, the plunger rests in the lubricator at the surface.

As production slows, liquids accumulate and the well begins to load. When the valve closes, this stops the flow and the plunger drops through emulsion. With the well shut in, the pressure builds until a controller tells the valve to open, allowing the plunger to return to the surface while removing the liquid from the tubing.

A key component of plunger lift is the control valve. The valve must operate unmanned. An electric actuator is ideal in this situation because pneumatics will often fail due to moisture in the gas causing deterioration.

Kimray recently installed a Tritex II Electric Actuator on a plunger lift system in. You can read the full story below.

An Electric Solution for Plunger Lift


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