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Ask an Engineering Expert: David Simpson

By: , Posted on: October 23, 2017

david simpsonDavid Simpson, Principal Engineer

Affiliation:  MuleShoe Engineering, Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)

  1. What is your particular area of expertise?

Onshore gas-field facilities engineering, gas gathering, separation, compression, pumping, produced water gathering and disposal, wellbore deliquification.

  1. How would you explain your current work to a stranger on a bus?

I facilitate getting raw natural gas from the reservoir to a plant for final processing to send it to your home.

  1. Where do you carry out most of your work?

Onsite in gas fields from New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas, USA; to Queensland, AU; to Johannesburg, ZAF; to Jakarta, ID; to Bogotá, CO.

  1. What first inspired you to study your subject matter?

I am fascinated by fluid flow and how to use flow energy.  Gas fields allow many opportunities to utilize that fascination.

  1. What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Finding straightforward solutions to complex problems …The motto of my company is “Finding solutions to problems that are no more complex than they have to be”.  For example, one client had excessive gas in their produced water system.   The vessel that I invented (U.S. Patent 8,439,999) resulted in several clients being able to eliminate production separators altogether (they were able to rely on the tubing/casing annulus to remove water from the gas stream), eliminate water tanks and transfer pumps (they were able to use the energy of the downhole pump to transfer liquids), were able to capture the gas for sales without additional compression, and significantly improved the performance of downhole pumps.

  1. What keeps you awake at night?

Enthusiasm for tomorrow’s solutions.

  1. What false preconceptions do people have about your job?

That it is harmful to the environment.  Natural gas is, well, “natural” and new natural gas is being created in nature every moment of every day.  Old natural gas is continually leaking from reservoirs to the surface.  This industry is simply harvesting this substance instead of allowing it to leak out.

  1. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this week?

I reviewed some research that clearly shows that an explosive decompression of a long pipe (more than about 500 ft) filled with pressurized gas will transfer less energy to the local environment than the same line filled with water and pressurized to the same pressure.  A lot less.

  1. What do you think will be the next big discovery or development in your field?

That high pressure shale gas will only be high pressure for a very short time and once the initial pressure is bled off, facilities will largely be inappropriate for the long haul, but the wells will still be profitable enough to justify replacing the facilities to support the next phase.

  1. What are the biggest pain points in the industry?

Misguided environmentalists and low prices.

  1. How have you used books for your own professional research and how it influenced your work, research or thinking, or help you solve a problem in your field? What outcome did it lead to?

My “field” is a mixture of efforts that have historically been performed by production engineers, plant engineers, and field foremen.  None of these groups have ever written much about field facilities, and books covering the scope of the activity of a field-facilities engineer have been non-existent.  Typically facilities engineers in general and myself in particular have acquired detailed books on specialized topics to pull out some clue how to solve an integrated problem.  It has resulted in the acquisition of a very large library with the vast majority of it largely unread.  You can find books on gas well deliquification, but they don’t provide guidance on whether to combine the tubing and casing flow streams on the surface.  You can find books on gas/liquid separation, but they don’t explain how to process constantly changing fluid mixtures.  You can find books on compression, but they don’t address appropriate controls.  To understand getting a gas/water mixture from the bottom of a wellbore to the sales meter into the gas gathering system you have to consult 9 different books on my shelves (with a significant amount of conflicting information from one to the next).  And then there is transport of gas and water, gathering system operation, pipeline accessories, and so forth.  The first book that tries to minimize the Tower of Babble nature of this work is Practical Onshore Gas Field Engineering.

Practical Onshore Gas Field Engineering

Practical Onshore Gas Field Engineering delivers the necessary framework to help engineers understand the needs of the reservoir, including sections on early transmission and during the life of the well. Written from a reservoir perspective, this reference includes methods and equipment from gas reservoirs, covering the gathering stage at the gas facility for transportation and processing. Loaded with real-world case studies and examples, the book offers a variety of different types of gas fields that demonstrate how surface systems can work through each scenario. Users will gain an increased understanding of today’s gas system aspects, along with tactics on how to optimize bottom line revenue.

  • Presents the full lifecycle of the gas surface facility, from reservoir to gathering and transmission
  • Helps users gain experience through case studies that explain successes and failures on a variety of gas fields, including unconventional and shale
  • Teaches how the surface gas facility system and equipment work individually, and as an integrated system

The book is available now on ScienceDirect. Want your own copy? You can save up to 30% when you order via Elsevier.com, enter STC317 at the checkout.

You can read David’s previous blog post The Infection of Supply Chain Management here:

The Infection of Supply Chain Management

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