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How Dangerous Are Pressure Spikes? Three Things You Need to Know

Date: Apr 08, 2016

There are many challenges and risks faced on the well, pumping, and fracturing site. One such challenge are pressure spikes that are not always measured properly in older-technology systems. These spikes can damage valuable equipment and lead to extended non-productive time (NPT) if the existing pressure relief technology is not fast-acting enough, or is not sized and installed properly. Here are three things you need to know about pressure spikes.

1. Pressure spikes are very common

A pressure spike is a sudden, usually brief, rise in internal pipeline or vessel pressure. They occur mostly in systems handling liquids. The effect is sometimes referred to as “water hammer” and is quite common in plumbing systems. 

Pressure spikes are caused by a sudden change in flow. Starting a pump or closing a value are common causes. The action creates a shock wave that travels through the medium at high speed, momentarily raising pressure to several times the normal operating conditions. The wave can reflect off other hard surfaces encountered as it travels through the system, creating a ripple effect that can do much damage. In the worst cases the reflections amplify in a form of resonance and become extremely harmful.

2. Pressure spikes can happen very quickly

Pressure spikes are detrimental to frack stage completion, yet they happen - and they can happen very quickly. In fact, pressure spikes are capable of increasing at rates faster than 2,000 PSIG within one-tenth of a second. If spikes are missed pressure safety devices will likely be activated for no apparent reason and equipment can be subjected to transient loads far in excess of the design levels, with control systems being unable to react quickly enough to avoid damage to the iron, casing, or well head rated a psig lower than the spike.

3. Pressure spikes can be very expensive

Pressure spikes and variances are one of the major sources of non-productive time (NPT). Damage is common to transducers, filters, gauges and pumps. “Spikes Put Pressure On Transducers,” on the Hydraulics & Pneumatics website details how pressure spikes can damage transducers. Likewise, they can damage gauges intended to give operators essential information about operating conditions. Lacking adequate information, the potential exists for wrong decisions that could lead to loss of product or product contamination.

The shock and vibration inflicted by pressure spikes has other consequences too. Wear is accelerated, shortening the life of pumps, valves and other equipment and leading to unplanned downtime. Such non-productive time (NPT) can be very expensive in a large drilling, fracturing, or pressure pumping operations.

How Dangerous Are Pressure Spikes?

Download the White Paper on Pressure Management in Upstream Completions

Identify issues before they become problems

Over pressure protection won't prevent every pressure spike, but it could help lower incident rates, as well as protecting equipment and avoiding nonproductive time. Those with responsibility for production equipment in the energy industry might want to take advantage of a review from Oseco technical specialists. 

Involve pressure relief specialists

For over 30 years Oseco has been a leader in oilfield pressure relief devices. Our team of experienced technical specialists continue to be a source of knowledge for completion engineers and equipment operators providing advice on options for guarding against the consequences of pressure spikes. Visit the hydraulic fracturing webpage for more information on the Oseco product solutions that offer the best pressure relief for that particular application.