New Pumping Technology for Unconventional Oil and Gas Wells

About a year ago at this time, I introduced you to a few of the technologies we’re developing at GE Global Research to support our Artificial Lift business and the new Oil and Gas Technology Center that will soon be under construction in Oklahoma City. Now, I’d like to update you on our progress, and specifically, show you what we’re driving in the lab that will enhance our customer’s ability to reach unconventional oil and gas reserves that, right now, go largely underutilized.

We are making great strides in our ongoing effort to advance the technology that goes inside electric submersible pumps (ESPs). Think of ESPs as straws that can siphon tough-to-reach oil and gas deposits out of the ground. These pumps are installed in wells, sometimes more than two miles deep, where often times there’s not enough pressure to make the hydrocarbons flow to the surface on their own. Amazingly, even though only about 15% of the world’s oil wells have an ESP installed, about 60% of the global oil production is pumped through them. In the wells that produce the most, ESPs are a critical and very efficient way of boosting the fluid pressure so that flow rates remain high, and the maximum amount of oil-in-place is recovered.

At GE Global Research, we’re taking ESPs to a new level. New pumping technology will be required to meet the demands of the new “unconventional” wells drilled into shale. At our headquarters in Niskayuna, NY, we have built a lab to house an apparatus known as a multiphase flow loop, which replicates one of the harsh environments in which these pumps will need to operate. Conventional pumping systems, which have been used for more than a century, can’t handle the mixture of oil, gas, water and sand – which is what you encounter with shale well production.  In the video below, I’ll introduce you to our multiphase flow loop setup, and demonstrate some of the new pump technologies we’ve developed at GE that will give our equipment the strength to stand up to the rigors of producing from horizontally drilled wells.

From my vantage point, GE is uniquely positioned to develop the cutting-edge technologies that will enable our customers to capture more oil and gas from sources that, until recently, seemed impossible or impractical to reach. We are leveraging the breadth of GE’s industrial portfolio to help our Artificial Lift business address technology hurdles. Advanced coatings, like the ones I spoke of, compact electric motors, liquid pumps, gas turbine and compressor design – GE possesses all of this know-how, and our teams are putting it to good use.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what we’re up to in the lab. As the point-person for Artificial Lift technology at GE Global Research, I can tell you, there are many challenges. The work isn’t easy, but I’m proud of our accomplishments and can’t wait to see our new Oil and Gas Technology Center take root in Oklahoma. It’s an exciting time in the oil and gas space and I’m thrilled to be a part of it!


  1. Sandra

    Hey this is a great post. Could you keep me updated with any other info simliar to this? If travelling to the UK why not stay at Stratford hotel and watch a Shakespear play

  2. Dr. D K Srivastava, ONGC India

    Can u suggests for the artificial lift systems for unconventional tight fractured carbonate reservoirs which are characterised by low permeability and low formation pressure. The reservoir flows continuously at low pressure wit a rate of 2-3000cubic meter of gas per day

  3. Robert Farrara

    was interested in hearing about the major differences and new changes you spoke of in regards to the impellers & internals of pump? What did I miss ?

  4. B.J. Rassam

    This is cool technology – wonder if you are getting any push-back from environmentalists…

  5. Gandeephan

    Thanks Jeremy – great video and fantastic progress on AL from the GRC.