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All About Swab Rigs

Gas and oil wells produce fluid over the life of a well. When a well is first drilled, it is usually fracked to help open production zones. Fracking often includes water. This fluid is recovered through swabbing to kick the well off. Without swabbing, the overall production can fall off. The swabbing process is accomplished by machines with a winch with cable, a foldable mast with a pulley on top and a drive system that is usually truck-mounted to move equipment from well to well.

How Do You Swab a Well?

Swab rig operators drive to the well that needs to be serviced. Then, he or she usually backs the machine close to the well. From there, the operator raises the mast with a pulley and aligns the mast with the centerline of a well. The operator then lowers cable and tools into and out of a well via the winch drum.

Swab tools usually include a weight bar, “jars” and swab cuts tools. A swab cup is a rubber cup used to seal off against the inside of the well bore, well pipe or well tubing. The swab tools support the swab cups. The tools are lowered into the well, down to the fluid level. Swab tools allow fluid or oil to flow up through and then past the swab cups as the winch drum and  cable lowers tooling into the well.

The industry-accepted practice is to lift about six barrels of fluid or oil up and out of a well. This lifting of fluid is called a “run.” Some wells require one run, others may require multiple runs. As fluid is removed, it relieves the down-hole pressures. Production gas push up and out of the well. The well can flow again and production can resume.

Swab rigs haven’t changed much since their initial designs. The swabbing winch drum has been driven or powered by an engine with transmission and chain and sprocket to turn the winch drum. This design originated in the late 1890s. Almost all manufacturers still adhere to this original design.

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