Using Plunger Pumps in Oil Extraction

Liquid plunger pump (positive displacement type) used to transfer liquid from vessel to sea line pipe at offshore oil and gas wellhead.

Plunger pumps are positive displacement devices used for pumping a range of different liquids, including those with a relatively high concentration of solid content. Therefore, these pumps are commonly used in sewage and slurry management applications.

Put simply, plunger pumps utilize a moving plunger in a cylinder that serves to displace a fixed volume of fluid in each operating cycle. Plunger pumps are similar in operation to piston pumps. But unlike piston models, plunger pumps utilize a solid cylindrical plunger that slides through a high-pressure seal. It is this unique design that allows plunger pumps to be used in high-pressure applications, such as for oil extraction.

How Plunger Pumps Are Used in Oil Extraction Processes

Oil and gas extraction involves a number of high-pressure processes, with suction employed to lift fluids and push them into chambers for further processing. In such applications, plunger pumps are often employed, as they are well-suited for high-pressure environments. The fluids to be pumped may be sensitive, abrasive, hot, cold, or toxic, and pumps may even be used to transport flammable or hazardous fluids.

In these situations, specialized, custom-made plunger pumps are often an ideal choice. Commonly employed in the oil and gas industry to pump high-pressure water for crude extraction, custom plunger pumps can be made in a multitude of sizes and materials to suit all types of unique application needs. Pumps employed to inject high-pressure water for crude extraction, in particular, will have a different build and composition than those used to lift crude out of and into treatment chambers. Being extremely versatile, these pumps can also be fitted with highly reliable, specialized valves and seals to allow for use in abrasive or corrosive environments.

Components of a Plunger Pump

A plunger pump consists of a plunger housed within a cylindrical chamber. The pump is equipped with valves to regulate fluid flow, and extension rods or pony rods are used to facilitate piston movement through the chamber. All of these parts have a direct impact on the functioning of a plunger pump.

Through the use of materials like stainless steel and titanium, for example, a pump valve can be custom-made for high-pressure or high-speed applications. Pumps can also be designed to accommodate high fluid volumes or to perform reliably even when there is lack of fluid at the pump inlet port. The pony rods can be made of abrasion-resistant materials and can be custom-fitted to match a particular plunger.

The plunger material itself should be chosen based on the characteristics of the fluid being pumped. For example, ceramic-coated plungers are employed for abrasive fluids, while tungsten-carbide plungers offer protection against wear and tear (but not corrosion). Rokide® (chrome oxide) is also often employed for pumping fluids with little lubrication.

Choosing the Right Type of Plunger Pump

Plunger pumps serve as reliable, versatile solutions in many oil and gas extraction and treatment applications. To ensure you that receive the most efficient, cost-effective pump for your specific job, it’s crucial to work with a trusted supplier who can guide you through the selection process. Given the significant costs that may be incurred due to pump failure in oil and gas extraction, choosing the right model is imperative.





Image Credit: Oil and Gas Photographer/

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