Beam Pump

Diagram of a beam pump

A Beam Pump is a device used to facilitate production by way of an overground drive for a reciprocating piston pump in an oil well. This unique structure is well recognized, and goes by many different names including pumpjack, donkey pumper, rocking horse, sucker rod pump, and grasshopper pump. Beam pumps are used to mechanically lift oil out of wells that do not produce enough pressure for the oil to freely flow to the surface. Beam Pumps are commonly found onshore in areas that are high in oil production.

The size of the beam pump depends on the depth of the oil formation, the amount of oil to be extracted, and other factors. Deeper extraction sites require heavier equipment, in turn requiring more power to lift. The beam pump has a familiar characteristic: the nodding motion. The purpose of the beam pump is to convert the rotary mechanism of the motor to a vertical reciprocating motion that drives the pump shaft down hole.

How does a Beam Pump Work?

Modern beam pumps are powered by a prime mover. A beam pump typically pumps about 20 times a minute and the amount of oil is directly tied to the size of the pump. Some are powered by electricity, but many go off grid because electricity isn't available. These are powered by gas from the well, or propane or diesel fuel. The prime mover runs a set of pulleys to a transmission, which drives the cranks that have weights on them to help the motor lift heavy sucker rods. The sucker rods are driven by the sucker rod pump that resides at the bottom of the well. As the beam pump rocks back and forth, the rod string, sucker rod, and sucker rod pump are activated. Similar to a piston inside a cylinder, the sucker rod lifts oil from the formation, up through the tubing and into a holding tank on the surface.

Water Well Beam Pumps

Not all beam pumps are used to facilitate oil production. Older hand pump water wells can typically be fitted with a beam pump on the top of the existing well head. Though simple, this design is a significant upgrade and still allows emergency hand pumping if necessary. The lifted water is not pressurized and has a low flow rate compared to a jet pump.