Producing oil from gas-lift wells are often faced with severe producing oscillatory flow regimes. A major source of the oscillations is recognized as casing–heading instability which is caused by dynamic interaction between injection gas and multiphase fluid. This phenomenon poses strict productionrelated challenges in terms of lower average production and strain on downstream equipment. In this paper, an effective solution is proposed based on integration of an online interpretation dynamic model and a nonlinear model predictive control (NMPC) scheme. The paper uses adaptive growing and pruning radial basis function (GAP-RBF) neural networks (NNs) to recursively capture the essential dynamics of casing–heading instability in a nonlinear model structure. Extended Kalman filter (EKF) and unscented Kalman filter (UKF) are comparatively investigated to adaptively train modified GAP-RBF NNs. NMPC methodology is developed on the basis of the identified nonlinear NN model for real-time stabilization of casing–heading instability in an oil reservoir equipped with a gas-lift production well. A set of test studies has been conducted to explore the superior performance of the proposed adaptive NMPC controller under different scenarios for an oil reservoir simulated in ECLIPSE and linked to a complementary gas-lifted oil well simulated in programming environment. & 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.