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Publication numberUS3228715 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJan 11, 1966
Filing dateMar 11, 1963
Priority dateMar 11, 1963
Publication numberUS 3228715 A, US 3228715A, US-A-3228715, US3228715 A, US3228715A
InventorsNeilon Claude R, Walker Michael A, Word Jr William W
Original AssigneeArmco Steel Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Wellhead constructions
US 3228715 A
Abstract  available in
Images(4)
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

Jan. 11, 1966 C. R. NEILON ETAL WELLHEAD CONSTRUCTIONS 4 Sheets-Sheet 1 Filed March 11, 1965 Jan. 11, 1966 c. R. NEILON ETAL 3,223,715

WELLHEAD CONSTRUCTIONS Filed March 11, 1963 4 Sheets-Sheet z m W? 9 a w mmlmfimfi n m a a a o m W A W 7 m l "Y 0 m mwuw W 7 n M all 2 Claude R. Neilon William W. Word,Jr.&

Michael A. walker BY Z! Q! g g ATTORNEYS Jan. 11, 1966 c NElLON ETAL 3,228,715

1966 c. R. NEILON ETAL 3,223,715

WELLHEAD CONSTRUCTIONS 4 Sheets-Sheet 4 Filed March 11, 1963 F G INVENTORS Claude R.Ne||on William W. Word,Jr.& Michael A.Walker FIG..5. BY a ATTORNEYS United States Patent 3,228,715 WELLHEAD CONSTRUCTIONS Claude R. Neilon, William W. Word, Jr., and Michael A.

Walker, Houston, Tex., assiguors to Armco Steel Corporation, Middletowu, Ohio, a corporation of Ohio Filed Mar. 11, 1963, Ser. No. 264,195 7 Claims. (Cl. 285313) This invention relates to wellhead constructions and, more particularly, to such constructions which are especially adapted for installation at substantial depths under water.

In recent years, the petroleum industry has found it practical to drill wells in earth formations lying beneath bodies of water of a considerable depth. In present-day practice, it is not unusual to drill wells in formations under water up to several hundred feet deep, and drilling operations have already been carried out under thousands of feet of water. In underwater wells generally, and particularly in many subsea operations, the site of the wellhead is at such a depth as to preclude diving operations, unless complicated and expensive diving vessels, operated in conjunction with a caisson or the like, are employed. There is accordingly an active demand for a practical wellhead construction which can be successfully installed without the presence of a human operator at the wellhead site.

Drilling and production requirements are such that underwater remotely assembled wellhead constructions require at least one, and frequently more than one, coupling between upright wellhead body members. Typically, there must at least be one wellhead body member serving to support casing and tubing strings, and at least one Christmas tree body member. Such body members are separately installed and must, of course, be coupled together in fluid-tight relation. Though it might at first appear that the provision of remotely operated couplings suitable for joining the wellhead body members would not be an unusually diiiicult task, the problem has proved to be extremely diflicult because of the adverse conditions encountered in making underwater installations.

In a typical underwater driling operation, for example, a lower wellhead body member may be used to support the casing strings and, ultimately, the tubing string or strings, and the next higher members of the wellhead may be a coupling and the blowout preventer stack, a riser being coupled to the blowout preventer stack. In such an installation, the blowout preventer stack is typically 1015' in height and represents a mass on the order of 50,000 pounds. The riser may be of tubing having an innerdiameter of 13% inches and a length of 150 feet, for example. The supplier of the wellhead components must, therefore, provide couplings which are capable of handling truly great loads. This problem is greatly complicated by the fact that, when the components are assembled at the wellhead site, the assembly will be subjected to currents up to eight knots and stronger, with the strength of the currents varying at different depths and the direction of the currents also varying. Thus, even without considering forces which result from drilling and like operations carried out via the equipment, it is obvious that the wellhead will be subjected to tremendous bending forces which must be taken across the joint maintained by each coupling. Because of the height of the blowout preventer stack and the riser, the bending couples which may result from wave action and from movement of the drilling vessel act through a long moment arm. On the other hand, the opposing couple, provided by the coupling, acts only through a very short moment arm equal to the radius of the bore at the coupling plus a small increment.

In ability of the coupling to provide a joint capable of withstanding the large bending moments resulting from wave action, for example, can result in various kinds of wellhead failure, including failure of the seal or seals at the joint, and failure of support elements, even including the body members themselves. The difficulties arising from such failures vary and can be so severe as to require that the well be abandoned. Despite the fact that experimental, semiexperimental and commercial drilling operations in underwater locations have now been carried out for a relatively long period, the art has heretofore been unable to provide a truly satisfactory coupling for remotely assembled wellhead constructions.

The problem of providing a practical coupling in such circumstances is made more difiicult by the fact that the coupling must maintain a satisfactory joint over a prolonged time period. In the case of a coupling at the base of the Christmas tree, for example, the requirement frequently is that the joint be maintained for the life of the well. On the other hand, it is essential that such couplings be capable of being readily disconnected, by remote manipulation, and failure of the coupling to disconnect can lead to great difiiculties, even requiring abandoning the well.

A general object of the invention is to provide, in wellhead constructions of the type described, improved coupling means which can be operated remotely and is capable of establishing joints etfective to withstand the forces encountered even in deep water installations.

Another object is to provide, in an underwater wellhead construction, means for coupling wellhead members together in such fashion that a truly adequate axial clamping force is established at the joint between the coupled members.

A further object is to provide such a wellhead construction wherein the coupling can be operated, after the joint has been established, to assure that the axial clamping force at the coupled joint will be maintained during use of the wellhea Yet another object i to provide an improved, fully practical power operated coupling means for underwater wellhead constructions.

A still further object is to devise a remotely operated wellhead coupling structure which provides maximum assurance of successful establishment and disengagement of the coupled joint solely by remote operation, without requiring diver assistance.

Another object is to provide a remotely operated wellhead coupling structure including power operated means for establishing the coupled joint and wherein the power operated means itself assures against accidental disengagement of the coupling.

A further object is to devise such a structure wherein metal or equivalent sealing rings can be employed under axial pressure to establish effective sealing of the joint.

A still further object is to provide a remotely operated, power actuated coupling for wellhead members so arranged that the powcr actuated means serves both to accomplish engagement and disengagement of the coupling, and purely mechanical means is available for effecting disengagement of the coupling in the event that poweractu'ated disengagement cannot be accomplished.

In order that the manner in which these and other objects are attained in accordance with the invention can be understood in detail, reference is bad to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of this specification, and wherein:

FIGS. 1 and 2 are views, partly in side elevation and partly in vertical section, of a portion of a wellhead apparatus constructed in accordance with one embodiment of the invention, the two views showing parts of the apparatus in different positions;

FIG. 3-is a view, partly in top plan and partly in trans verse section, taken generally on line 3-3, FIG. 1; and

FIG. 4 is an enlarged fragmentary vertical sectional view illustrating details of locking mechanism employed in the apparatus of FIGS. 1-3.

FIG. 5 is a vertical sectional view of one half of a wellhead apparatus constructed in accordance with another embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a transverse sectional view taken on line 6-6, FIG. 6; and 1 FIG. 7 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view showing certain elements of the structure of FIG. 5 in different operational positions.

Turning now to the drawingsin detail, and first to FIGS. 1-4, it will be seen that this embodiment of the invention comprises a lower body member 1, such as a casing head, an upper body member 2, such as a tubing head, and a lock actuating member 3 in the form of a two-piece sleeve. Since the invent-ion is concerned primarily with the manner in which the body members 1 and 2 are engaged and locked together, only the upper portion of member 1 and the lower portion of member 2 are shown, it being understood that the remainder of the wellhead construction can be of conventional form.

Body member 1 is generally cylindrical, having an upright plain cylindrical through bore 4. At its top, body member 1 has a downwardly and inwardly tapering frustoconical annular surface 5 which extends transversely of the body member and is concentric with bore 4. The top edge of surface 5 joins a circular end surface or seat 6 lying in a plane at right angles to the axis of bore 4. The radial width of surface 6 is less than that of the relatively thick wall 7 of the body member, and a downwardly and outwardly slanting shoulders surrounds that end portion of the member which presents surface 5.

Body member 1 has an outer cylindrical surface portion 9, extending downwardly from shoulder 8, and another outer cylindrical surface portion 10, portion 10 having a slightly larger diameter than portion 9 and the two portions being separated by a transverse annular upwardly facing shoulder 11.

Below shoulder 8, surface portion 9 of the lower body member is interrupted by an outwardly opening transverse annular locking groove 12. Groove 12 is defined by a downwardly and inwardly slanting top wall 13, a cylindrical inner wall 14 coaxial with bore 4, and a downwardly and outwardly slanting lower wall 15.

Below shoulder 11, body member 1 carries a locater pin 16 projecting radially outwardly from surface portion 10.

Upper body member 2 has an upright through bore 17 the lower end of which is encircled by a circularly extending transverse flange 18 having a downwardly and inwardly tapering frusto-conical outer surface 19. Surrounding flange 18, and joining surface 19 at the root thereof, is a circularly extending flat surface or seat 20 lying in a plane at right angles to the axis of bore 17. The diameter of surface 19 is substantially less than the diameter of surface 5 so that, when body member 2 is lowered toward body member 1, with bores 4 and 17 aligned, flange 18 can enter the space defined by surface 5, surface 20 coming to rest in face-to-face engagement with end surface 6, as will be clear from FIG. 2.

The anglejat which frusto-conical surface 19 slants inwardly and downwardly is materially greater than the corresponding angle for surface 5. A metal sealing ring 21 embraces surface 19, being held in place by a retaining ring 22 secured to the tip of flange 18, as by screws 23. Sealing ring 21 is advantageously of the type disclosed in US. Patent 2,687,229, issued August 24, 1954, to Laurent. and is made of a metal materially softer than that used in fabricating body members 1 and 2. The inner and outer surfaces of sealing ring 21 are disposed to at least generally conform to surface 19 and surface 5, respec tively, Accordingly, as flange 18 ent rs the sp ce defined by surface 5, the sealing ring is wedged between surfaces 5 and 13, the sealing ring being sufiiciently deformed, when surface 20 comes into engagement with surface 6, to assure a good fluid-tight seal between the two body members.

Upper body member 2 is provided with an integral cylindrical dependent skirt indicated generally at 24 and disposed concentrically with respect to bore 17 and surface 19. Skirt 24 projects for a substantial distance below flange 18 and terminates in a downwardly and outwardly tapering frusto-conical guiding surface 25. Immediately above surface 25, skirt 24 has an inner diameter slightly greater than the diameter of surface 10 of body member 1,

so that a distinct clearance 26 will be afforded between surface 10 and the inner surface of skirt 24 when the upper body member is seated on the lower body member. When the two body members are engaged in this fashion, the inner surface of skirt 24 extends in plain cylindrical fashion to apoint well above shoulder 11. Here, skirt 24 is provided with a downwardly facing, inwardly extending shoulder 27. Above shoulder 27, the inner surface of the skirt is cylindrical and of such diameter as to closely embrace surface portion 9. of body member 1. Immediately above shoulder27, skirt 24 is provided with an inwardly opening, transversely extending groove in which is disposed a sealing ring 28.

Assuming that body member 2 is so manipulated as to approach the top of body member, 1 while bores 4 and 17 are in at least approximate alignment, guiding surface 25 will engage the top of the lower body member and cause the upper body member to be properly centered. .Skirt 24 then descends along surface portions 9 and 10 of the lower body member, sealing ring 28 engaging surface portion 9 in substantially fluid-tight relation. Assuming that the installation is being made under water, it is clear than an initial body of water will be trapped in the annular space 29 between shoulders 11 and 27, this body of. water being forced out through cleanance 26 as the upper body member descends. Accordingly, a dash-pot action occurs, causing the movement of the upper body member to be slowed to such an extent that, as the upper body member comes into final, seated position, the sealing ring 21 will not engage surface 5 with suflicient force to cause damage to either the surface 5 or the ring.

Above the location of flange 18, skirt 24 extends as a thickened portion 29 of the main Wall 31) of upper body member 2. Skirt 24 has upper and lower coaxially arranged plain cylindrical outer surfaces 31 and 32, re spectively, separated by an intermediate, outwardly projecting, annular portion 33. Surfaces 31 and 32 have the same diameter while intermediate portion 33 presents an outer surface of materially larger diameter. Upper surface portion 31 joins intermediate portion 33 at an outwardly projecting, upwardly facing transverse annular shoulder 34, FIG. 1, while portion 32 joins intermediate portion 33 at an outwardly projecting, downwardly facing transverse annular shoulder 35.

Lock actuating sleeve 3 comprises a lower portion 36 and an upper portion 37. Portion 36 includes a cylindrical main body 38 which .slidably embraces intermediate portion 33 of skirt 24 and is provided at its top with a fiat, transversely extending annular end face 39 and at its bottom with an inwardly projecting transverse annular flange 4ti. Portion 37 is in the form of a ring having a fiat bottom face engaged in face-to-face contact with the top end face of body 3-8, the ring being secured to the body in any suitable fashion, as by studs. 41. While the outer face of portion 37 extends as a continuation of the outer face of body 38, portion 37' projects inwardlyto such 'a degree that the cylindrical inner face thereof closely embraces surface 31 of skirt 24. Similarly, the cylindrical inner face of bottom flange 40 closely embraces surface 32 of skirt 24. It will thus be apparent that, assuming that the actuating s eeve 3 is not otherwise restrained, the sleeve can be moved, axially of the body member 2, between an upper position, illustrated in FIG. 1, and a lower position, such as that shown in FIG. 2. When the sleeve is in its uppermost position, flange 41? engages the bottom of intermediate portion 33 of skirt 24, and there is a cylindrical space 42, FIG. 1, between the top of intermediate portion 33 and ring 37. In lowered positions of sleeve 3, there is a cylindrical space 43, FIG. 2, between the bottom of portion 33 and flange Immediately above the bottom of ring 37, the inner face of the ring is provided with a transverse annular groove accommodating a sealing ring 44 engaged with upper surface portion 31 of skirt 24. The top of body 38 is provided with an annular upwardly opening groove accommodating a sealing ring 45 which is effective to seal between body 38 and the bottom face of ring 37. Immediately below its upper end, intermediate portion 33 of the skirt is provided with a transverse annular groove in which is disposed a sealing ring 46 effective to provide a seal between the skirt and body 38.

Immediately above its lower end, intermediate portion 33 of the skirt has a transverse annular groove accommodating a sealing ring 47 which seals between the skirt and body 38. Bottom flange 46 is provided with an inwardly opening groove retaining a sealing ring 48 which is engaged with lower surface portion 32 of the skirt.

Skirt 2.4 is provided with two bores 49 and 56 extending downwardly from the top of the skirt and communieating respectively with spaces 42 and 43. Bores 49 and 50 are provided at their upper ends with suitable fittings (not shown) for connection of flexible hydraulic conduits to extend between the operators position and the remote location of the installations.

It is accordingly apparent that spaces 42 and 43, being sealed in fluid-tight relation for all positions of the actuating sleeve 3, are effective as expansible chambers, and that the bores 49 and 56 can be employed to supply and exhaust fluid under pressure to the spaces 42 and 43 in order to accomplish movement of actuating sleeve 3 upwardly or downwardly, as desired. It will be understood that the hydraulic lines connected to bores 49 and 50 can be controlled by suitable valves and thus selectively connected to act either to supply fluid or ex haust fluid, depending upon the direction of motion of the sleeve desired.

In a location spaced below flange 18, skirt 24 is provided with an inwardly opening, circularly extending, transverse groove 51. The location of groove 51 is such that, when sealing ring 21 is properly engaged with surface 5, and surfaces 6 and 29 are in mutual engagement, groove 51 will be substantially aligned with groove 12. Groove 51 has a rectangular transverse cross section. In the same location, skirt 24 is provided with four angularly spaced, radially extending openings 52 each comprising an outer cylindrical portion 53 of larger diameter and a short inner cylindrical portion 54 of smaller diameter. Portions 53 open through the outer surface of intermediate portion 33 of the skirt, while portions 54 open inwardly intogroove 51.

For each of openings 52, there is provided a lock member indicated generally at 55. All four of the lock members are identical and only one will be described in detail. As seen in FIGS. 1 and 3, the lock member 55 is made in two parts, one being an arcuately extending locking segment 56 and the other being a cam extension comprising a cylindrical stem 57 and a cam follower portion 58, portions 57 and 58 being integral with each other.

Locking segment 56 has arcuate inner and outer faces 59 and 60, respectively, and flat upper and lower faces 61 and 62, faces 61 and 62 being spaced by a distance such that they are disposed. in slidable engagement with the upper and lower walls of groove 51, respectively. Faces 59 and 61 are joined by a downwardly and inwardly slanting face 63 disposed at the same angle as upper wall 13 of groove 12. Faces 59 and 62 are connected by an upwardly and inwardly slanting face 64 disposed at the same angle as lower wall 15 of groove 12.

At its center, segment 56 is provided. with a stud portion 65, FIG. 4, which projects radially outwardly and is exteriorly threaded. Stem 56 is provided at its inner tip with an axially aligned interiorly threaded bore in which stud 65 is threadedly engaged to secure the two parts of the lock member 55 rigidly together. As seen in FIG. 1, stem 57 projects through the corresponding opening portion 54 and thence outwardly through the larger opening portion 53. The wall of each portion 54 is provided with an inwardly directed transverse annular groove in which is retained a sealing ring 66 disposed to engage the outer surface of stem 57 to afford a fluid-tight seal between groove 51 and the corresponding opening 52.

Cam follower portion 58 has a circular transverse cross section, the diameter thereof being only slightly smaller than the diameter of portion 53. The outer tip of portion 53 is spherical. At its inner end, portion 58 presents a flat annular surface, lying in a plane at right angles to the longitudinal axis of stem 57, this flat annular surface being opposed to and spaced from the shoulder between opening portions 53 and 54. A helical compression spring 67 is engaged between the flat annular inner face of portion 57 and the shoulder just mentioned and serves to bias the lock member 55 normally to the position seen in FIG. 1, with the lock segment 56 retracted and housed completely in groove 51 and cam follower portion 58 projecting outwardly from the outer surface of intermediate portion 33 of the skirt. Thus, when all of the lock members 55 occupy the normal position just described, the lock members do not interfere in any way with lowering of the skirt over the upper end portion of body member 1.

At a point intermediate its ends, body 38 of lower portion 36 of the lock actuating sleeve is provided with an inwardly opening transverse cam groove indicated generally at 68. As best seen in FIG. 4, cam groove 68 has a transverse bottom shoulder 69, a plain cylindrical surface portion 70, an intermediate frusto-conical surface portion 71 which slants upwardly and inwardly at a larger angle, and an upper frusto-conical surface portion 72 which slants upwardly and inwardly at a smaller angle. Cam groove 68 is so located that, when flange 40 engages the bottom end of intermediate portion 33 of the skirt, the cylindrical cam surface portion 70 is disposed opposite openings 52, so that biasing spring 67 can urge the lock members outwardly into their normal positions, cam follower portions 58 engaging the cam surface 70. Upon downward movement of the lock actuating sleeve 3 on skirt 24, cam follower portions 58 are engaged successively by cam surface portions 71 and 72. Since surface portion 71 is disposed at a relatively larger angle, engagement of the cam follower portions with this surface will result in a relatively large radial inward movement of the lock members. Such movement cannot occur, unless the groove 51 has been substantially aligned with groove 12, it being understood that this initial radial inward movement of the lock members serves to accomplish a preliminary engagement of segments 56 in groove 12. Further downward travel of lock actuating sleeve 3 causes surface portion 72 to ride over cam follower portions 58 and results in further radial inward movement of the lock members, this further movement being small as compared to the initial movement resulting by engagement of the cam follower portions with cam surface 71. The purpose of the two-stage cam actuation of lock members 55 will be discussed in detail hereinafter.

Adjacent the top of thickened portion 29, there are provided four outwardly opening recesses 73 spaced equally about the central axis of body member 2. Recesses 73 are radially directed and there is provided in each recess a latch element indicated generally at 74 and biased outwardly by a compression spring 75. The latch element-s are identical and only one will be described. The inner end portion of latch element 74 has a rectangular transverse cross section matching that of the corresponding recess 73, so that the latch element is slidable in the recess and is restrained to a predetermined radial orientation. The latch element has a flat outer tip portion 76 disposed in a plane at right angles to the axis of body member 2. The upper surface of the latch element includes a downwardly and outwardly slanting portion 77 which joins the fiat upper face of tip 76. Similarly, the lower surface of the latch element includes an upwardly and outwardly slanting portion 78 which joins the lower face of tip 76. The inner face of ring 37 is provided with an inwardly opening, relatively shallow transversely extending groove 79 having a flat upper wall lying in a plane at right angle-s to the central axis of actuating sleeve 3. As will be clear from FIG. 1, when flange 40 engages the shoulder presented by the bottom end of intermediate portion 33 of skirt 24, groove 79 is so located that outward movement of latch elements 74 will result in engagement of the upper faces of tips 76 beneath the fiat upper wall of groove 79, so that the entire actuating sleeve 3 is retained in itsuppermostposition by the latch elements. The radial length of the latch elements, and the characteristics of the biasing springs 75, is such that the biasing springs are effective to move the latch elements outwardly through a distance sufficient to cause tips 76 to engage properly with groove 79. FIG. 1 illustrates the actuating sleeve latched in its uppermost position and it will be understood that this is the position in which the sleeve is disposed when upper body member 2 is lowered to engage body member 1.

I It will be understood that the latch elements 74, springs 75 and groove 79 cooperate to form a releasable latch for retaining the sleeve 3 in its uppermost position. In accordance with this embodiment of the invention, release of this latching arrangement is accomplished automatically in response to seating of the upper body member on the lower body member. Adjacent each of the recesses 73, thickened portion 29 is provided with a downwardly and inwardly slanting bore 80. All of bores 80 are identical and are arranged in identical fashion with respect to its adjacent recess 73, and only the single bore seen in FIG. 1 will be described in detail. The lower end portion of bore 80 is of smaller diameter, while the remaining upper portion of the bore is of larger diameter, a transverse shoulder 81 being provided between the two bore portions. The angle of inclination of the bore is such that, when body member 2 is aligned coaxially with body member 1, as seen in FIG. 1, the axis of bore 80 extends at right angles to the downwardly and outwardly slanting frusto-conical surface 8 at the top of body member 1.

Slidably disposed in bore 80 is a latch release pin 82 having an intermediate portion 83 of larger diameter and end portions 84 and 85 of smaller diameter. An exteriorly threaded plug 86 is provided in the upper end of bore 80 and has a central bore accommodating upper portion 84 of the latch release pin. A helical compression spring is engaged between the upper end of intermediate portion 83 of the pin and the lower face of plug 86, so that the spring 87 serves to bias the pin downwardly until the lower end of intermediate portion 83 engages shoulder 81. With the latch release pin in this normal position, lower end portion 85 thereof projects well below the tip of flange 18, while upper end portion 84 projects a short distance above the lower wall of the adjacent recess 73. Hence, biasing spring 75 forces the latch elements '74 outwardly until lower slanting surface portion 78 of the latch element is engaged against the tip of upper portion 84 of the latch release pin. With the parts in these positions, latch element 74 projects outwardly far enough t engage beneath the upper wall of groove 79.

The locations and inclinations of bores 80, and the dimensions of latch pins 82, are such that, with body member 2 spaced slightly above body member 1, and with the latch pins occupying their normal positions as above described, the lower tips of the latch pins are arranged in a circle which registers with surface 8. Hence, lowering of the upper body member into proper seated relation will cause the latch pins to come into engagement with surface 8, so that all of the latch pins are forced upwardly in their respective bores 80. Such upward movement of the latch pins causes the upper tips thereof to ride along the respective upwardly and outwardly slanting surfaces 78 of the latch elements. Hence, the latch elements are simultaneously shifted radially inwardly to such a degree that tips 76 are withdrawn completely from groove 79 and lock sleeve 3 is accordingly freed for movement downwardly relative to skirt 24.

The lower portion of the inner surface of skirt 24 is provided with an axially extending locator groove 88 having an outwardly flaring open lower end and so dimensioned as to slidably receive locator pin 16. The combination of pin 16 and groove 88 serves automatically 'to orient upper body member 2 in a given rotational position (about the common axis of the two body members') .so that wellhead elements (not shown) will be properly oriented. It is to be noted that no special rotational orientation is required for proper operation of the locking means of this invention or for proper operation of the latching means, since locking groove 12, cam groove 68 and latch groove 79 are all continuous annular grooves which serve their purposes in any relative rotational positions of body member 1, skirt 24 and sleeve 3.

Those skilled in the art will understand that lower body member 1 is first installed at the top of the borehole in conventional fashion, being fixed in place rigidly, and

that this installation may be made under water at depths up to many thousands of feet. Body member 2 is lowered toward the top of body member 1 in any conventlonal fashion. For this phase of the operation, guide lines (not shown) of a type now well known in the art are ordinarily employed to achieve approximate centering of body member 2 relative to body member 1, so that, as the upper body member approaches its final position, frusto-conical guiding surface 25 engages the top of body member 1 and accomplishes precise alignment of body member 2 coaxially with body member 1. It will be understood that, when body member 2 is prepared for lowering into place, sleeve 3 is in its uppermost position and is retained in that position by engagement of tips 76 of latch elements 74 beneath the upper shoulder of groove 79, pins 82 being biased to their lowermost positions, seen in FIG. 1, by springs 87. Accordingly, cam groove 68 is so disposed that lock members 55 are allowed to occupy their normal outermost positions, leaving the internal bore of skirt 24 free and unimpeded to slide over the upper end portion of lower body member ll.

As sealing ring 28 comes into engagement with surface 9, a dash-dot action occurs, the water trapped between shoulders 11 and 27 being forced out through clearance 26. This dash-pot action slows the downward travel of the upper body member sufliciently to assure that parts which come into abutting engagement during final movement of the upper body member will not be damaged. As the dash-pot action commences, the upper body member is rotated until pin 16 enters groove 88. Downward motion of the upper body member continues, the lower tips of pins 82 coming into engagement with surface 8, so that continued descent of body member 2 causes the pins 82 to be raised, the upper ends of the pins then camming latch elements 74 inwardly by reason of the surfaces 78 of the latch elements. Tips 76 of the lat h elements are thus withdrawn from groove 79, freeing sleeve 3 for downward movement relative to skirt 24. Since sleeve 3 is of very substantial weight, downward movement thereof may commence by gravity. In this connection, it is to be noted that the sleeve 3 may weigh several thousand pounds for wellhead constructions of conventional size. Initial downward movement of the sleeve at this time is not disadvantageous, since such movement will not occur until groove 51 has passed below surface 8, so that such initial inward movement of lock members 55 as may result can only cause the inner faces 59 of the locking segments to engage surface 9. If desired, gravitational movement of sleeve 3 can be prevented by maintaining adequate hydraulic pressure in cylindrical space 42.

Further downward movement of upper body member 2 brings metal sealing ring 21 into engagement with surface 5, the relatively great weight of the upper body member causing ring 21 to be engaged between surfaces and 19 in wedging fashion so that a good fluid-tight seal is obtained between the two body members. The positions of surfaces 5 and 19 and the shape: and dimensions of ring 21 are such that, as the sealing ring becomes finally seated, when adequate clamping force is applied to members 1 and 2, surface 20 is allowed to come into full face-to-face engagement with surface 6, so that upper body member 2 is seated directly on lower body member 1.

When upper body member 2 has thus been seated on the lower body member 1, groove 51 is, because of the relative dimensions of the parts of the apparatus, substantially aligned with lock groove 12. As seen in FIG. 4, it is advantageous that, at this stage of the operation, the upper wall of groove 51 be disposed slightly above the outer edge of wall 13 of lock groove 12. Hydraulic pressure is now applied via bore 50. The pressure fluid enters betwen flange 40 and shoulder 35. Accordingly, sleeve 3 is forced downwardly. Downward movement of sleeve 3 first causes cam surface portion 71 to slide simultaneously over the outer ends of all four cam follower portions 58, causing lock members 55 to be forced radially inwardly, with segments 56 entering groove 12. Further descent of sleeve 3 causes the uppermost cam surface portion 72 to engage all of the cam follower portions 58. Since cam surface portion '72 is disposed at a relatively smaller angle, and is of a smaller average diameter than portion 71, a correspondingly smaller radial inward movement of the lock members 55 results. As seen in FIG. 4, descent of only a part of cam surface portion 72 past the point of engagement with cam followers 58 causes surface portion 63 of segments 56 to be solidly wedged beneath upper wall 13 of groove 12.

Such wedging action applies an axially clamping force effective to seccre body members 1 and 2 rigidly together, with surfaces 6 and 20 engaged. It is to be noted that application of this claim-ping force involves a simple and direct load circle including the upper end portion of body member 1, the segments 56, and the integral structure comprising the upper portion of skirt 24 and the lower portion of body 2. Independent of the load circle involved in energization of sealing ring 21, the clamping load circle is such that the clamping force does not act through threaded or bolted joints, and the opportunities for loosening of the coupling once segments 56 are engaged in groove 12 are minimized.

Even though surfaces 5 and 20 are clamped in direct engagement, and the clamping load circle mainly involves solid metal bodies, it is still highly advantageous to provide for increasing of the wedging action of segments 56 in groove 12 subsequent to installation of the coupling. In this regard, it is to be noted from FIG. 4 that, after the coupling has been engaged initially, space still remains between inner wall 14 of groove 12 and faces 59 of segments 56 to allow further radial inward movement of the locking members and space also still remains belil tween portion 33 and ring 37 and, therefore, additional wedging action between surfaces 63 and wall 13 can be accomplished as a result of further descent of actuating sleeve 3, causing further travel of cam surface portion 72 over the follower portions 58. At least to some degree, this further downward movement can be allowed to result solely by gravitational action, particularly where the weight of sleeve 3 is large. Alternatively, this additional movement can be accomplished positively, simply by increasing the hydraulic pressure applied via bore to cylindrical space 43.

The ability to provide additional wedging action between surfaces 63 and wall 13 after the wellhead has been installed is particularly important, since the wellhead assembly can be satisfactory only if the high clamping force applied to body members 1 and 2 is preserved. During use after installation, the wellhead is subjected to vibration, shock and the severe bending moments hereinbefore discussed and, in many instances, the high clamping force established when the coupling is made up will not persist unless further wedging of the segments in the locking groove can be effected.

Surface 72, constituting a slow taper portion of cam groove 68, also coacts with followers 58 to provide a frictional l=ock-down capable of preventing accidental upward displacement of ring 3. In this regard, surface 72 tapers toward the axis of the assembly at an angle so small that the tangent thereof is materially less than the coefiicient of friction between surface 72 and followers 58 under the conditions of pressure and lubrication employed. Thus, for example, surface 72 can extend at an angle of approximately 445, to the wellhead axis. With ring 3 and followers 58 formed of steel, and with suitable lubrication, the coeflicient of friction at surface 72 is decidedly greater than the tangent of the angle at which surface 72 is disposed, and even rather large upward forces on ring 3 are successfully resisted by the frictional engagement between the followers 58 and surface 72.

It will be apparent that, at any time after installation, the two body members can be unlocked simply by relieving the hydraulic pressure in chamber 43 and applying adequate hydraulic pressure via bore 49 to chamber 42. This results in upward movement of actuating sleeve 3 relative to skirt 24 and this movement can be continued until flange 40 engages shoulder 35. Such upward movement brings cam grooves 68 again into full registry with openings 52, so that springs 67 can again move locking members radially outward to an extent such that segments 56 are completely withdrawn into groove 51. Such withdrawal of locking members 55 allows upper body member 2 to be raised and detached from body member 1. As body member 2 is moved upwardly away from the top of body member 1, pins 82 are again moved downwardly by springs 87 and, assuming sleeve 3 to be held in its uppermost position, the tips 76 of latching elements 74 again engage in groove 79 to latch sleeve 3 in its raised position.

Use of the exterior ring 3, coacting with skirt 24 to form chambers 42 and 43, offers distinct advantages. This construction can go manufactured with relative ease and at relatively low cost, without requiring that strength be sacrificed. Also, being fully exposed, ring 3 can be actuated mechanically to release the coupling in the event of failure of the hydraulic system. In this regard, mechanical actuation of the ring 3 can be accomplished with an overshot ring (not shown), or simply by use of jerk lines (not shown) attached to the ring in any suitable fashion. Finally, ring 3 in no way interferes with the application of the clamping force to memhers I and 2.

FIGS. 5-7 illustrate another embodiment of the invention, again in the form of a wellhead construction comprising a lower body member 101, an upper body member 102 and a locking member in the form of a two piece sleeve 103, an annular member 104 being secured rigidly to and depending from upper body member 102.

Member 101 is a cylindrical tubular member having a through bore 105 and, at its top, a transverse annular downwardly and inwardly tapering frusto-conical surface 106. Surface 106 joins a circular transversely extending end surface107 lying in a plane at right angles to the axis of bore 105. The upper portion of member 101 has a plain cylindrical outer surface interrupted by an outwardly opening transverse annular locking groove 108 wivichr is spaced below the location of surfaces 106 and Upper body member 102 is generally cylindrical, havmg a through bore 109, a flat, circularly extending transverse end face 110, and a dependent annular flange 111 which has an'outer downwardly and inwardly slanting 'frusto-conical surface 171 so disposed as to be spaced concentrically inwardly from surface 106 when the end face 110 of member 102 is seated upon end face 107 of member 101.

'Member 102 has an outwardly projecting annular flange 112 having a cylindrical outer face embraced by an uptsanding tubular projection 113 on annular member 104. Flange 112 has aflat bottom face and member 104 is correspondingly provided with a flat face enclosed by projection 113 and disposed to be engaged directly by the bottom face of flange 112. Member 104 is rigidly secured to member 102, as by screws 114.

The main body 115 of member 104 has a plain cylindrical inner surface 116 of a diameter to slidably embrace the outer surface of the upper portion of body 101. At its lower end, surface 116 joins an outwardly and downwardly slanting frusto-conical guide surface 117. In a location to be aligned with locking groove 108 when member 102 is seated on member 101, cylindrical surface 116 is interrupted by an inwardly opening transverse annular groove 118 having flat top and bottom walls and a cylindrical outer wall. An annular seal 119, retained in a suitable groove provided in surface 116 adjacent surface 117, is employed to effect a fluid-tight seal between members 101 and -4.

Projection 113 has a cylindrical outer surface 120 terminated at its lower end by an outwardly projecting transverse annular shoulder 121. Shoulder 121 also determines the upper end of a cylindrical outer surface portion 122 of larger diameter than surface 120. At its bottom end, surface portion 122 terminates at the upper wall of an outwardly opening transverse annular groove 123. Below groove 123, member 104 has outer cylindrical surface portions 124 and 125 which are separated by a downwardly facing transverse annular shoulder 126, surface portion 124 having a larger diameter than does surface portion 125 and a somewhat smaller diameter than surface portion 122.

Locking sleeve 103 comprises a lower portion 127 and an upper portion 128 rigidly secured together, as by screws 129. At its bottom end, member 103 has an inwardly projecting transverse annular flange 130 having a grooved cylindrical inner surface, the groove retaining a suitable seal 131. The diameter of the inner surface of flange 130 is such that the seal 13-1 is maintained in slidable fluid-tight sealing engagement with surface portion 125. Immediately above flange 130, member 103 presents a cylindrical inner surface portion 132 which closely embraces surface :portion 124 of member 104. Surface portion 124 is provided with a groove immediately above shoulder 126, and a seal 133 is disposed in this groove to provide a fluid-tight seal between members 103 and 104 at this point. Flange 130, shoulder 126, surface portion 125 and surface portion 132 define an expansible chamber, and a suitable duct 134 is provided in member 103 for the supply and exhaust of fluid from this chamber.

Immediately above inner surface portion 132, member 103 is provided with a cam groove comprising a cylindrical outer surface portion 135, a transverse bottom wall cylindrical surface of projection 113.

136 and two upwardly and inwardly slanting surface portions 137 and 138. Surface portion 137 joins outer wall and slants inwardly at a relatively larger angle which may, for example, be 24. Upper slanting surface portion 138 joins surface portion 137 and slants inwardly at a markedly smaller angle which may, for example, be slightly in excess of 4.

Bottom wall 136 of the cam groove does not extend completely to surface portion 132 but is terminated by an upwardly directed tubular projection 139 which is defined by the upper portion of surface 132, an outer wall 140, and a rounded upper edge 141.

Above the cam groove member 103 has an inner cylindrical surface portion 142 of a diameter to closely embrace outer surface portion 122 of member 104. Surface portion 122 is grooved, immediately below shoulder 121, to accommodate a seal 143 for effecting a fluid-tight seal between surfaces 142 and 122 in this location. At its upper end, member 103 is provided with an inwardly directed transverse annular flange 144 which presents a cylindrical inner surface of a diameter to'closely embrace tubular projection 113. The inner face of flange 144 is suitably groved to retain a seal 145, so that a fluidtight seal is effected between flange 144 and the outer The lower face of flange 144, shoulder 121, surface 122 and surface 142 combine to define an expansible chamber with which a duct 146 communicates for the supply and exhaust of pressure fluid.

Groove 118 in member 104 slidably retains a plurality of identical locking segments 147. Segments 147 are arculate and arranged end-to-end in a circular series, as will be clear from FIG. 6. Each segment 147 has a flat upper face 148, a flat lower face 149, and an arcuate face 150. Upper face 148 is joined to arcuate face 150 by a downwardly and inwardly slanting face 151 and an upwardly and inwardly slanting face 152 is provided between lower face 149 and arcuate face 150. Each segment also has an arcuate outer face 153, the distance between faces 150 and 153 being somewhat less than the radial depth of groove 118. The height of each segment 147 is such that surfaces 148 and 149 slidably engage the upper and lower walls, respectively, of groove 11%. Grooves 118 and 123 are separated by an annular wall 154 provided with a plurality of radially directed cylindrical bores 155, there being one bore 155 for each of the locking segments 147.

Groove 123 slidably accommodates a plurality of 1dentical camfoliower segments 156 which are equal in number to the locking segments 147. Segments 156 are arcuate and arranged end-to-end in a complete circular series, as will be clear from FIG. 6. Each segment 156 has a flat upper surface 157 and a flat lower surface 158 which, at its outer edge, joins the downwardly and outwardly slanting arcuate surface 159 of a dependent cam flange 160. The outer face of each follower segment 156 is designed to cooperate with the inwardly facing cam surfaces presented by the locking sleeve 103. The outer face of each follower segment includes a rounded upper portion 161, a downwardly and outwardly slanting intermediate portion 162, and a cylindrical lower portion 163. As will be clear from FIG. 7, each cooperating pair of locking and follower segments is provided with radially aligned bores 164 and 165, respectively, bore 164 being threaded for engagement with a retaining screw 166. The follower segment 156 is recessed, as indicated at 167, to accommodate the head of the retaining screw. A spacer sleeve 168 surrounds the screw 166 and has its ends in respective engagement with the adjacent faces of segments 147 and 156, the diameter of the sleeve 168 being such that the sleeve is freely accommodated in the corresponding bore 155 through wall 154.

As will be clear from FIG. 6, each follower segment 156 is provided with a pair of cup-shaped recesses 169 which are located each on a different side of bore 156 and open toward wall 154, the recesses having flat bottoms and cylindrical side walls. In each recess, there is disposed a helical compression spring 170, one end of the spring engaging wall 154 and the other end of the spring engaging the bottom of the recess. Springs 170 are held in compression between the follower segments 156 and wall 154 and are operative to normally urge the follower segment 156 outwardly into the cam groove presented by locking ring 103. Assuming that the cam groove is positioned to accommodate the follower segments, springs 170 are effective to move the follower and locking segments, coupled together by screws 166, radially outwardly until outer face 153 of each locking segment engages the corresponding face of wall 154, as seen in FIG. 5. With the parts in this position, the locking segments 147 are fully withdrawn from locking groove 108. Downward movement of locking ring 103 relative to member 104 causes ca-rn surfaces 137 and 138 to ride over the rounded surface portion 161 of the follower segments, until cam surface portion 133 lies in face-to-face engagement with surface portion 162. With the parts in this position, as illustrated in FIG. 7, the downwardly and inwardly slanting upper faces 151 are engaged beneath the upwardly and outwardly slanting wall of groove 108 in wedging fashion, so that members 101 and 102 are clamped axially together with end surfaces 107 and 110 in direct face-to-face contact with each other.

Referring particularly to FIG. 7, it will be noted that surface portions 162 of followers 156 taper inwardly and upwardly at the same angle as does surface portion 138 of the cam groove in ring 103. Hence, when the ring has been actuated inwardly by downward movement of cam surface portion 137 past followers 156, the surface portions 152 come into flush, faoe-toface engagement with cam surface portion 138. As compared to the corresponding structure in the embodiment of FIGS. l-4, the followers 156, with their specially disposed surface portions 162, afford a greater area of engagement with the cam surface and, therefore, a superior ability to provide a frictional lock-down action for ring 103.

When ring 103 is again moved upwardly, so that portion 135 of the cam groove is opposite the follower segments, springs 170 are normally effective to urge the follower and locking segments outwardly, causing the locking segments to be withdrawn from groove 108. Should the segments be frictionally held or otherwise jammed in place to such an extent that the springs 170 are ineffective to accomplish such movement, the upwardly directed tubular projection 139, located at the bottom of the cam groove in ring 1113, moves upwardly between dependent flange 160, on the follower segments, and surface 124. As will be clear from FIG. 7, the parts are so dimensioned that, during such upward movement, the rounded nose 141 of projection 139 engages surface 159 of flange 160 and cams the follower segment outwardly, freeing the same so that the springs 170 will become effective.

Selective actuation of the ring 103, upwardly and downwardly on member 104, is accomplished by controlled admission of power fluid under pressure via ducts 134 and 146. With the parts in the relative position seen in FIG. 5, it will be understood that introduction of power fluid via duct 134 provides fluid pressure in the expansible chamber defined by shoulder 126, flange 130 and surfaces 125 and 132, this fluid pressure being effective to move the ring 103 downwardly. During such movement, any fluid contained within the chamber defined by shoulder 121, surfaces 120 and 142, and flange 144 is exhausted via ducts 146. It will be obvious that, with the ring 103 in its lowermost position, introduction of power fluid via duct 146 is effective to raise ring 103.

Dependent flange 111 on upper body member 102 presents a downwardly and inwardly tapering frusto-conical surface 171 which opposes surface 106 when faces 110 and 107 are in engagement. A suitable metallic sealing Cir ring 172, retained by ring 173, provides a fluid-tight seal between surfaces 106 and 171 when the upper body member 102 is properly seated on lower body member 101.

Both embodiments of the invention provide a practical solution to the problem of establishing by remotely operated means the necessary high axial clamping force between the wellhead body members, and for maintaining this force throughout the life of the wellhead assembly. Both embodiments also make it possible to employ metal sealing rings, such as the Laurent-type rings 21 and 172, in underwater, remotely asembled wellhead constructions.

While particularly advantageous embodiments of the invention have been chosen for illustration, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.

What is claimed is:

1. In a well apparatus for installation at an underwater location, the combination of an upright lower metal member having an axial through bore,

a cylindrical outer surface and an outer downwardly directed transverse annular locking shoulder,

a transverse annular upper end face, and

an upwardly exposed annular seat spaced outwardly from said through bore,

said shoulder, said end face and said seat being concentric with said through bore;

an upright upper metal member having an axial through bore,

a transverse annular lower end face, and

a downwardly exposed annular seat spaced outwardly from said through bore of said upper member,

said lower end face and said downwardly exposed seat being concentric with said through bore of said upper member;

dependent tubular means rigidly carried by said upper member concentric with said through bore thereof; a metal sealing ring; a plurality of locking devices carried by said dependent tubular means and arranged in a circular series, each of said locking devices having an outer cam follower portion and an inner portion having an upwar ly exposed downwardly and inwardly slanting surface; means yieldably biasing said locking devices outwardly toward positions in which said inner portions are retracted and said cam follower portions are outwardly exposed; said upper member being disposed on said lower memher with said end faces in direct mutual engagement and said dependent tubular means surrounding the upper end portion of said lower member,

said sealing ring being disposed between and engaged by said annular seats,

said locking devices being disposed with said downwardly and inwardly slanting surfaces facing said locking shoulder;

an annular member carried by said dependent tubular means for axial movement relative thereto between a first position and a second position,

said annular member having inwardly facing cam means comprising a first, sharply tapering frustoconical cam surface and a second adjacent frusto-conical cam surface, said first and second cam surfaces tapering axially of said annular member in the same direction, said second cam surface tapering at a markedly smaller angle and being of a smaller average diameter than said first cam surface,

movement of said annular member from said first position toward said second position causing said Ti first and second cam surfaces to engage said cam follower portions and force said locking devices radially inwardly and cause said downwardly and inwardly slanting surfaces of the inner portions of said locking devices to wedge beneath said locking shoulder and so establish an axial clamping force effective to secure said upper and lower members rigidly together; and remotely operated power means for driving said annu lar member,

the dimensions and locations of said locking shoulder, said second frusto-conical cam surface, and said locking devices being such that, when said annular member has been moved axially toward said second position to such an extent that the wedging action of said downwardly and inwardly slanting surfaces beneath said locking shoulder establishes said axial clamping force, said locking devices are still capable of further inward movement, as a result of further axial movement of said annular member, to preserve solid metal-to-metal contact between said end faces, and between said seats and said sealing ring, even though the well apparatus has been subjected to vibration, shock and bending forces which would otherwise cause loss of such solid metal-to-metal contact. 2. Well apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said lower and upper members are wellhead members. 3. Well apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said dependent tubular means comprises a generally cylindrical metal member having an internal diameter such as to closely surround said lower member in the location of said locking shoulder when said end faces are mutually engaged, said cylindrical metal member having a transverse annular inwardly opening groove,

and a plurality of radial openings extending outwardly from said groove and spaced apart man annular series, said groove having an upper wall which is disposed slightly above said locking shoulder when said end faces are mutually engaged; and each of said locking devices comprises a rigid stem extending through one of said radial openings and interconnecting said cam follower portion and said inner portion of the locking device, said inner portion of each of said locking devices being in the form of an arcuate segment slidably disposed in said inwardly opening groove, the radial depth of said inwardly opening groove being sufficiently greater than the radial dimension of said segments to allow said segments to be retracted completely within said groove.

4. Well apparatus according to claim-3, wherein said cylindrical metal member also is provided with an outwardly opening transverse annular groove,

said radial openings communicating between said inwardly opening and outwardly opening grooves; and said cam follower portion of each of said locking devices is in the form of an arcuate segment slidably disposed in said outwardly opening groove. 5. Well apparatus according to claim 4, wherein each of said cam follower segments is provided with an outwardly facing downwardly and outwardly slanting surface disposed to come into face-to-face engagement with said second frusto-conical surface of said annular member as said annular m mber is moved toward said second position. 6. Well apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said cylindrical metal member has an intermediate portion of larger outer diameter, and upper and lower portions of smaller outer diameter,

said inwardly opening groove being in said intermediate portion, and said radial openings extending outwardly through saidintermediate portion; and said annular member slidably embraces said intermedi ate portion of said cylindrical metal member and includes upper and lower transverse annular inwardly extending portions which respectively embrace said smaller diameter upper and lower portions of said annular member, said annular member and said cylindrical metal member cooperating to define upper and lower expansible chambers to which pressure fluid can be supplied selectively to drive said annular member. 7. Well apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said seats are frusto-conical surfaces which converge axially of said upper and lower members, and said sealing ring is wedged between said seats.

References Cited by the Examiner I UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,470,256 5/1949 McIlroy 285 "3 1 4 4 2,647,798 3/1953 Ballard 285315 2,687,229 8/1954 '.Laurent 285--332 2,860,893 11/1958 Clark 285314 2,962,096 11/1960 KllOX 285-18 .3,032,125 5/1962 Hiser.

3,050,117 8/1962 Haeber.

3,052,299 9/1962 Geer.

3,062,565 11/ 1962 Word.

3,071,188 1/1963 Raulins 166 66-.6

3,102,591 9/1963 Raulins.

3,147,992 9/1964 Haeber ,28518 CARL} W. TOMLIN, Primary Examiner.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification285/313, 285/317, 285/315
International ClassificationE21B33/038, E21B33/03
Cooperative ClassificationE21B33/038
European ClassificationE21B33/038