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Publication numberUS3527296 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateSep 8, 1970
Filing dateSep 20, 1968
Priority dateSep 20, 1968
Publication numberUS 3527296 A, US 3527296A, US-A-3527296, US3527296 A, US3527296A
InventorsMalone Billy C
Original AssigneeLynes Inc
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Inflatable safety shut-off for well bores or other openings
US 3527296 A
Images(8)
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

Sept. 8, 1970 B. c. MALCNE 3,527,295

INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT-OFF FOR WELL BORES OR OTHER OPENINGS Filed Sept. 20, 1968 s Sheets-Sheet 1 1 /0 7 v f6 H {I I /06 /fl5 f 'v /\\Y,Q I /\\V/\\Y INVENTOR .B//@ C 440/00 6 Magda lume! when & MaflLewA flTTORNE YS Sept. 8, 1970 B. c. MALONE 3,527,296

INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT'OFF FOR WELL BORES OR OTHER OPENINGS Filed Sept. 20, 1968 8 Sheets-Sheet 2 ATTORNE YS B. C. MALONE INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT-OF! FOR WELL BORES OR OTHER OPENINGS Filed Sept. 20, 1968 8 Sheets-Sheet 5 INVEN TOR BM/y C Mo/one Magda/u un/J HAW & MaMewA flTTORNE YS P 1970 B. c. MALONE 3,527,296

INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT-OFF FOR WELL BORES OR OTHER OPENINGS Filed Sept. 20, 1968 8 Sheets-Sheet 4 g f, INVENTOR :3 .BM/y C Ma/ane A BY Ma da m?! WIIAW & MaHLeu/A 4 N 7 ATTORNEYS Sept. 8, 1970 B. C. MALONE INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT-OFF FOR WELL BORES OR OTHER OPENINGS a Sheets-Sheet 5 i JZ in V l/ l/l INVEN TOR flM/y C Ma/one Magda hone! Wm (L MaHLewA ATTORNEYS Sept. 8, 1970 -B. c; 'MALONE 3,527,296

INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT-OFF FOR WELL somss OR OTHER OPENINGS Filed Sept. 20, 1968 x 8 Sheets-Sheet 6 INVENTOR fiM/y C Ma/o/ve Ma da l w/e! Haw Matthew flTTOR/VE YS Sept. 8, 1970 B. c. MALONE Filed Sept. 20, 1968 8 Sheets-Sheet '7 82 Ill 1 40c fl l/ w q a u T "1 k L 37a y f 5 w i 2/ m f I Q/ A! I g 44* 5 3; N 7 1 7 1:5 11? 5 I M/ I f 1 l 70 fiasw ff b Qjt'ly 3 2-5: 375

INVENTOR 5/ 49 C. Ma/one Ma da lume! Willow & MaflLewA flTTORNEYS B. C. MALONE Sept. 8, 1970 INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT-OFF FOR WELL BORES OR OTHER OPENINGS 8 SheetsSheet 8 Filed Sept. 20, 1968 INVENTOR .5/ //y C. Ma/one B) I Magda uwel Wm & MaRLewA ATTORNEYS United States Patent 3,527,296 INFLATABLE SAFETY SHUT-OFF FOR WELL BORES OR OTHER OPENINGS Billy C. Malone, Houston, Tex., assignor to Lynes, Inc., a corporation of Texas Filed Sept. 20, 1968, Ser. No. 761,150 Int. Cl. E21b 33/127, 33/129 US. Cl. 166-422 27 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Field of the invention The present invention relates to a tool for sealing off an opening surrounding a tubular member when tension is relieved from the tubular member or when the tubular member is placed under compression. It may be used in earth boring operations such as in mining, drilling of oil, gas or water wells, or where an opening is being drilled in the earth. It also has application to a tubular member which is positioned in a previously drilled or bored opening in the earth for sealing off the opening with a reinforced inflatable element. The invention includes a mandrel having means at one end for connection with the tubular member. A reinforced inflatable element is carried by a housing, which housing is, in turn, supported by the mandrel and has means at one end for connection with the tubular member. A piston is formed on the mandrel and carried in a chamber formed in the housing. The chamber is adapted to be filled With liquid and the tool incorporates passage means for conducting liquid from the chamber to the inflatable element when the piston moves Within the chamber upon relative longitudinal movement between the mandrel and housing to force liquid from the chamber :and into the reinforced inflatable element to expand it and seal off an opening.

Description of the prior art Although there may be prior art, applicant is not aware of any device as contemplated by the present invention for sealing off an opening.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention has many applications, several of which are described herein. For example, while drilling a well, particularly in a Water-covered area, it can be appreciated that the platform or barge or other support means for the drilling means may be located several hundred or several thousand feet above the surface of the earth in which the hole is being drilled or bored. In some situations it may be desirable to temporarily disconnect the drill pipe which extends from the surface of the water-covered area from the drilling barge without retrieving or removing all of the drill string from the opening in the earth. The present invention enables this to be accomplished in that when the pipe is so discon nected, the inflatable element will expand and seal olf with the surrounding Wall of the opening to prevent entry of water into the well bore and at the same time prevent egress of fluids from the Well bore. Also, the element can be constructed to retain and support that portion of the drill string or other tubular member which is within the opening, thus eliminating the removal of the drill string or tubular member from the opening in the earth.

In other situations the drilling platform structure, or vessel may be unintentionally moved by wave action, by contact with moving vessels, or by reason of storms. In such event, the drill pipe and the conductor or riser pipe extending from the support structure to the earths surface in the water-covered area may become severed and the present invention upon such occurrence seals the opening in the earth. It may also serve to retain and support the pipe in the opening in the earth so that it can be reconnected after such disruption has occurred.

Similarly, in producing oil, gas or water wells, the anchor or support at the wellhead and the production tubular member or members carried thereby may become separated, or, the tubular members may corkscrew or move upwardly under pressure. In such event, the present invention will seal off between the well bore and the tubular member or members. Also, the inflatable element can be provided with means such as slips to catch and hold the tubular member within the casing or well bore in which it extends.

It can be appreciated that in like manner the invention has application in other fields such as mining, or in any situation where an opening is bored, or is being bored, or drilled in the earths surface and a tubular member positioned therein either during or after the opening has been formed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic representation illustrating the present invention being used in connection with an off-shore drilling operation;

FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic, sectional view, partly in elevation, showing one form of the tool and showing it connected in a tubular member that is positioned in a cased opening;

FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIG. 2 but illustrating the form of the invention shown in FIG. 2 after it has been actuated so that the reinforced inflatable element is expanded to seal olf the opening;

FIG. 4 is a diagrammatic, sectional view illustrating another form of the invention connected in a tubular member that is positioned in a cased opening;

FIG. 5 is a diagrammatic, sectional View of another form of the invention and showing the relationship of the components of the tool after it has been actuated to seal off an opening and diagrammatically illustrating one means for releasing liquid from the reinforced inflatable element so that the inflatable element may disengage from the wall of the opening;

FIG. 6 is a diagrammatic, sectional view illustrating still another form of the invention;

FIG. 7 is a diagrammatic, sectional view illustrating still another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a diagrammatic, sectional view illustrating the relationship of the components of the present invention shown in FIG. 7 after it has been actuated;

FIG. 9 is an enlarged sectional view partly in elevation to illustrate the lock means on the mandrel and housing shown in FIGS. 7 and 8 just prior to their engagement;

FIG. 10 is an enlarged sectional view showing one form of the passage means in the tool and the plug valve which is externally accessible;

FIG. 11 is an enlarged sectional view showing an arrangement for accommodating realtive longitudinal movement between one end of the reinforced inflatable element and the housing as well as a form of releasable latch means to prevent premature movement or wadding of the inflatable element, such figure being an enlargement of the means Which is circled in FIG. 7 and identified by FIG. 11;

FIG. 12 is an eleavtion of a part of the releasable latch means as well as showing an exploded view of the lug means which is carried between one end of the reinforced inflatable element and housing. The lug means which fits within keyways formed in the housing accommodates relative longitudinal movement therebetween while preventing realtive rotational movement therebetween;

FIG. 13 is a sectional view on the line 1313 of FIG. 12 illustrating further details of the means which accommodates relative longitudinal movement between one end of the packer and the housing while preventing realtive rotation therebetween;

FIG. 14 diagrammatically illustrates the present invention positioned in a production string;

FIG. 15 is a diagrammatic, sectional view illustrating a form of the inevntion when it is used with a production string as illustrated in FIG. 14;

FIG. 16 is an enlarged sectional view illustrating the relationship of the components of the upper portion of the tool of FIG. 15 after it has been actuated; and,

FIG. 17 is an enlarged section view which is a continuation of the tool shown in FIG. 16 and illustrates the reinforced inflatable element of FIG. 15 in expanded and locked position with the surrounding casing.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT In FIG. 2, the tool is represented generally by the numeral and is shown in this form as including the mandrel 31 which is provided at its upper end with threads 32 or other suitable means for connection with the tubular member T. It will be noted that the tubular member T as well as the mandrel 31 is provided with an internal, longitudinal bore which communicate with each other.

A housing H is carried by the mandrel 31 and in cooperation with a portion of the mandrel 31 which is telescopically received Within the housing forms a chamber C therein for receiving liquid designated by the letter L.

The lower end of the housing H is provided with suitable means such as threads 33 for connection with the portion of the tubular member T which extends therebeneath. Thus, the invention 30 is connected in and forms a part of the tubular member T. It will be noted that the internal bore which extends through the mandrel 31 designated by the letter B also communicates with the internal bore B extending through the housing H. A piston P is formed or carried on the mandrel 31 and is provided with a suitable seal as illustrated at 35 for sealingly engaging the outer wall of the chamber C.

The housing H supports and carries a reinforced inflabable element 37, the reinforcing being diagrammatically represented at 38 and comprises an annular sheath which is suitably impregnated with an elastomeric compound that is yieldable when the piston P moves downwardly within the chamber C to force the liquid designated at L therein through the passage 40 formed in the tool and into the reinforced inflatable element 37 to expand it to engage the wall 39 of the well bore or opening 42 which surrounds the tool and the reinforced inflatable element as illustrated in FIG. 3.

It will be noted that the upper end 37a of the reinforced inflatable element is secured to the housing H while the lower end thereof represented generally by the number 37b is arranged so that it may move longitudinally realtive to the housing H to accommodate radial expansion of the reinforced element 37 and the element 37 is also mounted on the housing H to prevent relative rotational movement therebetween, should the tubular member T be rotated during boring or drilling opeartions. However, the lower end 37b and the housing H may move longitudinally realtive to each other to accommodate the expansion of the infiatable element 37.

Additionally, releasable latch means represented generally by the numeral 45 inhibit premature release or 4 wadding of the inflatable element 37 should any portion of the lower end 371) of the reinforced element 37 strike a ledge or projection as it is moved downwardly within the opening 42 either during drilling or boring operations, or as it is being positioned within the opening 42.

In the form of the invention shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the housing H is provided with a shoulder as shown at 46 which rests on the upper end of the annular enlarged potrion 47 formed on the tubular member T. The portion 47 is provided with grooves longitudinally thereof, shown at 47d in dotted line. Longitudinally extending keys 48 formed on the housing H as shown fit within the grooves 47d. This arrangement accommodates relative longitudinal movement between the mandrel 31 and housing H while preventing relative rotation therebetween.

The housing H and the tubular member T may be rotated and will retain the relationship shown in FIG. 2 of the drawings until something occurs which either applies compression to the tubular member T or relieves tension on the tubular member T so that the means which connect and lock the tubular member T and housing H together are released. In the form of the invention shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 a locking means is shown as being in the form of a shear pin 50, and when tension is relieved from the tubular member T or compression applied thereto to overcome the shear strength of the pin 50, it will shear, thus enabling the tubular member T to move downwardly and assume the position as shown in FIG. 3 of the drawings. When this occurs, relative longitudinal movement between the housing H and mandrel 31 will move piston 35 in chamber C to force liquid L through passage means 40 in the tool which communicates chamber C with inflatable element 37. Also relative longitudinal movement between the lower end 3711 of the reinforced inflatable element 37 and the housing H will occur to accommodate expansion of the reinforced inflatable element 37 and sealing of the annulus, or opening 42.

The construction of the invention as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 is generally similar to that shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 with several modifications. Again, the tubular member is represented by the letter T and the mandrel of the tool 30 by the numeral 31. The tubular member T is connected with the mandrel 31 at its upper end by suitable means such as threads 32 or the like and the bore of the tubular member communicates with mandrel bore B and also communicates with the bore B extending through the housing H. As in FIGS. 2 and 3, the bore B communicates with the bore in the housing H and in tubular member T below the tool 30. The housing H is connected by suitable means such as the threads 33 at the lower end of the housing to the tubular member T. The piston P on mandrel 31 is arranged within. the chamber C formed between the housing H and a portion of the mandrel which extends into the housing H, and as in FIGS. 2 and 3, the housing H and mandrel 31 cooperate to define an annular, ring-shaped chamber C for receiving a liquid designated at L therein. A seal 35 is provided on the piston P for sealingly engaging with the outer periphery of the chamber C as the piston P moves downwardly therein.

It will be noted that the shoulder 46 is again formed on the housing which engages the annular enlarged portion 47 formed on the mandrel 31. Grooves 47d extend longitudinally of portion 47 and are circumferentially spaced thereabout. Engaged within the grooves 47d are longitudinally extending keys 48 that are, in turn, circumferentially arranged and circumfel'entially spaced within a portion of the housing to thereby accommodate relative longitudinal movement between the mandrel 31 and housing H and at the same time preventing relative rotational movement therebetween. Again, releasable latch means 45 is provided adjacent the lower movable end 371) of the reinforced inflatable element 37 which is secured at its upper end 37a to the housing H as previously described with regard to the FIGS. 2 and 3 modification.

The passage means in the tool in the FIGS. 4 and 5 modification is referred to by the numerals 40 and 40" respectively. The passage means 40* includes the generally T-shaped passage 40a. One side of the T extends outwardly through the housing to receive a plug valve 40c, as will be described. The other side of the T extends inwardly through the housing H. The restricted passage 4% communicates passage 40a at the top of the T with the liquid filled chamber C when valve 400 is unseated. The restricted passage 40b functions as a dash pot and restricts movement of liquid L from chamber C when the tool is actuated so as to delay expansion of the reinforced inflatable element 37.

In the FIG. 4 form of the invention, it will be noted that there is no shear pin restraining or locking the housing H and the mandrel 31 together and when tension is released from the tubular member, or compression applied thereto, the piston P begins to move downwardly within the chamber C, but the restricted passage 40!) will restrict the flow of liquid from the chamber C so there will be some delaying action insofar as radial expansion of the reinforced inflatable element 37 is concerned until the longitudinally extending and circumferentially spaced grooves designated by G formed in the mandrel wall and which extend within the chamber C, but are spaced from each end of the chamber as shown in FIG. 4 of the drawings, communicate with the passage 40a. After the mandrel 31 has moved down so that the grooves G therein are in communication with the pas sage 40a, the liquid from the chamber C is supplied in a greater quantity so that the reinforced inflatable element then moves outwardly to seal the opening 42.

In the form of the invention shown in FIG. 5, it is similar to that shown in FIG. 4 with the exception that a shear pin 50 is provided to initially lock the housing H and tubular member T together against movement and passage means 40 is provided with a check valve means 40a. Thus, when tension is relieved from the tubular member T or compression applied thereto, so as to move the piston P downwardly within the chamber C, the liquid is locked within the reinforced inflatable element 37 and the tool cannot be released until some means for egress of the liquid L from the reinforced inflatable element can be accomplished.

This may be accomplished by any suitable means such as lowering a cable designated at 5011 into the tool and positioning an explosive charge designated at 51 adjacent the reinforced inflatable element 37 to perforate the mandrel wall and the wall of the housing as shown at 51a whereupon the liquid L which is trapped within the re inforced inflatable element 37 may escape through the mandrel bore, housing bore and tubular member T.

Attention is now directed to FIG. 6 of the drawings wherein the tubular member is again represented by the letter T and the mandrel by the numeral 31 and the housing by the letter H. The shoulder 46 on the housing H rests on the annular enlarged portion 47 on the mandrel 31. Grooves 47d extend longitudinally of and are circumferentially spaced, in which fit the radially projecting and circumferentially spaced longitudinal keys of 48 on the housing H. The mandrel 31 is again connected at its upper end by suitable means such as threads 32 to the tubular member T and the housing H is connected at its lower end by any suitable means such as threads 33 to the portion of the tubular member T which extends beneath the tool.

A chamber C for receiving liquid L is formed between the housing and the mandrel, as previously described, and a piston P having a seal means 35 is mounted on the mandrel and positioned within the liquid chamber C as shown in the drawings.

An additional chamber formed between the housing H and the mandrel 31 is referred to as C. The chamber C is adapted to receive a gas under pressure, preferably an inert gas such as nitrogen. The passage means in the tool from the liquid chamber C to the inflatable element 37 is designated by the number 40 and is similar in construction to that shown in FIG. 5 in that it includes a oneway check valve 40a. The reinforced inflatable element 37 is secured at its upper end 37a to the housing H and its lower end 371) is constructed and arranged so that longitudinal movement between the housing H and the lower end of the reinforced inflatable element will accommodate radial expansion of the reinforced inflatable element.

In the modification shown in FIG. 6 when tension is relieved from the tubular member T or compression applied thereto, the piston P is moved down within the chamber C. It will be noted that seal means 354 are provided for sealing off around the mandrel 31 and between the chambers C and C and that grooves G are formed on the mandrel 31 portion which extends longitudinally within the chamber C but are spaced from each end thereof. This serves as a delaying action in communicating the nitrogen gas from chamber C to one side of the piston P and thereby force it down; however, after the grooves G have moved beyond the seal 35a nitrogen gas from chamber C is communicated freely to chamber C to act against one side of the piston P and force the liquid on the other side thereof through the passage means 40 and into the interior of the reinforced inflatable element 37 carried by the housing.

When it is desired to release the seal between the reinforced inflatable element 37 and the wall of the opening 42, a charge may be lowered through the tool as described with regard to FIG. 5 and an opening formed in the mandrel and in a portion of the housing adjacent the reinforced inflatable element to enable the liquid to escape from the element 37 into the mandrel 31. Each of the forms shown in FIGS. 4, 5 and 6 employ a releasable latch means and each form provides an arrangement as will be described, to enable the lower end of the inflatable element 37 and housing H to move longitudinally relative to each other while preventing relative rotational movement.

In the modification of the invention shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, the mandrel 31 is again connected at its upper end to the tubular member T by suitable means such as threads 32. The housing H is connected at its lower end by suitable means such as threads 33 to the tubular member T. However, in this form of the invention, it will be noted that the arrangement of the longitudinal keys in the upper end of the housing H is somewhat different and also a different means for holding the tubular member T and housing H in locked position after the reinforced inflatable element has expanded is provided. For example, the radially projecting enlarged portion 47 abuts the shoulder 46 of the housing, and circumferentially arranged keys 48a are provided on the housing which interfit with grooves 47d in portion 47, it being noted that the keys 48a extend for only a relatively short distance within the hous ing H as compared with the previous forms of keys in the housing H. Thus, when the mandrel 31 and housing H are in the position shown in FIG. 7, relative longitudinal movement may occur therebetween, but no relative rotational movement. When the keys 48a and grooves 47d are disengaged, as shown in FIG. 8, they may be rotated relative to each other as the element 37 holds housing H stationary as mandrel 31 is rotated.

In order to lock the mandrel 31 and housing H together after the piston P has moved within the chamber C to force the liquid therein into the reinforced inflatable element 37 and expand it as shown in FIG. 8, a buttress threaded area referred to at is provided on the mandrel which is adapted to engage with the segmented nut 61 carried by the housing H and lock the mandrel 31 and the housing H together until rotation is applied to the tubular member T and connected mandrel 31 to disengage them, as previously described.

It will be noted in this form of the invention that the chamber C and the chamber C are both again provided as described with regard to the FIG. 6 modification; however, in the FIG. 7 modification grooves G are formed on the mandrel within each of the chambers C and C and extend longitudinally thereof, but are spaced from the end of the chambers to aid in delaying the passage of nitrogen from the end of chamber C to act on one side of the piston P and to initially delay full flow of liquid to the inflatable element 37. Also, a restriction 40b is provided in the passage means 40 in the tool between the liquid chamber C and the interior of the reinforced inflatable element to further aid in initially retarding the radial expansion of the reinforced inflatable element, or to act as a dash pot so that release of liquid from chamber C to the reinforced inflatable element 37 will not be instantaneous when tension is removed from the tubular member T or when compression is applied thereto. This form of passage means is similar to that shown in FIG. 4. In the form of the invention shown in FIGS. 7 and '8, the upper end 37a of the reinforced inflatable element 37 is secured to the housing H and the lower end 3712 is movable relative to the housing. The releasable latch means 45, as previously described is also provided, as is an arrangement to accommodate relative longitudinal movement between the one end of the element 37 and housing H, while preventing relative rotation therebetween.

Attention is directed to FIG. 9 wherein further details of the buttress thread 60 are shown. The mandrel is again represented by the numeral 31 and the buttress thread arrangement is shown in enlarged detail at 60. The segmented nut 61 is retained within the housing by the shoulders 61a and 61b and is urged radially inwardly by the spring 61c which surrounds the segmented nut 61 so that when the threaded surface 60 on the mandrel 31 moves downwardly into engagement with the segmented buttress-threaded nut 61, it will be locked together.

In FIG. 10 reference is directed to the enlarged detail of the passage means referred to by the numeral 40' of FIGS. 4, 7 and 8, the housing being represented by the letter H and an externally accessible plug valve by the numeral 40c which is threadedly connected in a passage which is part of the passage means 40.

The plug valve 400 is provided with suitable means such as rubber or the like at 40d on its nose for seating on the seat 460 formed within the passage means 40 to close off the passage means.

Additionally, suitable means such as the Allen locknut 40 may be positioned rearwardly of the plug 400 and formed integrally therewith so that the plug valve 400 may be moved towards and away from the seat 402. The plug valve 40c will normally be positioned inwardly on the seat 40c until shortly prior to the time that the tool is positioned within the tubular member. If desired, the plug valve arrangement may be incorporated in the other forms of passage means shown in the drawings.

Attention is now directed to FIGS. 11, 12 and 13 which illustrate the details of one form of the lower end of the reinforced inflatable element heretofore referred to by the numeral 37]), and the releasable latch means 45. A skirt 37d is connected to, and extends downwardly from the reinforced inflatable element 37 (not shown), and is internally threaded as illustrated at 37e. Threadedly engaged with the threads 37 e is the collar 37 the lower end of which forms the spring fingers 37g. Suitable seal means 37f are provided for sealing between the housing H and collar 37 of the lower packer end which surrounds the housing. The spring fingers 37g are provided in the collar 37 by forming longitudinally extending and radially spaced slots 37h therein and providing an enlargement 372' which fits within the annular recess 31d formed on the surounding housing. This arrangement provides releasable latch means between the lower end 3712 of the reinforced inflatable element 37 and the housing H until a predetermined amount of pressure is exerted to spring the fingers 37g out of the annular recess 31d to enable the reinforced inflatable element 37 to radially expand and seal with the wall of the surounding opening.

Additional means are provided to accommodate relative longitudinal movement of the lower end 37b of the inflatable element 37 and the housing H, while preventing relative rotation between the housing H and lower end 3712 of the element, such means being shown as lugs 37j which are received within the openings 37k formed in the collar 37f. A plurality of longitudinally extending keyways 31a are provided at circumferentially spaced intervals within the housing H within which the lugs 37 slide, and the lugs 37 j move upwardly as the inflatable element 37 radially expands. It can be appreciated that since the skirt 37d is connected to the collar 37 and that the lugs are, in turn, carried in the openings 37k of the collar 37 when the inflatable element radially expands, the lugs 37 j move upwardly.

In assembling the skirt 37a, collar 37] and lugs 37 the collar 37 f and skirt 37d will be threadedly engaged by means of threads 37a. Thereafter slight relative rotation of the collar 37 can be effected so as to align at least several of the openings 37k with the keyways 31a in the housing H to enable the lugs 37 to be dropped therein. Thereafter, suitable spring means as illustrated at 371 can be positioned in the recess 37m formed in the collar and in the lugs to aid in retaining them in position.

Thereafter the retaining collar 3711 can be threadedly secured by means of the threads 370 on the collar 37]. Suitable seals are provided as illustrated to prevent leakage of fluid from the element 37.

From the above description, it can be appreciated that this arrangement enables the lower end 37b of the reinforced inflatable element 37 and the housing H to move relative to each other longitudinally while preventing relative rotation. Similarly, the arrangement of the projections 371' and cooperating recess 31d prevent premature actuation or radial movement of the reinforced inflatable element 37 should the lower radially projecting portion of the tool a strike a ledge or some other projection which might tend to wad the lower end of the packer.

Attention is now directed to FIGS. 15, 16 and 17 of the drawings wherein a form of the invention is illustrated that may be used, for example, with a production string in an oil, gas or Water well. In this form of the invention, the tubular member T is again shown as connected to the mandrel 31 in FIG. 14 by suitable means such as the threaded coupling 32. The mandrel 31 is again telescopically received within the housing H and the shoulder 46 of the housing H rests on enlarged portion 47 of the mandrel. Grooves 47d in the portion 47 and keys 48a on housing H prevent relative rotation when they are engaged in the position shown in FIG. 15, as is true with the form shown in FIG. 7. The housing H and the mandrel 31 form a chamber C for receiving liquid L therein as previously described with regard to the other forms of the invention. A piston P is formed on the mandrel 31 within the chamber C and is provided with seal means as previously described for engaging the annular wall of the chamber C as it moves downwardly to force liquid through the passage means designated generally by the numeral Again, the bore of the tubular member above the tool or invention 30 communicates with the bore of the mandrel within the housing and with the bore of the housing. The bore of the housing in turn communicates with the bore of the tubular member T connected thereto by suitable means such as the threaded coupling 33 shown in FIG. 14. The passage conducting means between the chamber C includes the plug valve 40C previously described in detail with regard to FIG. 10 as well as the one-way check valve 40a" so that when liquid has been conducted from the chamber C into the reinforced inflatable element 37, the mandrel 31 and housing H will be retained in locked position, and the inflatable element expanded to seal against the wall of the surounding opening.

If desired, the buttress thread arrangement described with regard to FIGS. 8 and 9 may be used in lieu of the one-way check valve in this modification of the invention.

The annular reinforcing sheath 38 is shown in the inflatable element 37, and it will be noted that the lower end 37b of the reinforced inflatable element does not incorporate the releasable latch means 45 or the means to prevent relative rotation between the housing H and lower element end 37b described with regard to the other forms of the invention. The upper end 37a of the inflatable element is secured to the housing and lower end 37b is movable relative thereto, to accommodate expansion of the inflatable element 37. A seal 37b between the lower end 37b of the element and housing H prevents the escape of liquid as the element expands.

In this form of the invention gas under pressure is placed in the portion of the chamber C represented at 83 on the top side of the piston P. Seals 82 between the mandrel 31 and housing H prevent escape of the gas and liquid from the chamber C.

FIGS. 16 and 17 show the upper part of the tool shown in FIG. and the lower part respectively after it has been actuated.

It will be noted that in this form of the invention the annular reinforced inflatable element 37 is provided with a plurality of circumferentially arranged slip segments 70 at each end of the reinforced inflatable element which are adapted to expand as the element expands and where the reinforced inflatable element and tool are used within a pipe or other conduit, they will serve to grip or engage the walls thereof and aid in retaining or locking it in position.

The form of the invention described in FIGS. 15 through 17 can be employed quite satisfactorily in connection with a tubular member T where the tubular member T is a production string of an oil, gas or water well. For example, a platform 80 is represented as being positioned in a water-covered area, and the wellhead, or Christmas tree as it is commonly referred to, designated generally by the numeral 81. The tubular member T is anchored in the wellhead by any suitable means and it can be appreciated that in some instances the wellhead might be knocked off or otherwise disconnected from the production string, in which event the weight of the tubular member T above the invention would be relieved, thereby enabling the compressed gas in the portion 83 of chamber C to expand and to act on the upper end of the piston P to move it down in chamber C and thereby force the liquid L through the passage means 40 to radially expand the inflatable element 37. Of course, as previously mentioned, the plug valve 40c is normally retained in closed position until the tool is inserted in the well string at which time it is opened to open the passage means 40" to enable communication of liquid L to the interior of the inflatable element 37 when tension is relieved from or compression applied to the tubular member T. In some instances, the pressure in the annulus 42 below the tool 30 connected in the production string or strings T may be subjected to pressure to cause it to corkscrew, or move upwardly. When this occurs, the tool 30 would be actuated, if sufficient force were involved to disconnect the wellhead and production string and thereby relieve the tension in the production string to actuate the tool as previously described.

The one-way check valve will lock the liquid within the inflatable element 37 and at the same time the slips will set against the surrounding pipe, normally referred to as casing in oil or gas well terminology.

It can be appreciated that this arrangement seals off the annulus or opening of the well bore to inhibit the passage of any liquids in a water-covered area into the annulus and at the same time prevent escape of fluids from the annulus and into the surrounding water.

By suitable means well known in the art, the tubular member T could again be located, and a charge as described with regard to the modification shown in FIG. 5 be lowered thereinto to enable the liquid to escape from the inflatable element 37, or where the buttress-threaded arrangement is employed, as described with regard to the FIGS. 7, 8 and 9 form, the tubular member T could be rotated and the mandrel 31 then elevated to enable the fluid to escape back into the chamber C. Thereupon repairs could be made to the wellhead 81 and further operations as may then be necessary can then be conducted to continue production of the well.

In FIG. 1 a floating vessel is illustrated supporting a drilling rig 101 for drilling an opening or well bore 102 in the earth. A drill bit 103 is supported on the lower end of a drill string, and immediately thereabove there are arranged a plurality of drill collars 104 to aid in maintaining the desired amount of weight on the drill bit. In this situation the wellhead arrangement 106 is positioned adjacent the submerged surface 105 in the water-covered area. It is not uncommon for the drilling platform or vessel as shown in FIG. 1 to be anywhere from several hundred to several thousand feet above the wellhead 106 and a conductor or riser pipe 107 extends between the wellhead 106 and the drilling vessel 100 where the normal drilling equipment is supported.

The riser pipe or conductor pipe 107 receives the drill string referred to at the surface of the water 109 by the numeral 110. The drill string extends down through the conductor or riser pipe 107 and into the well bore, and for purposes of illustration only, forms the tubular member T referred to herein. The present invention is again referred to as the numeral 30, and generally speaking, surface pipe is set in the earths surface and may extend anywhere from 500 to 2500 feet or more downwardly into the earth. The drill string 110 is rotated by mean well known which is positioned on the drilling vessel 100 and is maintained in tension throughout its drilling operation except for the drill collar portion 104 which places the drill bit in compression to accomplish the drilling function.

It can be appreciated that in some instances it may be desirable to disconnect the riser pipe 107 and drill string 110 and leave the drill string 110 in the well bore 102 and move the drilling vessel. For example, if a storm or hurricane or other unusual weather disturbance arises, it may be desirable to move the vessel temporarily and then relocate it over the well bore. The present invention enables this to be accomplished in that when the drill pipe is disconnected at any point above the invention 30, the tension therein is relieved and the mandrel 31 will move in the manner described in the various embodiments. Reinforced inflatable element 37 will expand to close off and seal the opening or well bore 42. This prevents entry of water into the well bore 42 and at the same time prevents egress of any fluids from the well bore. After the disturbance has passed, the vessel may then be relocated relative to the well bore and anchored by means well known in the art and the drill string 110 and riser pipe 107 relocated and reconnected so that drilling operations can continue.

Also, if the riser pipe 107 and/ or drill string 110 shears above the wellhead 106 due to any circumstance, this would actuate the tool 30 and cause the element 37 to expand and seal off the well bore 42. By means well known in the art, the sheared drill string 110 and riser pipe 107 could be relocated, the vessel 100 positioned properly, and drilling operations continued.

In some instances it may be desirable to use the form shown in FIG. 2 wherein compression may be applied to the tubular member T above the tool to shear the pin 50, or the weight of the tubular member T, when tension is relieved therefrom may be used to shear the pin 50. In other inistaces it may be desirable to use one of the other forms.

Since the mandrel 31 and housing H are constructed and arranged at their upper end so that no relative ro tational movement can occur therebetween, and since the 1 1 lower end of the inflatable element 37 is arranged so that no relative rotational movement can occur therebetween and the housing H, it can be appreciated that when the present invention is used in connection with boring or drilling operations, the entire tool 30 will rotate with the rotating drill string, or tubular member T.

The present invention has been described in detail in connection with its use in drilling operations where the well bore may be provided with a casing or conductor pipe; however, it will function in uncased or open-hole in the same manner to seal it off. Of course, the slip arrangement of FIGS. -17 functions primarily in a cased hole.

Similarly, the tool can be used in many operations such as mining, trenching, boring or in any situation where it may be desired to seal off the annulus surrounding a tubular member.

The foregoing disclosure and description of the invention are illustrative and explanatory thereof and various changes in the size, shape, and materials, as well as in the details of the illustrated construction, may be made within the scope of the appended claims without departing from the spirit of the invention.

What is claimed is:

1. A tool for connection between two tubular members to seal off an opening surrounding the tubular members comprising:

(a) a mandrel having means for connection with one of the tubular members;

(b) a housing carried by said mandrel, said housing in cooperation with said mandrel forming a chamber for receiving liquid therein;

(c) means on said housing for connection with the other of the tubular members;

(d) an inflatable element including an annular reinforcing sheath having an end secured to said housing;

(e) means surrounding said housing with the other end of said reinforcing sheath secured thereto and movable upon inflation of said element;

(f) seal means sealing between said housing and said means surrounding said housing;

(g) piston means on said mandrel and positioned Within said chamber;

(h) there being passage means in the tool for conducting liquid from said chamber to said inflatable element; and

(i) said piston movable within said chamber upon relative longitudinal movement between said mandrel and housing to force liquid from said chamber into said reinforced inflatable element to expand said 1 reinforced inflatable element and seal 01f the opening.

2. The invention of claim 1, including means for locking said mandrel and housing in a predetermined position against relative longitudinal movement, said locking means releasing when a predetermined tension or compression is applied to said one tubular member.

3. The invention of claim 1 including cooperating means on said mandrel and housing to accommodate relative longitudinal movement between said housing and mandrel while preventing relative rotation therebetween.

4. The invention of claim 1 wherein a restriction is formed in said passage means which restricts flow of liquid from said chamber to said inflatable element and thereby functions as a delaying means for inflation of said element.

5. The invention of claim 4 including longitudinally extending grooves in said mandrel which terminate at points spaced from the end of said chamber and which serve to communicate liquid from said chamber to said inflatable element upon a predetermined amount of relative movement between said mandrel and housing.

6. The invention of claim 1 including lock means for retaining said inflatable element inflated.

7. The invention of claim 6 wherein said lock means includes check-valve means in said passage means for preventing escape of liquid from said inflated element.

8. The invention of claim 6 wherein said lock means includes a buttress threaded surface on said mandrel, a segmented nut carried by said housing, spring means normally urging said segmented nut radially inwardly and said segmented nut having buttress threads formed thereon for engaging with the buttress threaded surface on said mandrel to retain said mandrel and housing in a predetermined relative longitudinal position.

9. The invention of claim 1 including externally accessible valve means carried by said housing for preventing flow through said passage means in the tool.

10. The invention of claim 1 including means carried by said housing and inflatable element to accommodate relative longitudinal movement between one end of said element and said housing while preventing relative rotation therebetween.

11. The invention of claim 10 wherein said means include cooperating keys and longitudinally extending keyways acting between one end of said inflatable element and said housing.

12. The invention of claim 1 including releasable latch means formed on said housing and one end of said inflatable element to restrain relative longitudinal movement of said element and housing until a predetermined amount of inflating force is exerted by said inflating liquid within said element.

13. The invention of claim 12 wherein said releasable latch means includes spring fingers carried by said inflatable element and a groove formed in said housing within which said spring fingers are received.

14. The invention of claim 1 wherein said chamber on one side of said piston is provided with a gas under pressure which acts against said piston to move said piston and thereby inflate said inflatable element when tension is relieved from the tubular member.

15. The invention of claim 14 including lock means for retaining said inflatable element inflated.

16. The invention of claim 15 wherein said lock means includes check-valve means in said passage means for preventing escape of liquid from said inflated element.

17. The invention of claim 15 wherein said lock means includes a buttress threaded surface on said mandrel, a segmented nut carried by said housing, spring means normally urging said segmented nut radially inwardly and said segmented nut having buttress threads formed thereon for engaging with the buttress threaded surface on said mandrel to retain said mandrel and housing in a predetermined relative longitudinal position.

18. The invention of claim 14 including externally accessible valve means carried by said housing for closing said passage means in the tool.

19. The invention of claim 1 including slip means carried by said inflatable element for engaging an adjacent surface as said element expands.

20. The invention of claim 1 including an additional chamber formed in said housing with gas under pressure therein, means for communicating said gas under pressure to said piston and thereby force said piston to move liquid from said chamber into said inflatable element.

21. The invention of claim 20 including cooperating means on said mandrel and housing to accommodate relative longitudinal movement between said housing and mandrel While preventing relative rotation therebetween.

22. The invention of claim 20 wherein a restriction is formed in said passage means which restricts flow of liquid from said chamber to said inflatable element and thereby functions as a delaying means for inflation of said element.

23. The invention of claim 20 including longitudinally extending grooves in said mandrel which terminate at points spaced from the end of said chamber and which serve to communicate liquid from said chamber to said 13 inflatable element upon a predetermined amount of relative movement between said mandrel and housing.

24. The invention of claim 20 including lock means for retaining said inflatable element inflated.

25. The invention of claim 24 wherein said lock means includes check-valve means in said passage means for preventing escape of liquid from said inflated element.

26. The invention of claim 24 wherein said lock means includes a buttress threaded surface on said mandrel, a segmented nut carried by said housing, spring means normally urging said segmented nut radially inwardly and said segmented nut having buttress threads formed thereon for engaging with the buttress threaded surface on said mandrel to retain said mandrel and housing in a predetermined relative longitudinal position.

271. The invention of claim 20 including externally accessible valve means carried by said housing for closing said passage means in the tool.

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS DAVID H. BROWN Thomas 166-l87 Bald 277-34 Johnston et al. 277116.4 Mounce et a1. 166187 Brown et al. 166-422 X Reistle 166-187 X Taylor et a1. 166187 X Hyde 166187 X Lebourg 166-196 X Bielstein et a1. 166--l87 X Primary Examiner US. Cl. X.R.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3662824 *Oct 5, 1970May 16, 1972Page John S JrSelf-closing, sub-surface well safety valve
US4076083 *Nov 24, 1975Feb 28, 1978Otis Engineering CorporationMethod and apparatus for controlling a well during drilling operations
US4082298 *Nov 19, 1975Apr 4, 1978Lawrence SanfordInflatable packer and valve mechanism therefor
US4108257 *Sep 14, 1977Aug 22, 1978Otis Engineering CorporationApparatus for controlling a well during drilling operations
US4420159 *Aug 13, 1982Dec 13, 1983Completion Tool CompanyPacker valve arrangement
US4499947 *Dec 12, 1983Feb 19, 1985Magyar Szenhidrogenipari Kutatofejleszto IntezetPacker for separation of zones in a well bore
US4527625 *Jun 6, 1984Jul 9, 1985Completion Tool CompanyPacker valve arrangement
US4772158 *Feb 18, 1986Sep 20, 1988Max BassettMethod and apparatus for setting inflatable packers in deep water
US5143154 *Sep 25, 1991Sep 1, 1992Baker Hughes IncorporatedInflatable packing element
US5297633 *Dec 20, 1991Mar 29, 1994Snider Philip MInflatable packer assembly
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US5495892 *Dec 30, 1993Mar 5, 1996Carisella; James V.Inflatable packer device and method
US5564504 *Jul 17, 1995Oct 15, 1996Carisella; James V.Programmed shape inflatable packer device and method
US5813459 *Sep 11, 1996Sep 29, 1998Carisella; James V.Programmed shape inflatable packer device
US20120211221 *Feb 17, 2011Aug 23, 2012Baker Hughes IncorporatedAnnulus Mounted Potential Energy Driven Setting Tool
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Classifications
U.S. Classification166/122, 277/331, 166/187
International ClassificationE21B33/127, E21B33/12
Cooperative ClassificationE21B33/1272
European ClassificationE21B33/127B