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Publication numberUS3760876 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateSep 25, 1973
Filing dateMay 11, 1972
Priority dateMay 11, 1972
Publication numberUS 3760876 A, US 3760876A, US-A-3760876, US3760876 A, US3760876A
InventorsE Blount, N Prueger
Original AssigneeMobil Oil Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Well completion systems
US 3760876 A
Abstract
Well completion system for wells penetrating a permafrost zone in the earth. The system comprises a protective casing and a production casing extending to a subterranean formation. The production casing is suspended from the protective casing at a downhole location in order to reduce loading at the wellhead. Also disclosed are means for supporting other tubular goods within the well rather than at the wellhead.
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United States Patent [191 Blount et al.

[ Sept. 25, 1973 1 WELL COMPLETION SYSTEMS [75] Inventors: Elmo M. Blount, Irving, Tex.; Nicolas J. Prueger, Spenard, Alaska [73] Assignee: Mobil Oil Corporation, New York,

[22] Filed: May 11, 1972 [21] App]. No.: 252,441

Related US. Application Data [62] Division of Ser. No. 57,636, July 23, 1970.

[52] US. Cl. 166/57, 166/DIG. l [51] Int. Cl E21b 43/24, E2lb 43/10 [58] Field of Search 166/.5, 57, 67, 84-89,

[56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,886,886 11/1932 Kelley et al 166/57 3,405,763 10/1968 Pitts et a1 166/208 2,707,030 4/1955 Ontmanm 166/88 3,561,531 2/1971 Miller 166/285 Primary Examinerlames A. Leppink Att0meyAndrew L. Gaboriault et al.

[57] ABSTRACT Well completion system for wells penetrating a permafrost zone in the earth. The system comprises a protective casing and a production casing extending to a subterranean formation. The production casing is suspended from the protective casing at a downhole location in order to reduce loading at the wellhead. Also disclosed are means for supporting other tubular goods within the well rather than at the wellhead.

4 Claims, 1 Drawing Figure WELL COMPLETION SYSTEMS This application is a division of application Ser. No. 57,636, filed July 23, 1970.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to well completions and more particularly'to completion systems for wells which'extend through permafrost zones of the earth.

Permafrost is encountered in arctic oil producing regions such as those found in northern Canada and on the North Slope of Alaska. Permafrost is a frozen ground mass which underlies the surface tundra and which remains perenially at a temperature of 32 F. or less. In most areas the permafrost has a thickness within the range of about 800 to 1500 feet, although 'it may vary from only a few hundred feet or less to as much as 2000 feet.

The presence of permafrost poses serious difficulties in regard to the completion and production of wells in arctic regions. One particularly hazardous'problem is presented by the tendency of the permafrost to melt in the vicinity of the production wells. Curde oil as it is recovered from a productionwell is at an elevated temperature, typically'on the order of l60 F. Thus, in the absence of appropriate meliorative procedures, the operation of a production well will result in progressive melting of the permafrost with the passing of time. Such thawing is'particularly serious in the upper 50 to 200 feet of the permafrost zone This portion of the permafrost contains a significant amount of so-called free ice." As this melts, the resulting decrease in volume causes subsidence of the permafrost zone which may result in damage to casing strings and other components of the well completion system.

Various techniques maybe employed to lessen the likelihood of subsidence in the permafrost zone and attendant damage to the well completion equipment. For example, insulation may be provided about appropriate tubing or casing'stringsin order to prevent or at least delay thawing of the permafrost. In addition, the, well may be provided with refrigeration equipment in order to achieve this same result. Another technique involves the provision of one or more shear connections in casing strings within the permafrost zone. Thus, as subsidence occurs, these joints are sheared to avoid stresses in other parts of the completion system.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a new and improved well completion technique system wherein a significant portion of the casing load in the well is supported downhole so as to reduce the deleterious effects of subsidence within the permafrost zone. The well system of the present invention comprises an outer conductor casing and a protective casing within the conductor casing which extends downwardly from the wellhead into the permafrost zone. In addition, the well is provided with a production casing extending through the protective casing to a subteranean formation such as an oil reservoir. A lower section of the production casing is suspended from the protective casing by means of suitable support means located at a downhole location within the protective casing. Thus, most of the weight of the production casing is supported within the well rather than at the wellhead. Preferably, the lower section of the production casing is supported at a depth either below the permafrost zone or, if within the permafrost zone, ata depth of at least 500 feet from the wellhead. At this depth the permafrost contains little or no free ice. Thus, if the permafrost should thaw at this depth, little or no subsidence results. The production casing is provided with selectively releasable connecting means at a downhole location below the conductor casing and above the support means for allowing an upper section of the production casing to be selectively disconnected from a lower section thereof. Thus the upper section may be withdrawn in order to facilitate installation of heat barrier means in the annulus between the production and protective casings while leaving the lower section in place.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING The drawing is an illustration partly in section showing a well completed in accordance with the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS:

With reference to the drawing, there is illustrated a well 10 which extends from a wellhead 12 at the earths surface to a subterranean formation 14 which is productive of oil and/or gas. As shown, the well extends through an overburden including a layer of tundra 16, a permafrost zone 17, and an unfrozen section 18.

The well is equipped with an outer casing or conductor pipe 20 which extends from the' wellhead 12 a relatively short distance into the permafrost zone. This casing conventionally is cemented from its total depth to the surface of the well to provide a cement sheath 22. As the well is drilled it is provided with progressively smaller casing strings including, as shown, a surface casing 24, a protective casing 25, and a production casing 26 which extends from the wellhead to formation 14. The upper portion of casing 25 is enlarged, as shown, in order to provide sufficient clearance for the installation of a heat barrier between casings 25 and 26. For example, refrigeration coils may be implaced between these casings or insulation may be wrapped around the upper section of casing 26. The well also is equipped with a tubing string 28 which extends within production string 26 for the flow of fluids between formation l4 and the surface. The wellhead 12 is equipped with valved flowlines 30, 31, and 32 for the tubing 28, the tubing annulus 29, and the production casing annulus 33, respectively, in order to provide for the egress or ingress of fluids. The production casing 26 is cemented as indicated by reference character 34 and is provided with perforations 35 which define an open production interval within formation 14.

Well 10 may be operated in any suitable mode. For example, the well may be produced through the tubing annulus 39, with tubing 28 left available as a kill string in the event it becomes necessary to pump fluid down the well in order to kill the well. Alternatively, fluids from formation 14 may be produced through the tubing string in which case the tubing annulus 29 may be closed with a suitable downhole packer (not shown). The well also may be employed as a dual-zone producer in the event the well penetrates two producing formations, In this case, casing string 26 may be perforated opposite an upper producing formation (not shown) and a packer set in the tubing annulus 29 between the two fonnations. The lower formation then may be produced through the tubing string and the upper formation through the annulus 29.

It is to be recognized that the completion compo-' nents thus far described are merely exemplary and that the well may be completed by other techniques consistent with the practice of the present invention. For example, rather than providing a production interval by means of perforations 35, as shown, the casing string 26 may be set and cemented to the top of the formation 14. Thereafter, the well may be drilled deeper into formation 14 in order to provide an openhole comple tion.

As noted previously, thawing of the permafrost zone is accompanied by subsidence which is particularly pronounced in the upper free-ice section of the permafrost zone. Such subsidence results in increased compressive stresses within the various casings employed in completing the well. For example, should the permafrost zone melt adjacent casings 20 and 24, frictional engagement between the subsiding ground mass and these casings will exert a downward force on the casings.'This force, in addition to the columnar load on the casings due to their own weight and also the weight of equipment supported thereon, will increase the compressive stress in these casing strings ultimately to the point where buckling may occur.

In accordance with the present invention, the problems associated with such subsidence are alleviated by suspending the greater portion of production casing 26 from the protective casing 25 by means of a downhole support means38. Thus, the load of the lower section of the production casing below support means 38'is transferred to casing 25 at the level of the support means and from there through the surrounding cement to the adjacent formation. Where the support 38 is located within the permafrost zone, as shown, it is desirable to position it below the free-ice section where little or no subsidence will occur from thawing of the permafrost. Preferably, the support will be located at a depth of at least 500 feet from the wellhead in order to ensure that it is well below the free-ice section. Alternatively, particularly where the permafrost zone is relatively thin, the'support 38 may be positioned in the unfrozen section 18 of the overburden below the permafrost zone.

Above support 38, production casing 26 is provided with a normally closed circulating valve 39 and a releasable connection 40 such as back-off joint 40. Connection 40 will enable withdrawal of the upper portion of casing 26 without disturbing the lower section suspended from support 38.

In addition to' supporting the production casing downhole, it is preferred to likewise support a lower section of the protective casing at a downhole location. Thus, a second support 41, which is located above support 38, is employed to suspend a lower section of pro- Preferably, the casings 24 and 25 are only partially cemented in order to lessen the compressive stresses induced in these casings by subsiding permafrost. Thus, protective casing 25 is provided with a cement sheath 42 which extends from below to above the support 38. Normally cement sheath 42 will extend from the total depth of casing 25 to a position above support 41, as shown. Similarly, surface casing 24 is provided with a cement sheath 44 which extends from below support 41 and terminates above this support. The annuli 46 and 48 above the cement sheaths are loaded with a liquid in order that the permaforst will not seize a purchase if subsidence occurs. Normally a thixotropic liquid such as gelled oil or drilling mud will be used to load the annuli. Such use of a thixotropic liquid is especially beneficial with respect to annulus 48 which is open to the adjacent ground mass since it reduces fluid loss from the annulus. If drilling mud is employed, sufficient salt should be added to bring its freezing temperature to a level well below 32 F., e.g., to 15 F.

Since. the oil produced through casing string 26 and- /or tubing string 28 is at a high temperature, these strings will tend to undergo thermal expansion relative to protective casing 25; This effect will be particularly pronounced where the annulus 33 is provided with heat barrier means such as insulation or refrigeration. It is preferred to compensate for this by providing the wellhead with a stuffing box 50 between the upper sections of casings 25 and 26. Stuffing box 50 functions to seal the annulus between casings 25 and 26 while at the same time allowing for relative longitudinal movement between these casings at the wellhead. In addition, bythis arrangement, the weight of the upper part of casing 26 is carried by support 38 rather than at the wellhead l2.

Thetubing string 28 and production casing 26 will undergo little or no thermal expansion relative to one another.'Thus, it is preferred to suspend tubing 28 from the production casing 26 at the wellhead by means of a surface support 52. By this arrangement, the weight of tubing 28 as well as the upper portion of casing 26 is carried at downhole support 38 to avoid these loads being transferred to the wellhead. Inaddition to providing a surface support for tubing 28, it is preferred to support the tubing in casing 26 at a depth at least as great as support means 38. Thus, a lower section of tubing 28 is suspended from casing 26 by means of a downhole support 56. By this arrangement only the section of tubing 28 above support 56 is carried by the upper section of the production casing in compression.

What is claimed is:

1. In a well extending from a wellhead through a permafrost zone of the earth to an underlying subterranean formation, the combination comprising:

an outer conductor casing within said well extending downwardly from the wellhead,

a protective casing within said conductor casing extending downwardly from the wellhead into said permafrost zone,

a production casing within said protective casing extending from the wellhead through said permafrost zone to the subterranean formation,

support means at a downhole location within said protective casing and below the top of said permafrost zone for suspending a lower section of said production casing from said protective casing, and

selectively releasable connecting means in said production casing at a downhole location below said conductor casing and above said support means for allowing an upper section of said production casing to be selectively disconnected from a lower section of said production casing whereby said upper section may be withdrawn from said well while leaving said lower section in place.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein said support means for said lower section of production casing is located at a depth of at least 500 feet. 7

3. The system of claim 1 wherein said support means is located below the free ice section of said permafrost zone.

4. In a well extending from a wellhead through a permafrost zone of the earth to an underlying subterranean formation, the combination comprising:

an outer conductor casing within said well extending downwardly from the wellhead,

a protective casing within said conductor casing extending downwardly from the wellhead through said permafrost zone to a location below said permafrost zone,

a production casing within said protective casing extending from the wellhead through said permafrost zone to the subterranean formation,

support means within said protective casing for suspending a lower section of said production casing from said protective casing at a location below said permafrost zone, and

selectively releasable connecting means in said production casing at a downhole location below said conductor casing and above said support means for allowing an upper section of said production casing to be selectively disconnected from a lower section of said production casing whereby said upper section may be withdrawn from said well while leaving said lower section in place.

v UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE CERTIFICATE OF CORRECTION "PatentNo. 3,760,876 Dated 8 m: 2; 191:

Inventor(s) m l. W, 3!. IL.

It is certified that error appears in the above-identified patent and that said Letters Patent are hereby corrected as shown below:

on the cover about insert lho portion of the born of this patont lubuquont to Oct. 3, 1989, has boon disclaim.

Signed and sealed this 21st day of January 1975.

(SEAL) Attest:

MCCOY M. GIBSON JR. At'testing Officer I C. MARSHALL DANN Commissioner of Patents USCOMM'DC 60376'P69 FORM PO-105O (10-69) u.s. sovzgnmzm' PRINTING OFFICE: 93 o

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US1886886 *Jan 23, 1931Nov 8, 1932Kirkland KelleyMethod of and apparatus for the recovery of matter from wells
US2707030 *Apr 24, 1953Apr 26, 1955Earl R OrtmanPump installation
US3405763 *Feb 18, 1966Oct 15, 1968Gray Tool CoWell completion apparatus and method
US3561531 *Aug 21, 1969Feb 9, 1971Exxon Production Research CoMethod and apparatus for landing well pipe in permafrost formations
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3841404 *Jul 2, 1973Oct 15, 1974Continental Oil CoSubsidence control process for wells penetrating permafrost
US4094149 *Jul 30, 1976Jun 13, 1978Exxon Production Research CompanyOffshore structure in frigid environment
US4396064 *May 14, 1981Aug 2, 1983Atlantic Richfield CompanyMethod and apparatus for injecting a gaseous stream into a subterranean zone
US4399867 *May 14, 1981Aug 23, 1983Atlantic Richfield CompanyMethod for injecting a gaseous stream into a hot subterranean zone
Classifications
U.S. Classification166/57, 166/901
International ClassificationE21B36/02, E21B36/00, E21B43/10
Cooperative ClassificationY10S166/901, E21B43/10, E21B36/00, E21B36/02
European ClassificationE21B43/10, E21B36/00, E21B36/02