Introducing Inflatable and Swellable ProductsWed, 01/25/2012 - 11:24
The oil and gas industry today faces the challenge of producing technology that reduces well downtime and increases eciency when solving problems. An interesting development has been inflatable well packing technology: a temporary solution to workover rigs that allows a well to remain in production rather than shutting it down and waiting for an available workover rig.
Created in dierent sizes, from 4.3cm to 35.5cm elements, the inflatable packers are inserted into an existing well and then inflated by pumping fluid into the device. As the packers expand, they make a seal between the upper and lower parts of the well at an inflation ratio of 3:1. The principle reason for applying this solution is a need to isolate a certain section of the well: an inflatable packer can be inserted and inflated, eectively isolating the section for as long as is needed. Once the problem in the well has been resolved, the packer can then be deflated and removed.
Yosafat Esquitin, General Director of TAM International’s Mexican operation, explains some of the applications for his company’s inflatable packer technology in Mexico today: “We have applied our technology in a number of dierent situations, from abandoning wells to repairing them. We have also worked on some very specific projects, such as helping Pemex set up a temporary plug to fix connections on the surface, or helping them to isolate a zone in the well without damaging other zones.
In the past, when a section of a well was damaged, Pemex often had to abandon the well. We oer an alternative by deploying a scab liner, which consists of two packers with a pipe in the middle. Using this solution, Pemex can isolate the damaged section of the well, or the area where water is leaking into the well, and continue production. This is a much cheaper solution than bringing in a workover rig to repair the well and, although production rates are aected, it is unquestionably better than stopping production at a well completely.”
TAM has found that inflatable packers that can be inflated and deflated without removing them from the well are very popular in Mexico. Applications for such technology include using the packers to acidize a zone of the well, clean a zone, and check for damaged pipes. This application is particularly popular in wells that employ coiled tubing, as workovers on these wells can be costly and dicult.
The so-called ‘single set’ line of inflatable packers goes one step further on from regular inflatable packers, as it relies only on hydraulic pressure to set the packer, using a positive sealing mechanism. As pipe movement is not used in order to set the packer, it is ideal for running on slickline or electric line, or with coiled tubing. It is also used for highly deviated and horizontal wells, which are becoming increasingly common in Mexico’s complex onshore fields.
At Altamira, one of the most popular applications for TAM’s inflatable packer technology has been for cementing horizontal wells. In order to stop water coming up from horizontal wells, Pemex has used TAM’s packers by inflating to block the well completely, and then injecting cement to seal it permanently. In Poza Rica, Pemex has used TAM’s inflatable packers for well testing by isolating sections of a well to test for flaws or leaks in the well casing. The technology can pinpoint a damaged zone to around 10 metres.
Esquitin expects that in the near future, Pemex will release tenders specifically for inflatable products in order to increase well eciency and troubleshoot problem wells. In the northern onshore region, TAM’s products have proven eective, but now the company wants to apply its technology in Pemex’s southern fields. By winning a tender in the northern region and showing how eective their products can be, TAM hopes to convince Pemex to use inflatable products in the southern region as well.