Casing Expansion in mono-diamater wells

a thermal analysis

More Info


When drilling for oil or gas, wells are typically constructed using a conventional or telescopic well design. After a section of the well has been drilled, a steel casing (or liner) is inserted into the hole preventing the collapse of the hole. The next well section has a smaller diameter as it’s casing must pass through the previously installed casing. This process leads to a stepwise reduction of the well diameter which, especially in deep or complicated wells, restricts the maximum production rate of oil and gas.

Mono-diameter technology utilizes casings which are plastically deformed after they have been placed in the well. This plastic deformation is done by pulling a conically shaped tool, known as the cone, through the newly installed casing. The plastic deformation increases the diameter of the new casing to (nearly) the same as that of the previous casing, therefore the well diameter no longer decreases with every new section.

The expansion requires a force in the order of 1000-2500[kN]. The work done by this force leads to high local heat generation due to friction and plastic deformation. This heat, poses a risk for the expansion process as the lubricant (RPSLF) decomposes above 250[C]. Decomposition of the lubricant leads to an increase of the friction, inducing more heat release and further decomposition of the lubricant. The expansion force may then exceed the pulling capacity of the drill rig or strength of the drill string, leaving the cone stuck in the well.

Previous research provides the distribution of pressure on the contact surface of the cone, the strain distribution inside the liner and the temperature dependent friction coefficient of the lubricant, by combining these the frictional heat is calculated. Heat generation from plastic deformation is a complex phenomenon
especially at low strain (-rates). The Taylor-Quinney coefficient defines the ratio between the work done on a material and the heat generated. A strain-dependent model for the Taylor-Quinney coefficient, developed by Zehnder, is used to determine the heat release from plastic deformation.

A numerical heat transfer model is built in Matlab, based on the finite volume method. The model uses a mesh based on skewed quadrilateral cells. Numerical stability of the model is verified for the cell size, time step and time integration method. Movement of the cone and the plastic deformation of the casing are modeled by taking a reference frame fixed relative to the motion of the cone and adding a ”convective” term inside the liner. Heat transfer phenomena at all boundaries are investigated using thermal resistance models.

A series of experiments is executed to verify the numerical model. The
experiments consist of full-scale expansion test using a cone equipped with 30 thermocouples placed just below the contact surface. Additionally also the temperature of the liner, expansion speed and expansion force are measured and recorded.

Comparison of the experimental and numerical results leads to the observation that the pressure profile determined in previous work is likely valid at the first onset of expansion. Over time, the forming of a lubricant film however leads to the re-distribution of roughly 20% of the force from the rear of the cone to the front. When the pressure profile is corrected for this effect; the temperatures inside the cone, temperature of the liner, expansion force and overall heat balance show a good match between the numerical and experimental results with an error of around 5%.

From the heat balance based on the experimental results, it follows that between 54% - 60% of the work done on the system is converted into heat. As all work done in the form of friction is converted into heat the remaining energy must be lost in the work done to plastically deform the casing, this provides indirect evidence for the validity of the Zehndermodel.

The validated numerical model is used to simulate a reference case field expansion, the maximum contact temperature here is 164.4[C]. This value is well below the lubricant decomposition temperature of 250[C], which leads to the conclusion that the process is safe and the expansion speed could even be increased from a thermal point of view.