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Openhole Completions

In an openhole or barefoot completion, the production casing is set in the caprock above or just into the top of the
pay zone, while the bottom of the hole is left uncased ( Figure 1 , (a) openhole completion; (b) uncemented liner
completion; (c) perforated completion).

Figure 1

Often, the final drilling of the pay zone is carried out with special non-damaging drilling fluids or an underbalanced
mud column.
This form of well completion dates back to the days of cable tool drilling, but is rarely used today. Nonetheless,
openhole completions offer certain advantages in thick, relatively competent formations:

Exposure of entire pay zone to the wellbore;


No perforating expense;
less critical need for precise log interpretation;
Reduced drawdown because of the large inflow area;
Slightly reduced casing cost;
Ease of deepening the well;
relative ease of converting the well to a liner completion;
no risk of formation damage resulting from cementing casing.

Unfortunately, the disadvantages and limitations of openhole completions outweigh these benefits in most cases.
Some of these disadvantages are as follows:

inability to control excessive gas-oil and/or water-oil ratios (except in the case of bottom water);
need to set casing before drilling or logging the pay;
difficulty of controlling the well during completion operations;
unsuitability for producing layered formations consisting of separate reservoirs with incompatible fluid
properties;
inability to selectively stimulate separate zones within the completion interval ;
need for frequent clean-outs if the producing sands are not completely competent or if the shoulder of the
caprock between the shoe and top of the pay is not stable.

Liner Completions
To overcome the problems of collapsing sands plugging the production system, the early oil producers placed slotted
pipe or screens across the openhole section as a downhole sand filter ( Figure 1 (a) openhole completion; (b)
uncemented liner completion; (c) perforated completion).

Figure 1

The simplest and oldest liner completion method involves running slotted pipe into the open hole interval. The slots
are cut small enough that the produced sand bridges off on the opening rather than passing through. This method is
till used in some areeas today, but because it entails many of the same disadvantages inherent in openhole
completions (i.e., lack of control), its use is not widespread.
For very fine sands, wire-wrapped screens or sintered bronze are used in place of machine-cut slots. This technique
is a reasonably effective sand control method in uniform coarse sands with little or no fine particles (e.g., in
California). Sometimes this is the only sand control system that can be used because of pressure loss and placement
considerations (e.g., in unconsolidated heavy oil sands).
In general, however, the uncemented liner completion is no longer recommended for the follwoing reasons:

Sand movement into the wellbore tends to cause permeability impairment by the intermixing of sand sizes,
and of sand and shale particles.
Fine formation sands tend to plug the slots or the screen.
At high rates, the screen often erodes as formation sand moves into the wellbore.
Poor support of the formation can cause shale layers to collapse and plug the slots or screen.
Formation failure can cause the liner itself to collapse.

To overcome these problems, operators have resorted to more effective sand control methods such as gravel
packing, in which the annulus between the screen and the openhole is filled with coarse, graded sand, or the use of
pre-packed screens. In some cases, even where sand control is planned, it may be best to employ a cased and
perforated completion with an external gravel pack--this configuration has become the norm for light iol and gas
developments because of the flexibility it provides.

Cemented and Perforated Completions


By far the most common type of completion today involves cementing the production casing (or liner) through the
pay zone, and subsequently providing communication with the formation by perforating holes through the casing
and cement ( Figure 1 : (a) openhole completion; (b) uncemented liner completion; (c) perforated completion).

Figure 1

Ideally, perforations should penetrate any damaged zone around the original wellbore and create a clean conduit
within the undamaged formation. If the well is cased and unperforated during the early stages of the completion
operation, well control is easier and completion costs may be reduced.
Using various depth control techniques, we can select which sections of pay should be perforated and opened to
flow, thereby avoiding undesired fluids (gas, water), weak zones that might produce sand, and unproductive sections
or shale barriers.
This selectivity, which is completely dependent on a good cement job and adequate perforating, also allows a single
well-bore to produce several separate reservoirs without their being in communication. This is done by setting
isolating packers within an unperforated section of the pipe. Selective perforation can also be used to control the
flow from, or stimulation of, various parts of the pay. By shutting off or partially plugging selected perforations,
injected fluids (water, stimulation fluids, or cement) can be diverted into less permeable zones.
Cementing casing at TD rather than completing the well openhole can reduce the likelihood of well control
problems. Moreover, the decision to set production casing can be deferred until the openhole logs of the prospective
pay zone have been evaluated, substantially reducing the dry-hole costs if the hole is dry.
In summary, the advantages of cased and perforated completions include:

Safer operations
More informed selection of the zones to be completed

Reduced sensitivity to drilling damage


Facilitation of selective stimulation
Possibility of multizone completions
Easier planning of completion operations

This type of completion is generally used unless there is a specific reason to prefer an openhole or uncemented liner
completion. Even where sand control is planned, perforated completions with internal gravel packs have become the
norm for light oil and gas developments because of the flexibility provided.

Single-String Completions (Single Zone)


Producing a well through a tubing string protects the casing from formation fluids and maximizes flow efficiency.
The tubing also provides a means of circulating fluids in the well.Single-tubing-string completions may or may not
use a packer, depending on the well conditions and the completion method used. Some examples of single-string
completions are shown in Figure 1 ,

Figure 1

Single-string flowing wells: (a) temporary; (b) tubingless gas well; (c) simple low cost; and Figure 2 , (d) high
pressure; (e) high-rate liner completion).

Figure 2

The complexity of tubing and packer installations is driven by functional requirements and economic considerations.
Since a number of useful features can be installed at very low incremental cost, the designer should consider these
options and possibilities:

Simplification of the completion and future workover operations


Optimum tubing size for maximum long term flowrate
Future artificial lift needs
A "bomb" well for future bottomhole pressure surveys
Use of a permanent packer and tailpipe to protect the formation during workovers or to facilitate "killing"
the well;
The need for moving seals and/or a slip joint to accommodate tubing elongation and contraction caused by
thermal stresses
Anchoring the tubing to the packer
Availability of a downhole sliding sleeve for removing or adding fluid to the tubing (kick-off or killing
operations)
The need for downhole corrosion inhibitor injection
An additional packer and nipple between sets of perforations for future recompletion operations;
Use of tubing-conveyed perforating gun and/or through-tubing guns for underbalanced perforating to
improve completion efficiency.

For single-tubing-string, liner completions, a polished bore receptacle in the liner hanger is often used in place of a
packer. This is simply a polished internal section at the top of the liner, into which the tubing string is inserted, much
as it would be into a packer. This is useful both for deep wells where tubing/casing clearances are often small and
for very high productivity wells where the use of a packer might cause a restriction on well productivity. In this type
of completion it is useful to incorporate a landing nipple in the liner string for future isolation of the producing zone
via wireline.
Tubingless completions are a particularly low-cost installation method used in marginal flow operations, such as low
rate gas development. While they are also used in high gas-oil ratio oilfields, problems develop when artificial lift is
required. Hollow sucker rod pumps or small diameter "macaroni" gas-injection tubing strings must be installed.
Minor liquid buildup in gas wells can usually be easily blown out of the well with flexible small diameter tubing.

Single String Completions (Selective)


Selective completions include both single-string configurations, such as those shown in Figure 1 (Multiple-zone
completions: (a) tubingless; (b) low rate, single string; (c) high rate, single string) and multiple-string arrangements
such as those shown in Figure 2 (Multiple-zone completions: (d) dual string (parallel gas lift); (e) concentric).

Figure 1

Figure 2

Single string completions are often preferable to multiple-string completions because the casing size in multiplestring completions limits the diameter, which, in turn, limits the flow rate obtainable through each string. Singlestring completions may also be used where segregation is required purely for reservoir control (e.g., in a case where
zones will be commingled at some stages, but shut in during other periods because of high gas-oil ratio, high water
cut, or for some other reason). These completions may also be used to minimize completion costs, which is also
often the reason for limiting the size of the production casing.

Multiple String Completions


Multiple tubing string completions are generally more expensive than single-string completions, and more
complicated to install and service. They do, however, offer the ability to simultaneously produce from or inject into
different zones, and to allocate production or injection for each zone.
Dual-string completions may be parallel or concentric. Where artificial lift may be required, parallel strings are
usually used. Concentric strings require less clearance and can often achieve a higher overall flow capability.
Triple-string completions have also been used in some areas, but they are usually too restrictive of well capacity to
be economically attractive as a conventional completion. The difficulty of future remedial workovers of wells thus
completed also prevents their widespread use.

Multistring tubingless completions are sometimes used for completing stacked deltaic reservoirs (e.g., the U.S. Gulf
Coast) that have low individual reserves and normal pressures. These completions are particularly attractive for
depleting small oil accumulations below a large gas reservoir and for low cost gas developments. The improvement
in the design and equipment quality of more conventional casing completions has resulted in a decrease in the
popularity of this last type of installation.