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Coiled Tubing

Coiled tubing (CT) well servicing techniques are widely used since they enable operators to reduce the
cost and/or improve the effectiveness of completion, workover and drilling operations. The capabilities
of the equipment, the tubing, the units themselves, and the tools they employ have improved
tremendously over the past decade. Coiled tubing is commonly used for operations such as those listed
below.

 wellbore cleanout and other fishing operations


 stimulation (acidizing and/or fracturing) new and existing wells
 drilling directional re-entries and new shallow vertical wells
 production logging and perforating

Coiled tubing is a continuous string of pipe (from ¾”– 4-1/2" or even larger diameters), usually steel,
that is flexible enough to be coiled onto a large reel. The size of the reel increases with the diameter of
the tubing. The length of pipe on the reel also varies with its diameter. For example, a reel of 1-1/2"
coiled tubing may contain 15,000 ft, while a reel of 2-7/8" tubing may hold only 4,000 ft.

The coiled tubing unit shown in Figure 7-31 is an assembly of the equipment components needed to
perform a continuous length tubing service. These components include (at a minimum) an injector,
service reel, control console, power supply, and well control stack assembly.
Figure 7-31 Schlumberger CT SEAS System

Jointed pipe is mechanically stronger and is able to push and pull with greater force than coiled tubing
and can be rotated. This gives jointed pipe more flexibility for handling hole problems and fishing
operations. However, since coiled tubing is non-jointed, it is capable of being run at much faster speeds
into or out of a well than jointed tubing since there are no connections to make or break. In addition,
fluid can be circulated through coiled tubing while it is being inserted into or withdrawn from a well.
That capability allows for work on a pressurized well without the need to kill the well and risk damage to
the reservoir. These two features, running speed and the ability to maintain an underbalanced
condition, are major advantages of using CT over conventional approaches for many well intervention
and drilling operations. Advantages of coiled tubing relative to conventional pipe joints include:

 faster rig mobilization and demobilization


 faster trip time
 faster drilling in many situations
 safer and more effective operations in underbalanced conditions
 minimal well shut in time
 smaller physical and environmental footprint
 more effective at positioning tools in horizontal wells

Coiled tubing has been used for well cleaning and stimulation since it was first developed. CT
completions, stimulations, and workovers also have distinct advantages over conventional methods.
Stimulation with coiled tubing can be performed under balanced (e.g., removing scale mechanically
followed by solvent cleanup) or under highly overbalanced conditions for perforating existing skin
damage. Other advantages include the ability to easily and accurately place well treatments, set
hydraulic packers, and perform straddle-packer treatments. A large number of CT “velocity strings” are
set each year as a means of improving productivity of wells with fluid problems.

Coiled tubing also has several advantages for well fishing operations that do not require removing the
production tubing. It offers additional tensile strength above that of braided line, and the ability to use
heavier tools and to circulate fluid can also be helpful in some situations. Downhole motors attached to
the end of coiled tubing can be used to drill through cement, debris, etc. This is generally a quicker and
cheaper alternative to workover rigs. For coiled tubing drilling, two major types of bits are used, i.e.
diamond PDC and tungsten carbide. Tri-cone roller bits are generally not suitable for coiled tubing
drilling because of the high rotational speed of the motors.

Under balanced CT production logging and perforating has become more widely used as the capabilities
of CT units have improved and costs have come down. Small and intermediate diameter coiled tubing in
multifunction strings with electric lines have applications in well logging, well testing, and other tool
conveyance, especially in horizontal wells. The ability to quickly and safely perforate horizontal wells
under balanced and lubricate long 10 m [30 ft] or more perforating guns into and out of the wellbore
has made this approach attractive.

Drilling and fracturing operations using coiled tubing was rarely done in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but now
account for a large percentage of CT activities. As early as 1997 there were between 900 and 1,000 wells
drilled in Canada and the United States using CT, including about 120 directional re-entries and 800 new
shallow vertical wells (many of these in Canada). Only a relatively small portion of the global CT rig fleet
is capable of handling the larger tubing sizes greater than 60 mm [> 2-1/2 in] typically needed for
drilling.

Several factors can be identified that have increased the frequency of CT operations.

 technical advances in directional drilling technology and under balanced drilling technology
 better understanding of the technical capabilities and limitations of CT drilling that enables
better candidate selection and higher success rates
 higher tubing quality at lower prices resulting from improved manufacturing methods and
quality control
 more size and length options

Coiled tubing drilling can be done safely and effectively in vertical, deviated, and horizontal wells. Tubing
with installed electric lines is used for steering downhole drilling tools. Conventional overbalanced
drilling of shallow gas wells with CT has become a growing market. In certain applications, drilling
shallow gas wells with CT is more efficient and economical then conventional rigs. Hybrid rigs capable of
drilling with both conventional rotary and CT have the ability to drill a 4,000 ft well and complete it with
5-1/2" casing and deeper wells can be drilled and completed with 4-1/2" or smaller casing.

Another growing application of CT is drilling under balanced extensions of vertical wellbores and under
balanced laterals from older wells. Coiled tubing can offer significant benefits in cases where the well
was damaged by drilling mud during the original overbalanced drilling. In this case, the well may never
have had an opportunity to produce up to its potential. A coiled tubing unit can drill a horizontal lateral
into the reservoir from an existing well, (under balanced condition), improving productivity by increasing
the effective productive thickness and dramatically reducing the well bore damage.

Fracturing with CT has become a very effective way of stimulating multiple zone wells economically. The
CT is used to set an isolation packer across a perforated interval, fracture a zone, move to a new zone,
reset the packer, and repeat the process. Not only can this be accomplished in a fraction of the time
required by a conventional rig, but compared to other multiple interval stimulation alternatives there is
a higher likelihood that every zone will be stimulated appropriately.
Snubbing Units
Snubbing units are most often used when it is necessary to run pipe into and out of the well that has
pressure at the surface that cannot be released. This is often associated with well control problems
brought about by downhole or wellhead equipment failures. Because of the surface pressure trying to
push the well out of the hole until enough pipe is run to overcome the hydraulic force, snubbing units
are equipped to jack the pipe into the well.

Snubbing units have been used for many years to work on wells under pressure. Today they are being
used in place of more expensive workover or drilling rigs to accelerate the work and reduce costs.
Snubbing units are especially well suited for underbalanced drilling. However, their big disadvantage
when compared to coiled tubing units is their relatively slow pace for running and pulling pipe.