Expandable Tubular Solutions
Two challenges facing operators as the energy industry moves into the next century are accessing of new reservoirs that currently cannot be reached economically and maintaining profitable production from older fields. Recent advances in one of the oldest and most fundamental areas of exploration and production, namely tubular technology, will play a key role in meeting these challenges. A method has been developed whereby the diameter of solid tubulars can be expanded downhole. This paper will describe the process and how this significant technological breakthrough provides cost-effective solutions to several tubular problems that have loomed as obstacles to comprehensive reservoir exploitation. In deepwater and subsalt environments such as the Gulf of Mexico, the ability to expand casing and tubing in-situ enables hole-size maintenance and conservation of internal tubular diameter for increased efficiency. Hence, operators are less likely to run out of hole diameter before evaluating all pay zones. Operators can now use smaller holes to drill deeper vertical wells or to extend the reach of deviated wells to access untapped reservoirs. In older fields, existing wellbores can be retrofitted with expanded tubulars for repair purposes or to increase strength and integrity. In the latter case, deeper high-pressure objectives can be supported, and thus, new in-fill wells can possibly be reduced in number or even eliminated. In addition to a description of the process employed to expand solid tubulars, the paper will present applications of expandable tubular technology and results of large-scale testing that has been conducted in support of the applications. Potential commercial applications are also presented.