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Slotted liner design for SAGD wells

Article  in  World Oil · June 2007

14 914

6 authors, including:

Jueren Xie Simon Jones

C-FER Technologies Rose Hulman Institute of Technology


Brian Wagg
C-FER Technologies


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Originally June 2007 issue, pgs 67-75.
appreared in: Posted with permission.


Special Focus: COMPLETION

Slotted liner design for SAGD wells

Staggered slot and gang slot patterns show better performance
in FEA models than overlapping slot patterns.
J. Xie, S. W. Jones, C. M. Matthews and B. T. Wagg, C-FER Technologies;
P. Parker and R. Ducharme, G&L Slotco Oilfield Services

Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage are manufactured by cutting a series of production, suggesting that the liners
(SAGD) has become one of the most longitudinal slots, typically 0.30–0.46 had slot deformations. Slot opening can
widely used methods of thermal heavy mm (0.012–0.018 in.) wide by about be caused by different mechanisms such
oil recovery. SAGD wells are typically 50–70 mm (2-2.75 in.) long. Slot as axisymmetric buckling (birdcaging)
completed with slotted liners in the hori- width is selected, based on the forma- under axial compression, lateral buck-
zontal section as sand control devices. It tion’s grain-size distribution, to restrict ling under bending, torsional buckling
is essential that slotted liners be designed sand production and allow fluid inflow. under torsion and compression and col-
with sufficient structural capacities to Liner design requirements must balance lapse under external pressure (formation
withstand installation loads (compres- sand retention, open fluid flow area and loading). Design optimization is often
sion, curvature loading and torque) and structural capacity. required for a slotted liner to enhance
operation loads (thermal strain and ex- Operators have noted slotted liner its structural resistance to buckling and
ternal formation pressure). Torque is the failures in SAGD wells. Multi-sensor collapse deformation, resulting from the
key installation load that must be con- caliper logs through the heel of a ther- severe installation and operational loads.
trolled to avoid permanent slot deforma- mally stimulated horizontal well showed
tions. During operations, the slotted lin- helical buckling in both the intermedi- SLOTTED LINER DESIGN
ers must be strong enough to withstand ate casing and the liner.1 Helical buck- Most slotted liner designs are based
thermal strains and strain localization ling indicates the presence of high axial on an open flow area that considers fluid
without excessive slot deformations. compressive loads on the casing and properties, well length and required flow
This article presents considerations liner. Most well failures had massive sand rates, Fig. 1:
for slotted liner design and reviews the •  A staggered pattern has repeated
potential deformation mechanisms that slot columns, evenly spaced around the
a liner may experience during instal- circumference. Alternate columns are
lation and operation. Finite element offset circumferentially to create a stag-
models were developed to determine gered pattern. If alternating columns are
slotted liner structural capacities for not offset, it is called a straight pattern.
various load conditions and slot pat- •  An overlapping pattern has overlap-
terns, including a newly developed gang ping slot columns evenly spaced around
slot pattern. the circumference.
The SAGD process continuously •  A gang pattern has repeated col-
injects steam in one horizontal well umns of ganged slots (i.e. two paral-
and extracts the condensed steam and lel slots cut in close proximity), evenly
mobilized fluids from a second, paral- spaced around the circumference. Gang
lel horizontal well. This results in fewer slot columns are offset to create a stag-
pressure/temperature cycles than cyclic gered pattern.
steam stimulation and usually has lower Slots are often cut in a “keystone”
injection pressures and temperatures. shape; the opening is narrower on the
SAGD wells are completed with outside of the pipe to help prevent plug-
a sand control device in the horizon- ging. Gang slots are usually cut straight.
tal section. Trials have been run with Fig. 1. Slotted liner patterns include: Slotted liner geometry is defined by
staggered (top), overlapping (middle)
wire-wrapped screens, but most op- and gang (bottom).
slot length, slot width, slot distribution
erators use slotted liners. Slotted liners and slot density. Because slots are cut
JUNE 2007 World Oil

with a circular blade, the slot length on ing/closing can be caused by buckling of lapse analysis, only the axial constraint
the liner OD is longer than on the ID. the columnar region between two par- conditions were imposed. The liner’s
Slot lengths on the inside and outside allel slots when the liner is subjected to two end sections were free to deform in
are related to blade diameter and pen- high compressive and/or bending loads. the cross-sectional plane.
etration depth. It can also be caused by torque or exter- The liner material was modeled us-
nal pressure loads. In this analysis, it was ing an elastic-plastic constitutive rela-
DESIGN CRITERIA assumed that the allowable slot opening/ tionship. The model was temperature
Slotted liners are subjected to various closing deformation limit is 0.025 mm and strain-rate dependent to capture
loading scenarios including installation (1/1,000 in.). the strain relaxation effect at elevated
and operational loads. The following Axial strain capacity. Where a liner is temperatures. C-FER Technologies has
design criteria/considerations assess how confined before heating, it may yield in performed several material coupon test
liners sustain loads: compression due to thermal strain. As a programs in the past including a series
Slot opening/closing. Slot opening result, the liner’s axial compressive strain of high temperature coupon tests for
can significantly reduce the sand control capacity needs to take into consideration common OCTG materials.2
capacity of a liner. The injection and/or the local buckling potential and slot de-
production efficiency of a well pair can formation relative to the design limit. INSTALLATION DESIGN
also be affected by slot closing. Slot open- Torsional capacity. A liner’s torsional During installation of a slotted liner
capacity is established by the torque it into a SAGD horizontal well, the liner
can withstand, which causes the liner is subjected to axial compression, bend-
to reach either: the serviceability limit, ing and torque loads. The axial loads are
60 when permanent deformations exceed introduced by drill collar and liner-joint
Gang slot pattern the prescribed slot opening/closing lim- weight above a liner segment, as well as
its; or the maximum allowable torque any applied pull-down jacking force on
Torque, kNm

Staggered slot pattern a liner and its connections can sustain. the rig as the liner string is “pushed” into
20 The torsional loading during liner instal- the horizontal section of the well.
Onset of permanent slot deformations lation must remain below the lowest of Curvature loading is imposed as the
0.025 mm permanent slot deformations
00 these limits. liner is forced through the build section.
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 Collapse capacity. Slotted liners are Localized curvature in a slotted liner can
susceptible to collapse under external exceed the average wellbore curvature,
Fig. 2. Torque-turn relationship for the pressure loading from confining forma- when it is pushed by an axial load. It
base case slotted liner: 177.8 mm 38.7 tion loads, since the pipe’s cross-sec- is prudent to consider the slotted liner
kg/m L80 with 576 slots/m. tional stiffness is reduced by the slots. curvature to be somewhat larger than the
The design limit for collapse capacity wellbore curvature in the evaluation.
is established by the lower value of the A liner string may be subjected to
serviceability limit (the external pressure torque during make-up with a top drive.
required to cause a slot opening/closing In some situations, the liner may need
failure); or the structural limit (the load to be rotated during installation, such as
that will cause a general structural col- when the string becomes stuck before the
lapse failure). liner has reached landing depth. In this
case, the upper portion remains within
FINITE ELEMENT MODELS the build section and is subject to tor-
To accurately determine the struc- sional, axial compression and curvature
tural capacity and serviceability limits loading. This combination is the worst
for slotted liners in specific well appli- case loading scenario.
cations, engineers often use advanced
finite element analysis (FEA) to assess INSTALLATION COMPRESSION
designs. The analysis cases presented AND CURVATURE
in this article are for a base case using In SAGD wells, the maximum com-
a 177.8 mm, 38.7 kg/m L80 slotted pressive force applied to the liner dur-
liner design with 576 slots/m in stag- ing installation is usually limited to
gered, overlapping and gang patterns. about 30% of the yield capacity of the
They were performed using ABAQUS unslotted pipe. In addition, a liner is
v.6.6.1 software. subjected to curvature loading as it is
The slotted liner was modeled us- pushed through the build section of the
ing 3D solid elements. A length of liner well. For a build section with 8.5°/30-m
equivalent to three rows of slots was curvature, the flexural strain for a 177.8-
modeled. In most cases, both model mm liner is less than 0.05%. Finite el-
end sections were tied to beam nodes ement analyses of 177.8-mm, slotted
for curvature loading. Radial displace- liner designs suggest that installation
ments were left unconstrained. The compressive and wellbore curvature
Fig. 3. Effective stress contours for model simulated liner behavior under loading do not cause liners to yield and
base case design under torque loading:
staggered (top) and gang (bottom).
axial compression/tension, bending are not major concerns for 177.8-mm,
moment and torsional loads. For col- slotted liners.
JUNE 2007 World Oil
Numerical investigations suggested 600 6.0

Slot opening, 1/1,000 in.

that, as the axial compression force in- Constrained after heating 5.0 0.025 mm
400 Overlapping
creases in excess of 30% of liner yield 4.0 slot pattern slot opening

Axial stress, MPa

capacity, the liner curvature may localize 200 3.0
significantly within the build section of 0 2.0 Gang slot pattern
Constrained Staggered slot pattern
a well. Therefore, failure to control the -200 during heating 1.0
compression force during installation 0.0
may lead to potential liner buckling and 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2
Constrained before heating Axial strain, %
possible permanent slot deformations. -600
0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Temperature, C Fig. 5. Slot opening as a function of
INSTALLATION TORQUE axial compressive strain.
To calculate a slotted liner’s torque ca- Fig. 4. Effect of constraint conditions on
pacity, a displacement-controlled analysis the axial stress in a slotted liner.
method was used that twisted the mod- 0.29%. This is considered acceptable in
el’s end sections. This analysis generates thermal wells, since it is unlikely to cause
a torque versus turn relationship. Turn until some time after heating. structural or serviceability failures.
was defined by the number of 360° turns Under these conditions, liner con- The slots tend to open under the axial
over a 10-m joint length, Fig. 2. finement scenarios can vary from fully compressive force caused by heating. As
Slot opening/closing response was constrained to fully unconstrained, Fig. temperature drops later in the thermal
also calculated for torque values. It is im- 4. Three cases represent liner constraint: cycle, the slots will partially close. At the
portant to note that slot opening/clos- (1) before heating, (2) at an intermediary end of the thermal cycle, a small amount
ing from torque loading consists of two point during heating and (3) some time of residual opening remains in the slots
parts: recoverable and permanent defor- after maximum temperature. due to plastic deformation. Nonetheless,
mations. Since torque loading will be re- When the liner is fully confined be- the maximum permanent slot opening
moved from the slotted liner following fore heating begins, analysis indicates for the analysis cases is less than 0.001
installation, only permanent deforma- that the liner yields in compression at mm, which is well below the serviceabil-
tions need to be evaluated. Two torque about 200°C, leading to potential liner ity design limit of 0.025 mm. This sug-
values are of design interest: buckling with slot opening. In con- gests that thermal strain resulting from
•  Torque to reach the onset of perma- trast, if the formation confinement is temperature change in a SAGD well will
nent slot deformation imposed after heating, no compressive not cause structural damage or service-
•  Torque to reach liner serviceability loading would occur, but large tensile ability impairment to liners with the
limit. stresses would be generated in the liner standard staggered or gang slot pattern.
The gang slot pattern provides a at the end of cooling, causing the liner Analysis for liners with overlapping
somewhat higher torque capacity than to yield in tension. When high tension slots suggests otherwise. With this pat-
the staggered pattern. Gang slots’ higher loads exist, the liner can be more vul- tern, the slots tend to open much sooner
torque capacity can be explained by the nerable to collapse failure under the ex- during the thermal cycle and they expe-
improved capacity of the larger, continu- ternal pressure. Loading scenarios with rience much larger plastic strains. For
ous, solid-material sections between the high axial tension should be considered the same liner size and weight, with an
gangs that transfer shear stress, Fig. 3. in the liner design. overlapping slot pattern, the slot open-
Note that the torque values at the ing will exceed the design limit under
serviceability limit are well in excess of THERMAL STRAIN AND STRAIN thermal loading.
connection make-up torques for most LOCALIZATION With any slotted liner design, as the
premium and buttress connection de- Thermal strain is defined as the liner yields, thermal strains may localize
signs. Therefore, limiting the torque ap- strain from the change in liner tempera- in weaker joints or at a joint’s weaker sec-
plied during installation to the make-up ture. When a slotted liner is constrained tion. Strain localization can cause larger
torque should avoid damage to the liner axially by the formation, this thermal plastic strain in a shorter interval than the
during installation. strain converts to mechanical strain in average thermal strain, leading to slotted
the liner by imposing an axial com- liner damage. Strain localization factors
OPERATIONAL LOADS pressive stress. Depending on the tem- include material strength variations, slot
During SAGD, the liner will be sub- perature range, the thermal strain may geometry variations, formation property
jected to thermal-cycle loading. Liner exceed the liner material’s elastic limit, variations and bending loads.
behavior under thermal-loading will causing plastic deformation. To consider strain localization effects,
depend on the confinement condition. The analysis for this load condition an axial compressive strain was gradually
Two critical conditions were identified: uses a temperature range from 10°C to imposed on the liner model. The objective
•  Liner confined by the formation 270°C. This results in a thermal strain of was to determine the axial strain capacity
before heating—the borehole collapses 0.34%, which exceeds the elastic limit of of the slotted liners. Figure 5 presents the
around the liner before heating begins L80 material. relationships that were determined for slot
and the formation applies an initial Liners laterally supported by the opening versus axial strain magnitude.
load. formation. Detailed FEA for liners with The slots tend to open with axial com-
•  Liner confined by the formation staggered and gang slots suggests that pressive strain. The analysis suggests that
after heating—the horizontal borehole under a 0.34% total thermal strain, some the overlapping slot pattern has the lowest
does not collapse around the liner and plastic strains develop within the slots’ capacity to absorb thermal strain, and it is
therefore does not build confining forces tip regions with a peak inelastic strain of most prone to “birdcage” buckling under
JUNE 2007 World Oil World Oil JUNE 2007 3

 the liner starts to contact the borehole

 0WFSMBQQJOHTMPUQBUUFSO wall. Helical buckling is usually accom-
 NNTMPUPQFOJOH panied by high liner curvatures. In this
 (BOHTMPU case, a peak liner curvature of 150°/30 m
 4UBHHFSFE QBUUFSO can be generated by thermal loading.
 Figure 8 presents the relationship
 between slot opening and liner curva-
      ture based on the parametric FEA of
$VSWBUVSF ¡N liner bending at the peak temperature of
Fig. 8. Slot opening as a function of liner 270°C. As shown, the slot opening devel-
curvature. ops gradually with increasing liner curva-
ture. The critical curvatures to reach the
serviceability limit (i.e. 0.025 mm slot
opening) are 80°/30 m and 160°/30 m
for the staggered and gang slotted liners
respectively. This suggests that it is likely
that a staggered slotted liner would fail as
the liner buckles within the borehole un-
der thermal loading. On the other hand,
the newly developed gang slot pattern
showed improved performance in resist-
ing buckling deformations.
Figure 9 presents contour plots of the
effective stress in the base case liner with
staggered and gang slot patterns under
150°/30-m liner curvature. The stag-
Fig. 6. Effective stress for the base case
under 5% axial compressive strain: gered slotted liner shows local buckling
staggered (top) and gang (bottom). on the compression side, leading to larg-
er slot opening deformations. This local
buckling deformation does not occur for
200 gang slotted liners.
Liner curvature, °/30m

100 Slotted liners are also susceptible to
collapse under external formation pres-
sure loading, since their cross-sectional
0 stiffness is reduced by the presence of
0 50 100 150 200 250 slots. The external pressure capacity is
Temperature, °C Fig. 9. Effective stress for base case
liner under 150°/30m curvature loading:
the external pressure required to cause
Fig. 7. Liner curvature due to buckling staggered (top) and gang (bottom). either a slot opening/closing failure or a
under thermal loading. structural failure of the slotted liner.
The initial ovality for the liner was as-
 sumed to be 0.25% for the analyses, as

SAGD conditions. The axial compres-  is common for casing and liner products
sive strain capacities for the staggered and 
of similar size. This collapse analysis con-
gang slot patterns are comparable. The 4UBHHFSFETMPUQBUUFSO sidered two different loading cases with

analysis suggests that the axial strains re- the liner fully confined by the formation

quired to cause a 0.025-mm slot opening 0WFSMBQQJOHTMPUQBUUFSO before and after heating. The analyses

are 0.75% for the staggered slot pattern,       demonstrated that the load case with the
and 0.81% for the gang slot pattern. 0WBMJUZ  liner confined before heating generates
Figure 6 presents contour plots of the NNTMPUDMPTJOH a lower external pressure capacity corre-
effective stress distributions for the stag- sponding to the serviceability limit. On
gered and gang slotted liner designs un- Fig. 10. External pressure vs. liner
the other hand, the load case with the
der 5% axial compressive strain at 270°C. ovality for the load case with liner fully liner confined after heating results in a
These results show the liner has buckled confined before heating. lower structural capacity corresponding
in the “birdcage” mode, with significant to the collapse.
slot opening. Figure 10 shows the relationship es-
Liners laterally unsupported by the lateral buckling mode starts in a single in- tablished between external pressure and
formation. The axial loads resulting from plane “bow” soon after the liner material liner cross-sectional ovality for the load
liner thermal expansion can cause the lin- yields under thermal strain. Further heat- case with the liner fully confined before
er to buckle. Figure 7 shows the develop- ing causes the buckling mode to change heating. Note that with the liner oval-
ment of liner curvature during a thermal into a continuous series of three-dimen- ized under external pressure, some slots
cycle for the base case slotted liner. The sional “corkscrews” (helical buckle), as tend to open while others tend to close.
JUNE 2007 World Oil
these two different slot patterns have The authors
similar serviceability limits, the gang
Dr. Jueren Xie has over
slotted liner showed significantly higher 12 years of experience in
structural capacity. engineering research and
Figure 11 shows contour plots of ef- technical consulting for
fective stress for the staggered and gang the oil and gas industry.
He has managed and/or
slotted liners at the collapse condition. played a lead technical role
Note that displacements have been mag- in numerous well comple-
nified 20 times in the plot for clarity. tion designs for primary
and thermal heavy oil op-
erations, analysis and design of pipelines and
CONCLUSION offshore structures, and numerical analysis of
Advanced finite element models steel, geomechanical structures and materi-
found that the overlapping slot pat- als. He has authored and co-authored over 40
tern has the lowest structural capacity papers and over 70 technical reports. Xie is a
principal analyst and project leader at C-FER
to absorb thermal strain and to sustain Technologies, Canada.
external formation pressures. Therefore,
the overlapping slot pattern should not Simon Jones focuses on analysis projects re-
be used for SAGD wells. For the cases lated to sand control, connection assessment
and oil sand processing equipment. His re-
analyzed, staggered slot and gang slot search interests include finite element analysis,
patterns exhibited comparable struc- vibrations and dynamics and bio-mechanics.
tural and serviceability capacities under Jones is a research engineer at C-FER Tech-
axial compressive strain and external nologies, Canada.
pressure conditions. The gang slot pat- Cam Matthews has over 25 years of experi-
tern also had a larger installation torque- ence in engineering and research consulting
Fig. 11. Effective stress for base case loading capacity due to a more efficient for the oil and gas industry. He has managed
slotted liner at collapse loading: shear load transfer mechanism. In addi- numerous joint industry projects, holds four
patents, has published numerous papers and
staggered (top) and gang (bottom). tion, the gang slot pattern significantly is actively involved in SPE and other industry
improves the liner’s resistance to lateral organizations. Matthews is the director of New
buckling and collapse pressures. WO Technology Ventures at C-FER Technologies.
The closing deformation condition was
Brian Wagg joined C-FER Technologies in 1990
found to be more critical for the cases ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS and worked for over 15 years in C-FER’s Pro-
analyzed here. This analysis demon- This work was supported by C-FER Technologies duction Technology Department on projects re-
strates that the overlapping slot pattern and G&L Slotco. The authors acknowledge Ming lated to primary heavy oil operations, sand pro-
also has much poorer structural perfor- Zhou of Suncor Energy for technical input to the duction management and heavy oil gathering
study. Special thanks are due to Todd Zahacy of C- systems. He is involved in design and qualifica-
mance under external pressure loading. FER Technologies for his review of this work. This ar- tion of connections and sand control for HPHT
The collapse capacities for staggered ticle is based on paper 2006-416, presented at the 1st environments and risk evaluation of unplanned
and gang slot patterns are comparable. World Heavy Oil Conference held in Beijing, China, releases from upstream well operations. Wagg
The external pressures required to reach November 12–15, 2006.3 is presently manager of C-FER’s Drilling and
Completions Department.
the liner serviceability limit (i.e. 0.025 LITERATURE CITED
mm slot opening/closing) are 6.13 and 1 Wagg, B. T. and J. Xie, Understanding the Mechanisms of Well Casing Perry Parker has over 28 years of experience in
6.47 MPa for the staggered and gang Deformations; C-FER final report to joint industry members, C-FER
Project 99023, 2000.
drilling and completions for thermal horizontal,
slot patterns, respectively. The peak col- 2 Humphreys, K. J., S. C. Solanki and Link, R. A., Qualification of directional and SAGD wells. His work involves
Grade-55 Casing for Thermal Recovery Service, C-FER final report for design and installation of sand control products
lapse capacities for the load case with joint industry members, C-FER Project 88-14, 1991. for Oman, Venezuela, North Sea, Libya, Nige-
the liner confined after heating are 12.2 3
Xie, J., S. W. Jones, C. M. Matthews, B. T. Wagg, P. Parker and
R. Ducharme, “Slotted liner design for SAGD wells,” First World ria, USA and Canada. Parker is the president of
and 17.5 MPa for the staggered and Heavy Oil Conference, Beijing, China, November 12-15, 2006. G&L Slotco Oilfield Services Ltd.
gang slot patterns. Note that although
Reece Ducharme earned an applied business
degree from Mount Royal College. Over the
past six years he has been actively involved in
marketing liner slotting and seaming technolo-
gies and services to Canadian and worldwide
heavy oil industry. Ducharme is sales manager
for G&L Slotco Oilfield Services Ltd.

Article copyright © 2007 by Gulf Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.
Not to be distributed in electronic or printed form, or posted on a website, without express written permission of copyright holder.

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