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Through-Tubing Sand-Control Techniques

Reduce Completion Costs


H.L. Restarick Jr., SPE, S.H. Fowler Jr., SPE, and W.P. Sedotal, Halliburton Energy Services

Summary

Sand-control problems in existing wells typically result from improper completion techniques or changes in reservoir properties. While recompletion of many of these wells with conventional sand-control
methods and workover rigs is economically unfeasible, enhancements to gravel-pack fluid systems, downhole equipment, and service
capabilities have increased success and reduced costs in through-tubing recompletions, providing new options to the operator for successful sand control in existing wells.
Introduction

The most effective sand-control techniques are those implemented


early in the life of the well before sand production becomes a problem. These techniques are carried out before the onset of water production or before formation damage occurs from formation disturbance or subsidence. High production rates cause excessive stress
on weakly consolidated formations and exceed the capability of the
cement material to bond the sand grains together. Once sand is produced as a result of formation damage, effective sand-control methods become more difficult and harder to justify. Marginal wells producing sand with poor reserves may not support the cost of a major
workover program. Remedial options include sand bailing with
wireline and sand washing with coiled tubing, but these only provide temporary solutions to sand-production problems.
Although a low authority-for-expenditure budget, limited reserves,
and a sanded-up well can limit the feasibility of a major workover, a
number of products and services are available to the industry today that
increase the success of through-tubing sand-control techniques. There
are two categories of through-tubing sand control: mechanical methods, which include the use of small-diameter gravel-pack screens, and
chemical methods, which bond the formation sand in place. The success of these methods has been aided by advances in wellbore-cleaning
techniques that use high-pressure-fluid jets in conjunction with coiled
tubing to clean tubulars, liners, perforation tunnels, or existing screens
to prepare for the through-tubing sand-control operations. 1
Small through-tubing and prepack screens are manufactured today
with precision quality-control procedures. Wireline techniques and a
wide range of various wire sizes can be selected, depending on the
well application. New advances in equipment design have enhanced
coiled-tubing services, and new heavy-duty injectors with larger and
stronger tubing sizes have made pumping heavy slurries and running
through-tubing bottomhole gravel-pack assemblies into the wellbore
easier. Today, fluid technology concerning retained permeability of
the formation is extremely good and getting better. In fact, many initial completion designs of non-gravel-packed wells are now designed
for future through-tubing gravel-pack contingencies in anticipation of
sand problems that could develop during production. A combination
of these new advances in products and services will increase the success ratio of through-tubing sand control.
Method Selection

As is often the case before any decision is made on remedial maintenance to put the well back on production, the tubing has already
sanded up and the well has been shut in for some time. Once the decision has been made to clean up the well and perform through-tubing sand control, the job method and design will depend on the mechanical configuration of the well bore. Factors to consider are tubCopyright 1994 Society of Petroleum Engineers
Original SPE manuscript received for review Feb. 11, 1992. Revised manuscript received
April 12. 1994. Paper accepted for publication June 1.1994. Paper (SPE 23130) first pre
sented at the 1991 SPE Offshore Europe Conference held in Aberdeen, Sept. 3-6.

236

ing and casing sizes, minimum restriction in the wellbore, type and
locations of landing nipples, packer-setting depth, tail pipe below
the packer, length of interval to be recompleted, location of interval
in relation to production tubing, length of rat hole below interval,
formation type, and type of well production (oil or gas). In some
cases, through-tubing sand-control techniques are used to "repair"
an existing, but damaged, gravel-pack screen.
Mechanical Methods

Mechanical methods of through-tubing sand control involve the use


of gravel-pack screens designed to be deployed through tubing, then
set inside tubing, casing, or even another larger gravel-pack screen.
In addition to the use of screens, a sand medium is often used to help
keep the formation sand in place. Through-tubing gravel packing is
not a new process; however, several advances in surface and downhole equipment and in fluid systems have made this process a popular alternative to a full-scale workover operation. 2
Three mechanical methods are commonly used.
1. The packoffmethod uses a through-tubing gravel-pack screen
with a blank spacer pipe and packoff seal assembly. This can be
placed inside casing or exiting gravel-pack screen and spaced up
and packed off inside the production tubing (Fig. la).
2. The dual-screen method uses two screen assemblies separated
by blank pipe placed and packed in the casing; production enters the
lower screen and exits the upper screen section (Fig. Ib).
3. The wash-down method uses a ceramic bead prepack with the
gravel-pack screen "washed" into place and packed off. This method is applicable for both casing and tubing (Fig. Ie).
Each method will be discussed; however, several procedures are
common to all three methods.
I. The well bore and perforations or existing gravel-pack screen
must be clean to perform the through-tubing gravel pack. All produced formation sand, scale, etc., should be removed and a clean
completion fluid should be left in the well bore. This can be accomplished effectively with a coiled-tubing unit. Foam washing may be
required on low bottomhole pressure (BHP) wells.
2. If the zone is reperforated, the fluid across the interval at the time
of perforating should be a clear fluid, containing no undissolved solids. Solid particles in dirty completion fluid may be driven into the
formation by the force of the perforating charge and impair permeability. This interferes with injection of treating fluids and with production after sand control is established. The practice of filtering
workover and treating fluids is becoming more and more prevalent.
3. Perforating and stimulations are performed according to well
requirements.
4. An injection rate is established into the formation.
5. The formation is prepacked with gravel-pack sand by use of
coiled tubing or a small concentric workstring.
6. The maximum screen OD will be determined by the nipple ID's,
and in some cases, by restrictions resulting from tubing damage. If the
screen is to be run through the tubing and set in casing, the screen/casing ratio will always be out of proportion. A I-in. screen inside 7 -in.
casing is not unusual with a 23/s-in. production string. In several
completions, a I-in. screen even was used inside 9 5/s-in. casing. Because of the disproportional screen/casing ratio, a flowing pressure
drop will occur and should be calculated during the preplanning
stage. Table 1 shows the maximum screen OD's and ID's available
vs. tubing and nipple sizes for several different types of screens.
7. Screen length should be calculated to extend at least 5 ft above
and below the perforated interval.
8. The length of the rat hole below the perforations is especially
important. If the length is excessive, setting a "bottom" < 10 to 15
ft below the perforations will be necessary. In most cases, this is
SPE Drilling & Completion, December 1994

PRODUCTION
TUBING

PACK OFF
ANCHOR STOP

HYDRAULIC
DISCONNECT
PRODUCTION
TUBING

PRODUCTION
TUBING

CENTRMJZED
SEAL
RECEPTICAL

PRODUCTION
PACKER

PRODUCTION
PACKER

WASH PIPE
RUNNING
NECK/PLUG

Fig. 1-Mechanical methods: (a) packoff, (b) dual-screen, and (c) wash-down.

done by circulating sand through coiled tubing to establish a sand


bottom. If the through-tubing gravel pack is done completely within
the production tubing, a wireline plug can be set and used as a base.
The base is critical to the job to eliminate sand from settling out past
the bottom of the screen into the rat hole, thus creating a void in the
screen/casing annulus. The use of an inflatable packer provides
another method for setting a base in the casing. This method is wellsuited for isolating a lower set of perforations that have already
started producing water in the casing below the production tubing.
9. A gauge run should be made before running the screen into the
wellbore. Not only will the gauge run establish how much spacer
will be needed below the screen, it will also drift (check) the tubing
for restrictions and determine the amount of drag before going into

the wellbore with the through-tubing gravel-packing assembly. The


drag and calculated weight of the bottomhole assembly (BHA) will
determine the running procedure. When possible, the gauge run
should be made during the pre planning stage to determinc the well
conditions and the best method of running the screen assembly. An
early gauge run will help reduce the chance of improper decisions
that could result from well problems.

PackofT Method. Generally, when the tops of the perforations are


< 100 ft below the end of the production tubing, the through-tubing
screen assembly is attached to a blank pipe of sufficient length to allow the screen to be placed at total depth (TD), with the blank pipe
extending up into the production tubing where it can be packed off

TABLE 1-SCREEN SELECTION BASED ON TUBING AND NIPPLE SIZE

Tubing Size
WeighV
00
Length
(in.)
(Ibm/tt)
2.375 4.6 to 4.7
2.875 6.4 to 6.5
3.5
9.3 to 10.3

Standard
Nipples
Packing
Bore 10
(in.)

1.875
2.313
2.813 to
2.750
4.0 10.9 to 11.0
3.313
4.5
3.813
12.75
5.0
13.00
4.313
5.5 15.50 to 17.00 4.562

Maximum Screen Sizes


Wire-Wrapped All-Welded and
Special-Clearance
Perforated Pipe Prepack
Dual-Screen Prepack Screen
Prepack Screens
Standard
Standard
Standard No-Go Standard Standard No-Go Standard
Standard No-Go
No-Go
Nipples
Nipples
Nipples
Nipples
Nipples
Nipples
Nipples 10 00
10
00
10
00
10
00
10
00
10
00
10
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)
(in.)

1.791
2.205
2.635 to
2.635
3.135
3.725
4.455

SPE Drilling & Completion, December 1994

1.735
2.100
2.550

1.750 1.049
2.100 1.380
2.630 1.751

1.460
1.750
2.550

0.824 1.735 0.720


1.049 2.100 0.720
1.610 2.550 0.824

1.995
2.441
2.992
2.992

2.970
3.480

1.995 2.550 0.824 2.550


2.441 3.480 1.610 3.480
4.130 1.995
2.992 4.130 1.995 4.130

2.970
3.480
4.130
4.130

4.130

1.660
1.900
2.375

0.720
0.720
0.824

0.824 2.875 1.049 2.875


1.610 3.500 1.610 3.500
4.000 1.995
1.995 4.000 1.995 4.000

1.049
1.610

0.720 1.660 0.720


0.720 1.900 0.720
0.824 2.375 0.824

1.995

237

OVERSHOT
TYPE
RUNNING
TOOL
SHEAR PIN
RETRIEVABLE
RECEPTACLE
PLUG
CENTRALIZED
SEAL
RECEPTACLE
SUB

Attached to
"G" packott
assembly

0>

8Z

U'-..J.._/

(c)
o
o

SINTERED
SCREEN

o
o

(a)

Z
u'--__
'--_...J...J

(b)

Fig. 2-Through-tubing gravel-pack tool: (a) centralized seal receptacle sub, (b) overshot-type running tool, and (c) retrievable
receptacle plug.

(Fig. la). Blank pipe lengths of > 100 ft can create excessive pressure loss through the small diameter and are difficult to deploy.
BHA's can be run into the wellbore by several methods. Most assemblies consist of a bull plug, screen, blank pipe, centralizers, and
some type of combination running/releasing tool. The combination
tool is designed to run the BHA by means of wireline or coiled tubing. Either method has its pros and cons, but wireline would be recommended in most cases because of its capability to jar and shear
off the assembly being placed on bottom. Generally, if the total BHA
weight is < 400 pounds, 0.092-in. wire can be used. If the BHA is
heavier, 0.108-in. or 3/ w in. braided line is recommended.
The standard through-tubing gravel-pack tool, which allows the
screen to be run and set in the hole, consists of several parts. A
centralized seal receptacle (Fig. 2a) is made up on the top section
of blank pipe and is carried into the hole by an overshot-type running
tool (Fig. 2b). The seal receptacle also houses a retrievable bull plug
with a fishing neck. The bull plug (Fig. 2c) keeps the slurry from entering the screen and liner during the pumping operation.
The seal receptacle, running tool, and receptacle plug are all
pinned together and connected to the blank pipe and screen. The
BHA is then run into the wellbore to bottom (Fig. 3a). The running
tool is released while the receptacle plug is left pinned in the seal receptacle in preparation for the slurry pack. The coiled tubing is
rigged up and run to 30 ft above the screen assembly. The injection
rate is established; then, the sand slurry is pumped at a concentration
of 0.5 to I Ibm/gal. Case histories have recorded 4- to 7-lbm/gal sand
concentrations being pumped through I-in. coiled tubing. When
screenout occurs, the excess sand is circulated out. On completion
of the pumping phase, the slurry is given a predetermined time to
settle out around the screen and liner; then, any sand left above the
receptacle plug is circulated out of the hole with coiled tubing. The
receptacle plug is then pulled with wireline and replaced with a
small O-ring stinger run below a packoff-element assembly (Fig.
3b). Coiled tubing can now be used to jet the well onto production.
Not all through-tubing gravel packs are set on bottom. Today,
more operators are asking for prepack screens to be run without

(a)

o
o
o
Z
()==-...:w
(b)

<.)

Fig. 3-(a ) Complete running assembly and (b) O-ring seal


stinger.

gravel packing. The BHA is simply run on wireline or coiled tubing


and landed in a tubing nipple by use of a locking mandrel to seal off
the blank/casing annulus. However, the life of the screen will be
very limited if this option is used because turbulent flow cuts the
BHA. This technique also leaves the formation sands unstabilized
and the screen susceptible to plugging during production.
In many cases, a "no-go" nipple is located at the bottom of the production tubing. This allows one of the best and easiest ways to hang
off a through-tubing screen assembly before gravel packing. By use
of either wireline or coiled tubing, a fluted hanger with sufficient bypass area through the flutes simply is landed in the nipple profile
(Fig. 4). On completion of the gravel pack, the receptacle plug is
pulled and replaced with the production assembly.
In cases with the option of either hanging off the screen from the end
of the tubing with a nipple profile or simply setting the screen on bottom and allowing the upper end of the tubing assembly to extend up
into the production tubing, the latter is recommended. This will allow
for a greater flow area around the top of the liner during the pumping
stage, thereby decreasing the chance of a sand bridge at the nipple.
If the nipple used to hang off the through-tubing assembly is below the production packer, the production tubing or pup joint between the packer and nipple can be perforated just above the nipple
to increase the flow area during the pumping stage. On gravel packing, the tubing perforations can then be isolated with a short spacer
between the seal assembly and the packoff element (Figs. Sa and
5b). For new non-gravel-pack completions that may require future
through-tubing sand control, the tail pipe below the production
packer is initially installed with a ported pup joint above the lower
landing nipple and a second nipple below the packer (Fig. 5c). This
tail-pipe configuration also provides an excellent location for landing BHP and temperature gauges. By setting the gauges in the lower
landing nipple, production restrictions are eliminated during tests.

IM---+t--

I~,_c
I.

ANCHOR

II

,,~PACKOFF

'~
=

IIO-I+--+f--~

c- -

STINGER SEAL

FLUTED RECEPTACLE

Fig. 4-Fluted-hanger assembly.

Because of the configuration and length of the through-tubing


gravel-pack assembly, the well must be dead to rig up and run the
assembly into the wellbore. The screen section and centralizers may
make the assembly difficult to run under pressure. This is not to say
it is impossible; in some applications, the screen and blank can be
run under pressure in short sections and connected downhole with
a series of seal subs and receptacles. This method is not recommended in the casing but should be limited to within the production
tubing where alignment of the assemblies is possible.
Sliding-Sleeve Method. For wells that start producing sand from an
alternative non-gravel-packed zone through a sliding sleeve, prepack screens can easily be set across the sleeve (Fig. 6). If more than
one sleeve is run, the upper through-tubing screens can be packed
off above and below the sleeve ports to allow production in and
through the upper screen assemblies. Other designs that anticipate
sand production include placing an all-welded screen jacket or prepack screen over the sliding sleeve. This method does not restrict the
tubing ID with a through-tubing assembly, and the sleeve can be
opened and closed easily during the life of the well.
Dual-Screen Method. When the tops of the perforations are located
> 100 ft below the end of the production tubing, a unique and simple
option that uses a combination of two gravel-pack screens is available. Production through the gravel-pack medium is estimated to be
limited to =60 ft. With this theory, a unique flow path for production can be formed. A screen assembly is used that consists of a primary production screen long enough to cover the perforations, 60
to 100 ft of blank spacer pipe, and a short upper section of screen bull
plugged on top. This double-screen assembly is run into the wellbore with wireline or coiled tubing and set in the casing on bottom.
A double-screen through-tubing assembly does not require the
top of the blank liner to be extended up into the production tubing
(Fig. Ib). After the assembly is properly set on bottom, the slurry is
pumped completely over and around the screen, covering the entire
SPE Drilling & Completion, December 1994

screen assembly. In most cases, the slurry is pumped through the


coiled tubing. In some cases where no gas-lift mandrels are in the
tubing string, the slurry is simply pumped down the production tubing. Then, the slurry is allowed to settle out around the bottom section of the screen. After the slurry settles, the sand is washed from
around the upper screen section with coiled tubing. The production
is now directed through the lower screen section, up the blank pipe,
and out the top section of the screen. The well now can be jetted onto
production with coiled tubing and nitrogen.
This technique offers several advantages. First, drawdown pressures are kept to a minimum because of a shorter length of blank
pipe run in the BHA. Second, the lower landing nipples are kept
open and can be used for setting different flow-control devices because the blank pipe is not extended up into the production tubing.
By leaving the entire screen assembly in the casing, several assemblies can be eliminated. The packoff, seals, and seal receptacles are
omitted, reducing the cost and time required to run them. The last
advantage of double-screen setting is that fewer trips are required
to recomplete; in most cases, it can be accomplished in a single trip.
We recommend the use of centralizers for this type of recompletion
to centralize the gravel-pack assembly in the casing and to allow
placement of a tight gravel pack without voids. The type of centralizer
will depend on where the through-tubing gravel-pack assembly will
be set. If the BHA is run through tubing and set in the casing below
the tubing string, some type of spring centralizer will be required; severa types are available. A standard spring type, which wraps around
a collar or limit ring that allows both ends to move, enables the blades
to be pulled in either direction, creating less drag. Fig. 7 shows a
centralizer that is designed with an adjustable tension ring. This type
of centralizer has been run through 23/ g-in. tubing and set in 9 5/ g-in.
casing. We recommend that a spring centralizer be run below the production-screen section. If the through-tubing gravel-pack assembly is
to be left inside the production tubing with standard ID landing nipples, a rigid weld-on-type centralizer is recommended.
Wash-Down Method. The wash-down method consists of depositing spherical beads or gravel to a predetermined height above perforations, then running the screen-and-liner assembly with a wash pipe
and a circulating-type shoe on coiled tubing. The screen is washed
down through the gravel. When the shoe is on bottom, the beads are
allowed to fall back around the screen and liner; then, the coiled tubing is released from the screen assembly and tripped out of the hole. 3
A packoff device is installed, and the well jetted onto production.
Using a spherical material, such as sintered bauxite or ceramic
beads, in the prepack will help hold formation sand outside the casing. Owing to the spherical nature of the beads, an absolute flow
space is created between the beads, allowing the hydrocarbons to
flow through.4 Spherical beads allow the screen to be washed into
place easily without compaction of the filter media. The maximum
length of intervals that can be treated with this method is = 50 to 60
ft because keeping the spherical bead prepack fluidized during the
washdown process on longer intervals is difficult.
As mentioned earlier, the wellbore must be properly prepared by
washing and displacing with a clean, filtered fluid. A gauge run is
made, a bottom is set, if required, and an injection rate is established.
The prepack slurry is mixed and pumped through coiled tubing,
which is located above the perforated interval. The slurry is spotted
at the end of the coiled tubing, and the annulus valve closed while
the slurry is squeezed into the formation until sandout occurs.
Formation fracture pressure should not be exceeded. The coiled tubing is picked up, and time is allowed for the gel to break and the gravel to settle. The coiled tubing is then run back down to tag the prepack top. If the prepack top is too low, an additional slurry pack will
be required. The coiled tubing is then removed from the wellbore.
Then, the wash-down gravel-pack assembly is connected to the
end of the coiled tubing and includes (in ascending order) jet-wash
shoe with check valve, wash-pipe-seal sub, gravel-pack screen,
blank spacer pipe, locating mandrel (optional), and hydraulic disconnect. An internal wash pipe is connected to the hydraulic release
and run through the screen assembly to allow circulation through the
jet wash shoe (Fig. Ic). Circulation through the jet-wash shoe
should be established before running into the wellbore. The wash239

UPPER NIPPLE

----J1"'lrr- UPPER NIPPLE

If~~:~_c9_ I d - - UPPER NIPPLE

ANCHOR
REELED
TUBING

PACK OFF
RECEPTACLE
PLUG
PORTED PUP
JOINT
NIPPLE
LOCATOR IN
LOWER NIPPLE

SHORT SPACER
j---- PORTED PUP

PORTED PUP
JOINT
LOWER NIPPLE

JOINT

II\;~::;;:_=:-:::/~tt--

LOWER NIPPLE

Fig. S-Completions: (a) tail-pipe through-tubing, (b) tail-pipe through-tubing with packoff, and
(c) new non-gravel-pack.

down screen assembly is run while slurry is pumped slowly until it


reaches = 30 ft above the top ofthe prepack. The pump is stopped,
and the top of the prepack tagged; then picked back up. Circulation
is established at 5/S to 1/4 bbUmin, and the screen is slowly washed
down through the filter medium until TD is reached.
The ball for the hydraulic releasing tool is placed into the reel and
pumped until it is past the wellhead. The pump is then shut down,
and the ball is allowed to gravitate down to the hydraulic release
tool. The screen assembly is pressured up and released, then picked
up and circulated from the bottom up. It is then pulled out ofthe hole
with the hydraulic release tool and wash pipe. Wireline is used to run
the packoff and anchor assembly. The well is jetted onto production
with coiled tubing and nitrogen.
If a uniform gravel or bead size is not used, some segregation of
the gravel sizes during the wash-down process may occur.
Screen Types

All-Welded Screen. Fig. 8a shows the all-welded screen that has


been a standard in sand control for several decades. This screen is
wire-wrapped with a keystone-shaped wire on ribs and welded onto
a base pipe. Keystone-shaped wire is used to decrease the chances
of plugging the screen. If sand is smaller than the slot size, it will
flow through because the perforations on the pipe behind the screen
jacket are much larger. Slot size of the screen is determined by the
gravel size used to pack around the screen. As long as the slot opening is smaller than the smallest gravel size used in the pack, no problems should occur. Typically, a stainless-steel screen is used on a
carbon-steel pipe. This configuration has been used successfully for
many years worldwide. However, depending upon well environments, other alloys should be used at times.
240

Dual-Screen Prepack. The dual-screen prepack (Fig. 8b) has a


high inlet area with a "double" screen design that allows maximum
radial placement of gravel between screen jackets. These screens
are available in 1.735 and 2.100-in. OD's and an ID of =0.720-in.
'for through-tubing applications. The inner screen is a "rod-based"
design without an inner perforated pipe base, which allows maximum gravel thickness.
The advantages of the prepack are that gravel packing is not required, the outer screen jacket is more flexible than that of a perforated prepack screen, and the outer screen jacket provides more flow
area than a perforated prepack screen. The disadvantages are that
the screens could become plugged with fines or mud; the dualscreen prepack has a large OD and a small ID, which can restrict production rates; and the outer screen jacket may become damaged if
run through a tight spot.
Perforated Prepack Screen. The perforated prepack screen (Fig.
8c) allows flexibility in through-tubing applications for running in
areas of damaged casing or tubing. The minimum OD pipe available
is 1.660-in., with a rod-based screen designed for internal gravel
retention. Gravel thickness (radial placement) is measured through
the perforation to the actual pipe OD; the gravel is an epoxy-coated,
thermally set material.
Advantages ofthe perforated prepack screen are that gravel packing is not required and perforated pipe case is rugged. The disadvantages are that the screen could become plugged with fines and mud,
resin-coated gravel could break and fall out through the perforated
pipe case, and flow area through the perforated pipe case is less than
that of other designs.
Special-Clearance Prepack Screen. Fig. 8d shows the special-clearance prepack screen. This screen has a high inlet area with flow chanSPE Drilling & Completion, December 1994

SLIDING SLEEVE

LOCKING MANDREL

EQUALIZING SUB

OPEN PORTS

PREPACK SCREEN

BULL PLUG

Fig. 7-Centralizer with tension ring.


Fig. 6-Sliding sleeve with prepack screen (sintered-metal
screen).

nels on an inner retention screen, which allows maximum flow potential. The design accommodates the maximum ID and the screen OD is
the same as that of the standard all-welded design with a thin wall of
gravel pack available between the screen jackets for added sand control. It is available in sizes as small as 1.3IS-in.-OD base pipe.
Screen advantages are a large flow area and the same OD and ID
as regularnonprepack screens. Its disadvantages are that it has minimal prepack gravel and is recommended only for wells that will be
gravel packed.
Sintered-Metal Screen. The sintered-metal screen (Fig. Se) embodies a technology proved in the industrial filtration markets. Sintered stainless steel (or other applicable high-nickel alloys) is bonded
under extreme temperature and pressure and shaped into a cylindrical body (tube), producing a porous metal filter medium whose performance compares favorably with that of such devices as prepack
well screens. This cylindrical body provides a porous medium capable of = 100-,um absolute filtration. This tolerance can be adjusted
downward by reducing the individual sintered-metal diameters.
The advantages are that one size sintered-screen design fits most
gravel-pack sand sizes vs. requiring a specific wire-wrapped-screen
gauge size, the sintered screen design is tougher than the wirewrapped design, its wall thickness allows for a minimum OD with a
maximum ID, and it allows 100% inlet flow from any direction. In
addition, the sintered-metal screen has less flow restriction than current prepack screen designs; has more flexibility to pass short radial
bends compared with standard prepack-screen designs; is impervious
to acid, which will dissolve the sand in current prepack screens as well
as resin; and in some applications, will allow the sintered screen to be
run without the base pipe, lowering the cost and increasing the ID. Its
disadvantages are that the current maximum limit is 100-,um absolute
filtration and certain high-nickel alloys currently cannot be sintered.
SPE Drilling & Completion, December 1994

Slotted Liners. Slotted liners (Fig. Sf) have been manufactured in


a number of ways. The simplest are made of oilfield tubular goods
that have been slotted with a precision saw or mill.
Their advantages are that they cost less than wire-wrapped screen
and offer a large ID for production. Disadvantages of slotted liners
are that they have a low inlet area and are susceptible to slot erosion
encrustation (closing of slot).
Gel Systems

Through-tubing gravel packing may be performed with a number of


carrier fluids. Each fluid fits an application and should be selected
carefully. The objective is to use a fluid that will effectively carry
the gravel or sand at pump rates low enough to prevent scouring,
abrasion, and intermixing of pack and formation sand. As a rule,
most through-tubing gravel packs must be bullheaded into place. No
tell-tale screen or wash pipe is required because no returns are taken
during the procedure. Because viscous systems require less fluid
owing to high gravel concentrations, use of the thickened-fluid system is preferable to use of thin fluids, which would result in high
fluid losses to the formation and possible formation damage.
Experience has shown that simple gel systems are suitable for
gravel packing most wells that need sand control. However, if the
well has a highly deviated interval of ~ 60 from vertical, simple
gel systems may not support the pack sand completely. The problem
is not in the coiled tubing, which has a small pipe diameter resulting
in high fluid velocities, but in the slurry exiting the coiled tubing into
the casing where the velocities are slow; this results in the sand settling out to form a bridge.
One method for improving this situation is to crosslink the gel system. Crosslinked gels are much more viscous than simple gels and
can fully support a high concentration of sand, even in a static state.
Because no settling occurs, the chance of a premature sandout is reduced greatly.
Crosslinked gels are formed by mixing a low concentration of simple gel, then adding a crosslinking agent. This crosslinking agent
0

241

Resin Method. Water-compatible furan resins have been used effectively for near-wellbore sand consolidation. Resins have been
used to "repair" damaged gravel-pack screens in place. An average
wellbore radius of > 3 ft can be consolidated. 5
The process involves cleaning up the well bore and preparing the
treatment interval as discussed earlier, then pumping a leading load
of salt water into the formation to prepare the sand surfaces so that
they will provide a site for the chemical reaction needed for the resin
to absorb the sand. The resin is then pumped, followed by a saltwater
spacer to separate acid and resin, to remove excess resin from the
pore spaces, and to flush the resin further into the foundation. The
acid is then pumped to catalyze the resin. A final brine flush is injected to enhance displacement of the acid catalyst. Nitrogen is
often commingled with the injected fluids to act as a diverter and to
aid in uniform placement of the resins in the formation. Coiled tubing has proved beneficial in placing these chemicals uniformly over
long intervals by use of specially designed nozzles and by manipulating the tubing through the entire interval during treating. After the
resin hardens, a permeable, but solid, sand filter is formed. Typically, 85% to 90% of the original formation permeability will remain.
Resin-Coated-Sand Methods. For any type of sand control, having
sand packed very tightly behind every perforation to compress the
formation to its "natural" state is considered very desirable. Packing
presumably replaces formation sand in the perforations with higherpermeability pack sand. 5 Studies have shown that the resin-coated
sands can achieve very high compressive strengths and remain
highly permeable even after a flow of 30 million PV. 6
The procedure for resin-coated sand packs is very similar to the
resin procedures. Typically, resieved Ottawa 20/40- or 40/60-mesh
sand is used; this is batch-mixed with the resin and carrier fluids at
a ratio of 1 Ibm sand/gal carrier fluid and 1.5 gal resin/per sack sand.
The system can either be catalyzed internally or externally. Using
an externally catalyzed system will allow placement of the pack into
the perforations and formation, with any excess sand washed out of
the wellbore before the acid to set the resin is pumped.
An internally catalyzed system, which requires fewer steps for
pack placement because catalysts are mixed with the resin-coated
sand mixture before pumping, can be used. The treatment is pumped
until sandout occurs in the perforations, meaning that the resincoated sand will extend above the producing formation. This will
form a sand column that will have to be removed after the resin
cures. 6 Removal can be accomplished with mills and under-reamers
on concentric or coiled tubing.
Case Histories
Fig. 8-Screens and slotted liner: (a) all-welded screen, (b) dual
prepack screen, (c) perforated prepack screen, (d) special-clearance prepack screen, (e) sintered-metal screen, and (f) slotted
liner.

forms a chemical bond between the polymer molecules of a simple


gel and increases its viscosity dramatically. Gelling and breaking
agents similar to those used in the regular gravel-pack fluids can be
used in the crosslinked systems.
Another advantage to the use of crosslinked gels is that they add
stability to a completion. A disadvantage is that they provide some
fluid loss to the formation, and therefore, may not form as "tight"
a gravel pack as simple gel systems.
Chemical Methods

Chemical sand-control methods use chemicals and resins injected


into poorly consolidated formations to provide in-situ grain-tograin bonding. Two common methods are consolidation of formation sand with neat resins by use of brine placement fluids and packing of formations with resin-coated sands. 2 These methods can be
catalyzed either internally or externally and offer economical options for solving sand-production problems in wells with the following conditions: (1) relatively long intervals, (2) minimal wellbore
ID's, (3) static bottomhole temperatures between 60 and 400F, and
(4) BHP gradients of < 11.6 Ibm/gal for brine-compatible resins.
242

Case History I-PackoffMethod. An offshore U.S. Gulf of Me xico well was originally completed by the operator as a single gravelpack completion. This well was a leaseholder and was sanded up;
average production had been 160 BOPD, 55 BWPD, and 1.28
MMcflD gas. The last test yield showed 13 BOPD, 7 BWPD, and
935 McflD gas with a 1,624-psi flowing tubing pressure (FTP). The
original gravel pack consisted of 180 ft of 27/g-in. 0.006-gauge
screen set across the perforations at 11,164 to 11 ,346 ft. An "S-I"
nipple was 268 ft above the top perforations in the 27/g-in. tubing.
The average deviation through the completion interval was 40 . The
job was designed with a through-tubing prepacked screen assembly
run on 1.25-in. coiled tubing and located in the nipple profile.
Procedure. The following was the gravel-packing procedure.
1. Surface equipment was rigged up and tested.
2. The hole was entered and sand was washed to 11,350 ft with
8.6-lbm/gal salt water. Then, we checked for fill.
3. The well was killed with 13.2 Ibm/gal CaBr2, and we pulled out
of the hole.
4. Braided line was rigged up, and a gauge run was made.
5. Screen assembly was run into the hole on coiled tubing and located in S-I nipple. The screen assembly consisted of a bull plug,
198 ft of prepacked screen, 270 ft of centralized blank pipe, and an
S- I locator with upper seal receptacle and milled bypass.
6. With the end of the coiled tubing 5 ft above the locator assembly, the tubing was flushed with two tubing volumes of filtered fluid
and the following pack performed: (a) 6 bbl 10% HCl with 7 Ibm of
SPE Drilling & Completion, December 1994

citric acid and 0.2% organic inhibitor, (b) 3 bbl3% ammonium chloride water, (c) 3 bbl gel pad without gravel, (d) 5 bbl sand slurry containing 50nO-mesh resieved sand, (e) 3 bbl3% ammonium chloride
water, and (t) filtered 13.2-lbmlgal completion fluid .
7. Acid and slurry were squeezed into the formation until a
2,500-psi sandout was reached.
8. 13.2 Ibmlgal fluid was displaced with 8.6-lbmlgal seawater,
and we pulled out of the hole.
9. Braided line was used to pull the receptacle plug and install the
packoff. The well was placed back on production at 82 BOPO, 92
BWPO, and I MMcflD gas. The cost of a rig-type workover was
= $1.5 million, while the cost of the through-tubing gravel pack was
=$150,000.
Case History 2-Dual-Screen Method. The operator's well was
on inland water and completed as a single gas well with 23!s-in. tubing to 11,510 ft and 95!s-in. casing to a plugged-back TO of 11,683
ft. The average production was 2.8 McflD gas with 80 BWPO at a
2,400-psi FrP. The job was designed to run a dual screen through
the tubing, which had a 1.7I -in. no-go nipple, and set it in the casing.
Procedure. The procedure used follows.
1. I-in. coiled-tubing unit was rigged up and tested. Tubing was
pickled.
2. The wellbore was entered and foam washed to TO.
3. The injector rate was checked with filtered fluid.
4. Fill was checked for, and we pulled out of the wellbore.
5. Oual screen was run on wireline with ajar-down-release running tool consisting of a bull plug, centralizer, 16 ft of O.OOS-gauge
screen, centralizer, 132 ft of blank pipe, and 5 ftofupper screen with
a running-neck bull plug. This was set and released on bottom.
6. Coiled tubing was into the wellbore to the top of the liner at
11,495 ft, and the injection rate was established.
7. A preacid treatment was performed.
8. A gravel-pack slurry was pumped that consisted of (a) 3 bbl of
gel, (b) 5 of bbl gel containing 1,000 Ibm of 40/60-mesh gravel, and
(c) 3 bbl of gel.
9. The slurry was displaced into the formation until sandout occurred.
10. The slurry was washed down past the upper screen to a maximum of 11,593 ft.
11. The well was jetted in with nitrogen.
The well was placed back on production at 2.1 McflD gas and 70
BWPO with a 2,1 OO-psi FrP. Estimated cost of a rig-type workover
was $250,000, while the dual-screen sand-control job was performed for =$15,000.
Case History 3-Resin Method. This offshore U.S. Gulf of Mexico
well was originally completed as a single completion with a selective
alternative, or "stack pack," where two reservoirs were gravel packed
individually with the upper sand blanked off with an isolation string.
The lower zone watered out and was isolated with a tubing plug set
in a landing nipple. The upper zone was accessed through wireline
with a tubing punch to perforate the isolation string. Initial gas production was 14 MMcflD, but the well test indicated an I8-MMcflD
potential. An acid stimulation job was performed; however, the well
started to produce sand and flow rates had to be reduced to 2.5 MMcf/
O. A resin treatment was designed to consolidate the sand behind the
32 ft gravel-pack screen with nitrogen and a I-in. coiled-tubing unit.
Procedure. In this well, we used the following procedure.
1. Surface equipment was rigged up and tested.
2. Coiled tubing was pickled with acid, and the acid was displaced with neutralizer.
3. Sand was washed to 11,499 ft with 2% KCI water.
4. Coiled tubing was positioned across interval, spotted, and
squeezed with following treatment at V4 to V2 bbl/min: (a) 65 bbl
15% NaCI water with 0.25% surfactant and 600 scf/bbl nitrogen; (b)
25 bbl externally catalyzed furan resin with 600 scf/bbl nitrogen; (c)
24 bblI5% NaCl water with 0.25% surfactant and 600 scf/bbl nitrogen; and (d) 83 bbllO% HCI catalyst (mixed with NaCI water) with
0.25% surfactant, 0.3% acid inhibitor, and 600 scf/bbl nitrogen.
6. Coiled tubing was displaced with filtered 2% NaCl water.
7. The well was shut in for 8 to 12 hours while the resin cured.
SPE Drilling & Completion, December 1994

8. Production was resumed at 4 MMcflD until the load water was


recovered.
The well was stabilized at a flow rate of 13 MMcflD gas with no
sand production. The cost of performing a conventional rig workover on this well had been estimated at $1.3 million; the resin job
to repair the screen was performed for = $90,000.
Conclusions

New downhole completion techniques that include a family of coiledtubing-conveyed through-tubing tools and fluid systems have been
developed to work with wireline and hydraulic workover services.
These fully coordinated methods reduce the exposure time when incompatible fluids are in contact with the formation, allowing a higher
percentage of regained permeability. These services have proved
their success as a means of well maintenance with the onset of sand
production, even in deviated wellbores. However, the considerable
reduction in well maintenance costs that these services can offer
compared with the cost of a workover rig is of special significance in
light of the prevailing climate of the oil and gas industry.
References
I. Fowler, S.H.: "A Reeled-Tubing Downhole-Jet Cleaning System," paper
SPE 21676 presented at the 1991 SPE Production Operations Symposium. Oklahoma City, April 7-9.
2. Shurtz, G.C., Breiner, WG .. and Comeaux, B.G.: "New Through-Tubing
Gravel-Pack Techniques," paper SPE 5660 presented at the 1975 SPE
Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Dallas, Sept. 28-Oct. I.
3. Otis Sand Control Customer Manual (1991) .
4. Caillier. M.: "Process for Washing Through Filter Media in a Production
Zone With a Pre-Packed Screen and Coiled Tubing," U.S. Patent No.
4,856,590 (Aug. 15 1989).
5. Murphey, J.R., Bila, V.J., and Totty, K. : "Sand Consolidation Systems
Placed With Water," paper SPE 5031 presented at the 1974 SPE Annual
Meeting, Dallas, Oct. 6-9.
6. Stutz, L., Cavender, T., and Murphy, J. : "Epoxy-Coated Sand Taps New
Gas in Old Wells," Oil & Gas J. (March 4, 1991) l.

SI Metric Conversion Factors

bbl x 1.589 873


E-Ol =m 3
ft x3.048*
E-Ol =m
ft 3 x 2.S31 685
E- 02 = m3
OF CF-32)/1.8
= C
gal x3.785 412
E-03 =m 3
in. 2.54*
E+OI =mm
Ibm x4.535 924
E-OI =kg
psi x 6.894 757
E+OO =kPa
SPEDC

' Conversion factor is exact.

Henry L. Restarick is sand control manager of Halliburton Energy


Services in Houston. He has been with Halliburton for 22 years in
the U.S. gulf coast area and Dallas, where he has held positions
of completion specialist, sales manager, senior sales conSUltant,
and specialized completion manager. He holds 10 oilfield patents. Restarlck holds a degree from Kemper C. S. Hampton
Fowler has been with Halliburton Energy Services for 13 years
and is currently global manager of Coiled Tubing & Nitrogen
Services. During his carreer with Halliburton , he has held positions of field engineer in Louisiana , where he worked with coiled
tubing, nitrogen, snubbing units, gate-valve drilling equipment
and freeze services; as service development manager for
Coiled Tubing & Nitrogen Services in Dallas; and as operations
manager for Coiled Tubing & Stimulation Services for the U.K.
and North Sea area. He holds four U.S. and foreign patents
associated with coiled-tubing tools and processes. Fowler holds
a BS degree in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M U. Biography and photograph for W.P. Sedotal are unavailable.

Restarick

Fowler

243