In the past, tubing, casing and drill pipe recovery has been employed where chemical and explosive severing tools could not effectively sever the pipe.

A coiled-tubing-conveyed hydromechanical pipe cutting system has proven to be a viable alternative to pipe recovery when conventional severing systems are not effective. The system does not contain or require any hazardous materials, which makes it safer to use than conventional systems.

The pipe cutting system incorporates modular stabilizing devices that decrease the risk of the coiled tubing forces and the wellbore deviation from interfering with the cutting operation. The pipe-cutting mechanism uses several unique blade configurations that were designed specifically to address various metallurgical properties and dimensions. The cutting blades contain state-of-the-art cutting inserts, which were previously proved in various metal milling and cutting applications within subterranean wells.

A detailed description of the coiled-tubing-conveyed hydromechanical pipe cutting system, its operational function and a variety of case histories are discussed in this paper.


Electrical wireline-conveyed explosive jet and chemical cutters are currently the preferred choices for cutting pipe in slimhole wellbores.

Explosive jet cutters are used for severing common sizes of production tubing, drill pipe and casing. The cutting action is produced by a circular-shaped charge. Typically, this type of cutter leaves a flare on the severed pipe string. In order to perform subsequent pipe recovery operations, it is necessary to smooth the top end of the tubing left in the wellbore with an internal mill insert that is usually run with an overshot1.

Chemical cutters are designed to cut through one string of pipe while not damaging the adjacent string. They produce a flare-free and undistorted cut. The topside of the severed pipe can be engaged with an overshot without dressing with a mill1.

A wireline-conveyance operation provides several advantages when compared to using coiled tubing and threaded pipe. Wireline equipment can be mobilized and disassembled quickly; the wireline can be run in and out of a hole much faster; and the cost of a wireline operation is usually less than other methods.

The success rate can be reduced, however, when wireline-conveyed cutting tools are used for exotic applications such as cutting through plastic coated or corrosion-resistant alloys. High-density wellbore fluids, a greater-than-standard pipe wall thickness and distance between the cutter and the internal wall of the pipe also reduce the effectiveness of the wireline-conveyed systems. Another drawback is that the wireline systems are designed to cut only one string of pipe per operation. Therefore, several trips into the wellbore are required to separate multiple, adjacent strings internally.

The limitations of wireline-conveyed cutters can be overcome for the specific applications noted above with a hydromechanical pipe cutting system (HPCS) that takes advantage of proven, downhole metal cutting technology. The HPCS is activated by weight or hydraulic pressure. It can be rotated by a downhole workover motor or from the surface using a rotary rig or power swivel. The HPCS provides the power needed to cleanly cut single or multiple strings of pipe downhole. Such non-distorted pipe cuts are especially beneficial when it is necessary to recover pipe that is stuck in open hole2.

Time is a critical factor for a successful pipe recovery operation. The quicker the fishing jar assembly can be employed the greater the chances of a successful pipe recovery operation. The clean top of the severed drillpipe left by the HPCS improves efficiency in employing the fishing assembly3.


Until the early 1990s, very few pipe-cutting operations were attempted using coiled tubing as a conveyance means4,5.

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