When changing out completions in producing wells, inflatable tubing plugs are frequently used to control fluid loss and to protect equipment below the work area from the debris that results from pipe recovery and workover operations. To navigate the narrow inside diameter (ID) of production tubing, the plug is run deflated; it is inflated at the desired measured depth to create a barrier during workover operations; and then, when work is complete, deflated again for removal.

To protect the inflatable plug—especially its retrieval mechanism—from falling-debris damage during workover, a common practice is to use a protective fill, such as sand or proppant, on top of the plug. Of course, before the plug can be removed, both the debris and the sand must first be removed. Traditionally a slickline bailer is used to remove the debris and sand up to the top of the plug's external fishing neck. Then coiled tubing (CT) is used to wash away enough of the remaining sand from around the neck of the plug so that a slickline-deployed retrieving tool can latch onto the plug and retrieve it.

The operator had learned about a new electric-line, high-pressure suction tool that could be used instead of CT to remove the fill from around the plug's external neck, thereby eliminating the extra time, cost, and HSE risks associated with CT use. During workover operations on a Gulf of Mexico well, the operator decided to put the electric-line suction tool to the test to determine its viability as a cost-effective alternative to CT.

This paper describes the successful use of the electric-line power suction tool to clean sand from around the inflatable packer's external neck, which allowed the plug to be removed and production to resume.

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