As upstream oil and gas exploration and production companies search for new opportunities, much deeper wells are being drilled and completed. In addition to greater depths, an increasing number of wells are being drilled and completed in much more hostile downhole environments. These very complex wells are frequently drilled in frontier areas around the world, including the Western and Northern Canadian foothills and coastal areas. Where pressures exceed 10,000 psi (69 MPa) and temperatures surpass 300°F (149°C), wells are generally termed High-Pressure/High-Temperature (HPHT) completions.

The stresses resulting from the combination of high axial loads and pressure differentials begin encroaching on materials limitations of standard subsurface equipment. This paper provides an overview of an engineering design methodology that can be used during the planning of deep, difficult, or complex wells. The importance of numerous design considerations and realistic, clearly defined load cases will be emphasized.

High temperatures cause the well to operate with either significant pipe movement, or high compressional loads at the packer, particularly when these high temperatures are combined with higher operating pressures. The increased well depths, usually with accompanying deviations from vertical, also increase mechanical and fluid friction. These situations require a rigorous engineering analysis with the aid of modern thermal and stress analysis software.

Traditional uniaxial and biaxial working stress designs are convenient and usually adequate for shallower, lower temperature/pressure wells. However, the severe conditions considered within this paper require state-of-the-art triaxial design software. Examples within the paper will demonstrate how the results of these simulations can be used for hostile environment tubular selection, including discussion of the importance to properly select and test the tubular connections.

Many failures have resulted from brittle fracture or fatigue rather than yield, because the tendency for the designer is to choose higher yield strength materials that are inherently less ductile and more prone to hydrogen embrittlement. To avoid this, it is better to push the limits of lower strength, ductile materials, which in turn challenges the typical design safety factors. This challenge has lead some major oil companies to develop and use risk based tubular design processes.

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