The drilling and completion of wells between 15,000 and 20,000 feet vertical depth has been actively pursued since the early 1950's because of the increased production capacities associated with these deeper wells. The high temperatures and high pressures inherent to this type environment, however, require special equipment to withstand the demands of the severe conditions to which the equipment will be subjected.

Selecting seals or sealing systems for oil and gas production necessitates a comprehensive knowledge of the chemistry of both the seal material(s) and the conditions of the environment in which the seals will be used. Understanding the unique characteristics of viscoelastic response is the key to understanding elastomers in general and applying them to specific uses.

This paper will discuss elastomer usage as sealing media in the oilfield; specifically, the use of polymeric seal materials will be followed from their usage in the oilfield from 1977 to the present and their evolution to the elastometric element packages that have been developed for today's needs in traditional as well as in severe service and high pressure/high temperature (HP/HT) applications. Of particular interest will be testing to which the newly developed seal element packages have been subjected, including the testing that was conducted in a deep well simulator.

Case histories will support the enhanced capabilities of the new generation of polymeric seal assemblies.

In addition to the new generation of elastometric sealing packages, composite sealing materials have also been developed for certain applications in which elastomeric materials have not been able to provide long-term integrity. Progress being made in this area will also be discussed.

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