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Internal pressure loads on casing and tubing strings
To evaluate a given casing design, a set of loads is necessary. Casing loads result from running the casing, cementing the casing, subsequent drilling operations, production and well workover operations. Internal pressure loads result from fluids within the casing and are modeled with pressure distributions.
Pressure distributions are typically used to model the internal pressures. These pressure distributions are discussed next.
Burst: gas kick
This load case uses an internal pressure profile, which is the envelope of the maximum pressures experienced by the casing while circulating out a gas kick using the driller’s method. It should represent the worst-case kick to which the current casing can be exposed while drilling a deeper interval. Typically, this means taking a kick at the total depth (TD) of the next openhole section. If the kick intensity or volume causes the fracture pressure at the casing shoe to exceed, the kick volume is often reduced to the maximum volume that can be circulated out of the hole without exceeding the fracture pressure at the shoe. The maximum pressure experienced at any casing depth occurs when the top of the gas bubble reaches that depth.
Burst: displacement to gas
This load case uses an internal pressure profile consisting of a gas gradient extending upward from a formation pressure in a deeper hole interval, or from the fracture pressure at the casing shoe. This pressure physically represents a well control situation, in which gas from a kick has completely displaced the mud out of the drilling annulus from the surface to the casing shoe. This is the worst-case drilling burst load that a casing string could experience, and if the fracture pressure at the shoe is used to determine the pressure profile, it ensures that the weak point in the system is at the casing shoe and not the surface. This, in turn, precludes a burst failure of the casing near the surface during a severe well-control situation.
Burst: maximum load concept
This load case is a variation of the displacement-to-gas load case that has wide usage in the industry, and is taught in several popular casing design schools. It has been used historically because it results in an adequate design (though typically quite conservative, particularly for wells deeper than 15,000 ft), and it is simple to calculate. The load case consists of a gas gradient extending upward from the fracture pressure at the shoe up to a mud/gas interface and a mud gradient to the surface. The mud/gas interface is calculated in a number of ways—the most common being the “fixed endpoint” method. The interface is calculated on the basis of surface pressure, typically equal to the blowout preventer (BOP) rating and the fracture pressure at the shoe, and assuming a continuous pressure profile.
Burst: lost returns with water
This load case models an internal pressure profile, which reflects pumping water down the annulus to reduce surface pressure during a well-control situation in which lost returns are occurring. The pressure profile represents a freshwater gradient applied upward from the fracture pressure at the shoe depth. A water gradient is used, assuming that the rig’s barite supply has been depleted during the well-control incident. This load case typically dominates the burst design when compared to the gas-kick load case. This is particularly the case for intermediate casing.
Burst: surface protection
This load case is less severe than the displacement-to-gas criteria, and represents a moderated approach to preventing a surface blowout during a well-control incident. It is not applicable to liners. The same surface pressure calculated in the “lost returns with water” load case is used, but in this load case, a gas gradient from this surface pressure is used to generate the rest of the pressure profile. This load case represents no actual physical scenario. However, when used with the gas-kick criterion, it ensures that the casing weak point is not at the surface. Typically, the gas-kick load case will control the design deep, and the surface-protection load case will control the design shallow, leaving the weak point somewhere in the middle.
Burst: pressure test
This load case models an internal pressure profile, which reflects a surface pressure applied to a mud gradient. The test pressure typically is based on the maximum anticipated surface pressure, determined from the other selected burst load cases plus a suitable safety margin. For production casing, the test pressure is typically based on the anticipated shut-in tubing pressure. This load case may or may not dominate the burst design, depending on the mud weight in the hole at the time the test occurs. The pressure test is normally performed prior to drilling out the float equipment.
This load case models an internal and external pressure profile, which reflects the collapse load imparted on the casing after the plug has been bumped during the cement job and the pump pressure bled off. The external pressure considers the mud hydrostatic column and different densities of the lead and tail cement slurries. The internal pressure is based on the gradient of the displacement fluid. If a light displacement fluid is used, the cementing collapse load can be significant.
Collapse: lost returns with mud drop
This load case models an internal pressure profile, which reflects a partial evacuation or a drop in the mud level, because of the mud hydrostatic column equilibrating with the pore pressure in a lost-circulation zone. The heaviest mud weight used to drill the next openhole section should be used along with a pore pressure and depth that result in the largest mud drop. Many operators make the conservative assumption that the lost-circulation zone is at the TD of the next openhole section, and is normally pressured. A partial evacuation of more than 5,000 ft, because of lost circulation during drilling, is normally not seen. Many operators use a partial evacuation criterion in which the mud level is assumed to be a percentage of the openhole TD.
Collapse: other load cases
This load case should be considered when drilling with air or foam. It may also be considered for conductor or surface casing where shallow gas is encountered. This load case would represent all of the mud being displaced out of the wellbore (through the diverter) before the formation bridged off.
For wells with a sufficient water supply, an internal pressure profile consisting of a freshwater or seawater gradient is sometimes used as a collapse criterion. This assumes a lost-circulation zone that can only withstand a water gradient.
Burst: gas migration (subsea wells)
This load case models bottomhole pressure applied at the wellhead (subject to fracture pressure at the shoe) from a gas bubble migrating upward behind the production casing with no pressure bleedoff at the surface. The pressure is the minimum of the fracture pressure at the shoe and the reservoir pressure plus the mud gradient. The load case has application only to the intermediate casing in subsea wells where the operator has no means of accessing the annulus behind the production casing.
Burst: tubing leak
This load case applies to production and injection operations, and represents a high surface pressure on top of the completion fluid, because of a tubing leak near the hanger. A worst-case surface pressure is usually based on a gas gradient extending upward from reservoir pressure at the perforations. If the proposed packer location has been determined when the casing is designed, the casing below the packer can be assumed to experience pressure, based on the produced fluid gradient and reservoir pressure only.
Burst: injection down casing
This load case applies to wells that experience high-pressure annular injection operations, such as a casing fracture stimulation job. The load case models a surface pressure applied to a static fluid column. This is analogous to a screenout during a frac job.
Collapse above packer: full evacuation
This severe load case has the most application in gas lift wells. It is representative of a gas filled annulus that loses injection pressure. Many operators use the full evacuation criterion for all production casing strings, regardless of the completion type or reservoir characteristics.
Collapse above packer: partial evacuation
This load case is based on a hydrostatic column of completion fluid equilibrating with depleted reservoir pressure during a workover operation. Some operators do not consider a fluid drop but only a fluid gradient in the annulus above the packer. This is applicable if the final depleted pressure of the formation is greater than the hydrostatic column of a lightweight packer fluid.
Collapse below packer: common load case
This load case applies to severely depleted reservoirs, plugged perforations, or a large drawdown of a low-permeability reservoir. It is the most commonly used collapse criterion.
This load case assumes zero surface pressure applied to a fluid gradient. A common application is the underbalanced fluid gradient in the tubing before perforating (or after if the perforations are plugged). It is a less conservative criterion for formations that will never be drawn down to zero.
Collapse: gas migration (subsea wells)
This load case models bottomhole pressure applied at the wellhead (subject to fracture pressure at the prior shoe) from a gas bubble migrating upward behind the production casing with no pressure bleedoff at the surface. The pressure distribution is the minimum of the following two pressure distributions. The load case has application only in subsea wells where the operator has no means of accessing the annulus behind the production casing. An internal pressure profile consisting of a completion fluid gradient is typically used.
Collapse: salt loads
If a formation that exhibits plastic behavior, such as a salt zone, is to be isolated by the current string, then an equivalent external collapse load (typically taken to be the overburden pressure) should be superimposed on all of the collapse load cases from the top to the base of the salt zone.
Annulur pressure buildup
In offshore wells with sealed annuli, increases in fluid temperatures caused by production will cause fluid expansion, resulting in increased fluid pressures. For instance, for water at 100°F, a 1°F increase in temperature will produce a pressure increase of 38 ksi in a rigid container. Fortunately, the casing and formation are sufficiently elastic to greatly reduce this pressure. The equilibrium pressure produced by thermal expansion must be calculated to balance fluid volume change with annular volume change. Nevertheless, the annular pressure change produced by thermal expansion has proved to be a serious design consideration, especially in the North Sea and in deep water.
Noteworthy papers in OnePetro
Aadnoy, B.S. 1996 Modern Well Design. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Balkema Publications.
Brand, P.R., Whitney, W.S., and Lewis, D.B. 1995. Load and Resistance Factor Design Case Histories. Presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, 1-4 May. OTC-7937-MS. http://dx.doi.org/10.4043/7937-MS.
Det Norske Veritas. 1981. Rules for the Design, Construction and Inspection of Offshore Structures. Hovik, Norway: DNV.
Economides, M.J., Waters, L.T., and Dunn-Norman S. 1998. Petroleum Well Construction. New York City: John Wiley & Sons.
Galambos, T.V., Ellingwood, B., MacGregor, J.G. et al. 1982. Probability-based Load Criteria: Assessment of Current Design Practice. J. of the Structural Division, ASCE, 108 (5): 959-977.
Halal, A.S. and Mitchell, R.F. 1994. Casing Design for Trapped Annular Pressure Buildup. SPE Drill & Compl 9 (2): 107-114. SPE-25694-PA. http://dx.doi.org/10.2118/25694-PA.
Lewis, D.B., Brand, P.R., Whitney, W.S. et al. 1995. Load and Resistance Factor Design for Oil Country Tubular Good. Presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, 1-4 May. OTC-7936-MS. http://dx.doi.org/10.4043/7936-MS.
Manual for Steel Construction, Load and Resistance Factor Design. 1986. Chicago: American Institute of Steel Construction.
Mitchell, R.F. 1996. Forces on Curved Tubulars Caused By Fluid Flow. SPE Prod & Oper 11 (1): 30-34. SPE-25500-PA. http://dx.doi.org/10.2118/25500-PA.
Mitchell, R.F.: “Casing Design,” in Drilling Engineering, ed. R. F. Mitchell, vol. 2 of Petroleum Engineering Handbook, ed. L. W. Lake. (USA: Society of Petroleum Engineers, 2006). 287-342.
Prentice, C.M. 1970. "Maximum Load" Casing Design. J. Pet Tech 22 (7): 805-811. SPE-2560-PA. http://dx.doi.org/10.2118/2560-PA.
Recommendations for Loading and Safety Regulations for Structural Design. 1978. Report No. 36, Nordic Committee on Building Regulations, NKB, Copenhagen.
Rackvitz, R. and Fiessler, B. 1978. Structural Reliability Under Combined Random Load Processes. Computers and Structures 9: 489.
Turner, R.C. 1993. Partial Factor Calibration for North Sea Adaptation of API RP2A-LRFD. Proc., Institution of Civil Engineers, Water Maritime and Energy, London, Vol. 101, 63–71.