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Wellhead systems serve as the termination point of casing and tubing strings. As such, these systems control pressure and provide access to the main bore of the casing or tubing or to the annulus. This pressure-controlled access allows drilling and completion activities to take place safely with minimal environmental risk. Multiple barriers are used, such as primary and secondary seals, to reduce risk in case of equipment failure.
Types of wellhead systems
Wellhead systems differ by well location:
Offshore wellhead systems are normally more sophisticated in design to handle ocean currents, bending loads, and other loads induced by the environment during the life of the well. Some of these loads are cyclic in nature, so fatigue-resistant designs are desirable, particularly for deepwater developments. Material specifications play an important role in equipment performance; helpful standards are available from organizations such as:
- American Petroleum Institute (API)
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
- National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE Intl.)
In certain applications such as deepwater platforms, spars, and tension-leg platforms (TLPs), surface wellheads and subsea wellheads are used together to safely produce hydrocarbons. In water depths of 500 to 1,400 ft, subsea wellheads are used to explore and develop offshore fields. Deepwater production platforms can be placed over these wells and tied back to the subsea wellheads; the top termination of the tieback at the platform will typically use surface unitized wellheads with solid block Christmas trees (which have fewer leak paths) as pressure-controlled access points to each well. Spars and TLPs are floating vessels used in deep water up to 4,500 ft. The wells are drilled using subsea wellheads, which are then tied back to the production deck of the spar or TLP, again using unitized wellheads and solid block trees to safely control and produce the well. For these special applications, it is recommended to contact your equipment supplier for more detailed information.