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Manufacturers Test new materials to improve well integrity

By Mella McEwen, Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram Updated 11:12 am, Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Materion has unveiled its new ToughMet 3 Valve Rod Guide Bushing Coupling, engineered to reduce tubing wear and cut down on tubing leaks and rod failures.

New wells being drilled in the Permian Basin have become more complex because of the trend toward longer laterals, enhanced completions and high initial production rates.

That increased complexity is challenging well integrity, especially in the horizontal wells dominating activity in the Permian.

Materion Corp. of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, a materials provider, has worked with producers to develop a new oilfield coupling designed to reduce failures in wells prone to extreme rod string buckling and wear deep in the wells. The new ToughMet 3 Valve Rod Guide Bushing Coupling is engineered to reduce metal-on-metal contact resulting in tubing wear, thus preventing tubing leaks and cutting down on production interruptions in artificial lift systems.

“This particular product, which is a completely new product, is an offshoot of a sucker rod coupling we developed with Hess Corp. and launched in 2016,” Diane Nielsen, global market manager, oil and gas, with Materion, said in a phone interview.

Nielsen, a metallurgical engineer, said the two companies were looking at ways to mitigate coupling-on-tubing wear.

“The No. 1 failure in rod strings is holes in the tubing," she said.

She said traditional couplings are made of steel, and tubing is made of steel, and steel-on-steel friction “wears couplings out.”

But spray-metal couplings wear out the tubing, she said. So her company developed a material so that neither the coupling nor the tubing would be sacrificed. The ToughMet material is a low-friction alloy that Nielsen said has good bearing characteristics and is able to withstand high impact loads from rod buckling.

In addition to working with Hess, she said Materion also looked at the pump failures and rod failures experienced by other operators.

“Half of that was due to the challenges of the hole,” she said. “It’s particularly challenging in horizontal wells and their deviated sections.”

In the Permian Basin, “wells are drilled fast with a high corkscrew effect. Those beam pumps have a lot of curves,” she said.

This new coupling is designed to drop into the well as a replacement coupling so field projects don’t need to be changed, and it conforms to API standards.

The company and Hess spent two years field-testing the new coupling in 10 problematic Hess wells that failed two or three times a  year because of holes in tubing. Nielsen said Hess installed 20 to 40 of the couplings in each well to address these failures. “As a parameter of what we deemed a success, we wanted to see if the wells would operate two full years without a failure,” she said.

Then after two years of gathering not just laboratory data but field testing -- which Nielsen said Hess is willing to share -- Materion placed the product on the market.

“That data is a good base to give it credibility,” she said, adding that her company is also working with a number of operators also willing to share their data, even if not all are willing to reveal their identities or the specific wells using the couplings.

“We have been selling this coupling directly the first couple of years because we wanted to work with oil companies to get data and manage the data, both before and after the couplings. Local inventory is critical. When a well goes down, couplings and everything else are needed immediately.”

Nielsen said the company is working with about 20 operators who have ToughMet couplings in about 900 wells “and we’re seeing significant improvement in all areas.”

Materion does have an inventory of the couplings in Midland-Odessa, with a couple of other distributors coming onboard, and is expanding into other producing basins such as the Bakken in North Dakota, she said.


Read more about our couplings made with ToughMet Alloy.