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New tools for well suspension

Long-term suspension or maintenance work, they have a tool for each
Well Suspension Tools
On the left is a ‘T’ Tool, on the right is a ‘C’ Tool, both made by Well Suspension Tools Ltd.

Estevan– Well suspension is a big thing these days. Startup company Well Suspension Tools Ltd. is offering two product lines that assist in shutting wells in along with doing regular maintenance.

Ken Gordey is the technical manager for Well Suspension Tools Ltd. One of the five people listed on the three patents pending, Gordey is originally from Estevan. He’s moved back now, and is working hard on this venture. 

Well Suspension Tools has two key products, the ‘C’ Tool and the ‘T’ Tool. Both appear something like their namesake letters.

The tools are manufactured in Canada to ISO 9001 and API standards. They’re designed for high stress, high-pressure and high-temperature environments. They can also handle H2S and CO2 environments.

Gordey is a certified engineering technologist. He’s concerned about the environmental impact of the oil industry, specifically well spills that can be avoided with the new tools.

To suspend a well, you pull up on the polish rod to unseat the bottom hole pump. Inhibitors and fluid can be pumped down the tubing. He said, “You break your wellhead connection, pick it up and put your ‘C’ Tool on and set it down.”

The ‘C’ Tool slips over the sucker rod, with the rod going into the centre of the ‘C.’ The cylindrical tool is chamfered such that it seats itself at the very edge of the top of the tubing, raising the entire rod string and pump several inches off the bottom. A wellhead assembly is installed over this, on top of a sub collar and sub nipple.

Gordey said, “Here’s the thing about the stuffing box: the stuffing boxes and packing elements are a maintenance item. On a normal well, they get changed at least two times a year. When they shut them in, all they’re doing is lowering the polish rod into the well so it doesn’t rust, and walk away.”

Regulators have told him some wells sit like that for 15-20 years.

“There’s nothing used right now,” he said. “They put the horse’s head down and walk away. That’s it.”

“Today, all of our Bakken wells are starting to turn sour because of our fracking techniques with brackish water. Where the tools come from was my years with PanCanadian.

“Back in 1986, when the price of oil crashed, we had to reduce our operating costs. The only way to do that was turn the power off on locations and put proper wellheads on. “

A “proper wellhead,” as he describes, has a full closing valve, which eliminates the stuffing box. They are shut in, secured, chained and locked with bull plugs on the outlets. 

He continued, “In ’86, we set the rods on the bottom of the well and backed the polish rods off. That was all good and fine to suspend the well. But to go and reactivate the well, the costs were crazy. The solids within the well – the paraffins, the waxes – the wells weren’t put to bed right. Once the rods sit down inside the well, the bottom hole pump is seated. The rods stay in, and you have no way to pump down to properly clean and flush the well. When we went back to reactivate, approximately three years later, we went to fish the rods and we couldn’t even pull them out of the well. The conditions had changed where there were waxes and asphaltenes inside the wells. Our reactivation costs were sometimes three to four times the value of the well. It got to be a really expensive process to do.”

A service rig was needed, for instance. Indeed, it was often a full service operation.

The ‘C’ Tool can be put in place with a picker or even the pumpjack, simply lifting the rod string. It’s the same procedure as a polish rod change-out.

With the well suspended and a ‘C’ Tool installed, you can pump inhibited fluids past the rod string to protect the assets. Gordey said, “With the rod string suspended like that, you have the ability to have that asset sitting there instead of being pulled out of the wellbore. That rod string and bottom hole pump have been designed for that well. When it comes to reactivating, your entire assembly is still there. You pick up your polish rod with the stuffing box, connect, set it, and you’re back on production, in less than an hour, with no service rig required.”

Regarding well control, Gordey said, “When you unseat the pump and pump down the tubing, it’s dead. That’s your well control.”

Each procedure, suspending and re-activating, take about an hour for an average 1,500 metre well.

‘T’ Tool

Meeting with the oil companies led to the development of the second tool, the “T” Tool for well maintenance. It works in a similar manner, except that it threads onto the rod string. It has slots along the side allowing for fluid flow into the well.

“It’s been designed for service rig operations, as well as offset fracking. When you’re pulling the rods out of the well with a service rig, the ’T’ Tool has crossovers which adapt to any size of rod string. They pull it up, and it sits wherever they need to seat it, and then they put the valve on and then shut it down for the night.”

Instead of seating the rod collar, like the ‘C’ Tool, it threads into the rod collar.

“With that, it enables well servicing when a rod string is stuck in a well. This is the first time ever that a tool like this have been available to put on a 3,000 or 5,000 pound wellhead valve, and pump through it at that pressure. Normal operations right now, doing rod jobs, they stop, pick up the polish rod, the crossover, the stuffing box, and put it all back on the well. It’s the only means they have for hanging off rods.”

In North Dakota and Texas, they’ve found that when nearby offset wells are being fracked, sometimes the pressure can blow the rods out of an existing well due to the stuffing box being, essentially, the weakest link in comparison to a wellhead. As a result, rods and pump are pulled out of those nearby wells and wellheads are put on. When fracking was completed, the rods and pump had to be put back. Using the ‘T’ Tool allows the rods to remain in the well, as the pump is unseated.

“All they do now is unseat the pump. The ‘T’ Tool holds the string rigid inside the well. They put the valve on, it’s locked in place. The savings alone, down in Texas, is approximately a quarter million dollars per pad. It’s a massive savings,” Gordey said.

The package includes marker nipples and collars indicating the tool’s presence.

In business for a year, the company is off and running, and making its big marketing push. The tools are sold through TS&M Supply and its parent DNOW (DistributionNow), which are distributors. TS&M highlighted the products at their Redvers and District Oil Showcase booth May 12-13. Gordey, who was there to showcase the products, said, “The response was very strong. Customers really liked what they saw and the simplicity of it. Everyone had applications for it, either suspending the well or well maintenance.”

Shortly after the Redvers show, Well Suspension Tools was asked by DNOW to be part of their booth at the Willison Basin Petroleum Conference held in Bismarck, N.D., in late May.