Title:
DEBRIS BARRIER FOR DOWNHOLE VALVE IN WELL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus has a housing with an internal passage. When deployed, a barrier positions in an upward direction in an annular space between a sleeve and the housing and folds towards one of its sides to conform to the annular space. When debris collection is desired, operators lift the sleeve with a tool, the barrier rotates down and positions across the internal passage, and the tool releases the sleeve. In this stage, the barrier can collect debris to protect a downhole valve. In further stages, operators open the downhole valve, and flow moves the barrier, cage body, and sleeve together in upward direction. Eventually, the sleeve is biased downward again, and the barrier positions within the annular space by reversibly folding towards its opposing side. In this position, barrier points in a downward direction and folds towards its opposing side to conform to the annular space.



Inventors:
Coon, Robert (Missouri City, TX, US)
Smith, Roddie Robert (Cypress, TX, US)
Foster, Michael James (Katy, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/867846
Publication Date:
04/09/2009
Filing Date:
10/05/2007
Assignee:
WEATHERFORD/LAMB, INC. (Houston, TX, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
166/236
International Classes:
E03B3/18
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ANDRISH, SEAN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Blank Rome LLP - Houston General (Houston, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A well apparatus, comprising: a housing having an internal passage therethrough; and a barrier having one end movably connected adjacent the internal passage, the barrier being movable to a first position adjacent the internal passage, the barrier being movable to a second position across the internal passage, the barrier in the first position conforming to a profile of the internal passage, the barrier in the second position at least partially obstructing the internal passage to collect debris.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the barrier has first and second opposing sides, and wherein the barrier is foldable towards at least one of the opposing sides to conform to the profile of the internal passage.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the barrier comprises: a central member having one end rotatably connected adjacent the internal passage and having two edges; at least one first member rotatably connected to one of the edges; and at least one second member rotatably connected to the other of the edges.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a sleeve having an axial passage therethrough and being axially movable within the internal passage.

5. The apparatus of claim 4, further comprising a biasing member biasing the sleeve within the housing.

6. The apparatus of claim 4, further comprising a body being axially movable in an annular space between the sleeve and the housing, the barrier being rotatably connected to the body.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the barrier is movable to a third position adjacent the internal passage opposite to the first position, the barrier in the third direction conforming to the profile of the internal passage.

8. A well debris barrier apparatus, comprising: a housing having a first axial passage therethrough and a shoulder; a sleeve having a second axial passage therethrough and being axially movable within the first axial passage; a biasing member biasing an end of the sleeve towards the shoulder in the housing; a body being axially movable in an annular space between the housing and the sleeve; and a barrier movably connected to the body, the barrier being movable to a first position within the annular space and being movable to a second position across the first axial passage to at least partially obstruct the first axial passage.

9. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the barrier has first and second opposing sides, and wherein the barrier is foldable towards at least one of the opposing sides to conform to the annular space.

10. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein the barrier comprises: a first member having one end rotatably connected to the body and having two edges; at least one second member rotatably connected to one of the edges; and at least one third member rotatably connected to the other of the edges.

11. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the biasing member comprises a spring having one end engaging the housing and having another end engaging the sleeve.

12. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the body comprises a ring slideably positioned within the housing.

13. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein in a first operational arrangement, the biasing member biases the end of the sleeve toward the shoulder, the body positions adjacent the shoulder, and the barrier positions within the annular space in the first position.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein in a second operational arrangement, the sleeve is moved axially away from the shoulder, and the barrier is rotated from the first position to the second position.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein in a third operational arrangement, the sleeve is moved axially toward the shoulder, and the barrier is positioned in the second position with a portion of the barrier engaging the shoulder.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein in a fourth operational arrangement, the barrier is positioned in the second position against the end of the sleeve, the body is positioned adjacent the end of the sleeve, and the body, the barrier, and the sleeve are moved axially in the housing against the bias of the biasing member.

17. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the barrier is movable to a third position within the annular space, the third position being opposite to the first position.

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein in one operational arrangement, the biasing member biases the end of the sleeve toward the shoulder, the body is positioned away from the shoulder, and the barrier is positioned in the third position with the barrier folded towards one of its sides to fit within the annular space.

19. A debris barrier apparatus, comprising: barrier means for forming a debris barrier across an internal passage of a housing; first means for positioning the barrier means in a first axial direction within the internal passage; and first means for folding the barrier means to a profile of the internal passage when in the first axial direction.

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the barrier means comprise means for permitting at least some fluid communication therethrough when across the internal passage.

21. The apparatus of claim 19, further comprising: second means for positioning the barrier means in a second axial direction within the internal passage, the second axial direction opposite to the first axial direction; and second means for folding the barrier means to the profile when in the second axial direction.

22. A downhole valve debris protection method, comprising: connecting a housing having an internal passage to tubing; deploying the housing downhole with an internal barrier in a first position adjacent the internal passage; at least partially obstructing the internal passage by positioning the internal barrier in a second position across the internal passage; and permitting debris to collect temporarily on the barrier in the second position.

23. The method of claim 22, further comprising permitting well conditions to erode the barrier in the second position.

24. The method of claim 22, further comprising positioning the barrier in a third position adjacent the internal passage after temporarily collecting debris, the third position being opposite the first position.

25. The method of claim 22, further comprising conforming the barrier to a profile of the internal passage by folding the barrier towards at least one of its two opposing sides.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Various types of downhole valves, such as barrier valves, ball valves, and flapper valves, are used downhole in oil and gas wells. Different operations performed in the well can create debris of various kinds in the tubing. Some common types of debris include sand, pipe dope, scale, tool parts, perforating gun debris, etc. This debris when it lands or collects on a downhole valve can damage the valve and can cause it to malfunction. For example, barrier valves typically use a ball valve mechanism, and problems may be encounter if debris collects on parts of the mechanism and interferes with its operation, such as causing it to jam when opening.

Some amount of debris is simply expected to occur in wells. If needed, operators can clean debris from a well using tools, but cleaning the well uses valuable rig time. The typical way to handle the problem of debris has been to design downhole valves in a way that simply enables them to operate in environments having certain amounts of small debris, such as sand, scale, and pipe dope, but not necessarily larger debris.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a debris barrier apparatus for use with a downhole valve.

FIG. 2 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a debris barrier apparatus.

FIGS. 3A-3E illustrate cross-sectional views of the disclosed barrier apparatus during various stages of operation downhole.

FIGS. 4A-4B illustrate locking mechanisms for a cage body of the disclosed barrier apparatus.

FIGS. 5A-5C illustrate a top and two side views of a foldable barrier of the disclosed barrier apparatus having a plurality of links.

FIGS. 6A-6B illustrates a top and a side view of a foldable barrier having additional links.

FIG. 7 illustrates a top view of a foldable barrier having perforations.

FIGS. 8A-8D illustrate cross-sectional views of another debris barrier apparatus.

FIGS. 9A-9B illustrate an end view and a top view of another barrier for the disclosed apparatus having a fixed, curved profile.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A debris barrier apparatus for a well includes a housing with an internal passage in which a sleeve, a cage body, and a foldable barrier are positioned. When deployed, the foldable barrier, which is rotatably connected to the cage body, positions in an upward direction within an annular space between the sleeve and the internal passage. While in this upward position, the barrier folds towards one of its sides to fit within the annular space and conform to the cylindrical profile of the housing's internal passage. When collection of debris is desired to protect a downhole valve or other device, a tool lifts the sleeve upward in the housing against the bias of a spring. The lifted sleeve reveals the foldable barrier within the annular space and allows it to rotate down and position across the housing's internal passage. In this closed position, the barrier can be flat or curved and can collect debris produced during operations performed above the barrier to prevent the debris from collecting on the downhole valve.

In further stages, operators open the downhole valve, and upward fluid flow moves the foldable barrier, cage body, and sleeve together in an upward direction within the internal passage. When the flow stops or pressure equalizes, the spring biases sleeve downward again, and foldable barrier rotates downward. Eventually, the foldable barrier again positions with in the annular space between the sleeve and housing. In this position, foldable barrier points in a downward direction and folds towards its opposing side to conform to the housing's internal profile.

FIG. 1 illustrates a debris barrier apparatus 100 for use with a downhole device 20, which can be a valve or other device needing protection from debris. A section of tubing 12 connects above apparatus 100 and couples to a liner hanger or the like (not shown) as part of an upper completion in a well. Below, apparatus 100 supports the downhole valve 20, which can be installed immediately below apparatus 100 or by a distance of tubing 14. Below downhole valve 20, additional tubing connects to other downhole components (not shown), such as slotted liner, screen, gravel pack system, etc. During various operations performed in the well, debris may develop that could potentially damage the downhole valve 20 or cause it to malfunction. Debris barrier apparatus 100 positioned above downhole valve 20 is intended to hold collected debris above the downhole valve 20 during various stages of operation as discussed in more detail below.

Referring to FIG. 2A, one embodiment of a debris barrier apparatus 100 is shown in cross-section. Apparatus 100 has a housing 102 having an internal passage 104 therethrough. The housing 102 has an upper body 110 coupled to a lower body 120, and a shoulder 122 is formed at the connection of the bodies 110 and 120. A sleeve 130, itself having an internal bore, moveably positions within the housing's internal passage 104. However, an annular space 112 is provided between the sleeve 130 and the inside of the housing 102. Positioned within this space 112, a biasing member or spring 132 biases the sleeve 130 so that its lower end 132 is biased toward the shoulder 122. A cage body 140 also moveably positions within the internal bore 104, and a foldable barrier 150 rotatably connects to the cage body 140.

In various stages of operation, the sleeve 130 moves between two axial positions as does the cage body 140. For its part, foldable barrier 150 moves between three positions during various stages of operation—an open position in which barrier 150 points in a first (i.e., upward) direction, a closed position in which barrier 150 positions across internal passage 104, and another open position in which barrier 150 points in an opposite (i.e., downward) direction. When in the closed position, the barrier positions across the internal passage substantially orthogonal to the axial direction of the apparatus—i.e., within an accepted angle to the internal passage 104.

For example, FIG. 3A shows debris barrier apparatus 100 after it has been run downhole. In this first stage, foldable barrier 150 is in an open position being rotated upward and positioned in the annular space 112 between the sleeve 130 and the housing 102. When in this upward position, foldable barrier 150 is folded towards a first of its sides so barrier 150 substantially conforms to the internal profile of the annular space 120 between the cylindrically-shaped housing 102 and sleeve 130. Spring 135 biases sleeve 130 downward so that sleeve 130 maintains barrier 150 within annular space 112 and the sleeve's end 132 engages shoulder 122. In this way, housing 102 defines a uniform internal passage 104 that permits downhole intervention tools (not shown) to be deployed through debris barrier apparatus 100 and any downhole valve (open at this stage) to the bottom of the well.

When downhole operations have been completed and the downhole intervention tools are tripped out of the tubing, a portion of the downhole tools (not shown) engages the upper end 134 of sleeve 130, overcomes the bias of spring 135, and lifts sleeve 130 until it reaches its second position shown in FIG. 3B. At this stage, foldable barrier 150 is revealed from the annular space 112 and is allowed to rotate outward to substantially cover internal passage 104 of housing 102. When in this closed position, the foldable barrier 150 engages shoulder 122 and lies substantially flat across internal passage 104.

After the intervention tools release sleeve 130, spring 135 eventually biases sleeve 130 downward until its end 132 engages portion of the outer edge of barrier 150 against shoulder 122 as shown in FIG. 3C. The downhole valve below the apparatus 100 can now be closed. Meanwhile, foldable barrier 150 being situated across internal passage 104 can collect any debris produced during operations carried out above the barrier apparatus 100 and can prevent the debris from collecting on the downhole valve below. In some situations, as much as three to four feet of debris may collect and be supported on barrier 150.

At some point during operations, the downhole valve is opened to allow downhole fluids to communicate up the tubing. Although substantially covering internal passage 104, foldable barrier 150 preferably allows fluid and pressure to be communicated through it. The ability for pressure to pass through foldable barrier 150 may be necessary for various types of downhole valves that are opened remotely by pressure. For example, a downhole barrier valve may have a ball mechanism activated by repeatedly pumping set levels of pressure downhole that activate a ratchet mechanism on the valve that eventually opens it.

Once the valve is opened, the flow of produced fluid from below pushes against the bottom of foldable barrier 150 and forces it, cage body 140, and sleeve 130 to move upward against the bias of spring 135, which may provide bias in the range of 100-150 lbs. When these components reach their pinnacle as shown in FIG. 3D, the foldable barrier 150 is held against the sleeve's end 132. In addition, a lock mechanism 141 on cage body 140 engages inside of the housing 102 so that cage body 140 will remain fixed in this upper position and prevented from lowering.

Various lock mechanisms may be used to maintain cage body 140 in this upper position. As illustrated in FIG. 4A, for example, cage body 140, which can be a ring-shaped body, can have a wedge-shaped, circumferential groove around its exterior circumference. A wedge lock 142 can be positioned in this groove and can be biased to engage the side of internal passage 102 by biasing members 144. In this way, wedge lock 142 allows cage body 140 to slide upward relative to housing 102 but substantially prevents downward movement. In another alternative shown in FIG. 4B, a snap ring or body lock ring 143 around the cage body's exterior circumference can engage a circumferential groove 106 defined around housing's internal passage 104 to lock it in position.

With the components (130, 140, &150) at their pinnacle position shown in FIG. 3D, the flow of produced fluid chokes momentarily against barrier 150 supporting the debris, but at least some fluid may be allowed to flow through barrier 150. After opening the downhole valve for a sufficient amount of time to let cage body 140 fit into position, flow is stopped or pressure equalizes enough to allow spring 135 to bias sleeve 130 downward. With cage body 140 fixed in position, the downward moving sleeve 130 then reopens foldable barrier 150 in a reverse direction. As a result, foldable barrier 150 drops down, and any collected debris flushes upward or falls down and through the open downhole valve.

By flapping downward, foldable barrier 150 takes its other open position within annular space 112 between sleeve 110 and housing 102 as spring 135 biases sleeve 110 downward again to engage shoulder 122. When in this open position, barrier 150 points in an opposite (i.e., downward) direction and folds towards its second side to substantially conform to the internal profile of annular space 112.

As described above, barrier 150 is reversibly foldable to fit in annular space 112 between cylindrically-shaped sleeve 110 and internal passage 102. To achieve this, foldable barrier 150A in FIG. 5A has a plurality of links 154/156 hinged together by hinged connections 155. Overall all, the links 154/156 form a substantially flat disk. Central link 154 has an end component 152 that hingedly connects to the cage body (140) inside the housing (102). In this way, the hingedly connected end component 152 allows the barrier 150A to rotate within internal passage 104 between upward, orthogonal, and downward positions.

Two wing links 156 connect to sides of central link 154 by the hinged connections 155. As shown in FIGS. 5B-5C, these two wing links 156 can move upward or downward relative to central link 154 allowing foldable barrier 150A to reversibly fit in the cylindrical space when either in an upward or downward position within internal passage 104. The hinged connections 155 between links 154/156 may be free moving or may limit angular orientation to some degree (e.g., 30-degrees or the like). Regardless, the hinged connections 155 allow the barrier 150 to conform to or to fit into an annular space. The hinged connections 155 may also allow for some fluid flow and pressure transfer through the barrier 150, which may be desirable as discussed previously.

The links 154/156 forming barrier 150 can be composed of aluminum sheets having a thickness of about ⅛-inch. Alternatively, links 154/156 can be composed of a screened or grated structure as opposed to sheets. Hinge pins (not shown) for hinged connections 155 may also be composed of aluminum rods. Being composed primarily of aluminum, foldable barrier 150 is not expected to survive for an extended period of time in the well environment and is designed to eventually erode and deteriorate. The expected disintegration of barrier 150 advantageously removes barrier 150 without the need for intervention should it becomes stuck or inoperable within internal passage 104. Should barrier 150 become stuck or lodged and not disintegrate in an appropriate amount of time, operators can inject acid at its location to disintegrate it with the acid acting more readily against the aluminum barrier 150 rather than the steel components of the apparatus 100.

As shown in FIGS. 6A-6B, a similar foldable barrier 150B has central link 154 and two sets of wing links 156/158 so that it can be seen that various numbers of links can be used for foldable barrier. As shown in FIG. 7, foldable barrier 150C can also have a plurality of perforations 151 to permit fluid to flow and pressure to transfer through barrier 150C. The particular size, shape, and placement of these perforations may vary depending on the implementation and the type of debris to be collected on barrier 150C. For example, the size of the perforations 151 may be configured to prevent chunks of debris (about ⅛-inch in diameter or greater) from passing through barrier 150C but may allow fluid, sand, and small particulates to pass. In addition, the arrangement of the perforations 151 may be centered in the barrier 150C and may have a spiral, circular, random, or other pattern.

FIGS. 8A-8D show an alternative arrangement of the debris barrier apparatus 100 where the barrier 150 is intended to have only two positions. As before, the barrier 150 as shown in FIG. 8A positions in the annular space 112 between the sleeve 130 and the inner passage 104 to allow full passage through the apparatus 100. In addition, upward movement of the sleeve 130 as shown in FIG. 8B reveals the barrier 150. As shown in FIG. 8C, the barrier 150 can then rotate down to engage shoulder 122 and partially obstruct the internal passage 104 to collect debris, while the sleeve 130 is biased back to engage its end 132 with the shoulder 122.

In previous embodiments such as FIG. 3A-3E, the barrier 150 was rotatably connected to a movable cage body 140 and moved upward with the sleeve 130 due to upward flow. This was done so that the barrier 150 could then rotate downward into the annular space 112 and be hidden again by the sleeve 130 (See FIG. 3E). In contrast, the barrier 150 in the arrangement shown in FIG. 8C movably connects to a fixed portion 113 of the upper member 110 near the shoulder 122. Once rotated down from the annular space 112, the barrier 150 remains across the internal passage 102 to at least partially obstruct it and to collect debris. During operations, the barrier 150 is then purposefully allowed to erode from natural well conditions or flow, or it is disintegrated by the introduction of acid or the like to eat away its aluminum components. Once gone, the internal passage 104 is open along the length of the apparatus 100 as shown in FIG. 8D to allow passage of tools, fluid production, and the like.

The barrier 150 used in this arrangement can have movable links as in the embodiments of FIGS. 5A through 6B. In this way, the barrier 150 can lie relatively flat when it positions across the internal passage 102, but it can still conform to the profile of the internal passage 104 when positioned in the annular space 112 as in FIG. 8A. Alternatively, the barrier 150 used in this arrangement can have a fixed, curved profile or can have a combination of both curved and linked elements.

The barrier 150D shown in FIGS. 9A-9B has a fixed, curved profile and offers one example of an alternate barrier that can be used in the arrangement of FIGS. 8A-8D. This barrier 150D can fit into the annular space 112 as in FIG. 8A and can also position across the internal passage when rotated down into the closed position as in FIG. 8C. Moreover, this barrier 150D can include perforations or holes as described previously. Although this barrier 150D would be curved in the closed position of FIG. 8C, it would still be capable of collecting debris above. When rotated down, the barrier's end coupled near the fixed portion 113 can be held between the sleeve's end 132 and the shoulder 122 so that the barrier 150D can extend stiffly across the passage 104.

If desired and as shown in FIG. 9B, the central portion of the barrier 150D can have a distal end 157 for fitting between of the sleeve's end 132 and the shoulder 122 on the other side of the passage 104 when rotated in the closed position. In another alternative not shown, the shoulder 122 and sleeve's end 132 could be profiled to match the curved profile of the fixed, curved barrier 150D so that additional portions of the barrier's edges could be engaged between the shoulder 122 and end 132 when the barrier 150D is in the closed position.

The foregoing description of preferred and other embodiments is not intended to limit or restrict the scope or applicability of the inventive concepts conceived of by the Applicants. In exchange for disclosing the inventive concepts contained herein, the Applicants desire all patent rights afforded by the appended claims. Therefore, it is intended that the appended claims include all modifications and alterations to the full extent that they come within the scope of the following claims or the equivalents thereof.