16 Oilfield Review

Slickline Signaling a Change
Well intervention techniques have long been dependent on mechanical and
hydraulic systems for actuation and measurement. As a consequence, the outcomes
of many downhole operations—for which depths were often approximate—
depended as much on the skill of the operators as on the design of the tools.
For one intervention method, these limitations were eliminated when engineers
developed digital slickline.
Matthew Billingham
Vincent Chatelet
Stuart Murchie
Roissy-en-France, France
Morris Cox
Nexen Petroleum USA Inc.
Houston, Texas, USA
William B. Paulsen
ATP Oil & Gas Corporation
Houston, Texas
Oilfield Review Winter 2011/2012: 23, no. 4.
Copyright © 2012 Schlumberger.
For help in preparation of this article, thanks to Blaine
Hoover, Buddy Dearborn, Chuck Esponge, Douglas Guillot
and Scott Milner, Broussard, Louisiana, USA; Farid Hamida,
Rosharon, Texas; and Fabio Cecconi, Pierre-arnaud Foucher
and Keith Ross, Roissy-en-France, France.
D-Jar, D-Set, DSL, D-Trig, FloView, GHOST, Gradiomanometer,
PS Platform, Secure and UNIGAGE are marks of Schlumberger.
44581araD5R1.indd 1 2/17/12 9:36 PM
Winter 2011/2012 17 17
Slickline operations in oil and gas wells have
been performed for more than 75 years, and
until recently, practices have changed little.
Technicians and engineers in the field perform
basic downhole operations through manipulation
of downhole tools attached to the end of a single-
strand thin wire called a slickline; the name dis-
tinguishes it from a conducting cable used in
electric line or a braided cable used for heavier
mechanical work. These downhole operations
may be as simple as running a gauge ring to TD or
more complex wellbore maintenance and pro-
duction optimization procedures such as setting
or pulling valves and plugs. Operations also
include removing production-hindering debris
such as sand or paraffin from the well. More
recently, devices with electronic memory have
been run on slickline to gather data for pressure
transient surveys or production logging.
Slickline has remained a staple of well inter-
vention because it is cost-effective, reliable, effi-
cient and logistically uncomplicated. It is
deployed with relative ease using compact equip-
ment that may be moved to and situated at a well-
site of nearly any size located anywhere in the
world. It may be used in all types of wells, includ-
ing HPHT, sour gas, high-angle and flowing. On
locations with space or weight limitations, slick-
line is often the only feasible intervention option.
But the simplicity of slickline is also the
source of its drawbacks. Engineers designed
slickline initially to perform rudimentary
mechanical operations. At that time, absolute
depth was not an essential consideration for such
operations. Drillers could not place tools pre-
cisely, and as a consequence, it was difficult to
verify a tool’s precise downhole location. For
some operations, particularly perforating or the
setting of isolation tools, knowledge of exact tool
depth is critical. Similarly, to ensure sensitive
instruments and other tools are not damaged
during setting or pulling operations, or to confirm
the intended downhole action, it is sometimes
imperative that a force—which must fall within a
narrow range—be delivered downhole. Using
slickline, it is impossible to determine with any
certainty exact tool depth or amount of force
delivered downhole.
All tubulars, wires and cables stretch to some
extent as they are moved into and out of a well.
Stretch in slickline wire, however, is significantly
greater than that of other conveyance methods.
Therefore, depth measurements taken using a
mechanical device and displayed at the surface
may not accurately represent the tool location.
Indeed, displayed information is not a measure-
ment of tool depth but of how much wire has been
spooled on or off the drum. As a consequence, the
standard accuracy for slickline depth measuring
systems is about 30 cm/300 m [1 ft/1,000 ft].
degree of accuracy is often sufficient for slickline
operations for which depth is reckoned to within
a few feet of some fixed point in the completion
string. In wells that have no downhole marker, the
margin of error may be unacceptable. Engineers
have devised systems to correct for stretch as well
as other variables, but such corrective measures
are based on data estimates only, and sophisti-
cated operations typically require more accuracy
than these systems could deliver.
In addition, wellbore deviation can cause
considerable inaccuracies in the weight indica-
tor readings at the surface; these readings are
the only indicator of forces being applied down-
hole. Typically, the weight downhole is measured
using a load cell attached to a wellhead and then
to a pulley through which the slickline is directed
from the drum to the top of the lubricator
(above). As the angle of deviated wells has
increased, along with the number of such wells,
there has been a corresponding increase in the
frequency and degree of inaccurate weight read-
ings. Such depth and weight inaccuracies may
1. King J, Beagrie B and Billingham M: “An Improved
Method of Slickline Perforating,” paper SPE 81536,
presented at the SPE 13th Middle East Oil Show and
Conference, Bahrain, April 5–8, 2003.
Basic slickline rig-up. A load cell, which is attached to a sheave, is activated
by tension in the wire running through the sheave. The wire runs from the
slickline drum to the sheave, which redirects it upward at an acute angle. It is
turned 180° by a second sheave and fed into the stuffing box where it enters the
well through the lubricator. The wireline valve above the Christmas tree contains
opposing rams (not shown) that may be closed to seal against each other
without removing the wire, thus providing a pressure barrier alternative in the
event the stuffing box sealing mechanism fails.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 1
Stuffing box
Slickline drum
Load cell
44581araD5R1.indd 2 2/17/12 9:36 PM
18 Oilfield Review
lead to extended operation times or, in more
complex well completions, to operational issues.
In slickline perforating, for example, placing a
gun a few feet above or below target depth may
mean the difference between producing water,
oil or gas—or nothing at all.
In recent years, engineers have developed
numerous improvements to traditional slickline
equipment. Most of these are incremental
changes applied to tools run on slickline rather
than to the wire itself. Battery-powered elec-
tronic tools, which acquire and store data in
memory, have overcome some slickline shortcom-
ings pertaining to actuation and confirmation of
downhole actions. But once these tools have been
deployed, they do not provide real-time downhole
data or give the operator the ability to change
settings, such as the depth or temperature at
which triggers are activated. As a result, battery-
operated tools cannot address the time and effi-
ciency shortcomings that characterize many
traditional slickline operations.
The most ambitious attempt to overcome these
hurdles—using the slickline itself to deliver two-
way signals between the tool and the surface—has
been pursued for decades. Such a solution could
be used to provide operators with precise tool
depth, tool status, downhole weight, wire tension
and wellbore data such as pressure and tempera-
ture measurements in real time.
Despite many years of effort, manufacturers
had been unable to develop an acceptable solu-
tion using a slickline wire and equipment. That
changed when engineers at Geoservices, a
Schlumberger company, developed DSL digital
slickline services.
This article describes enhancements made to
slickline in the form of battery-powered and
memory tools that allow engineers to expand
slickline applications to include accurate depth
measurements for perforating and production
logging. Also discussed is DSL technology, which
is an engineering breakthrough, rather than a
slickline enhancement. Using telemetry over
slickline, coupled with battery-powered elec-
tronic tools that incorporate a memory and
telemetry interface, DSL services allow com-
mands and data communication between the sur-
face and downhole without compromising the
mechanical integrity of the wire. These features
expand slickline capabilities significantly by
offering accurate depth correlation, tool status
information and tool control to the operator in
real time; this is critical to delivering precise,
efficient and low-risk operations on slickline-
conveyed mechanical, remedial and measure-
ment operations.
Upgrading Slickline
Historically, depth accuracy has critically limited
the scope of slickline operations that use conven-
tional measuring devices. The primary factors
affecting depth accuracy are elastic stretch, tem-
perature, buoyancy, slickline and toolstring fric-
tion against the wellbore wall, lift and measuring
wheel precision. The variety of sizes and materi-
als used for slickline wire may also impact mea-
surement readings. The most common slickline
wire diameters are 0.092, 0.108 and 0.125 in.
[2.34, 2.74 and 3.18 mm]. The materials from
which they are manufactured—depending on
their application—include carbon steel, stainless
steel alloys and nickel- and cobalt-based alloys.
Elastic stretch—the factor that causes the most
variability in slickline depth accuracy—is a function
of line tension and the modulus of elasticity of the
Length measurements may be increased or
decreased by out-of-tolerance or poorly calibrated
measuring wheel diameters. Changes in measuring
wheel diameters can result from wheel wear, debris
buildup or the disparity in the temperatures at
which the measuring wheel was manufactured or
Battery-powered tools. The PS Platform service is a suite of battery-powered tools that can perform both memory and
surface readout operations. The GHOST gas holdup optical sensor tool (top left) uses four sapphire optical probes to
measure gas and liquid holdups, bubble count, average hole caliper measurements and bearing. The Gradiomanometer
specific gravity profile tool (top second from left) measures the average density of the wellbore fluid and wellbore deviation,
from which water, oil and gas holdups can be derived. The bubble count from the FloView holdup measurement tool (top
center) identifies first fluid entry, water holdup and bubble count and includes a centralizer and average hole caliper
measurements. The UNIGAGE pressure gauge system carrier (top second from right) contains a crystal quartz gauge that
offers the option of a high-resolution pressure measurement. The optional inline spinner (top right ) provides a bidirectional
fluid velocity measurement inside the tubing. The basic measurement sonde (bottom left ) provides gamma ray (GR) and
casing collar locator (CCL) data for correlation, plus pressure and temperature measurements. The flow-caliper imaging tool
(bottom right ) measures the average fluid velocity, water and hydrocarbon holdups and bubble count from four independent
probes. It also provides dual-axis X-Y caliper measurements and relative bearing measurements. Well deviation and
accelerometer measurements provide the deviation correction for the measured fluid density.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 2
7.1 ft
[2.2 m]
Basic Measurement Sonde Flow-Caliper
Imaging Tool
Gas holdup, gas and
liquid bubble count,
average caliper, bearing
Density, deviation
Batteries and recorder, gamma ray,
casing collar locator,
temperature, pressure
Flowmeter, X-Y caliper,
water holdup, bubble count,
relative bearing, centralizer
Water holdup, bubble
count, centralizer,
average caliper
Quartz pressure
FloView Tool UNIGAGE
Inline Spinner
4.8 ft
[1.5 m]
6.8 ft
[2.1 m]
13.5 ft
[4.11 m]
4.2 ft
[1.3 m]
3.1 ft
[0.94 m]
44581araD5R1.indd 3 2/17/12 9:36 PM
Winter 2011/2012 19
calibrated and the temperature at which it operates.
Measurement errors can be in excess of 0.6 m [2.0 ft]
at well depths of 3,000 m [10,000 ft].
differences in the hole also affect wire length as the
wire is lowered into the well. Unless wellbore tem-
perature gradients remain constant, or temperature
and measurement variations are included in depth
corrections, it is difficult to compensate for this vari-
able. In addition, buoyancy, friction and lift—which
are functions of wellbore parameters such as fluid
viscosity, flow rate, fluid type, deviation, tortuosity
and wellbore geometry—affect tension measure-
ments at the surface.
Although minimal differences in measure-
ment occur at shallow depths, discrepancies
may increase and become more significant with
increasing depth. In recent years, engineers
have addressed the depth accuracy issue through
the development of electronic measurement
devices that attempt to automatically correct for
wire stretch.
Another slickline limitation has been the
mechanical means by which tools are activated.
Engineers addressed this issue through develop-
ment of battery-powered tools. These tools, which
store downhole data in memory that is accessed
once the tool returns to the surface, may perform
downhole slickline operations when activated by
a timer or a when a signal is generated through a
predefined cable movement sequence. Memory
devices have been used in remedial services,
such as perforating and device setting, and have
been used in measurement services such as pro-
duction logging, while offering a cost or access
advantage over electric line.
Battery-powered electronic triggering can
enable safe detonation of explosives used for tub-
ing and casing cutting and perforating, and elec-
tromechanical setting tools can replace explosive
devices. The industry has welcomed electronic fir-
ing heads because they can be programmed to dis-
arm automatically on retrieval to the surface if the
pressure window that is a condition of their arm-
ing has been selected correctly.
These concerns
were formerly met using mechanically or hydrauli-
cally actuated firing heads.
The industry has also embraced the use of
nonexplosive, electronically actuated setting tools
in environments where logistics associated with
explosives are restrictive or complex. Firing
delays or pressure windows are two examples of
safety measures added to traditional devices. But
these add complexity and compromise precision
because of variations in downhole conditions
such as temperature and pressure and because of
the time the tool has spent downhole. Electronic
firing heads are immune to these variations and
provide improved accuracy and control.
Many services that were performed using elec-
tric line or coiled tubing are now possible as slick-
line services because of battery-operated tools.
These include sensors for pressure, temperature,
gamma ray (GR), casing collar locator (CCL), flow-
meter, caliper, bubble count, tool orientation,
water holdup and gas holdup (previous page).
Despite these improvements, engineers con-
tinued to seek the next major advance in slickline
capabilities—a method by which they could send
signals to, and receive data from, downhole tools
in real time. Their objective was to gain the
versatility and accuracy of electric line telemetry
communication without sacrificing the advan-
tages of slickline.
For example, because slickline is a single
component it is naturally balanced and so lends
itself to operations such as jarring. In contrast,
jarring with electric line may lead to destruction
of the insulator between the conductor and the
cable’s armor.
Electric line includes an outer
and inner set of protective armor wires wound in
opposite directions around the central conduc-
tors (above right). This creates an inherent
torque level within the cable that must be man-
aged to avoid wire damage, particularly in deep
or highly deviated wells. This damage may take
the form of overlapping outer armor, or wires,
that quickly wear and break and then hang up in
pressure control equipment. When an overlap-
ping wire breaks, it unravels as it enters wellhead
pressure control equipment, which results in an
extensive operation to remove the stranded
armor wire.
The sealing mechanism at the top of the
slickline lubricator also offers an advantage
over that used for braided or electric line. A
slickline stuffing box is far less complex than
the grease tube assembly used for braided or
electric line. A rubber packing element main-
tains a pressure seal even when a wire passes
through it (below). It is thus easier to rig up
than a braided cable grease-control flow-tube
2. Larimore DR and Kerr WL: “Improved Depth Control for
Slickline Increases Efficiency in Wireline Services,”
Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology 36, no. 8
(August 1997): 36–42.
3. Modulus of elasticity is the ratio of longitudinal stress to
longitudinal strain.
4. Larimore and Kerr, reference 2.
5. A pressure window is a preset condition that allows the
tool to arm only when it is at a pressure greater than
surface pressure.
6. Goodman KR, Bertoja MJ and Staats RJ: “Intelligent
Electronic Firing Heads: Advancements in Efficiency,
Armored electric cable. Cables used for electric
line, or wireline, operations include multiple
armored and insulated conductors. In this case,
seven insulated wire conductors are packaged
within a semiconductive jacket. The wires and
insulators are wrapped in inner and outer sets of
armor wound onto the bundle in opposite directions.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 3
Inner armor
Outer armor
Simple pressure control. A slickline stuffing box
(orange) is a relatively simple sleeve lined with
sections of polymer packing (black) that act as a
pressure seal against the wire as it moves out of
the wellbore, through the pressurized lubricator
and the stuffing box, into the atmosphere and up
and over the sheave. When tightened, a packing
nut (red) compresses the packing against the
wire, increasing the sealing force. The same
sealing mechanism holds pressure as the slickline
is going into the well.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 4
Flexibility, and Safety,” paper SPE 103085, presented at
the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition,
San Antonio, Texas, USA, September 24–27, 2006.
7. Slickline jarring uses a downhole mechanical device
called a jar to deliver an impact load to another downhole
component. Jars include a lower section attached to a
tool or other component, and an upper section that can
travel freely. The jar may be opened upward and then
quickly lowered to use the weight of the toolstring to
deliver a downward blow to the lower section. In reverse,
the slickline is reeled in at high speed to deliver an
upward force to the lower section of the jar.
44581araD5R1.indd 4 2/17/12 9:36 PM
20 Oilfield Review
assembly, which requires grease to be injected
across flow tubes at a pressure greater than that
of the wellhead during the entire operation.
Electric line operations performed under pres-
sure require additional equipment, including a
grease pump and a grease supply, which have
implications for logistics and the environment.
In addition, because moving the line through
the grease tubes may break the grease seal,
braided cable is restricted to running speeds of
about 1,200 to 3,000 m/h [4,000 to 10,000 ft/h] in
and out of the well. The mechanical slickline
tools can be run at a faster rate without losing
the pressure seal, saving valuable rig time.
A Matter of Live and Depth
While a true slickline telemetry system eluded
engineers for decades, they were able to develop
a power–telemetry slickline link using coaxial
cable. However, because the cable sacrifices the
tensile strength and inherent robustness that are
essential to slickline applications, the technology
has been abandoned.
Developing an insulator was the stumbling
block to slickline telemetry, and engineers were
further challenged to find a method to bond the
insulating material to the wire. In 2002, engi-
neers at Geoservices began work on a telemetry
system based on previously developed MWD
electromagnetic technology. However, telemetry
was not the issue; the challenge was finding an
insulating material and a method by which it
could be bonded to wire that would allow it to
survive the rigors of slickline operations. Initially,
the team tested seven polymers, based on their
resistance properties, as insulation material can-
didates. Under well conditions, however, these
coatings did not adhere to the wire.
After years of effort, researchers developed a
complex wire-coating material and an exacting
bonding procedure. The finished product is made
continuous, uniform and with a precise diameter
to within 0.002 in. [0.05 mm] throughout its
Applied to standard 0.108- and 0.125-in.
[2.74- and 3.25-mm] stainless steel alloy line, the
outside diameter of the coated slickline is 0.138
and 0.153 in. [3.51 and 3.89 mm], respectively.
The resulting LIVE digital slickline retains all
the strengths of the original wire upon which it is
built. The system maintains tool power require-
ments delivered from batteries and uses the slick
wire as a telemetry conduit rather than as an
electrical conduit. Because engineers designed
the service to be a digital telemetry system rather
than an electrical conduit, they were able to
reduce insulation performance requirements and
so hasten development. Engineers created
another advantage by not sending power through
the slickline. This feature eliminates concerns
about transmission reliability through an electric
line, associated accessories such as sinker
weights and the point at which the wire is con-
nected to the toolstring. But the mechanical
demands on the insulation-wire bond remain sig-
nificant; the wire deployed using standard slick-
line equipment must withstand the rigors of
spooling on and off the drum, running around
sheaves and through pressure-control equip-
ment. It must also endure an often punishing
downhole environment, and when it emerges
from the well through the stuffing box, it is
exposed to instantaneous decompression from
wellhead to atmospheric pressure.
In 2009, those hurdles had been overcome
and the first commercial jobs were performed
successfully in Africa, France, Italy and
Indonesia. Since that time, various applications
within digital slickline services have been per-
formed in France, Indonesia, China, the US and
Saudi Arabia.
The core of the LIVE toolstring includes the
computer baseboard management controller
(BMC) that handles the telemetry downhole;
delivers surface readouts of shock, line tension,
deviation and movement in real time; and con-
firms the success of operations such as perforat-
ing (below). Surface equipment includes a
slickline unit furnished with a computer and
transceiver, pressure control equipment and the
Surface confirmation of detonation. Multiple measurements displayed at the surface show the instantaneous effects of the firing
of perforating guns just before 03:29:00. The shock curve (red) indicates a negative acceleration of more than 100 g
. At the same
time, head tension (purple) increases from approximately 80 lbf [356 N] to more than 120 lbf [534 N] and pressure (blue) drops from
1,364 psi [9.4 MPa] to about 1,220 psi [8.4 MPa]. Tool movement is apparent on the CCL curve (green) immediately after gun detonation
as the tool moves in the tubing, creating voltage across the CCL coil. Oscillation of the cable and gun after detonation is reflected
in both the head tension and pressure curves. After the guns are fired, a decrease in temperature (orange) indicates cooler fluid is
entering the tubing from the annulus. These indicators are independent verifications that the gun has been detonated on command.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 5





03:28:15 03:28:30
Time, h:min:s
03:28:45 03:29:00 03:29:15 03:29:30 03:29:45 03:30:00


44581araD5R1.indd 5 2/17/12 9:36 PM
Winter 2011/2012 21
digital line. Optional core downhole equipment
includes a depth correlation cartridge, which
delivers real-time CCL and GR measurements to
provide depth accuracy during any slickline ser-
vice; a digital pressure-temperature gauge may
also be added for downhole measurements.
LIVE digital slickline services are divided
into the typical intervention service classifica-
tions: mechanical, remedial and measurement.
The mechanical LIVE Act digital slickline ser-
vices include conventional tools deployed as they
would be on a standard slickline. Remedial ser-
vices include LIVE Set setting services, which are
nonexplosive, hydraulically set plug and retainer
services; LIVE Seal sealing services, which use
nonelastomeric sealing for monobore comple-
tions; and LIVE Perf perforating, punch and pipe
cutting services.
The measurement segment of
the service is the LIVE PL comprehensive suite of
production logging tools. These services are run
in conjunction with the core and optional tools
and with real-time measurement and control.
In addition, LIVE services expand on tradi-
tional capabilities and requirements by adding
the digital D-Jar downhole adjustable jar, which
can be commanded to repeatedly activate and
deliver a specific force downhole. When using tra-
ditional hydraulic or mechanical jars, operators
rely on their experience and a weight indicator to
determine jar action downhole. The D-Jar tool, in
contrast, provides control and efficiency to jar-
ring operations without requiring trips to the sur-
face to adjust the impact force. It does so through
repeated upward jarring using elasticity of the
cable to store energy while the jarring action is
delivered via the electrically triggered mechani-
cal firing function. Downhole tension and shock
are measured and monitored at the surface dur-
ing operation, which allows an optimized jarring
force without unnecessary stress on the tool-
string or jarring of components. Engineers set
jarring force by adjusting cable tension, which
can be reset when and as often as necessary.
The digital controlled release (DCR) tool is
another LIVE tool that may be added to any digi-
tal slickline operation. In the event the toolstring
becomes stuck downhole and cannot be freed,
conventional slickline options include using a
cutter bar to sever the wire as close to the tool-
string as possible. The resulting fishing job may
require numerous runs to gather, cut and retrieve
any wire that remains in the well, sometimes fol-
lowed by attempts using a braided wireline to
latch onto and retrieve the stuck tool. This can be
problematic if wire remains on top of the object
8. “GEM-Line Goes LIVE,” GeoWorld—The Geoservices
Group Magazine 54 (December 2010): 4–7.
9. Punchers are perforating devices designed to penetrate
the inner tubing string without damaging the surrounding
being retrieved or the fishing neck has been dam-
aged. Often, it requires numerous attempts to
determine the nature and amount of the debris
that is on top of the stuck tool and to then remove
it before the stuck tool can be latched onto and
retrieved. In contrast, the DCR tool provides a
controlled separation of the toolstring assembly
at or near the tool head, which instead of leaving
wire behind, leaves only a defined internal and
external fishing neck profile (above).
LIVE Set digital slickline setting services pro-
vide a means for setting devices such as casing
and tubing plugs and cement retainers without
using traditional explosives-based systems. Using
Digital controlled release. In the event a slickline tool becomes stuck, a
signal from the surface decouples the DCR tool, allowing the operator to pull
the top portion of the tool and all the wire from the hole, leaving clean internal
and external fishing neck profiles facing upward (bottom). Depending on the
DCR tool’s position in the well, or other factors affecting access, the operator
may then use a cable wire or coiled tubing and either a fishing tool with
collets that latch an internal profile (left) or an overshot-type tool (right) with
collets that latch an external profile to retrieve the stuck tool.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 6
44581araD5R1.indd 6 2/17/12 9:36 PM
22 Oilfield Review
the surface-controlled D-Set digital electrohy-
draulic setting tool, this service allows placement
of downhole components on depth (left). This tool
is a battery-powered electrohydraulic power unit
that can generate up to 25 tons [249 kN] of
force—sufficient to set permanent plugs, packers
and other devices. Microhydraulics—miniatur-
ized hydraulic pumps—can generate this force
with limited power in a small package. Engineers
control the depth of the tool accurately using a
downhole GR and CCL. The D-Set tool uses a
battery-powered electrohydraulic pump to gener-
ate the power to create pull or movement, or
stroke, necessary to set the device. During the
setting sequence, diagnostic motor current, tool-
string shock and head tension information is sent
to the surface to confirm each step of the process.
The retrievable locking mandrel, one of the
most versatile tools in the slickline toolbox,
allows well intervention in monobore wells
or completions with damaged landing nipples.
Traditional slickline locking mandrels feature
rubber seals that are extruded outward against
the tubing wall for pressure containment. They
are activated by an inner mandrel that moves
downward behind them at the same time it forces
slips to move out and grip the tubing. Engineers
use these locking mandrels to carry plugs, pres-
sure and temperature sensors and other tools to
points in the tubing or casing that do not have
landing nipples.
Unlike traditional locking mandrels, the LIVE
Seal GeoLock digital sealing service uses a non-
rubber kinematic sealing mechanism that does
not deform when the tool is set (left). It can thus
be used in the presence of gas and at high tem-
peratures and pressures for prolonged periods—
circumstances that often lead to failure of
extruded rubber seals—and can be easily
retrieved with standard slickline pulling tools.
The anchoring and sealing devices maximize the
mandrel’s internal flow area and, when retracted,
reduce the mandrel OD while running in and out
of the hole.
The GeoLock mandrel is run with the D-Set
setting tool and a sequence consisting of central-
izing, anchoring and sealing. Engineers can mon-
itor the procedure from surface using a time plot
of the complete sealing sequence. The tool and
mandrel use a calibrated shear disk instead of a
shear pin, which ensures a fully open flush tube
with no internal restrictions once the tool is set.
Digital slickline also includes LIVE Perf perfo-
rating services. With these services, operators can
confidently and safely cut pipe for recovery, punch
tubing and perforate at specified depths. The ser-
vice employs the D-Trig digital activation device,
D-Set electrohydraulic setting tool. The D-Set electrohydraulic unit contains three principal
components: a high-temperature lithium battery, an electronics package and a hydraulic power unit
(HPU). The lithium battery provides power. The electronics package converts the DC battery output to
three-phase alternating current for the HPU’s electric motor and commands the hydraulic circuit. The
battery and electronics package are isolated by means of a pressure barrier from the HPU. The HPU,
which consists of the electric motor, microhydraulic pump and a solenoid valve is 54 mm [2.1 in.] in
diameter by 510 mm [20.1 in.] in length. A smaller 43-mm [1.7-in.] diameter pump can generate nearly
6 tons [60 kN] of force. Within the HPU, the brushless electric motor is coupled to a fixed-displacement,
microhydraulic axial piston pump (not shown). The motor is run at high speed for low-torque
requirements, such as tool stroke, and switches to low speed for high-torque needs such as setting a
tool or shearing a setting stud. Hydraulic pump output is routed to the tool’s mechanical section (not
shown) through surface-controlled solenoids.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 7
Lithium battery
Hydraulic power unit
Setting without profiles. With a GeoLock mandrel, tools may be set in
smooth tubulars having no internal setting profiles. When the tool is in the
running position, the slips and seal elements (inset, bottom) are retracted,
which minimizes the mandrel’s outside diameter and allows it to pass through
tubing. Once the tool has been run to the desired depth, it is set using a
LIVE D-Set digital setting tool or explosive setting tool to compress the tool,
forcing cones to travel beneath the slips and seals. This expands the seals
(inset, top) against the tubing wall. The mandrel may be retrieved using an
electric or hydraulic tool that latches and returns the cones, seals and slips to
their original positions.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 8
44581araD5R1.indd 7 2/17/12 9:36 PM
Winter 2011/2012 23
which allows surface-controlled activation of both
explosive and nonexplosive devices. Like other
DSL equipment, the D-Trig device uses the depth
correlation cartridge real-time GR or CCL data to
achieve accurate depth control. It is equipped
with multiple fail-safe systems and is compatible
with most industry perforating, punching and set-
ting technologies.
The D-Trig activation device represents a sig-
nificant advance in slickline triggers because it
can be correlated in real time with surface read-
out GR and CCL when deployed in combination
with the depth correlation cartridge tool (right).
This tool can fire all Schlumberger through-
tubing perforating guns, hollow carrier guns,
casing and tubing cutters and some third-party
systems. The D-Trig system can also be used to
initiate explosive setting tools.
The combination of the D-Trig system and the
baseboard management controller (BMC), and
other devices such as a quartz pressure gauge,
enhances downhole shot detection. Crews can
confidently identify misruns prior to retrieving
the tools to surface. Within the BMC, shock
detection and head tension changes give conclu-
sive evidence that a device has fired. This can
also be confirmed with downhole pressure and
temperature measurements.
Another safety feature of the D-Trig service is
a fuse that can be blown to disarm the trigger
under certain conditions including disagree-
ment between the microprocessors, drift in
clock frequency within electronics, low BMC
battery voltage and excessive time gaps in com-
munication; the fuse can also be blown by opera-
tor command.
When engineers replace high explosives with
exploding bridgewire detonators or exploding foil
detonators, the system becomes immune to early
detonation caused by a number of factors:
• radio frequency radiation
• impressed current cathodic protection
• electric welding
• high-tension power lines.
The introduction of LIVE PL production log-
ging services changed the industry’s dependence
for these surveys on battery-operated memory
tools or electric line. Arguably the most powerful
tool for diagnosing the health of a well, produc-
tion logs provide in situ measurements that
describe the nature and behavior of fluids in the
borehole during production or injection; produc-
tion logs also help engineers determine which
zones are contributing to fluid flow. But at wells
with surface locations where space, weight or
accessibility limits exclude use of large electric
line units, the only option for obtaining a produc-
tion log has been a battery-powered memory
slickline tool. The LIVE PL service offers an
alternative to the larger electric line unit and
delivers more accurate depth correlation than is
possible with memory tools; in addition, the ser-
vice sends logging data to the surface in real time
while simultaneously storing it in memory.
Additionally, when engineers perform tran-
sient buildup tests with digital slickline, they can
monitor downhole pressure and temperature in
real time and detect when the well has reached
maximum bottomhole pressure (BHP). Obtaining
this information in real time can reduce shut-in
times. Data can therefore be used efficiently for
reservoir monitoring, updating models and diag-
nosing certain individual well conditions such as
the existence and location of water sources.
Two for One
Combining real-time downhole measurements
with traditional slickline creates numerous ben-
efits. For example, one operator discovered
inherited wellbore schematics were in error. Had
engineers chosen to shoot tubing perforations as
originally planned, based on depths displayed on
the schematic and without a CCL and GR for cor-
relation, they would have tried and failed to
puncture a blast joint located where the well
schematic showed the target tubing joint. In this
case, changes were made immediately as the job
was progressing based on real-time GR and CCL
data seen on the surface, allowing engineers to
carry out the operation without additional time
and, more importantly, without error.
Digital trigger. The D-Trig device is controlled by redundant dual microprocessors and incorporates
multiple fail-safe systems. A signal sent from surface is received by the tool, which generates a pulse
to fire the detonator of the cutter or explosive tool (not shown). The device includes a battery that can
fire either third-party exploding bridgewire detonators or Schlumberger Secure detonators. A separate
smaller battery is mounted in the baseboard management controller (not shown) to power the
electronics within the electronics cartridge. This design allows for a safety fuse to be placed between
the firing battery and detonator (not shown) and adds a level of security to operations. In addition, a
safety sub is placed between the detonator and the D-Trig tool and includes a safety pressure switch
that automatically grounds the detonator when the device is at atmospheric pressure. The D-Trig
device shown is electrically plugged into the detonator using a single spring monopin box connection.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 9
Electronics cartridge
Safety fuse
Safety pressure switch
Spring monopin box connection
44581araD5R1.indd 8 2/25/12 3:30 PM
24 Oilfield Review
In addition to risk management, efficiency
and precision advantages, LIVE digital slickline
services also enable engineers to perform certain
types of jobs—operations that once required use
of traditional slickline and electric line with a
unit and a crew for each—with a single digital
slickline unit and crew. For example, engineers
often use both conventional electric line units
with surface readouts to gather real-time mea-
surements, and a slickline unit to perform
mechanical operations on the same well. When
performing such interventions in each of four
producing zones, engineers traditionally first use
a slickline unit to prepare the well for logging by
running gauge rings, installing plugs and shifting
sliding sleeves. They then run production logs
using a separate electric line unit. This move-
ment of equipment and personnel can lead to
complicated logistics, high costs, increased
potential risks and lengthy operating time.
Because LIVE digital slickline services can per-
form the full scope of work, the single unit and
crew cuts logistics and manpower requirements
by half and reduces risks while saving significant
overall rig time (above).
ATP Oil & Gas Corporation engineers seeking
to capitalize on these efficiencies selected DSL
services for a recompletion operation at Eugene
Island Block 71, offshore Louisiana, USA. The
zone isolation and recompletion operation was
performed from the deck of a jackup vessel by
first setting a through-tubing cast iron bridge
plug and dumping 50 ft [15 m] of cement in 2
tubing to shut off a depleted lower zone at
12,790 to 12,875 ft [3,898 to 3,924 m].
Once the lower zone was plugged, the opera-
tor planned to perforate a shallower interval at
12,668 to 12,678 ft [3,861 to 3,864 m] using six
shots-per-foot perforating guns (next page).
Because the shallower target sand was thin,
depth precision and accuracy were critical and
could be achieved efficiently and in real time
through the use of CCL and GR, an option for-
merly available only with electric line. Because
other parts of the operation, such as dump bail-
ing the cement, required slickline tools, two
crews would have been required to perform
numerous rigging operations and equipment
moves on the deck of the vessel. Using the LIVE
depth correlation package with the LIVE Perf
services, a single unit and crew accomplished the
plug back and perforation operations. Total cost
as a result of time saved was US$ 80,000 below
the original authorization for expenditure.
In this instance, the operator realized savings
by reducing the time required to mobilize and
move electric line and slickline units on and off
the well and around the deck and by eliminating
the standby costs associated with a second crew.
In other cases, there may be additional savings
because space and weight requirements are
reduced when only one unit is deployed, allowing
the operator to hire a less expensive lift vessel
with reduced deck capacity. In some instances,
because of the slickline equipment’s relatively
small footprint and light weight, an operator may
be able to place the unit directly on the deck of a
platform too small to accommodate larger,
heavier electric line equipment. This may elimi-
nate the cost of a service vessel entirely, resulting
in significant savings.
Cost reduction as a function of time can
quickly multiply depending on environment. For
example, in relatively shallow waters, interven-
tions may be performed from the deck of lift
boats for which the day rate ranges from about
US$ 4,000 to as much US$ 40,000 as a function of
water-depth capabilities and deck space.
However, savings can skyrocket when work is
slated for water beyond lift boat depth capabili-
ties, which is about 60 m [200 ft], in relatively
calm waters such as offshore West Africa and in
the Gulf of Mexico. The cutoff depth is even shal-
lower in areas of typically rougher waters such as
the North Sea.
In deeper waters, an operator may use a semi-
submersible or dynamically positioned drilling
unit whose costs are much higher than jackup
vessels. And in deep and ultradeep water, opera-
tors must use specially designed deepwater drill-
ing units. The day rate for these giant units is
around US$ 1 million. Saving a few days or even a
few hours to perform slickline and electric line
work can quickly yield significant savings.
Single-unit logging operation. Typically, operators use a slickline unit to
prepare a well for logging by first performing gauge ring runs, installing
plugs and locking out the surface-controlled subsurface safety valve (SSV).
They then use an electric line unit to acquire production log data. For one
typical operation requiring a static pressure gradient, drawdown and shut-in
pressure and temperature survey for each producing zone, the operator
scheduled the program to take 168 hours using slickline and electric line
independently. By using DSL services to perform both conventional slickline
and electric line surface readout operations, the operator saved more than
10 hours and eliminated an extra crew and logging unit.
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 10
Rig up and run
first gauge ring.
Digital Slickline Slickline Plus Electric Line
static gradient
survey and
first shut-in.
static gradient
survey and
flow well.
static gradient
survey, flow well
and perform buildup.
Install plugs,
shift sliding sleeves and
run fourth gauge ring.
Perform buildup
survey and rig down.
10 hours saved
Run second gauge ring.
Run third gauge ring.
Install plugs, shift
sliding sleeves and
run fourth gauge ring.
Close sliding sleeve,
install SSV and rig down.
44581araD5R1.indd 9 2/17/12 9:36 PM
Winter 2011/2012 25
In the deepwater Green Canyon area of the
Gulf of Mexico, Nexen Petroleum USA leased the
deepwater rig Ocean Saratoga to plug and aban-
don (P&A) a well in about 900 ft [275 m] of water,
about 100 mi [160 km] off the Louisiana coast.
Typically, this phase of the P&A operation would
have required preparatory work on slickline, fol-
lowed by tubing punching and tubing cutting,
which require accurate depth correlation using
electric line. Nexen engineers turned to digital
slickline to perform all P&A operations using a
single slickline unit. Their objective for this high-
cost environment was considerable savings
through operational efficiencies—such as fewer
rig-up and rig-down operations.
Digital slickline was used successfully for
depth correlation and the subsequent tubing
punching operation at 10,030 ft [3,057 m]. Tool
shock measurements displayed at the surface in
real time clearly indicated the successful firing of
the puncher. The operator benefited from the
value of a smooth, depth-correlated puncher oper-
ation, and as a result, realized significant savings
in this high-cost environment. Some of these sav-
ings were achieved because the operator was not
forced to pay standby costs for two crews when
unforseen delays idled the rig for several days.
Executing such interventions with digital
slickline instead of electric line also reduces risk
because its pressure control equipment is less
complex. During pressure control events, if it
becomes necessary to cut the line, it is easier to
cut slickline than thicker electric line that may
be across the wellhead.
A Very Large Niche
As operating environments become increasingly
more challenging in places such as the Gulf of
Mexico and the North Sea, operators are actively
seeking ways to control costs. Digital slickline,
which offers the robust simplicity of slickline while
maintaining the versatility of electric line, is
poised to play a significant role in that quest. Its
suitability for P&A operations will no doubt draw
particular attention as aging wells in the North Sea
and the Gulf of Mexico drive a push by regulators
for large-scale platform decommissioning.
Engineers are likely to adopt digital slickline
technology as part of a well’s completion strat-
egy. It maintains the basic simplicity and famil-
iarity of slickline and is thus far less intrusive
than other recent innovations such as intelligent
completions or monobore wells, whose complex-
ity sparked years of resistance from an industry
as concerned with the cost of failure as with
potential benefits. A failure of an intelligent well
or a monobore installation may result in loss of
an entire wellbore and almost certainly in the
loss of many thousands of dollars spent in repair
costs and delayed production. In contrast, the
worst-case scenario of a digital slickline opera-
tion failure is lost time while an electric line unit
is brought in to finish the job.
In a post-Macondo world, operators are eager
to seize any safety advantage, which means the
benefits of digital slickline may be more than cost
and time savings. Because digital slickline often
allows a single crew with a single unit to provide
services that once required two units and crews,
it can significantly ease personnel and equip-
ment movement logistics and thereby enhance
safety and reduce environmental risk. This may
be especially important in remote locations
where transportation is difficult and offshore,
where space, weight and environmental consid-
erations are paramount.
There are also some simple but important and
practical advantages to choosing digital slickline
over electric line for certain offshore operations.
For example, several industry efforts to develop
riserless intervention techniques on subsea wells
are ongoing. Slickline may have an edge over
wireline in this application because it is very dif-
ficult to manage a grease seal during subsea
riserless operations. In this environment, the
slickline-style stuffing box used in conjunction
with digital slickline could prove to be one of the
critical components that brings deepwater riser-
less intervention into the mainstream. This tech-
nology upgrade is long overdue for a service that
has been used since the turn of the last century;
digital slickline services may soon move from
technology trial status to best practice. —RvF
Wellbore schematic. Operator ATP Oil & Gas decided to plug the reservoir
C sand at its Eugene Island Block 71 field and move uphole to perforate the
B sand. Because the B sand is just 10 ft [3 m] thick, depth accuracy was
critical. Obtaining that level of accuracy traditionally required the use of an
electric logging unit for perforating. For this operation, the crew used only a
LIVE digital slickline unit to first set a cast-iron bridge plug in the lower tubing
string, dump 50 ft of cement on top of it and perforate the casing across the
thin B sand precisely on depth. Unless otherwise marked, all depths are
measured depth (MD).
Oilfield Review
WINTER 11/12
Slickline Fig. 11
60-in. by 48-in. casing at 224 ft
16-in. casing at 810 ft
/4-in. casing at 3,970 ft
/8-in. casing at 12,032 ft
/2-in. packer at 12,487 ft
B sand perforations
12,668 ft to 12,678 ft MD
12,070 ft to 12,080 ft TVD
C sand perforations
12,790 ft to 12,875 ft MD
12,144 ft to 12,200 ft TVD
D upper sand perforations
13,448 ft to 13,472 ft MD
12,588 ft to 12,604 ft TVD
/2-in. packer at 12,700 ft
Cast-iron bridge plug
Isolation packer at 12,886 ft
Isolation packer at 13,311 ft
Sump packer at 13,482 ft
13,802 ft MD
12,817 ft TVD
/2-in. casing at 13,802 ft
Sliding sleeve at 12,870 ft
50 ft of cement
Sliding sleeve at 13,449 ft
44581araD5R1.indd 10 2/17/12 9:36 PM