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Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

Tubing Specification & Equipment Material


This topic introduces ‘tubing’ - definitions - load tolerances etc.
and is presented under specific sections listed below. Further
detail (stress analysis for example) is presented under module
ENM206 (Advanced Completion & Subsea Systems).

Table of Contents

Tubing Design Factors

This section introduces definitions and applications of tubing design
factors for various load conditions.

Tubing Nomenclature & Grades

This section introduces the common terminology used to describe the
different properties such as sizes and grades of tubing.

Mechanical Loads on Tubing

This section defines the main loads acting on common oilfield tubulars.
Axial, radial and tangential stress loads are described in detail.

Axial Loading
This section shows how axial loads on tubing strings are defined and
determined, it also discusses elongation and calculation of the maximum
axial loads allowed.

Buckling Loads and Modes

This section shows how tubing strings can buckle, it describes the main
two buckling modes and it also presents how the critical conditions that
will cause buckling can be determined.

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Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection


Tubing Design Factors

The recommended design factors are shown in the following table.

Table 1. Recommended Design Factors.


TEST 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1
OTHER 1.25 1.1 1.33 1.25

Test Conditions Definition

Test conditions are defined with the following criteria:
• the tubing must be new, or newly inspected with correspondingly
well defined properties such as minimum dimensions, minimum
weights, wall thickness tolerances and metallurgical properties;
• the tubing must be mechanically isolated from the reservoir with
no hydrocarbons in or outside the tubing. Examples are plugs
below the tailpipe or an un-perforated liner / casing;
• the conditions (such as the pressure and temperature) must be
defined so that the maximum tubing stresses can be predicted

Other Conditions Definition

‘Other Conditions’ are defined as any condition not satisfying the ‘Test
Conditions’ requirements and would include all normal service loads
(production, injection, stimulation etc.) and overpulls (defined as any
action to pull the tubing). Although in an overpull (for example to shear a
pinned expansion device) the pressures and temperatures are usually
well defined, the friction is not well defined and this acts to increase
required axial loads. Therefore maximum tubing stresses cannot be
predicted accurately.

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Design Factors Rationale

The purpose of design factors is to ensure that tubing is selected and
used in a manner that prevents inadvertent or premature failure. The
selection of the actual design factor values must account for the following
• to ensure that service loads do not exceed mill test loads. Mill test
loads (API or otherwise) are not normally to the nominal rating of
the pipe;
• to allow for unexpected events such as stuck pipe;
• to allow for modelling uncertainties such as difficulties in predicting
temperature profiles, the accuracy of the Martin Decker gauge, or
the shear rating of a hydraulic set packer;
• to allow for features that are not included in an analysis eg, if
corrosion is not explicitly included;
• to account for the consequences of failure. For example, tubing
burst has a greater safety implication than tubing collapse.

Test Conditions Burst Design Factors

The main constraint with tubing burst is that pipe is not exposed to
higher loads than the API test pressure. The hydrostatic test pressure is
equivalent to 80% of nominal pipe. As burst safety factors are based on
de-rating the pipe by the wall thickness tolerance (normally 87.5%), a
design factor of 1.094 prevents tubing being exposed to pressures higher
than the hydrostatic test pressure. Therefore a burst design factor of 1.1
is acceptable.
The burst safety factor is dependent on the minimum wall thickness.
Therefore the wall thickness tolerances must be applied to all burst loads.
The standard tolerance is the API wall thickness tolerance for new tubing
at 12.5%. However some manufacturers manufacture to lower tolerances
at no extra cost or for a premium price. These tolerances can be used
where appropriate.

Test Conditions Collapse Design Factors

A relatively low collapse design factor is acceptable as the consequences
of collapse are less severe than for tubing burst. There is still merit
however in maintaining design factors greater than 1.0, to allow for
potential small errors and uncertainties (eg, accuracy of pressure gauges
etc.). Therefore a design factor of 1.1 has been chosen.

Test Conditions Axial Design Factors

Again a relatively low design factor is justified. The main variables in
axial loads are pipe bending, temperature effects, overpulls and
uncertainties about friction. Pipe bending will be modelled by inclusion of
appropriate dogleg severity. Temperature effects should be known, or at
least not affect the stresses (for example, temperature changes only
effect axial loads once the packer has been set). Overpulls do not satisfy

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the criteria for the test conditions (because the conditions are not
accurately known). The constraints of sour conditions also do not apply
during test conditions, as they will be no hydrocarbons in the string.
Because of all these effects, a low design factor can be used for the test
conditions. A design factor of 1.1 is therefore considered appropriate.

Test Conditions Triaxial Design Factors

Triaxial design factors consider the combined effects of axial and collapse
loads. In keeping with the casing design, it is now considered
inappropriate to use a triaxial analysis as a means of determining burst
loads. Recent work119 suggests that the burst of pipe is independent of
the axial load. Therefore there is no need to derate the wall thickness
when considering triaxial loads. As a design factor of 1.1 has been used
for axial, burst and collapse loads, a triaxial design factor of 1.1 is also

Other Conditions

Burst Design Factor

As the burst safety factor is related only to tubing properties and
pressure differentials, a relatively low design factor should be acceptable
as pressure differentials can usually be estimated fairly accurately or at
least conservatively. The tubing should be derated for the wall thickness
tolerance (API or manufacturer’s as appropriate). As the burst of tubing
is so closely related to the minimum wall thickness, then any process that
affects this should be included.
Other processes likely to affect the burst resistance are erosion, wear
(particularly for casing) or mechanical damage such as tong marks and
wireline induced damage. As corrosion and other forms of wear can be
difficult or impossible to predict then a certain amount of a safety margin
is required. This does not allow corrosion or damage to be ignored in
tubing stress analysis as pitting, in particular, can be excessive in high
temperature and acidic (CO2) environments if inappropriate tubing is
selected. A burst design factor of 1.25 has been selected based on these
key uncertainties, but every effort should be made to quantify these
uncertainties and therefore reduce any risk.

Collapse Design Factors

A relatively low collapse factor is acceptable because of the following
• annulus pressures are usually known to a greater degree of
accuracy than tubing pressures;
• collapse although unwanted and costly does not normally impose
risks to personnel;
• the collapse rating is more dependent on the average wall
thickness and therefore collapse is less affected by processes such
as corrosion.

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A collapse safety factor of 1.1 has been selected based on these


Axial Design Factors

Axial forces are generated by a large combination of effects. For this
reason they are harder to accurately predict than burst or collapsed
loads. Pressure, temperature, well doglegs, buckling and friction can all
contribute to axial loads. A relatively high axial design is therefore
preferred as many of these effects are hard to predict under operational
conditions. In addition, the connection strength is based on ultimate
tensile strength rather than yield strength; therefore axial loads on
connections do not have the same leeway as axial loads on tubing. This
becomes important when considering the cumulative effects of
hydrocarbons, age in service and load uncertainty.
Where pipe is exposed to sour conditions it should conform to NACE
specifications. The NACE (National Association of Corrosion Engineers)
test requirement is exposure of the tubing to a NACE sour solution with a
stress of 75% of the material yield stress. In order to prevent exposing
the pipe to higher service loads than these test loads, an axial design
factor of 1.33 is required. This design factor fits in well with a relatively
high axial design factor required to manage uncertainties in axial loads.

Triaxial Design Factors

The triaxial design factor is supposed to account for the combination
affects of axial and burst/collapse loads. It should therefore account for
the uncertainties and consequences of failure under burst, collapse or
parting (axial failure). Therefore a relatively high triaxial design factor
should be used. However recent work suggests that the bursting of
tubing is independent of axial loads. As the buckling of tubing is now
included in axial loads as well as triaxial loads, the reliance on the triaxial
analysis has been significantly reduced. It is still required however for
examining the effects of axial loads on collapse resistance. A relatively
low design factor of 1.25 is therefore appropriate without the necessity to
include the derating for wall thickness tolerances.

The Use of the Design Factors

Although these design factors are guidelines, it is expected that the
guidelines or those of the operator will normally be followed. However,
engineering and judgment must still be used to ensure that the tubing
stress analysis is a representation of the realistic conditions experienced
during the life of the well rather than a blind application of corporate
policy. It is therefore vital that attention is paid to accurately modelling
both the well tubing and the loads it is exposed to. After all, tubing
failures have shown to be caused more by a failure to predict or model
events (for example corrosion or annulus expansion) than by a low
design factor.

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Tubing Nomenclature and Grades

Tubing Nomenclature

Outside Diameter (OD)

All well tubulars follow the API specifications in standardizing on outside
diameter. Hence, 4 ½ inches tubulars have an OD of 4 ½ inches. In
addition, API defines tubing as having an OD from 11/20 in to 4 ½
inches. Tubulars with OD of 4 ½ inches or greater are classified as

Length Range (R)

Tubulars are manufactured in lengths termed joints. The API specification
only allows tubing joints to be manufactured in two length ranges.
However, some mills can produce Range 3, and, where practicable and
possible, this range is preferred.
• range 1 : 20 to 24 feet;
• range 2 : 28 to 32 feet;
• range 3 : 32 to 48 feet.
The API casing standard allows three ranges, namely:
• range 1 : 16 to 25 feet;
• range 2 : 25 to 34 feet;
• range 3 : 34 to 48 feet.

Weight per Foot (lb/ft)

The ability of a tubular to withstand stress is governed by its mechanical
strength (grade) and wall thickness. Since API standardizes tubulars on
OD, an increase in wall thickness decreases the inside diameter (ID) and
obviously increases the weight. Tubulars are therefore specified in terms
of OD and weight of pipe per linear foot. However, some suppliers do
exceed API tolerances on OD in order to minimize the reduction in ID.
The API specifies a limited number of standard weights for any particular
tubular size. However, non-API heavy walled tubing is also available for
high strength applications. These tubulars have proprietary grades, and
the stress analysis should be discussed in detail with the individual

Nominal ID
The nominal ID is the ID calculated from the OD and the weight per foot.
This ID is the one that should be used for flow and strength calculations.

Drift ID
It is important that all production/completion tubulars are drifted. This
should allow the safe passage of any equipment and will ensure injection

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and production rates are not impeded. The drift ID should be specified as
well as the length of the drift used.

Coupling OD
This is the maximum OD of the tubing and is used when estimating the
clearances required to install tubing into casing. Technology

Tubular Grades
Tubulars are frequently designated with a singular or double letter prefix,
ie, J or HC. API grades use the single letter, while proprietary grades
utilize double letters. Generally it is true to say that for both API and
proprietary grades, these letters have very little relevance in determining
the physical properties of the tubular. To some extent the proprietary
grades do have some significance, but these are particular to specific

XT155 is Extra Tough 155ksi material from British Steel. SM155 is
Sumitomo 155ksi material, which is effectively the same pipe, but with a
different designation.
There is no definable system for the use of letters as prefixes or suffixes
in the tubular grade designation. Hence, unless the user is completely
knowledgeable about the letters used in tubular descriptions, they should
not be used to identify pipe properties. It is strongly advised that that the
unfamiliar seek expert advice, either from the manufacturer or tubular
specialist. The numbers following on from the letters are important and
do have a significant meaning. The number immediately following the API
or proprietary grade prefix letters is the minimum specified yield stress of
the pipe.

80 means 80,000 psi minimum yield stress. This figure is important since
it provides information as to the minimum tensile properties of the pipe
and is also a function of most of the pipes other physical properties, ie,
burst and collapse. It should not be confused with the ultimate tensile
strength (UTS), which is not used in pipe identification. The minimum
yield stress value is used in all tubular stress analysis.

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Mechanical Loads on Tubing Strings

Forces act on tubing in three dimensions, so to analyse the stress state
accurately, all three dimensions must be considered. A cylindrical co-
ordinate system is therefore used to describe the stresses, ie, axial,
radial and tangential. There are four possible failure modes for the pipe
• parting of the tubing under axial load;
• bursting of the tubing due to internal pressure;
• collapse of the tubing under external pressure.;
• when the combined stress, or triaxial stress, exceeds the yield
stress of the tubing.
In some cases the tubular connections may be weaker than the pipe
body, in which case further calculations will be necessary. Most premium
connections like NEW VAM and NS-CC are essentially structurally
equivalent to the pipe body and no further analysis is required. However,
particularly under compressive loads, some premium connections can
lose their gas tight seal.
In addition to the failure mechanisms outlined above, it is also necessary
to analyse the stability of the tubing. Since a tubing string is very long in
comparison with its diameter, it lacks the rigidity to withstand
compressive loads. Hence, a very small compressive load can cause the
tubing to buckle. As the tubing is constrained by the casing, the tubing
buckles into the shape of a helix. Although the tubing is said to 'buckle',
it does not necessarily lead to a failure and may indeed be beneficial (eg,
reducing loads on packers). Helically buckled tubing can, however,
prevent the running of wireline tools and compromise the integrity of the
tubing connections. If the instability becomes too severe, the pipe can
yield and permanently corkscrew.
To determine whether a tubing string has sufficient strength, the actual
loads are compared to the API rated load capacity at critical points in the
string. This comparison is expressed as a ratio or design factor for each
failure mode, ie:
Axial Tension Design Factor: The ratio of the rated axial tensile
strength to the actual axial tension force in the string. It is equivalent to
the ratio of the material yield stress to the total axial stress.
Burst Design Factor: The ratio of the calculated burst pressure rating to
internal pressure minus external pressure.
Collapse Design Factor: The ratio of calculated collapse pressure rating
to external pressure minus internal pressure.
Triaxial Stress Design Factor: The ratio of the material API yield stress
to triaxial stress.
The above analysis is complicated by the fact that radial and tangential
stresses also have components in the axial direction and the yield stress
in the collapse failure mode reduces with axial tensile stress.

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Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

Designing for the Service Life of the Tubing

A tubing string is subjected to various load conditions throughout its life.
When the well is initially completed, there is a force distribution resulting
from the weight of the tubing, the hydrostatic force exerted by the
completion fluid and the prevailing pressures and temperature at the
time the tubing is landed. During production or well operations, changes
in pressure and temperature occur in the tubing and annulus.
If the tubing is free to move, these changes will cause a change in
length. If the tubing is not permitted to move (ie, the tubing is
anchored), forces are generated in the tubing and act on the packer and
wellhead to prevent these length changes from occurring. The prevailing
conditions when the completion is landed are normally regarded as the
'base case'. Subsequent changes in pressure, pressure gradients and
temperature can then be superimposed on this base case to give the
associated load on the tubing or service load. The service life of the
tubing is then described by a series of service loads.
To properly assess the stress state of the tubing, a three-dimensional
analysis must be performed. The analysis presented in this section shows
how to determine both the API load capacity design factors and the
triaxial stress design factors. In addition, the accurate calculation of
tubing movement is also presented in order to determine the appropriate
seal length in completions which allow tubing movement.

Tubing Manufacturers Tolerance

All tubing is manufactured within strictly controlled tolerances ensuring
that weight, OD and thickness are within well defined limits. The most
common system of tolerances is the API (see table included below)
however, more strict tolerances are used by certain manufacturers and
these may be used where appropriate. Most operators have their own
procurement philosophy, but this usually follows API dimensional
tolerances found in API 5CT.

Table 2. API Dimensional Tolerances for Tubing.

Property Tolerance
Outside diameter
OD: 4” and smaller +0.03
OD: 41/2” and larger +1.00%

Wall thickness -12.50%

Single lengths +6.50%

Inside diameter, ID, is governed by the outside diameter and wall


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Axial Loading

Calculation of Primary Axial Forces and Length Changes

If the tubing is free to move, changes in temperature and pressure
induce length changes in the string. The following conventions have been
used in the equations presented in this topic:
• increases in length are considered positive and reductions in length
are negative;
• axial tensile forces are positive and axial compressive forces are
For tubing that is free to move, changing conditions will cause changes
in both the forces acting on the tubing and the overall tubing length. All
effects like weight, pressure/area, fluid friction, tubing plugs, ballooning
and temperature will change the length. However, ballooning and
temperature, unlike the others, will not induce axial forces in the string.
The axial forces induced in anchored tubing are the sum of the axial
forces induced if the tubing were free to move plus the axial forces
created by resisting the overall length change. The method used by
software packages such as WS-Tube to calculate these forces is to first
calculate the movements as if the tubing were free to move and then
calculate the force, using Hooke's law and taking account of buckling
(where required), to restore the end of the tubing to its original position
or to the position at the extreme of its allowable movement. The sum of
the axial force calculated assuming free tubing movement and the force
required to oppose the change in length then becomes the resulting axial
force in anchored tubing.

Consider the section of tubing shown in the following figure at an
inclination angle of 'A'. The weight of the tubing acts in the vertical
direction down. This force can be divided into two components: one
acting parallel to the pipe axis and one acting perpendicular to the pipe
axis. These components can be expressed mathematically as follows:

Equation 1
FWT = W cos A

Equation 2
N = W sin A

W = weight of the tubing, lb.

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Figure 1. Axial Laods on Tubing – Weight

The component N is resisted by the wellbore, and if friction is neglected,

N does not affect the axial force profile in the string. Since cosA equals
the change in vertical depth divided by the change in measured depth for
the inclined part of the well:


Equation 3

W' = weight per unit length of the tubing, lb/ft
TVD = vertical distance below the point of interest to the bottom
of the tubing
Note: Friction forces between the casing and the tubing are neglected in
nearly all cases. However, for highly deviated wells, the friction force can
be significant and must be considered for over pull, particularly where
retrievable packers and pinned anchor or expansion devices are to be

Pressure and Areas

An open ended tube freely suspended in a fluid is subjected to
hydrostatic pressure as shown in the following figure. The result of this

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pressure acting on the cross-sectional area at the bottom of the string is

a compressive axial force in the tubing.

Figure 2. Pressure Acting on Exposed Tubing Areas.

An open ended tube freely suspended in a fluid is subjected to

hydrostatic pressure as shown in the figure above. The result of this
pressure acting on the cross-sectional area at the bottom of the string is
a compressive axial force in the tubing. This is often referred to as the
buoyancy effect and is described by the following equation:

Equation 4
FB = − p( Ao − Ai )

p = pressure at the bottom of the string, psi
Ao = area corresponding to the nominal pipe OD, in2
Ai = area corresponding to the nominal pipe ID, in2
It should be noted that the formulas used to calculate the effect fluids
have on reducing rig hook loads (buoyancy charts) will give the correct
surface or hook load. This technique will however incorrectly model the
force distribution within the length of the completion.
It must be noted that where crossovers are used axial loads
determination must account for the changes in cross sectional area.

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Expansion Devices
Where expansion devices are used, pressures will still act on any exposed
areas. When there is a higher internal pressure than external, this
pressure will generate an upward force on the tubing above the
expansion device and a downward force on the tubing beneath the
expansion device. The following presents the areas where pressures and
loads act on various expansion devices.

Figure 3. PBR and Expansion Joints

The force acting on the upper tubing is given by the following equation:

FPR = po ( Ab − Ao ) − pi ( Ab − Ai )
Equation 5

pi = tubing pressure at the bottom of the string, psi
po = annulus pressure at the bottom of the string, psi
Ab = area corresponding to the ID of the packer seal bore, in2
What is critical to get right is the seal bore area (Ab). This is the real
dimension of the parts that move relative to each other:
• for an expansion joint this would normally be the OD of the male
member, as the seals are normally on the female member;
• for a PBR, this would normally be the ID of the female member, as
the seals are usually on the male member.

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Apart from this subtle difference, PBRs and expansion joints are treated
in the same way. It is usual to position expansion devices above packers
and indeed in most commercial stress analysis programs, the expansion
joint is always assumed to be at the packer itself. The same analysis can
be used with any device, which joins two sections of tubing even if no
relative movement is possible.

Piston Effect
The pressure / area effect alters both the axial forces in the string and
results in tubing movement if movement is allowed. The force generated
through pressure acting on area can be caused by any of the pressure
area phenomenon mentioned tubing ends, crossovers, expansion devices
and plugs). The change in length (often termed as the piston effect) is
calculated with Hooke’s law as follows:

∆L =
Equation 6 E ( Ao − Ai )

L = measured depth of the tubing
F = force (due to plug, expansion device, crossover etc.)

Temperature Effects
A property of steel and alloys which relates the change in temperature to
the change in length is the coefficient of thermal expansion. For low alloy
carbon steel the coefficient of thermal expansion is equal to 6.7 x 10-6
/°F. The change in length caused by a change in temperature for both
uniform and combination completions is calculated as follows:

Equation 7

CT = coefficient of thermal expansion, 1/°F
∆T = average change in temperature, °F from the base case to
the load case
L = length of tubing
If the tubing is free to move, there is no axial force associated with a
change in temperature. If the tubing is anchored, a force will be exerted
on the tubing to oppose the length change. The force is given by Hooke’s
− ∆LTEMP E ( Ao − Ai )
Equation 8
= − CT E∆T ( Ao − Ai )

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For combination completions, the above equation is applied to each

section separately and the results added to determine the force on the

Poisson Effect - Ballooning

Radial expansion or contraction of the pipe, caused by a change in
pressure, results in length changes of the tubing string as is shown in the
following figure.

Figure 4. Ballooning and Reverse Ballooning.

The change in length is a function of the average change in pressure from

the base case within each section of constant OD and wall thickness. The
length change is calculated as follows:

− 2 µL P
∆LBAL = ( ∆p A − ∆po Ao )
Equation 9 E ( Ao − Ai )
i i


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∆ p= the change in pressure compared to the base case

µ = Poisson’s Ratio
For combination completions, the above equation is applied to each
section and the length change for each section is algebraically added
together to obtain the total length change due to Poisson's Effect for the
entire string. If the tubing is free to move, there is no axial force
associated with ballooning. If the tubing is anchored, the force required
to prevent the tubing movement from ballooning is calculated as follows:

FBAL = 2 µ ( Ai ∆pi − Ao ∆po )

Equation 10

Fluid Friction
The term fluid friction should not be confused with the term ‘tubing
friction’. Fluid friction is caused by fluids moving inside the tubing and the
associated friction between the fluid and the tubing wall. Tubing friction is
the friction between the tubing and the casing itself. When fluid is
pumped down the tubing string, fluid friction tends to lengthen the string.
Likewise, when fluid is flowed up the tubing, the string shortens.
If the tubing is free to move, the frictional pressure force at any given
depth is given by:

Equation 11 − ∆p
∆L i

L = length below the point being considered (above for fluid
injection), ft
Note, for a flowing well, ∆p/∆L is assumed to be positive. This force
causes a change in length which is calculated from Hooke’s law as

⎡ ⎛ − ∆p ⎞ 2 ⎤
Equation 12 ⎢ ⎜⎝ ∆L ⎟⎠ L p Ai ⎥
∆LFR =⎢ ⎥
⎢ 2 E ( Ao − Ai ) ⎥
⎢⎣ ⎥⎦

The above equation does not consider the change in kinetic energy of the
fluid. In some cases this can be significant, such as during production of
well fluids where gas break-out and other effects cause a significant
change in the fluid's kinetic energy. Note, the length change due to fluid
friction is normally only considered critical during hydraulic fracturing, or
high rate water injection through small tubing and in this case the
equation is valid. However it is usual to use friction reducers during
hydraulic stimulation and therefore service company advice is required.
The factor of 2 in the denominator accounts for the fact that the force is
distributed along the length of the string and the average force, which is

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half the maximum force, on any single element of the tubing is used to
determine the change in length. If the tubing is fixed at the packer, the
force is the sum of the forces calculated assuming free tubing movement
and the force induced to resist the movement due to fluid friction:

− ∆p ( − ∆LFR ) E ( Ao − Ai )
Equation 13 FFR = Ai L +
∆L Lp
⎛ − ∆p ⎞ ⎛ Lp ⎞
=⎜ ⎟ Ai ⎜ L − ⎟
⎝ ∆L ⎠ ⎝ 2 ⎠

L = the completion length
Lp = the length to the packer
Most software packages do not have the ability to account for fluid
friction, despite having all the input data available. Frictional pressure
drops are used, but solely to calculate the actual pressures inside the
tubing. For most applications, the fluid friction axial forces are small and
can safely be ignored. However it should be included for small diameter
high rate wells.

Slack-off and Over Pull

When the packer and tubing hanger have been set, the base case forces
are locked in to the completion. All subsequent load cases produce forces
which are relative to this base case. The easiest way to adjust the base
case axial load is to use slack-off (or less commonly overpulls). This is
usually performed by setting the packer and then slacking off (or
overpulling) some weight onto the packer. This weight is the slack-off
weight. In practice this is achieved by setting the packer with the hanger
some distance out of the bowl. It is this distance (or stick-up) which
determines how much slack-off is applied to packer when the hanger is
lower into the bowl. The stick-up (initial change in tubing length due to
slack-off or overpull) is calculated with Hooke’s law:

Equation 14 ∆LSO =
E ( Ao − Ai )

It is this stick-up distance which will be entered in the completion

program. If more than one packer is used (e.g. Annular Safety Valves)
then each packer can have its own slack-off and stick-up.
Slacking off on the tubing results in initially buckling the pipe. The
appropriate equation from the ‘Buckling Loads and Modes’ topic, is used
to calculate the length change component from buckling. The reduction in
length from slacking off, or the increase in length from picking up is
subtracted from the total length change from the load case to determine
the overall change in length.

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Total Primary Axial Force

The total axial force is the sum of the primary axial forces described
above and is calculated using the following equation:


Equation 15

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Buckling Loads and Modes

Determination of Radial and Tangential Stresses

The inner and outer radial and tangential stresses are calculated from
Lame's equations for thick walled cylinders. The radial stress is given by:

pi Ai − po Ao ( pi − po ) Ai Ao
Equation 16 σr = −
( Ao − Ai ) ( Ao − Ai ) A

A = area corresponding to either inner or outer radius, in2
For the inner radius (A = Ai ) this reduces to:

σ r ,i = − pi
Equation 17

and for the outer radius (A = Ao ):

σ r ,o = − po
Equation 18

The tangential stress is given by:

pi Ai − po Ao ( pi − po ) Ai Ao
σt = +
Equation 19 ( Ao − Ai ) ( Ao − Ai ) A

For the inner radius this reduces to:

pi ( Ai + Ao ) − 2 po Ao
Equation 20 σ t ,i =
Ao − Ai

and for the outer radius we have:

2 pi Ai − po ( Ai + Ao )
σ t ,o =
Ao − Ai
Equation 21

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 19

Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

Helical Buckling
When a tube is loaded in axial compression, it will shorten in accordance
with Hooke's law. However, if the tube is sufficiently long, which is almost
always the case for well tubing, as the compressive force increases, a
critical force will be reached that corresponds to an unstable condition. At
this critical and higher compressive load, any amount of crookedness of
the tube or slight movement of the load will cause the tube to buckle
helically. In the presence of internal and external pressures, tubing
behaves as if it was subjected to a force called the effective buckling
force. This force is given by:

(σ + σi )
Equation 22
( Ao − Ai )
= FTOTAL + ( po Ao − pi Ai )

The effective buckling force is sometimes also referred to as the excess

axial force. The criteria used for buckling is:
• if FEFF is negative, the tubing behaves as though it is in
compression and helical buckling will occur.
This concept can be difficult to understand since it is hard to visualise
how the radial and tangential stresses affect buckling. A full description is
included in the references. If the tubing is free to move and only
subjected to pressure/area forces, the effective buckling force at packer
depth reduces to:

FEFF = A p ( p o − pi )
Equation 23

Hence, in this situation buckling can only occur if the internal pressure is
greater than the external pressure. If the effective buckling force, FEFF, is
negative at packer depth, then FEFF will approach zero moving up the
string as a result of the increasing tension due to tubing weight. At some
depth, FEFF will become zero. This point is defined as the 'neutral point'.
Below the neutral point the pipe is buckled, whereas above this point the
pipe is straight, the following figure illustrates buckled tubing string.

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 20

Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

Figure 5. Buckled Tubing

The neutral point is determined as follows:

Equation 24 n=
W '+ Gi Ai − Go Ao

n = distance between the neutral point and the bottom of the
string, ft MD
G = fluid pressure gradient, psi/ft
W’ = weight per length of tubing

Free Tubing Movement

If the tubing is free to move and the neutral point is within the tubing
string, the change in length due to helical buckling is given by:

− C 2 FEFF 2
∆LHB =
8EI (W '+ Gi Ai − Go Ao )
Equation 25

C = radial clearance between the tubing and the casing, in
I = tubing moment of inertia, in4 =
( OD4 − ID4 )

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 21

Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

When the neutral point is calculated to be above the top of the string, the
entire string is buckled and the equation for length change is:

− C 2 FEFF 2 ⎡L⎛ L⎞ ⎤
∆LHB = ⎢ ⎜2 − ⎟
Equation 26 8EI (W '+ Gi Ai − Go Ao ) ⎣ n ⎝ n ⎠ ⎥⎦

L = length of the tubing string, ft

Anchored Tubing
If the tubing is anchored, helical buckling can still occur. The associated
change in length relieves part of the compression exerted on the packer.
The force relieved is referred to as the unbuckling force. Since the length
change due to helical buckling is a non-linear function of the effective
buckling force, it is not possible to solve for the force due to unbuckling
directly. Instead, an iterative procedure is used to determine the total
end mechanical force, the tubing-to-packer force, when helical buckling
occurs in anchored tubing. The force due to unbuckling is then the
difference between this tubing-to-packer force, FT-P and the total primary
axial force, FTOTAL.

Equation 27 FUNB = FT − P − FTOTAL

The method of superposition is the basis for the iterative procedure which
is used by some of the software packages to determine FT-P. A primary
reason for using this method is that it allows for solving for a restoring
force for limited movement completions where the restoring distance is
different to the distance moved.
If buckling occurs in a service condition and the tubing is fixed at the
packer, or cannot move by the amount of total length change calculated,
it is not correct to simply determine the force required to restore the end
of the tubing to the required location through a combination of buckling
and elastic strain. If the pipe is buckled when it is free to move, a change
in force and hence effective buckling force, causes a non-linear change in
length which depends on where the system is on the force versus length
curve. In the following figure it can be seen that the incremental force
changes F1 and F2 are equal, yet L2 is greater than L1 because the
absolute force existing when the incremental force is added is different.
Consequently, the absolute effective force must be established to
properly determine the length change.

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 22

Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

Figure 6. Change in Length versus Change in Force with Buckling.

Bending moments due to buckling or instantaneous doglegs generate

axial stresses in the tubing. Bending induces axial compressive stresses
in one side of the pipe and axial tensile stresses in the other side of the
pipe as shown in the following figure. The equation for the axial stress
due to bending is as follows:

Equation 28
σbend =±E×r ∆L
5730 × 12

r = pipe radius where the stress is calculated, in
= dogleg severity, deg/100 ft

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 23

Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

Figure 3. Bending Stresses in a Small Element of Tubing

In order to calculate the bending stresses due to buckling, the pitch,

radius of curvature and dogleg severity must first be determined. The
pitch is the distance in feet between spirals on the helix and is calculated
with the following equation:

⎛ 8 EI ⎞ 2
Equation 29 P=π ⎜ ⎟
⎝ FEFF ⎠

P = Pitch
The radius of curvature of the helix in feet is given by:

P 2 + 4π 2 C 2
Equation 30 rc =
4π 2 C

and equivalent dogleg in degrees per 100 ft:

∆θ 5730
Equation 31 ∆L rc

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 24

Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

These stresses are confined to the bends only and hence they do not
affect the axial force profile in the string. However, bending stresses may
contribute to tubing failure by yielding the material and they are
therefore taken account of in the Von Mises equivalent (VME) stress and,
hence, in the triaxial design factor.
Buckling of production tubing strings can be tolerated in many cases
provided that the stress intensity in the pipe is at acceptable levels.
Buckling is generally acceptable provided that the peak VME stress in the
pipe, including the axial bending stresses due to buckling and deviation,
are less than the specified minimum yield stress of the material with an
appropriate design factor. Basically, there are two instances when
buckling of production tubing is unacceptable even if the VME stress
intensity is acceptably low:
• when tools must be run through the tubing, eg, before and after
perforating with a through-tubing perforating gun;
• when the equivalent dogleg severity from buckling compromises
the structural integrity or sealability of the tubing connections.
Obviously, if the tubing is severely buckled, the running of tools in the
tubing is complicated. Preferably, during conditions where it is necessary
to run tools in the tubing, the tubing should not be buckled. However, it
is generally possible to run tools in pipe which is only mildly buckled. The
maximum free passage length for a tool in a helix shaped tube is
calculated with the following formula:

⎡ ⎤
Equation 32
P ⎢
= cos−1 ⎢
( IDd − ODtool ) ⎥⎥
π ⎢ ⎛⎜ C + IDd ⎞⎟ ⎥
⎢⎣ ⎝ 2 ⎠ ⎥⎦

Ltool = rigid length of a tool that can pass through the buckled
tubing, ft
ODtool = tool diameter, in
IDd = tubing ID or drift diameter, in
The free passage length value can be used as a guide to determine if the
amount of buckling will prevent the running of tools. Keep in mind that
tools are not completely rigid and therefore the free passage length
calculated with Equation 32 is conservative. If buckling is a problem, it is
possible to decrease the buckling intensity or eliminate buckling by
applying external surface pressure which tends to straighten the pipe.
Also, buckling can be lessened by using a lower initial slack-off weight if
this is feasible.
The use of expansion devices may also tend to increase buckling loads,
particularly where there are high internal pressures. Consideration should
be given to removing expansion devices, or using as small a seal bore as
possible on the expansion device. Depending on the buckling intensity
and on what connection is used on the tubing, the structural integrity or

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 25

Pg Dip/MSc Energy Programme/Wells Tubing Specification & Equipment Material Selection

leak resistance of the connection may be impaired. Properly designed

specialty service metal-to-metal seal, threaded and coupled (MTC)
connectors like NEW VAM, VAM ACE, NKK NK-3SB, Mannesmann TDS,
Nippon NS-CT, Fox, etc., have been proven acceptable with doglegs up to
25°/100 ft and they are probably capable of maintaining structural and
leakage integrity with doglegs as high as 40°/100 ft.

Bending Stress Due to Deviated Well

In deviated wells, or in wells with doglegs, axial bending stresses have an
axial component similar to bending stresses due to helical buckling. The
bending stress due to deviation is normally modelled by specifying a
maximum dogleg severity, either estimated or taken from a well survey.
There are no length changes associated with bending due to the deviation
of the well. The axial stress due to well deviation, σDEV, is then calculated
by use of Equation 33.

Calculation of Maximum Axial Stress

The maximum axial stresses, σa,i and σa,o, are the sum of the total
primary axial stress and the stresses due to helical buckling and hole
deviation at the inner and outer tubing walls:

Equation 33 σa = ± σ HB ± σ DEV
Ao − Ai

The signs of σHB and σDEV are chosen to maximize the absolute value of

© The Robert Gordon University 2006 26