FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to wireline apparatus for use in
conducting downhole well operations including well completion activities, well
servicing activities and the installation and removal of various downhole well
equipment. More particularly, the present invention concerns a sheave mechanism
through which wireline passes as the wireline is being run into or extracted from
a well and which sheave mechanism is designed to contain high well pressure in
the range of 10,000 psi or greater and to provide for continuous grease injected
sealing of the wireline while maintaining the wireline sheave and sheave housing
in a substantially pressure balanced condition.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
When downhole activities are required in wells being drilled and completed
it is frequently necessary at times during drilling operations to conduct well
bore logging activities during which a logging tool is run into the well in order
to evaluate the progress of the well bore and to identify various characteristics
of the earth formation being traversed by the well bore. These operations are typically
carried out by running logging tools into the well by means of wireline cables.
Various other well servicing activities are carried by means of tools that are
run into well bores or well casing by means of wireline apparatus. Especially when
wells are being drilled and completed high pressure conditions are often encountered
such as when production formations are intersected by the well bore.
When wireline operations are being conducted especially under conditions
of high well pressure, wireline risers of significant height are often employed
in order to provide the wireline apparatus with sufficient pressure containing
capability to insure against the possibility of a well blowout through the wireline
apparatus. These wireline risers incorporate grease wipers and wireline packers
in addition to a wireline blowout preventer to thus render the wireline apparatus
safe from the standpoint of containing well pressure. Typically an open sheave
is mounted above the wireline riser and the wireline being run into or exiting
the well extends about this upper sheave and thence downwardly to a lower sheave
near ground level in route to a wireline winch which is typically mounted on a
wireline service vehicle.
Of late, rather than providing extremely tall wireline risers especially
under conditions where the height of the wireline riser is restricted, it is deemed
desirable to provide a pressure containing sheave which is located at the upper
end of a wireline riser of limited height and to provide a grease seal conduit
extending downwardly from the pressure containing sheave head to thus achieve wireline
containing apparatus of sufficient length for efficient pressure containing capability.
An example of a pressure containing sheave disposed in pressure connection with
a wireline riser and a grease seal conduit is presented by U.S. Patent No. 5,188,173
of Richardson, et al. This type of pressure containing sheave has deficiencies
in that it is restricted form the standpoint of pressure containing capability.
The housing is subject to considerable pressure induced side loading, which, especially
under high pressure conditions can significantly distort the body structure to
the extent that the sheave can become inoperative. It is desirable therefore to
provide a pressure containing sheave mechanism for wireline well servicing apparatus
and for other activities.
As the wireline emerges from a well such as when a well tool is being
raised to the surface the wireline is typically coated with well fluid within which
is entrained contaminates from the well. Even thought he wireline is passed through
grease filled risers and grease wipers a certain amount of the well contaminates
will be present on the wireline as it passes over the upper wireline sheave. While
this is not a particular problem from the standpoint of open wireline sheaves when
wireline sheaves are closed to the sheave bearings so that that the bearings can
become fouled with the well contaminates. Under this condition the bearings will
rather quickly deteriorate to the point that the shave mechanism will need to be
repaired or the sheave will require replacement. It is desirable therefore to provide
a pressure containing sheave mechanism which effectively prevents migration of
well contaminates from the wireline groove of the sheave to the sheave bearings.
Previous devices, such as the cable injecting device of U.S Patent No. 2,677,427
to McKinney et al. discloses an apparatus for inserting a cable through a sealing
element into a high pressure well. In this apparatus, fluid is injected from a
reservoir into housing and exposed to the cable. Virtually all wireline sheaves
incorporate a sheave body structure having a sheave wheel rotatably located therein
and having a large circular closure plate which is typically bolted to the sheave
body and serves as a sealed retainer for the sheave wheel. The large circular seal
for sealing the closure plate to the sheave body defines a very large closure plate
area that is subject to pressure induced side loading. To withstand high pressure
the closure plate must be of considerable thickness to withstand the influence of
pressure on its substantially large pressure responsive area and a large number
of large bolts of considerable length are typically required to secure the closure
plate against the high pressure induced side load. it is desirable therefore to
provide a sheave wheel assembly employing seals which minimize the pressure responsive
area of the sheave chamber closure and thus minimize the side loading to which
the sheave housing is subjected throughout the entire pressure range of the sheave
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is a principal feature of this invention to provide a pressure
containing wireline sheave mechanism which employs internal seals that establish
a substantially pressure balanced condition to minimize pressure induced side loading
of the sheave housing so that the sheave mechanism may be of relatively small dimension
without any sacrifice from the standpoint of pressure containing capability.
It is also a feature of this invention to provide a pressure containing
wireline sheave mechanism having pressure restraining seals which establish substantially
the same pressure responsive differential area on opposite sides of a sheave containing
chamber so that the rotatable sheave and the housing structure defining the sheave
chamber are relatively free of any pressure induced side loading.
It is another feature of the present invention to provide a novel
pressure containing sheave mechanism which is designed to restrict well pressure
to an internal sheave chamber so that the body sections of the sheave mechanism
are substantially subjected only to pressure induced hoop stresses which are safely
restrained by the structural integrity of an outer sheave body.
It is another feature of this invention to provide a novel pressure
containing sheave mechanism incorporating a bearing supported internal sheave and
to provide a grease or lubricant injection capability that prevents migration of
contaminates from the wireline groove of the sheave to the bearings thereof.
It is an even further feature of this invention to provide a novel
pressure containing sheave mechanism having an internal rotatable sheave which
is substantially pressure balanced and therefore is not subjected to excessive
pressure induced forces during its operation.
It is also a feature of this invention to provide a novel pressure
containing sheave mechanism which incorporates a split sheave design, enabling
the sheave wheel to be assembled within an internal sheave recess which is defined
within an integral internal sheave housing structure and which provides a substantially
distortion free chamber for the sheave wheel even under extremely high pressure
It is an even further feature of this invention to provide a novel
pressure containing sheave mechanism which is designed to permit grease injection
directly into the sheave into the grease head attached to the sheave thus shortening
the required length of the grease head that is ordinarily required.
It is an even further feature of this invention to provide a novel
pressure containing sheave mechanism having a body structure defining a cable expansion
groove in registry with the cable groove of the sheave wheel to thereby permit
displacement of the cable from the sheave groove into the cable expansion groove
to permit separation of the body sections while the wireline cable remains in assembly
with the sheave body structure.
It is an even further feature of this invention to provide a high
pressure containing wireline sheave mechanism wherein pressure induced side loading
of sheave housing components is minimized by internal housing seals which have
substantially the same diameter offset or differential area between the seals.
Briefly, the foregoing and other features of this invention are realized
through the provision of a pressure containing sheave mechanism having an outer
body structure defining an internal body opening within which is received a sheave
housing which is secured to the body by means of a threaded connection or by any
other suitable means. The sheave housing defines an internal circular sheave chamber
within which is located a rotatable circular sheave which defines a wireline groove
at its outer periphery for receiving a wireline that passes through the body structure.
The sheave wheel is supported by bearings that are located within the internal
sheave chamber which provide rotatable bearings port for the sheave wheel. The
bearings are directly lubricated by grease which is continuously pumped into the
internal sheave chamber at a location adjacent the bearings so that a positive
flow of grease occurs within the sheave chamber in a direction toward the outer
periphery of the sheave wheel to thus prevent contaminates from the sheave groove
from migrating to and contaminating the bearings. Housing seals are provided which
establish sealing between the sheave body and the sheave housing on each side of
the internal sheave chamber to thereby substantially pressure balance the sheave
chamber and thus prevent the sheave from being subject to pressure induced lateral
side loads. The body seals have substantially the same diameter offset or differential
area between them so that the sheave body structure is substantially free of pressure
induced side loading. This pressure balanced condition also insures that the sheave
body is subjected to pressure induced hoop stresses rather than pressure induced
side loads so that the body can be of rather compact and light weight design without
any sacrifice of standpoint of pressure containing capability.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
So that the manner in which the above recited features, advantages
and objects of the present invention are attained and can be understood in detail,
a more particular description of the invention, briefly summarized above, may be
had by reference to the embodiments thereof which are illustrated in the appended
It is to be noted, however, that the appended drawings illustrate
only typical embodiments of this invention are therefore not to be considered limiting
of its scope, for the invention may admit to other equally effective embodiments.
IN THE DRAWINGS
Fig. 1 is an elevational view of the wireline riser for well servicing
activities which is shown connected to a well head and which is provided with the
pressure containing sheave mechanism of this invention.
Fig. 2 is a side elevational view of the pressure containing sheave
mechanism of this invention having portions thereof broken away and shown in section.
Fig. 3 is a sectional view taken along the line 3-3 of Fig. 2.
Fig. 4 is a fragmentary sectional view of the pressure containing
sheave mechanism of Fig. 3 which is illustrated in greater detail as compared with
Fig. 5 is a fragmentary sectional view of the sheave wheel showing
its sectional construction and pinned assembly.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
Referring now to the drawings and first to Fig. 1, a well head assembly
shown generally at 10 is connected to the upper extremity of a well casing 12 and
incorporates at least one safety valve 14 for the purpose of shutting in the well
as desired. The well head is typically provided with at least one wing valve 16
that controls the flow of production fluid from the well head into a production
line 18 extending to a suitable facility for receiving production fluid.
Under circumstances where wireline operations are to be conducted
within the well a wireline riser assembly shown generally at 20 is connected to
the upper portion of the well head assembly and is utilized to introduce a wireline
tool string or assembly into the well such that it passes through the well head
assembly and into the production tubing that extend downwardly to the production
zone being produced by the well. Under circumstance where the well is being drilled
there. is of course no production tubing and a wireline operated tool such as a
logging tool, perforating gun, etc. is lowered into the well casing or well bore
as the case may be by means of a wireline running tool. A typical wireline tool
assembly such as that shown at 20 will be connected to the well head by means of
a union 24 and will include a wireline blowout preventer 26 having two or more
wireline rams that are capable of closing and achieving a seal about the wireline
28 that extends through the wireline tool assembly. Typically a wireline riser
assembly will incorporate upper and lower lubricators 30 and 32 that are interconnected
by a lubricator union 34. The wireline riser may also incorporate a wireline cutter
and safety mechanism shown at 36 which is coupled to the upper lubricator by a
connector union 38. A coupling 40 is utilized at the upper end of the wireline
cutter 36 to provide for connection of a head catcher 42 which automatically receives
and restrains the upper portion of the wireline tool head as it is moved to its
full extent within the tool riser above the blowout preventer.
According to the principles of the present invention the wireline
riser is provided with a pressure containing sheave mechanism which is internally
pressure balanced to minimize side loading of the sheave body and housing assembly.
A pressure containing wireline sheave mechanism, shown generally at 44 and representing
the preferred embodiment of the invention, is provided at the upper end of the
tool riser and is connected to the head catcher 42 by means of a flow tube connector
46 which is shown in greater detail in Fig. 2. As shown in Fig.s 2 and 3 the pressure
containing wireline sheave mechanism incorporates a sheave body 48 which defines
a circular internal opening 50 with a portion thereof being internally threaded
as shown at 52. A circular sheave housing 54 is designed with an external configuration
corresponding to the internal configuration of the body opening 50 is retained
in immovable assembly with the body by means of an externally threaded section
56 which establishes a threaded connection with internal threaded section 52 of
the body. The upper portion of the body 48 is provided with a connector projection
58 having a transverse bore 60 through which extends the connector pin 62 of a
support shackle 64. The connector pin 62 is threaded into the support shackle 64
so that it will not become inadvertently separated from the support shackle or
from the transverse bore 60. Any suitable support mechanism may be employed for
supporting engagement with the support shackle so as to support the pressure containing
sheave mechanism in operative relation with the wireline riser apparatus.
To provide for traversal of the wireline through the body structure
48 the body defines substantially parallel wireline passages 66 and 68 which are
oriented in substantially tangential relation with a circular inner surface 70
which defines a portion of the body opening 50. The wireline extending through
the passages 66 and 68 also extends through central passages 72 and 74 of flow
tube 46 and a grease tube connector 76 which are each disposed in threaded connection
with the body via threaded connectors 78 and 80 respectively. To insure against
loss of lubricant from the pressure containing sheave mechanism the flow tube connector
46 is provided with upper and lower carbide inserts 82 and 84 which are secured
within respective internally threaded extremities of the flow tube connector by
means of retainer screws 86 and 88. Seals 90 and 92 are retained within seal grooves
at each end of the flow tube connector to establish a high pressure containing seal
with the body structure 48 and with the tool riser assembly of the wireline mechanism.
A coupling 94, shown in Fig. 1, is received in sealed assembly with the grease
seal connector 76 and provides for coupling of grease seal conduits 96 and 98 which
contain grease for maintaining a seal with the wireline 28. The lowermost grease
seal conduit 98 is provided with a coupling 100 to which is connected a cable wiper
assembly 102 for minimizing grease loss as the wireline cable passes through it.
As indicated above, the wireline cable passes about a lower orienting sheave 298
and then extends to a conventional winch, not shown, by which it is paid out or
taken up during wireline servicing operations.
As shown in Fig. 3 and in greater detail in Fig. 4 the sheave housing
54 defines an internal sheave recess or chamber 104 which is defined generally
by parallel radial surfaces 106 and 108 and by an internal generally cylindrical
surface 110. The internal sheave recess or chamber 104 opens radially outwardly
toward the opposed internal surface 70 of the body 48. The internal cylindrical
surface 110 is centrally grooved as shown at 112 to define a circular bearing track
which receives a plurality of spherical bearings 114. Within the internal sheave
recess 104 is rotatably located a circular sheave wheel element 116 having an inner
periphery which defines a circular bearing track or race 118 within which the bearings
114 are received to provide bearing support for the inner periphery of the circular
sheave wheel 116. The outer periphery of the sheave wheel defines a circular wireline
groove 120 which is disposed in registry with the wireline passages 66 and 68 of
the body 48 so that the wireline 28 is received within the wireline groove 120
as the moving wireline induces rotation to the sheave wheel. As shown in Fig. 5
the sheave wheel 116 is of segmented construction enabling its segments 115 and
117 to be installed within the sheave chamber and interconnected by dowel pins.
119 which are received within drilled assembly holes 121.
The sheave wheel defines an inner circular flange 123 and an outer
circular flange 125 which are located on opposite sides of the circular cable groove
120. As is evident from Fig. 4 the inner flange 123 is of less diameter as compared
with the outer flange 125. These differently dimensioned flanges 123 and 125 correspond
with the offset of the cylindrical internal surfaces 70 and 71 which are defined
within the sheave body 48 on respective inner and outer sides of the cable expansion
groove 142. As the sheave housing 54 is separated from the sheave body 48 any wireline
cable strands that might extend toward the expansion groove will not become fouled
between the sheave wheel and body. The less dimentioned inner flange 123 defines
a clearance with the cylindrical internal surface 70 to permit the wireline cable
to move laterally along with the sheave housing and sheave during disassembly from
body 48 without becoming fouled or damaged.
When the tool riser assembly 20 of the wireline service apparatus
is pressurized by well pressure, this pressure is communicated into the internal
sheave recess or cavity 104 via passages 72 of the flow tube connector 46 and passage
66 of the sheave body 48. To enhance the pressure containing and sealing capability
of the sheave assembly it is desirable to inject grease or lubricant into the sheave
cavity 104 both for its sealing capability and for lubricating the spherical bearings
114. It is also desirable to prevent migration of well fluid contaminates from
the external wireline groove 120 of the sheave to the spherical bearings 114 to
thereby insure against contaminate induced accelerated bearing wear. These features
are effectively accomplished by providing a grease fitting 122 having an externally
threaded connector 124 which is received within an internally threaded opening
located at the inner periphery of the sheave housing 54. The grease fitting is
connected via a high pressure conduit 126 to a grease pump P, as shown in Fig.
3, which has its suction in communication with a grease reservoir R and its discharge
in communication with the high pressure conduit 126. Typically the conduit 126
will be a flexible hose capable of withstanding high well pressure for example
in the range of 10,000 psi. The grease supply conduit 126 may also take any other
suitable form without departing from the spirit and scope of this invention. To
prevent migration of contaminates toward sheave bearings it is desirable to provide
a flow of grease within the sheave chamber 110 which is in a direction toward the
wireline groove 120 of the sheave wheel. For this reason the pump P has a discharge
pressure which exceeds well pressure so that during operation of the pressure containing
sheave mechanism a unidirectional flow of grease will occur from the grease fitting
122 through a grease supply passage 128 into the sheave chamber 110 at a location
immediately adjacent the bearing races of the sheave housing and sheave wheel within
which the sheave bearings 114 are located. As the wireline is run through the sheave
mechanism a small quantity of grease will continuously be lost by virtue of its
adherence to the wireline. This grease loss will be continuously replenished by
the flow of grease being injected through the grease supply passage 128 to the
sheave chamber 110. Thus, during the operation of the sheave mechanism a positive
unidirectional flow of grease will occur in a direction toward the wireline groove
of the sheave wheel. The sheave bearings will therefore remain free of contaminates
and will be appropriately lubricated by the grease. The service life of the sheave
mechanism, being protected by continuously replenished lubrication, will therefore
be quite long.
As mentioned above it is a feature of this invention to provide a
pressure containing sheave mechanism which is capable of withstanding high well
pressure such as 10,000 psi for example without necessitating the provision of
a heavy and bulky sheave construction. This feature is attained by providing the
sheave and sheave chamber with a substantially pressure balanced condition to minimize
pressure induced side loading forces and to insure that the body structure of the
sheave mechanism is subjected, for the most part, only to pressure induced hoop
stresses which are readily restrained by the sheave body. Sealing between the sheave
body 48 and the sheave housing 54 is achieved by a pair of circular sealing elements
130 and 132 which are appropriately contained within circular seal grooves 134
and 136 respectively. Sealing elements 130 and 132 confine well pressure acting
within the housing 48 to the internal surface area 70 that is located between the
seals. The seals 130 and 132 establish approximately the same diameter offset or
differential area between the seals. Thus the rotatable sheave is substantially
pressure balanced and is not subject to significant pressure induced side loading.
Surface 70 therefore is subjected to pressure induced force acting radially thereon,
thereby causing the body structure 48 to be subjected to radially outward pressure
induced force or hoop stress which is easily restrained by the body structure.
The hoop surface area defined by the surface 70 is rather small in comparison to
the structural configuration of the body so that the hoop stress is confined to
the central portion of the body structure and is easily contained by the hoop integrity
of the body 48.
To facilitate assembly and disassembly of the sheave housing 54 from
the body 48 the inner periphery of the sheave housing 54 defines a plurality of
tool recesses 138, as shown in Fig. 3, which receive a spanner tool or other suitable
tool for achieving rotation of the sheave housing relative to the body so as to
makeup or unthread the threaded connection 56. To provide a positive stop to prevent
inadvertent unthreading of the housing from the body one or more retainer screws
140 are secured to the housing in such manner that the heads thereof overlie the
circular joint between the body and housing as shown in Fig. 3. It will frequently
be desirable to separate the sheave housing 54 from the body 48 while the wireline
remains threaded through the passages 66 and 68 of the body. To provide for this
feature the body 48 defines a circular cable expansion groove 142 which is disposed
in registry with the external cable recess of the sheave 116. The wireline cable
may then be shifted radially outwardly into the cable expansion groove 142 to provide
clearance for lateral movement of the outer peripheral portions of the sheave housing
and sheave while the wireline cable remains threaded through the passages 66 and
68 of the body.
It may be desirable to provide for introduction of supplementary grease
into the sheave cavity for enhancing the sealing capability of the sheave mechanism
or positively sealing the wireline for more adequate containment of well pressure.
This feature is realized by providing a grease injection passage 144 in the sheave
body 48 which is in communication with the cable expansion groove 142. The passage
144 is adapted to receive sealant grease from an internally threaded passage 146
which is normally closed by a threaded closure plug 148. In absence of well pressure
within the sheave cavity the closure plug 148 may be removed and a grease injection
conduit may be threadedly connected to the body in its place. Typically this grease
injection conduit will be the supply hose of a hand pump type grease gun which
may be employed to manually inject grease into the sheave cavity for enhancing
the pressure containment capability of the sheave mechanism. In the alternative
the closure plug 148 may be replaced by a conventional grease fitting to which
a grease supply hose fitting is connected. Grease can then be injected from a grease
gun into the sheave wheel chamber even under high pressure conditions.
From the foregoing it is apparent that a novel pressure balanced,
high pressure wireline sheave apparatus has been provided which minimizes pressure
induced side loading forces within the sheave mechanism of this invention to thus
ensure proper operation and extensive service life of the sheave even under extremely
high pressure conditions. It is therefore apparent that this invention is one well
adapted to achieve all of the objects and features that have been set forth above.
While the invention has been explained in terms of particularly advantageous embodiments,
it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made
in the structures described herein without departing from the scope of the claims.