Swellable packers now are being used in a great number of drilling and completion applications, some of which require faster swelling times. Packers that swell faster allow wells to be stimulated sooner and production to come online more quickly.

In the oil and natural gas industry, the role of a packer is to provide a seal between the outside of the production tubing and the inside of the casing, liner or wellbore wall.

The graphic at right shows a mechanical packer making a seal between the production tubing (blue-grey) and production casing (blue). Packers are run into the well on wireline, pipe or coiled tubing.

Packers are used to isolate zones during practices such as multi-stage fracturing and to ensure the integrity of the well. Using packers improves production and reduces risk.

Swellable packers are proof that innovation, science and technology intersect in the oilpatch.

Packers are proven oilpatch products that have been used for decades. Even so, technology is a mainstay of the oilpatch and there’s always a newer, more effective product being introduced. Case in point: swellable packers.

Swellable packers are specifically engineered packers that swell upon contact with wellbore fluid. Actually, swellable packer technology has been around for about a dozen years so it’s no longer considered new, but in the last two years, there have been tremendous advancements in the technology and how it can be used.

Swellable packers are made from a variety of elastomers (each company has its own proprietary “recipes”) that expand in contact with the oil-based fluids, fresh water or saline water found deep underground.

Here’s how and where swellable packers work: Horizontal wells target sections of high permeability, which tend to produce high oil rates initially, followed by an increase in water production as the oil reserves are recovered.

Swellable packers are run on each side of the high permeability section. When water begins to creep into the wellbore, the packers inflate to seal off the water flow and allow the oil to continue up the wellbore. Swellable packers are another great example of how innovation, science and technology intersect in the oil and natural gas industry.

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