Wellheads can be Dry or Subsea completion. Dry Completion means that the well is onshore on the topside structure on an offshore installation. Subsea wellheads are located under water on a special sea bed template. The wellhead consists of the pieces of equipment mounted at the opening of the well to regulate and monitor the extraction of hydrocarbons from the underground formation. It also prevents leaking of oil or natural gas out of the well, and prevents blowouts due to high pressure formations. Formations that are under high pressure typically require wellheads that can withstand a great deal of upward pressure from the escaping gases and liquids. These wellheads must be able to withstand pressures of up to 140 MPa (1400 Bar). The wellhead consists of three components: the casing head, the tubing head, and the ‘Christmas tree’ Photo: Vetco international A typical Christmas tree composed of a master gate valve, a pressure gauge, a wing valve, a swab valve and a choke is shown here. The Christmas tree may also have a number of check valves. The functions of these devices are explained in the following paragraphs. Ill: Vetco international At the bottom we find the

Casing Head and casing Hangers. The casing will be screwed, bolted or welded to the hanger. Several valves and plugs will normally be fitted to give access to the casing. This will permit the casing to be opened, closed, bled down, and, in some cases, allow the flowing well to be produced through the casing as well as the tubing. The valve can be used to determine leaks in casing, tubing or the packer, and will also be used for lift gas injection into the casing.

The tubing hanger (also called donut) is used to position the tubing correctly in the well. Sealing also allows Christmas tree removal with pressure in the casing.

Master gate valve. The master gate valve is a high quality valve. It will provide full opening, which means that it opens to the same inside diameter as the tubing so that specialized tools may be run through it. It must be capable of holding the full pressure of the well safely for all anticipated purposes. This valve is usually left fully open and is not used to control flow.

The pressure gauge. The minimum instrumentation is a pressure gauge placed above the master gate valve before the wing valve. In addition other instruments such as temperature will normally be fitted.

The wing valve. The wing valve can be a gate valve, or ball valve. When shutting in the well, the wing gate or valve is normally used so that the tubing pressure can be easily read.

The swab valve. The swab valve is used to gain access to the well for wireline operations, intervention and other work over procedures (see below), on top of it is a tree adapter and cap that will mate with various equipment.

The variable flow choke valve. The variable flow choke valve is typically a large needle valve. Its calibrated opening is adjustable in 1/64 inch increments (called beans). High-quality steel is used in order to withstand the high-speed flow of abrasive materials that pass through the choke, usually for many years, with little damage except to the dart or seat. If a variable choke is not required, a less expensive positive choke is normally installed on smaller wells. This has a built in restriction that limits flow when the wing valve is fully open. This is a vertical tree. Christmas trees can also be horizontal, where the master, wing and choke is on a horizontal axis. This reduces the height and may allow easier intervention. Horizontal trees are especially used on subsea wells.

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