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Loose outer armor

The w h y, h ow an d w h at
ByTERRY MOFFATT and TERRY MADDEN Quality Wireline and Cable Inc. _______________________________________ oose outer armor wire can create havoc when it goes unnoticed. It can lead to birdcages, premature cable breaks and drum crush. Figure 1 shows a cable that has very loose outer armor. When running through flow tubes or pack-offs, a loose wire can get milked as shown, and can damage or destroy the cable.

Figure 2 - Inner armor pushing through the outer armor.

Figure 1 - Loose outer armor.

As the outer armor loosens, the inner armor tightens due to the nature of the cable design. Figure 2 shows an example where the outer armor became so loose that the increased torque on the inner armor resulted in the inner armor pushing right through the outer. There are some general operating practices to reduce the chance of the outer armors getting loose, as well as some quick and easy field tests to know when the armor is loose. Following these guidelines and knowing when to take the cable to a qualified service center will increase your cable life. Why does the armor get loose? All cables used in oilfield service operations generate a torque that is directly proportional to the load on the cable. This is inherent in the design of the cable armor package.
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The torque of the outer armors is typically two times the opposing torque of the inner armors because there are generally more wires on the outer, and the distance to the center is larger as shown in Figure 3. When lowered into the well, the tool end of the cable will try to rotate in a direction to unwind the outer armor, which will shift part of the load carried by the outer armor to the inner armor until there is a torque balance in the cable.

tension. The greater the speed, the greater the frictional drag and the more the outer armor will unwind. As the cable is then lowered back into the hole, the tension is reduced and the cable will try to rotate in the opposite direction, to again tighten the outer armor. The faster the tool is lowered the less time there is for the cable to rotate back to a somewhat normal condition. This combination of fast speeds in and out of the hole will ultimately lead to loose outer armor and birdcages being formed. Once a birdcage is formed, the inner armor is carrying the entire load and the cable breaking strength is now that of the inner armor only about 40 percent of the cable-rated breaking strength. Rule of thumb While going in the hole do not allow the tension at any depth to fall below 2/3 of the static tension at that depth. Come out at a speed not greater than the speed that increases the tension by more than 11/3 of static tension at that depth. Other factors In addition to operating speeds, there are other factors that may contribute to the outer armor becoming loose including: Hydraulic pack-offs too tight or using as a line wiper. Flow tubes do not have enough clearance recommend minimum tolerance of 4 to 6 thousands. Using poly cables in wells with too high of a temperature for the plastic sometimes results in excessive embedment of the inner wires into the plastic resulting in loose outer armor.

Figure 3 -The torque of the outer armors is typically two times the opposing torque of the inner armors.

As a cable is pulled out of the hole as illustrated in Figure 4, the cable tension will be increased by the frictional drag on the cable, which is proportional to the speed. The cable will now rotate in a direction to further unwind the outer armor in proportion to this increased

measuring loose armor but field experience shows that if a small screwdriver blade twisted between outer armor wires can easily move the wires during a time of no tension (Figure 7), then it is time to have Figure 4 - As the cable is being pulled out of the hole, the cable armor the tension will increase by the frictional drag on the tightened and set with post-forming. cable, which is proportional to the speed. Photo courtesy of Pure Energy Services There are several telltale signs that a cable is loose Embedded wires including those listed below: Embedment of the wires occurs The cable will not lay straight on when the inner armor groves the the ground (torque in the cable). conductor. The cables are designed Mark the cable with paint to permit this, however, excessive near the wellhead, and watch the embedment results in the inner rotation as the cable moves toward armor getting tighter and the outer the truck. If there is more than one getting looser. This can result rotation under normal operating in the typical loose outer armor tension, then the cable may require problems as well as conductor servicing. When the tension on shorts. Excessive embedment as the cable is released, check the depicted in Figure 5 can result from over heating the conductor, or cold flowing the plastic by a combination of extreme loads and high temperatures. Sometimes you may see a snake skin or plastic layer between the armor layers. This is a result of the conductor plastic squirting through the inner armor as shown in Figure 6. In this picture the outer armor has been removed for visual purposes.

Figure 6 - A snake skin or plastic layer between the armor layers.

looseness with a small screwdriver as discussed above. The top sheave will turn sideways when the tension is slacked off indicating torque in the line. Sour service alloy lines loosen very easily. They should be inspected after every job and taken to a service shop for tightening if required. The cable shown in Figure 8 shows how the torque of the inner armor is causing the cable to appear ropey. This excessive inner armor

Figure 5 - Excessive embedment.

How to tell when the armor is loose? As manufactured, the cable outer armor wires are pre-formed to a diameter less than its diameter on the cable, so even at no cable tension the outer armor wires are tight. There is no precise tool for

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Figure 7 - II a small screwdriver blade twisted between outer armor wires can easily move the wires during a time of no tension, then it is time to have the cable armor tightened and set with post-forming.

Figure 8 - The torque of the inner armor is causing the cable to appear ropey. This excessive inner armor torque is a direct result of loose outer armor.

What to do when the armor is loose? When the armor is loose the cable is at high risk and should be taken to a service center. To tighten the outer armor, the cable service center will set up the cable payoff spool on a rotating platform as depicted in Figure 9. As the cable is slowly pulled off the truck, the degree of looseness of the armor is inspected Figure 9 - To tighten the outer armor, the cable every few feet. As the service center will set up the cable payoff cable is installed back spool on a rotating platform. on the drum, rotations of the payoff spool are increased as needed along the torque is a direct result of loose cable length to tighten the cable. outer armor. In the field this will Different parts of the cable may not be as apparent unless the require more turns than others. If cable does not have any tension. properly monitored, a cable will In this picture the cable is being never need more than 10 turns pulled down and inspected at a per 100 feet at the deepest end. service center. If allowed to lay Cables that have been neglected on the ground, the cable would or used under severe conditions torque up and turn over on itself can require 15-20 or more turns. several times.

Under certain conditions following the tightening process, the cable is passed through a series of off-set rollers to set this new condition. For increased cable life pay attention to the tightness of the outer armor. These few pointers will help prevent unnecessary field disasters and hopefully keep your trucks working.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Terry Moffatt, P.Eng., ME, PET, is president of Quality Wireline and Cable Inc. His experience includes co-founder and president of Wireline Works Inc.; and president and founder of PROMORE Engineering Inc. He has 20 years experience in the design and installation of permanent monitoring systems using wireline, and in the manufacture of electromechanical wireline. Terry Madden is the U.S. sales manager of Quality Wireline and Cable Inc. His experience includes 28 years at Maddens Cable Service Inc. where he managed a service center and installed and troubleshot wireline. He also spent 2 years in technical sales at Wireline Works Inc. His expertise is troubleshooting wireline cable field problems.

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