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Ballistic Release Tool

One of the cutting-edge tools Integrity Wireline employs for its partners in the field is what’s known as a Ballistic Release Tool (BRT).

Integrity CEO Kelly Connally: “A ballistic release tool is a tool that you put on your tool string. But you might never have to use it,” says Kelly Connally, CEO of Integrity Wireline. “You don’t want to use it. But if you have to use it, you’re going to be ahead. Because you will have saved the operator time and money. It’s a tool that, if you get stuck downhole, allows you to cleanly release from the tool string. And so you can bring all your wireline out of the hole. There’s no line left in the hole.

“And so you reattach to the tool string with coil tubing. [Coil tubing is stronger than wireline and will pull the tool string out of its stuck condition.] Connecting with the coil tubing can be done with precision and predictability. That’s because of the prior usage of the ballistic release tool. This efficiency saves everyone time and money.”

Ballistic Release Tool: Part of the Integrity Arsenal

The accompanying photo shows a “cutaway” view of a Ballistic Release Tool. It reveals some of the inner components. (Cutaway models are made using bandsaws. The wiring you see here was inserted after the cuts were made.) The ballistic release tool is an important part of Integrity Wireline’s arsenal of downhole tools. The term “ballistic” denotes the fact that the tool is something that can be detonated. With the BRT installed in a tool string, we can remotely detach (at will) from a wireline run. That sometimes is necessary if the tool string, or gun string, becomes stuck.

Subsequent recovery of the stuck tool string is then easier and quicker than if the BRT had not been employed. We quote Integrity Director of Operations Matt Hargiss: “When you get stuck downhole you can release that string. And, when you do, you know exactly what’s down there. So when they bring in the coiled tubing to go back down there and ‘fish’ it out, they know what they’re latching onto. No mystery.

“If you don’t have a BRT installed in the gun string, then it’s different. Then, if [to free the wireline] you have to ‘pull out a rope socket,’ [snap free to come out of the hole] there’s always some chance that the wireline parts [snaps]. It could part above the gun string and leave 50 or even 500 feet of line in the hole. That would be line that is attached to the [top of] the stuck gun string.” Having that loose wireline in the hole can greatly complicate the task of retrieving a gun string. So, Integrity’s BRT saves expense but also can greatly save time, which is always of the essence on a frac job.

Cutaway view of BRT: ballistic release tool
This “cutaway” view of a Ballistic Release Tool shows some of the inner components. With the BRT installed in a tool string, the crew can remotely detach (at will) from a wireline run. That can be important when a tool string gets stuck downhole. Because of the clean break that comes with use of the tool, subsequent recovery of the stuck tool string is easier and quicker than if the BRT had not been employed.

Don’t “Part Wire.” Just Disengage.

Matt Hargett, Integrity Wireline
Matt Hargett, Director of Operations

Said Hargett: “Anytime you have to ‘pull out a rope socket,’ it’s also wear and tear on your wireline. If you pull that much stretch on it… sometimes you have to put as much as 8,000 pounds of pull on it to pull it up, and doing that, you can lose a lot of wireline. We can only pull so much with our wire because of the tensile strength of the wire.

“At 10,000 pounds you’re going to part wire. It’s going to break somewhere, at some weakest point in the wireline. It’s either going to pull out of that rope socket or, if the line’s weak anywhere above the tool string, you might part line 50 feet above that point, or even 500 feet above that point. And if you do, you’ve got that wireline in the hole, and in your way, when you try to go back down and reconnect.” The Ballistic Release Tool, then, does away with all complications and the time factors associated with them.

“If you run a BRT, you’re guaranteed to release at that one section—at the cable head. So [even though ‘it’s dark down there,’ as some say], you know exactly what is ‘looking up’ at you. So the coil tubing company and the operator can be informed exactly what’s down there and exactly what type of ‘overshot’ is needed to go down there and grab onto that stuck tool.”

Ballistic Release Tool Are Designed to Avoid Downtime

Diagram of ballistic release tool
Another view (from a spec sheet) of a Ballistic Release Tool.

The head that’s left behind after the BRT has separated is grabbable. The system was designed to expose a grabbable head. It has a lip and the overshot slides over that lip and grabs it.

Without the BRT doing its job, there’s a chance there is wireline left in the hole, and if so the coil tubing crew must make not one trip but at least two trips down to remedy things. First, they must go down with what’s called a ‘grapple,’ so as to fish out the broken-off wireline. Only then can they go down with the overshot tool to tie onto the stuck tool string. And, as Hargett reminds, “Coil tubing is not cheap.”

Hargett adds, “We can be talking 18,000 feet down. But if you released the stuck tool using a Ballistic Release Tool, you know what’s waiting for you down there. So, with this tool, you’re helping operators a lot. You’re freeing their minds.”

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