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The Uses of Retrievable Bridge Plugs

Well completion and workovers are becoming safer, more efficient, and more cost-effective due to technological advances. New, innovative retrievable bridge plugs (RBP) are lowering operational costs, reducing risk, and maximizing well output.   

With multiple downhole applications, understanding retrievable bridge plugs is vital to unlocking the full potential of reservoirs. 

Retrievable Bridge Plugs: The Basics 

A bridge plug is a specialist downhole tool designed to isolate wellbore at a chosen depth. When set, bridge plugs prevent fluids from a lower zone reaching an upper zone or the surface. Once in place, the upper zone can still undergo workovers such as surface equipment maintenance, well cleanup, stimulation or temporary abandonment of the lower zone.  

Retrievable bridge plugs (RBPs) include mechanisms to release and retract the plug for retrieval from the wellbore after work is carried out. RBPs are usually composed of slips anchoring the plug to the casing, a main inner mandrel, outer housings and a sealing element. 

Applications of Retrievable Bridge Plugs in Well Intervention 

Many situations in the mining, oil and gas, and geothermal industries require a wellbore to be sealed off from the surface after drilling is complete. Some of these applications include well testing, zone isolation, or temporarily shutting in of a well for completion servicing.  

Retrievable bridge plugs are ideal for any of the downhole tasks where a secure, retrievable pressure barrier between different parts of a well is paramount. 

Once set in place, a bridge plug enables operations on a distinct part of the well to be carried out without affecting the other. 

These versatile workhorses can eliminate the need for multiple trips, making them a cost-saving deployment option. 

Zone Isolation: An Example Use 

One application of retrievable bridge plugs is for zone isolation. Say, for example, you want to convert a gas injector well into a producer well. To facilitate the operation, a retrievable bridge plug can isolate the zone, create a gas-tight seal (even in a HPHT environment) to carry out the proper tubing cut. Using rig-less intervention with a retrievable bridge plug can save several rig days, mitigate risk, and reduce workover costs.  

Temporarily Shutting in of a Well for Equipment Repair: Another Application 

Retrievable bridge plugs can also be used to temporarily shut off a well for equipment repair. Imagine this scenario: you notice a pressure integrity failure while producing, and you determine the pressure loss is due to a leak in the production casing between the upper completion packer and the casing hanger.  A retrievable bridge plug can be deployed to isolate the reservoir. Once isolated, the upper completion packer and tailpipe (left in situ) can be cut and retrieved. The production casing integrity can be restored. Additionally, a new downsized completion string can be run. Then, once the necessary equipment repair is completed, the retrievable bridge plug can easily be unset to allow production to recommence. By using a retrievable bridge plug, a well is only temporarily shut down saving several days of rig time. 

Retrievable bridge plugs are also an ideal solution in these situations: 

  • Wellhead repair, maintenance, and replacement 
  • Zonal isolation, water shut off, or treatment 
  • Temporary abandonment operations 
  • Temporary suspension 
  • Pre-installation in completion tailpipe for packer setting 
  • Contingency packer setting
  • Testing of production tubing 
  • Plugging of completions with damaged nipple profiles 
  • Hanging of completing accessories within tubing string 
  • Thru-Tubing completion 
  • Formation fracturing, acidizing, and testing 

Key Features of Northstar’s ODIN™ Retrievable Bridge Plug (RBP)  

When selecting a retrievable bridge plug, the following requirements should be considered: temperature rating, pressure rating, and casing size, grade, and weight. 

Northstar’s ODIN™ Retrievable Bridge Plug (RBP) includes high temperature, high pressure, and high expansion technology to make it the most operationally flexible and capable RBP available. In fact, recent tests by Northstar design engineers showed the StellerTM system can withstand heat up to 400 degrees F, pressure to 20,000psi, and expansion to 6.366” (7” 23ppf equivalent) with no damage to the casing or the RBP components. Validating that Northstar’s ODIN™ Retrievable Bridge Plug (RBP) is the most versatile temporary well isolation technology available. Additionally, one tool can service 6-5/8” 20-32 ppf, 7” 20-46.4 ppf and 7-5/8” 45.3-55.3 ppf in the most hostile HPHT conditions. Safe passage through wellbore restrictions such as ball valves, damaged casings, and perforations is achievable while maintaining the HPHT rating.  

Key Benefits of Northstar’s ODIN™ Retrievable Bridge Plug (RBP): 

  • Passes through most any wellbore restriction: Subsurface Safety Valves (SCSSVs), damaged casing, nipple profiles and casing patches 
  • Expands to provide virtually uninterrupted metal-to-metal contact with the full circumference of the casing 
  • Seals 15,000 psi differential pressure in both directions. 
  • 350 degrees F temperature rating 
  • Requires only one run of slick line, e-line, coiled tubing, or tubing to set.  
  • Easy retrieval with two straight pull motions with minimal force on a standard GS profile ensuring the high-expansion element is physically pulled back to its original OD when released. 
  • Can service a broad range of casing sizes and weights without changing any parts. Highly debris-tolerant due to innovative equalizing/retrieval design. 

Contact Northstar for all Your Annual Isolation Challenges 

Northstar supports over one hundred downhole tools. Our team of in-house professional engineers are continually designing new downhole equipment, and our Downhole Specialists are constantly creating new tool combinations (solutions) for different industry applications. Northstar also has an HPHT Deep Well Simulator capable of re-creating virtually any downhole scenario to validate the design before running in a live well. 

Our areas of expertise are: 

  • Flow Control & Well Isolation: 
  • Tubing Isolation – Ball Valves & Sleeves 
  • Annular Isolation – Packers & Bridge Plugs 
  • Data Harvesting & Tool Control 
  • Data Collection – Sensors & Sampling 
  • Downhole Tool Actuation – Shifting & Setting 

If you have a downhole challenge and haven’t found a satisfying solution, we would love to hear about it! 


Map Oil Tools Hydro-Mechanical Bridge Plug Training Video