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What Is a Casing Cutter?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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A casing cutter is a tool used to cut away a section of a pipe or casing within a well. These tools may be used to cut or remove pipes from water, gas, or oil wells. Well casing pipes are designed to encapsulate drilling and pumping mechanisms, and to support the soil around the well to keep it from caving in. They are placed in the well during the drilling process and remain there as materials are pumped out of the well over time. A casing cutter allows workers to cut away this pipe when the well has reached the end of its useful life.

The standard casing cutter consists of a heavy-duty tube made from tungsten and steel alloys. It features internal cutting blades that remain concealed within the tube until the cutter is activated. Workers use ropes or cables to lower the casing cutter to the correct elevation within the well. Once in place, the blades can be released to cut the casing.

Different types of cutter models operate using a variety of cutting principles. Some feature circular blades that extend perpendicular to the walls of the tube. Others feature blades positioned on wings, or flaps, which open out from the sides of the tube at an angle. Each of these systems may operate using hydraulic or pneumatic power, which allows the casing cutter to generate the force needed to cut through a steel or iron casing.

These tools cut the pipe from the inside out, and many rotate within the casing to ensure a complete cut. After the cut has been complete, workers retract the blades on the casing cutter and lift it out of the well. They then remove the portion of the casing that was cut away during this process.

A casing cutter serves as one of the easiest and most effective methods of removing existing well casings. Over time, these pipes can become clogged or corroded. The casing cutter allows workers to remove the pipe and reinsert a new sleeve if the well is still operating. They also allow companies to safely abandon wells by removing as much of the casing and surrounding mechanisms as possible.

When choosing a casing cutter, workers must select the largest cutter capable of fitting within the casing. This helps ensure the blades will cut all the way through the pipe. It's also critical to only extend the cutting blades and rotate the cutter far enough to cut through the pipe. Continuing to extend the blades, or over-cutting, can damage the casing cutter and may even cause it to become lodged in the well.

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