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Home > Tubing > Tubing Handling and Running Guidelines

Tubing Handling and Running Guidelines

NOTE: The information in this section is taken from API RP 5C1,"Recommended Practice for Care and Use of Casing and Tubing", Seventeenth Edition, November, 1994. It is intended to provide an overview of the field handling and assembly of tubing products. Other information may be required, and the user is advised to obtain and review a copy of RP 5C1.

The information is directed primarily at API connections, though some is applicable to Specialty connection products. In any event, if the tubing is equipped with Specialty connections, refer to the manufacturer's Recommended Practice for handling and running.


  • Ensure that the pipe racks are level and properly positioned to allow transfer of tubing from the rack to the catwalk.
  • Ensure that thread protectors are in place on all connections before unloading tubing.
  • Avoid rough handling of tubing which might dent, bend, or damage in any fashion the pipe body or connections. Mechanical damage of the pipe is injurious, and can result in failure of the tubing in service. Particular care must be taken when handling tubing with an internal plastic coating.
  • Do not unload tubing by dropping joints onto the racks or by allowing pipe to tumble from the transport. Maintain control of the tubing at all times by handling a small number of joints.
  • Do not place hooks in the ends of the tubing. Joints should be slung from spreaders, evenly spaced along the joint.
  • When rolling tubing on the racks, do not allow joints to strike each other.
  • Always leave thread protectors in place when the tubing is being moved.
  • Tubing should be placed on level tumble racks or clean metal or wooden surfaces, free of any debris.


  • All tubing and accessory equipment should be visually inspected before it is run in the hole. Where possible, the function of accessory pieces should be confirmed before assembly.
  • Any joints or accessories with obvious body or connection damage should be laid aside and not run. Any accessories which are questionable should not be used.
  • The basic running order of the tubing and accessories should be determined early, and the make/model/type of accessories verified.
  • The size and condition of all related handling equipment should be checked thoroughly. Particularly, slips or tubing spiders, back-up tongs, elevators, and power tongs.


  • While the use of slip-type elevators is preferred for any length of tubing string, their use is strongly recommended for long or heavy strings, and for Special Clearance and Specialty Connection equipped tubing.
  • Check the elevator body, latch mechanism, links, and dies and setting plate if slip-type elevators are used. The elevators must close completely, and the latch engage properly for safety.
  • If slips are used, ensure the dies are clean and sharp, and all of the same size. Do not mix old or resharpened dies with new dies in either the slips of the elevators.
  • If a tubing spider is used, ensure it does not crimp the tubing when closed, and also that it releases completely to avoid gouging the tubing when lowering.
  • Slips and elevators should be cleaned frequently during use to reduce the risk of slippage, and to ensure their correct function.
  • The condition of the slip bushing must also be checked to ensure that the slips will fit properly and engage the tubing evenly.
    NOTE: Slip and tong marks are injurious, and can result in failure of the tubing in service. Properly fitting and well maintained equipment can greatly reduce the risk of damaging the tubing.
  • Check that the blocks are centered over the rotary table. If not, make the crew aware that the misalignment can result in difficulty when stabbing and spinning up connections.
  • Check the rig-in of the power tongs, making sure that the tong back-up line is at right angles to the tongs, the tongs are level, are free to move and are at the correct height above the floor.
  • Check the size and rating of the power tongs. The nominal size of the tongs should not be more than one size larger than the tubing being run (i.e. do not use 7" tongs to run 3-1/2" tubing) and the tongs must be able to readily attain the expected maximum torque.
  • Ensure that the power tongs are equipped with an accurate and reliable torque gauge - either electronic or hydraulic, possibly equipped with a pressure activated dump valve.
  • Check the size and condition of the back-up tongs. They must be sized properly, have clean and sharp die segments, and be in good repair to avoid damaging the tubing. The use of pipe wrenches as back-ups is not permissible under any circumstance. Check that the back-up tongs are level and do not interfere with the suspension or operation of the power tongs.


  • Remove pin and box protectors from tubing and accessory pieces, and thoroughly clean the connections, removing all previously applied thread or storage compound.
  • Inspect all connections, particularly noting any mechanical damage to the threads. While minor corrosion damage is of little concern, mechanical damage of the threads can lead to failures in service. If a connection is damaged or questionable, it should be laid aside.
  • When inspecting box connections, check to see that the couplings are made up power tight. On pup joints and accessories, the couplings may be only spun on by hand, and may not have thread compound applied to the connection surfaces. On round thread connections, there should be no pin threads extending beyond the coupling face.
  • All tubing joints and accessory pieces should be drifted full-length with a standard API drift mandrel, from the box end to the pin end. While it is preferable to drift the tubing on the racks, a rabbit may be used instead as the tubing is pulled up through the V-door.
  • With the thread protectors removed and the connections cleaned, tally the tubing by measuring from the face of the coupling to the point on the pin connection where the coupling stops when the connection is assembled power tight. The distance from the pin nose to this point is referred to as the "make-up loss". Alternately, the total length of the joint can be measured, and the make-up loss subtracted from the overall length. Tallies should be made to the nearest 0.01m.
  • The cleaning, inspection and tallying operations are repeated as each tier of tubing is uncovered.
  • Before the tubing is moved to the catwalk, clean thread compound should be applied, and thread protectors must be replaced. Unless specified otherwise, API 5A2 type thread compounds should be used. Fresh compound should be used, the applicator brush must be clean and free of any debris, compound must be mixed well and never thinned.
  • Note that certain service applications (heavy oil thermal or extremely high pressure) may require use of a different compound. In no event are rotary shoulder (drill pipe or drill collar) compounds to be used.
  • When moving pipe from the racks to the catwalk, ensure that joints are not dropped or allowed to hit against other tubing or rig equipment. Tubing should be pulled up to the V-door with a choker, and then elevators used to pull the tubing joint into the derrick. Thread protectors must be in place on both pin and box connections any time the pipe or accessories are moved.
  • If it is impractical to replace all thread protectors, several only can be cleaned and used repeatedly, being installed on the pipe rack and removed from the tubing when hung in the derrick.
  • If a mixed string is to be run (more than one grade and/or weight), ensure that sufficient pipe of the required type is available, and that it is laid out on the racks so that it will be accessible when called for in the program.


  • Once the tubing has been pulled into the derrick, the pin end thread protector can be removed, thread compound applied (if required) and the joint stabbed.
  • In stabbing the joint, lower the tubing slowly to avoid connection damage, and ensure that the connection is aligned before starting rotation. A man on the stabbing board can be of great assistance, particularly if any misalignment of the blocks over the rotary exists.
  • Care should be taken when running tubing in stands of doubles or triples as the pipe may bow when the connections are stabbed, resulting in misalignment.
  • If the tubing does not stab correctly or jams, the pin should be picked up from the box, both connections cleaned, inspected, and repaired (remove any filings or wickers), thread compound re-applied, and the connection re-stabbed.
  • Once the joint is stabbed, make-up can proceed, with the connection being spun up slowly initially, ensuring that the connection is not cross-threaded or jammed.
  • API Round thread connections are assembled to position; the assembly torque values provided are representative of the torque range required to attain the power-tight position based on nominal conditions, and must be used only as a guide.Torque must relate to the make-up position, and as a result, the torques used in the field for a given connection can vary from those listed.
  • A suggested procedure for tubing make-up is as follows:
    1. As the nominal power tight position for Round thread tubing connections is two turns past the hand tight position, it is advisable to assemble a number of connections (at least ten) from each particular manufacturer or mill lot on location to establish the torque required to attain this position.The torque required to attain this position may or may not be Optimum as listed in API RP5C1, and the torque must be within the Minimum/Maximum range.
    2. During the initial spin up of the connections, watch for any irregularities in the assembly (torque spikes, heat, etc.) as these may indicate dirty connections, damaged threads, cross threading, etc., which can compromise the connection's integrity. If the initial spin up is erratic, the assembly should be stopped, and the connection broken out, cleaned, and inspected. If no damage is obvious, the assembly can be repeated, but if the initial spin up is again erratic, the connection is suspect and should not be run.To reduce the risk of galling assembly speeds should be kept below 25 RPM.
    3. As the assembly progresses, watch the position of the pin member last scratch relative to the coupling face, and monitor the torque.
    4. The Optimum torque value suggested should provide for a complete make-up to the power tight position under nominal conditions.
    5. If the pin thread last scratch is buried beyond the coupling face and Minimum torque has not been attained, the connection is suspect and should not be run. Conversely, if at Maximum torque the pin thread last scratch is not within two turns of the coupling face, the connection is suspect and should not be run.
    6. If at Optimum torque several threads are still showing, the torque should be increased, up to Maximum, to see if the power tight position can be attained.
    7. Once the ten or more connections are thus assembled a representative Optimum torque for that particular lot can be determined, and the balance of the connections run using this Optimum value.
    8. Suspect connections should be broken out and laid down, and not rerun unless inspected and repaired. The mating box connection should be cleaned and inspected for damage after break-out.
  • Note that when assembling the field connection, it is possible that the mill end of the connection will make up slightly. This does not suggest that the mill end is too loose, but rather that the field end torque applied is more than was used to assemble the mill end.
  • Tubing must be lowered carefully, first to avoid shock loads to the tubing string, but also to prevent pressure surges which may damage downhole formations.The slips must not be set until all downward motion of the tubing string has stopped. Great care should be exercised to ensure that the string does not spud the bottom of the hole or any downhole equipment - the compressive loads can cause the string to buckle and/or connections to loosen with the subsequent risk of failure in service.
  • Note that often there is a predetermined running order for tubing and related accessories - due to design criteria or downhole conditions. It is vital that this order be followed, and in the event that a specific joint of tubing cannot be identified with respect to its weight or grade, the joint should not be run.


  • Some of the more common causes of problems encountered when running tubing are:
    1. Inadequate inspection of tubing or connections prior to running.
    2. Improper transportation, storage, and handling practices.
    3. Ignorance of Recommended Practices for handling and running of tubing.
    4. Improper manufacture of accessory or repair facility produced connections.
    5. Use of improperly manufactured couplings for replacement parts or additions.
    6. Excessive spin up speeds for initial assembly.
    7. Excessive or inadequate assembly torques applied.
    8. Use of improper thread compound.
    9. Use of poorly maintained equipment (slips, elevators, power tongs, etc.).

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