At the 2024 Daniel Energy Partners Thrive Conference in Houston, service companies and operators recognized that operational efficiency is critical for achieving their goals. Completions in the US have benefitted from significant improvements in efficiency over the past few years, with most frac jobs doubling the number of stages per day pumped. Each product and service must be built/performed with high quality to achieve this feat. The frac plug is the foundation of each stage and must perform quite the task:

  • Pump down at high rates.
  • Hold up to 200,000 lbs during the frac.
  • Drill up (or dissolve) easily.
  • Repeat with the next stage.

A manufactured product, like the Boss Hog Frac Plug, is only as good as the shop, processes, equipment, people, and procedures that build it. Understanding your supplier’s capabilities for delivering products to meet the frac operation’s high volume and repetitive nature is critical. The 100,000 sq. ft. WellBoss production facility, equipment, processes, and staff deliver the product thousands of times per month. Every process step verifies that the component/product meets the engineering drawings.

Vertical Integration

Most oilfield tools are made of metal. The manufacturer develops specifications for the metal requirements, including size, strength, etc. A metal supplier will verify that their material meets the specifications and then deliver it. Over time, these specifications have become standard and readily available for manufacturers. Composites are much newer to the downhole products world, and a supply chain hasn’t fully formed to provide easily accessible composite material.

To meet our customers’ needs, WellBoss has vertically integrated its supply chain by winding its composite, heat-treating metal components, machining its parts, etc. The goal is to deliver the highest-quality product.

Composite Winding

Composite is named so because it is a combination of two materials. Composite mainly refers to a combination of resin and fiber. The resin is a recipe of chemicals appropriately mixed before starting the wind. We check the quality of the mixture before every wind operation. WellBoss combines glass fiber and resin using a process called filament winding. In this process, glass fibers are coated in a resin system and wound around a winding mandrel. The winding process uses the winding mandrel’s rotation and back-and-forth trolly movement to control the angle at which the coated glass lays on the part. Changing the combination of the mandrel and trolly speed controls the angle at which the fibers lay on the mandrel. The wind angle controls the direction of the composite’s strength; for instance, a tight wind will provide higher burst/collapse strength but lower tensile strength. This pattern is changed based on the forces the ultimate component will experience. A cone on the plug sees high collapse forces, so the wind angle will be smaller, while the plug mandrel has a higher angle due to the required high tensile strength.

WellBoss uses proprietary equipment with custom winding programs to build the optimal billet for each part. We understand the challenges the frac plug faces during a frac and have built the product’s manufacturing around increasing reliability at each stage. The filament winding process is highly repeatable for large volumes of composites, which raises the quality and ability to deliver our frac plugs. Once wound, the billet receives a serial number. Our components and assemblies will be fully traceable back to this serial number.

Filament winding composites is a highly repeatable process designed to ensure quality in high volumes

Composite Curing

After winding, the composite must experience high temperatures to cure the resin fully. This process is critical to the composite’s quality and performance. Composites are susceptible to fast temperature swings, so the cure cycle must heat up slowly, hold temperature, and cool down slowly depending on the billet’s resin system, thickness, and overall dimensions. We have built customer ovens to uniformly cure our billets reliably. At WellBoss, the entire cure cycle recording ties to the billet’s serial number serial number.

WellBoss Proprietary oven technology ensures consistent curing for all the billets.

Cutting

After curing, the billets move to the sawing station to cut the near-net lengths of the components they’ll eventually become. During this operation, we cut two slices of the billet for composite testing. We store the cut pieces in bins labeled with the billet’s serial number. Storing most of our inventory in this cut phase allows us to rapidly shift our production based on the mix of customer orders. Rather than storing finished goods, keeping inventory in this phase will enable us to respond to changes in the market, decreasing lead times.

Composite Quality

Our composite shop is physically separate from the rest of the production process. After the composite quality process verifies the material, it is allowed to move into the machining phase. The composite testing includes glass transition temperature (Tg) and the glass-to-resin ratio.

Glass Transition Temperature (Tg)

This test determines the temperature at which the composite softens or transitions from a solid to a liquid. It verifies the resin mixture is correct and will perform according to the specification.

Glass-To-Resin Ratio

For this test, a small piece of composite with a known weight burns to remove the resin, leaving only the glass. The weight of the remaining glass allows us to calculate the ratio of resin and glass in the sample. Determining this ratio verifies that the winding process met the specifications. If the resin ratio is too high, it is likely due to a drop in the tension during winding. If the glass ratio is too high, the tension during winding is likely too high.

Precision instruments test the quality of our composite production

Machining

Machining a composite is not the same as machining metal. Setup, speeds, and tooling are all different to achieve the tolerances and surface finishes needed for the plug to perform. With over ten years of experience, our machine shop has it down to a science. While the quality department verifies that a part meets the spec, the quality is put into the part during machining. Achieving success is about repeatably delivering the same part every time. WellBoss has implemented robotics in our machining centers to increase this repeatability. The robots also allow operators to focus more on quality checks as the parts come off the machines before heading to the QC department.

Robotic automation increases quality

Inspection

When the components are complete, the QC department checks them to ensure they meet the specifications. While all components receive extensive checks, the most critical component is the plug mandrel. The Boss Hog plugs are set using a shear thread built into the composite, making it the most vital element.

ISO9001 certified quality processes are designed to ensure the highest possible reliability

Assembly

All parts are barcoded with the original billet serial number, which the assembler scans as each component during assembly. The final assembly receives a serial number to which all individual component serial numbers are tied, enabling full traceability of the plug from manufacturing the composite material through assembly. Each delivery relates to the serial numbers of the tools, so we know where each plug is run.

WellBoss

With over a decade of operation and nearly 850,000 plugs run, WellBoss has built our manufacturing plant to deliver thousands of plugs on spec every month. The level of quality from the material to the final assembly is second to none in the industry. The result is the highest reliability frac plugs on the market today. Our manufacturing processes, paired with differentiated technology like the Frac Shuttle make WellBoss the preferred partner for frac plug products to the most prominent operators around the world.

Let’s Get to Work.

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