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The High Cost and Impact of a Stuck Tubing Anchor Catcher in an Oil Well

Shawn Dickerson | September 11, 2023

Oil drilling is a complex and costly process, with numerous challenges and risks involved. One of the potential problems that can occur during drilling operations is getting a tubing anchor catcher (TAC) stuck in an oil well. This seemingly small issue can have significant financial, environmental and operational consequences. This article will delve into the cost and impact of getting a standard TAC stuck in an oil well.

A workover rig must be used to remove a stuck tubing anchor catcher

Understanding Tubing Anchor Catchers

Before we explore the cost and impact, it’s essential to understand what a tubing anchor catcher is and its role in oil well operations. A tubing anchor catcher, or TAC, anchors and centralizes tubing strings within the wellbore. It prevents the tubing from moving during production or injection operations, ensuring the efficient flow of fluids in and out of the well, as well as increased longevity for the pump and other downhole equipment.

The Cost of a Stuck Tubing Anchor Catcher

A stuck TAC can create costly operational challenges for production companies, including:

  1. Delayed Production: When a tubing anchor catcher becomes stuck in an oil well, it can cause significant delays in production. Operators may need to shut down the well temporarily while making efforts to retrieve or release the stuck equipment. These delays result in lost revenue for the oil company and can add up quickly.
  2. Equipment and Labor Costs: Efforts to retrieve a stuck tubing anchor catcher often require specialized equipment and skilled personnel. Companies may need to rent or purchase expensive tools like fishing tools, slickline units, or even coiled tubing units to perform the necessary operations. Additionally, skilled technicians and engineers must be on-site to oversee and execute the recovery efforts. The cost of this equipment and labor can be substantial.
  3. Increased Operational Expenses: The longer a well is out of commission due to a stuck tubing anchor catcher, the higher the operational expenses become. Ongoing costs include maintaining the drilling site, paying salaries, and renting equipment. These expenses can quickly eat into the profitability of the project.
  4. Environmental Impact: Beyond the financial costs, a stuck tubing anchor catcher can have a detrimental environmental impact. Operators must carefully handle the recovery process or it can lead to leaks, spills, or other environmental hazards. These incidents can result in fines, regulatory penalties, and damage to a company’s reputation.

The Impact on Well Integrity

In addition to operational and environmental challenges, a stuck TAC can also permanently damage the wellbore and even create unsafe conditions for works. These impacts include:

  1. Wellbore Damage: Attempting to retrieve a stuck tubing anchor catcher can cause damage to the wellbore itself. The use of heavy equipment and aggressive techniques can lead to erosion or deformation of the wellbore, compromising its structural integrity. This damage may require costly repairs and further delay production.
  2. Safety Concerns: The safety of workers and the surrounding environment is paramount in the oil and gas industry. Stuck equipment can create safety hazards for those involved in the recovery efforts. Accidents or mishandling of equipment can lead to injuries or even fatalities, resulting in additional costs and tragic consequences.
  3. Long-Term Consequences: A stuck tubing anchor catcher can also have long-term consequences for the well’s performance. Damage to the wellbore or surrounding formations can lead to reduced production rates or increased operational challenges. Over time, this can result in decreased profitability for the well.

Preventing and Mitigating a Stuck TAC

While maintenance and training are always important in avoiding downhole equipment failures, the choice of TAC matters too. A standard TAC – with its large diameter and flat edges – creates an ideal spot for sediment and scale to build up. Stuck anchors are relatively common in this scenario. In contrast, the patented Slimline® TAC from TechTAC® features a smaller diameter and tapered flow subs on the top and bottom of the tool. This design reduces turbulent flow and directs solids out and around the anchor instead of accumulating on top of it. This increased flow-by capacity significantly reduces the chance of the TAC getting stuck in a well.

Slimline TAC from TechTAC

In the unlikely event that a Slimline® TAC does get stuck in a well, the anchor’s unique design allows it to be cutover in as little as 20 minutes – far less time than a standard TAC. Due to the smaller diameter, only the slip protectors and slips need to be cut over.


In oil production, seemingly minor issues like a stuck TAC can have far-reaching and costly consequences. The financial, environmental, and operational impact of such incidents underscores the importance of proactive measures and preparedness in the oil and gas industry. By prioritizing training and preventive maintenance – as well as considering the unique design advantages of TechTAC’s Slimline® TAC – companies can minimize the risks associated with stuck tubing anchor catchers and ensure the continued success of their drilling operations.