This paper studies tubular buckling in curved wellbores (such as the build section of horizontal wells) and its effect on tubular “lockup” in horizontal or extended-reach wells. New buckling load equations are derived to properly predict tubular sinusoidal and helical buckling in such wellbores. The results show that the buckling loads to initiate sinusoidal and helical buckling of tubulars in curved wellbores are usually much larger than those in straight wellbores. This is because the curved wellbore tends to hold the axially compressed tubular against the outer-curve side of the wellbore. The tubular becomes less easy to buckle until higher axial compressive loads are applied. Less tubular lockup risk is then predicted for tubulars in horizontal or extended-reach wells by using the new buckling load equations. The new buckling loads in curved wellbores agree with those in straight wellbores when wellbore curvature approaches zero. Small-scale laboratory experiments also confirmed these theoretically derived buckling loads.

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