ITF seeks proposals to drive down costs of plugging and abandoning N. Sea oil wells

Dr Patrick O’ Brien, CEO of ITF
Dr Patrick O’ Brien, CEO, ITF

The Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF) has launched a call for proposals for new technology solutions to deliver cost efficiencies in through-tubing, logging, plugging, and abandonment operations.

Organisations that are developing new technologies that specifically address the quality of cement bond through-tubing have the opportunity to lead their own joint industry project (JIP) with funding provided by the ITF members who participate in their project.

In addition, the developer gets industry profile for its product; they can showcase the capability of their technology to their future potential clients through the JIP, and get technical guidance from ITF’s membership of global oil and gas operators and service companies, to develop their technology to best meet industry needs.

When a well is abandoned or plugged, permanent barriers are put in place to ensure that all zones with a flow potential are isolated from each other and from the surface or the seabed. The primary method is to use cement to form plugs which are placed in the necessary seals. This requires the verification of the integrity of cement placed during well construction to ensure hydraulic isolation once a barrier is placed.

Removal of the production tubing is often necessary prior to this logging operation as tools do not exist that can image through the tubing. This usually requires the use of a rig to remove the Xmas tree, place pressure control equipment and pull the production tubing before logging – an operation that can cost £250,000 per day.

Dr Patrick O’Brien, CEO, ITF, said: “In wells where historical well construction data is poor and cement integrity unknown, a common approach is to pull the production tubing to determine whether a good cement barrier exists behind the casing.

“Each well may require three plugs, which could mean in excess of £750,000 of rig time for each operation. If we can find a technology to determine the quality of the cement through-tubing and verify the potential leak paths to the surface, it could significantly reduce those costs.”

It is estimated there are over 900 wells to be abandoned in the UKCS alone over the next 10 years. Through-tubing logging of cement integrity was one of the areas identified as a priority during a well abandonment workshop earlier this year. A roadmap is being developed that will highlight specific technology challenges to be tackled by the industry.

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