Oil and Gas Technology Centre invests £1.3m in new Scots pilot projects that could cut N. Sea decommissioning costs by 50%

Illustration of BiSN Wel-Lok decommissioning system
Illustration of BiSN Wel-Lok decommissioning system

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre has invested £1.3 million in four Scots pilot projects that could cut the cost of decommissioning N. Sea oil rigs by almost 50%.

By 2028, a total of 1,400 wells are forecast to be abandoned at a cost of some £7 billion.

Developing and deploying new technology to tackle this issue represents a huge prize and supports the industry commitment to reducing decommissioning costs by 35% – a target set by the Oil and Gas Authority, which is now working on this programme with BiSN, Strathclyde University, Heriot-Watt University and Baker Hughes.

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre is a not-for-profit, industry-led, technology research and development organisation based in Aberdeen.

Nils Cohrs, Head of Decommissioning at the OGA explained: “Our 2016 Stewardship Survey showed that well P&A represents 48% of the total cost of N. Sea decommissioning – so developing transformational ideas such as these has the potential to help industry to reduce this cost.

“We’re working with BiSN to test and verify the company’s Wel-Lok M2M technology, which utilises a ground-breaking modified thermite heater, in conjunction with bismuth-based alloys, to form a permanent barrier.

“It provides an alternative to traditional elastomer seals, resins and cement. Being deployed on wireline without the need to remove tubing, the technology addresses several fundamental downhole sealing challenges simultaneously and could deliver significant time, cost and environmental benefits.

The University of Strathclyde’s idea uses enzymes to repair or improve cement barriers in wells that have been plugged and abandoned. This ‘Biogrout’ technology, currently being developed for other industries, will be assessed in typical downhole conditions. It’s low viscosity and nanoparticle size enables it to penetrate and seal the smallest of spaces.

Heriot-Watt University is developing a modelling framework for well isolation design that would help evaluate and manage risk, increase efficiency and enhance decision-making. This could deliver cost and time savings through reduced scope, remediation and deployment of new technology, such as through-tubing and rig-less abandonment.

Baker Hughes is developing a technology that delivers cement logging through multiple casing strings, improving on existing solutions which deliver logging behind only one casing or tubular.

This could reduce the cost and time associated with removing casing to verify barrier integrity.

Neil Saunders, President, Oilfield Equipment, BHGE, said: “It’s more important than ever for industry players to be open to innovative ways of working and to embrace new technologies that safely enhance operations, reduce costs and maximise efficiency and flexibility

The OGTC’s next Well Construction Call for Ideas in Spring 2018 will focus on new well systems, seabed pressure isolation and ways to stimulate well-flow.

9 Jan 2018


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