The economic benefits of advances in well P&A technology
NEW MATERIALS, NEW TECHNOLOGY
Still, cement and drilling mud are the basic materials used by operators. Despite this, significant technological improvements have been made in the completion and abandonment of wells.
Claxton Engineering, along with sister company OIS, developed the multi-award-winning Suspended Well Abandonment Tool (SWAT™), which has already been deployed on 280 wells around the world. More on the SWAT™ here.
Claxton has also been able to deliver an improved barrier quality at greater depths with new recent developments to SWAT™ in the form of an extension module. This technique was field proven in 2015 setting a 1000 ft cement barrier with the top of cement at 2500 ft.
Developments in well cementing technology have already been made in deep high-pressure gas and shale projects. These developments, along with new mechanical systems, could be adapted to be used more widely across the oil and gas industry
Aside from technological developments used earlier in the process and in different parts of the industry, research in recent years has only resulted in the usability of fly ash in plugging and abandoning wells – which was found to be just as useful as cement classification H (basic cement used at depths between 0 – 8,000 ft).
ECONOMIC BENEFITS TO BE HAD
With a lack of technological advancements, it’s clear to see that the decommissioning industry should look towards improvements – improvements that can not only have environmental benefits, but economic benefits too.
Some operators see well P&A costs as a burden and something that provides little benefit to the company bottom line. While this process is never going to make money for the OEM, wells correctly plugged can significantly save money, and in the worst case scenario, oil spills too. Cross-contamination from other zones in a field production can also be a benefit of better P&A.
Also, better plugged wells in the same field as active wells can prevent a loss of pressure in pressure maintenance water floods and CO² floods. Achieving this can result in higher production from the active well and target reservoir.
OVERCOMING THE BARRIERS TO IMPROVEMENT
The appetite and the benefits may be there for all operators to see, but there are significant barriers that the industry first needs to overcome. As well as a lack of finance, especially when the oil price is at its lowest point since 2009, a lack of research and long-term vision is not helping to progress the process further.
A report on plugging and abandoning oil and gas wells by the National Petroleum Council described P&A research as “only being done when required; then, the work is done as cheaply as possible”. A push for research and long-term vision now may give enough time to reduce the £6.4 billion bill facing the industry in the UKCS.
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Claxton's Decommissioning Industry Questionnaire Report
To monitor the industry and find out the opinions of experts in the field, Claxton conducted a market survey in late 2015 and now the results are available here.