The Oil & Gas Technology Centre has taken the next step to transform well plugging and abandonment (P&A) by investing £1.3 million in four projects, selected from the original 48 submissions to its Call for Ideas initiative.
Over the next decade, 1,400 wells are forecast to be abandoned on the UKCS, at a cost of c.£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 (OGA).
OGA’s Head of Decommissioning, Nils Cohrs, said: “It’s great to see this considerable investment in innovative technologies following the Technology Centre’s Call for Ideas. The OGA’s 2016 Stewardship Survey showed that well P&A represents 48% of the total cost of UKCS decommissioning, and 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 rigless abandonment.
"We’re working with Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), to develop 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.
"Our next Well Construction Call for Ideas, which launches in the coming weeks, focuses on new well systems, seabed pressure isolation and ways to stimulate well flow."
Malcolm Banks, Well Construction Solution Centre Manager, said: “We’re delighted to be investing in four ideas that could have a transformational impact on well P&A. Competition was tough and required a rigorous review process.
We’re addressing key challenges facing the industry and look forward to working with the successful organisations to develop their ideas into solutions that deliver real benefits.
“We’re hoping to replicate the success of our well P&A call when we seek ideas on challenges for new wells. Further information will be communicated in the coming weeks and we’d encourage anyone with an idea to take part.”