In the previous article, we looked at 6 Key Well Abandonment and Decommissioning Challenges and I promised to share with you some of the latest decommissioning technologies and strategies which are in use or being developed and tested today in the Oil & Gas sector.
But first, I think it is important to explain the importance of the need for innovation to tackle the enormous challenges we face with decommissioning in the coming years. Let's do that by looking at a case study of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS)..
Case Study - UKCS Decommissioning Challenge
The UKCS Decommissioning 2017 Cost Estimate Report provided a cost estimate for offshore oil and gas decommissioning in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) of £59.7 billion in 2016 prices. The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) has set an ambitious target to reduce these costs by at least 35%.
“The two biggest things that will get the North Sea through the next five years are genuine collaboration and the development and application of technology ... that strategy can halve the cost of well plugging and abandonment” Sir Ian Wood
In a recent interview with Energy Voice, Sir Ian Wood summarised the way forward for decommissioning very well, highlighting a need for improvements in technology and also improved collaborations to reduce costs. In this article I will discuss both the latest decommissioning technologies and decommissioning strategies..
LATEST DECOMMISSIONING TECHNOLOGIES
1. Melting the Cap Rock
Melting the cap rock is a method of decommissioning which uses a thermite plug to seal off the well by melting both the well components and the rock formation around them to recreate the cap rock, i.e. Caprock barrier
The low-cost method of rigless well P&A was trialed onshore by Centrica in Canada in 2016, the trial results demonstrated that this technology could potentially reduce well P&A costs by more than 50%.
2. Resin Plugs
Resin has the ability to formulate completely free of solids, allowing it to penetrate microchannels and effectively seal leaks which may not be possible to seal with cement due to it’s particle size.
Resin Application in P&A includes squeezing for annular fluid flow; shut-off gas source and squeezing a previously leaking plug.
Oceaneering recently conducted the Gulf of Mexico’s first permitted lower abandonment using resin. Because there was a downhole obstruction, the operator of this particular field determined that it could not reliably carry out a lower temporary abandonment with cement.
3. Underwater Drones to Monitor Abandoned (P&A) Wells for Potential Hydrocarbon Leaks
Praxis Energy Partners have proposed an innovative cost-saving solution for postoperative surveillance to ensure a leak-free subsea well abandonment over time.
The project proposes to build an underwater drone, using passive acoustics (to "listen" for leaks), and/or sonar (to "ping" for leaks), and/or a camera (take pictures of “bubbles”).
4. Well Barrier Monitoring System
The Stuart Wright Right Time Barrier Condition (RTBC) proprietary wellbore monitoring software can be used in both the well P&A planning and execution phases to accurately capture the condition of the well prior to and during the well abandonment.
During the planning phase, RTBC can be used to create accurate as built wellbore diagrams with critical barrier integrity validation information captured through the generation of Daily Integrity Reports (DIR) performed retrospectively. The DIRs will incorporate key information from the drilling, completions, production and intervention phases to accurately capture the condition of the well and any potential barrier risks that require consideration prior to commencing the well P&A.
During the well execution phase, RTBC will create accurate as built wellbore diagrams with critical barrier integrity validation information captured through the generation of Daily Integrity Reports during the actual wells abandonment. The Daily Integrity Reports will be captured in a secured cloud database that tracks the progression of the abandonment from the perspective of ensuring the abandonment of well barriers are conducted in accordance to corporate or good abandonment practices.
(Disclaimer: I am a consultant employed by Stuart Wright)
5. Suspended Well Abandonment Tool (SWAT)
Claxton have developed a Suspended Well Abandonment Tool (SWAT) which is deployed through the moonpool, landed on the wellhead and then used to conduct casing perforation and placement of the required cement barriers in the well. It can be deployed from a vessel, removing the need for a drilling rig.
6. Gator Perforator
Lee Energy Systems have created this "REPEATABLE HYDRO MECHANICAL MULTI-USE PERFORATING SYSTEM" which can be used to perforate casing without the need for explosives. The video above demonstrates really well how the tool operates, please watch it at your convenience to find out more about this technology.7. Latest P&A Technology
Archer and Hydrawell both offer systems which can offer significant time savings, compared to a typical well P&A, by eliminating the need to perform a milling section and performing the perforation and cementing in a single trip.
"HydraWell’s technology enables plugging of each well in 2-3 days instead of 10-14 days with conventional section milling methods. This means that the operator could save up to 200 rig days on a 20-well field,” says Mark Sørheim, CEO of HydraWell.
Archer Stronghold™ Systems
Archer's Stronghold™ Barricade™ is designed to perforate selected casing or liner sections; wash and clean the perforated zone completely; then enable permanent rock-to-rock cement plugging—all during a single trip.
The HydraHemera™ system was developed to enable plugging a well across multiple annuli without performing a section milling operation.
The system consists of two components, a HydraHemera™ Jetting Tool and a HydraHemera™ Cementing Tool. The HydraHemera™ Jetting Tool is used to wash and clean out debris in the annuli behind perforated casings. It features jet nozzles which are positioned at irregular angles and engineered for optimum configuration and exit velocity. The jets penetrate and clean thoroughly behind multiple perforated casings.
The HydraHemera™ Jetting Tool ensures optimum conditions in the casing annuli prior to placing the plugging material in the cross section. Debris, old mud, barite and old cuttings are replaced by clean mud.
Using a ball drop mechanism after jetting, the HydraHemera™ Cementing Tool is activated, and combined with the HydraArchimedes™ tool enable placing plugging material in the entire cross section of multiple annuli, and hence, establishing a proper barrier in the well for P&A or sidetrack purposes.
You can view a video of the HydraHemera™ system here.
LATEST DECOMMISSIONING STRATEGIES
Historically, the oil and gas industry has not been particularly strong in collaborating and cross-sharing information. In today's low oil price environment, especially in the area of decommissioning where cost saving is paramount, there is now an increased impetus towards collaboration. Below are some examples of collaborations focused around decommissioning and well abandonment.
1. OGA Well Plug and Abandonment (P&A) Optimisation Programme
In February 2017, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) launched a search for operators to voluntarily participate in a multi-operator, well P&A optimisation programme.
The objective of the pilot programme is to demonstrate the cost savings which can be achieved through collaborative working, stimulate work-sharing campaigns and adopt improved execution and contracting models.
It will be interesting to see how successful this initiative is and how many Operators opt to sign up for the programme.
2. Integrated Consortiums
In answer to Operator's desire to have a single point solution for decommissioning, a number of consortiums have formed to provide such an offering. One such example is the Bureau Veritas - Stuart Wright consortium which was recently formed to support clients in the North Sea, Asia-Pacific and beyond.
Tackling the enormous challenge of decommissioning will require not only advances in technology but also smarter strategies on how to collaborate to improve efficiency, knowledge sharing and reduce costs.
I have highlighted a few examples of the latest decommissioning technologies and strategies in this article as a starting point for discussion, it would be great to use this platform to hear from you on other technologies and strategies which you have knowledge of or experience with - PLEASE COMMENT BELOW..
Something interesting to share?
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In 2021, the makeup of renewables has also changed drastically. Technologies such as solar and wind are no longer novel, as is the idea of blending vegetable oils into road fuels or switching to electric-based vehicles. Such ideas are now entrenched and are not considered enough to shift the world into a carbon neutral future. The new wave of renewables focus on converting by-products from other carbon-intensive industries into usable fuels. Research into such technologies has been pioneered in universities and start-ups over the past two decades, but the impetus of global climate goals is now seeing an incredible amount of money being poured into them as oil & gas giants seek to rebalance their portfolios away from pure hydrocarbons with a goal of balancing their total carbon emissions in aggregate to zero.
Traditionally, the European players have led this drive. Which is unsurprising, since the EU has been the most driven in this acceleration. But even the US giants are following suit. In the past year, Chevron has poured an incredible amount of cash and effort in pioneering renewables. Its motives might be less than altruistic, shareholders across America have been particularly vocal about driving this transformation but the net results will be positive for all.
Chevron’s recent efforts have focused on biomethane, through a partnership with global waste solutions company Brightmark. The joint venture Brightmark RNG Holdings operations focused on convert cow manure to renewable natural gas, which are then converted into fuel for long-haul trucks, the very kind that criss-cross the vast highways of the US delivering goods from coast to coast. Launched in October 2020, the joint venture was extended and expanded in August, now encompassing 38 biomethane plants in seven US states, with first production set to begin later in 2021. The targeting of livestock waste is particularly crucial: methane emissions from farms is the second-largest contributor to climate change emissions globally. The technology to capture methane from manure (as well as landfills and other waste sites) has existed for years, but has only recently been commercialised to convert methane emissions from decomposition to useful products.
This is an arena that another supermajor – BP – has also made a recent significant investment in. BP signed a 15-year agreement with CleanBay Renewables to purchase the latter’s renewable natural gas (RNG) to be mixed and sold into select US state markets. Beginning with California, which has one of the strictest fuel standards in the US and provides incentives under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to reduce carbon intensity – CleanBay’s RNG is derived not from cows, but from poultry. Chicken manure, feathers and bedding are all converted into RNG using anaerobic digesters, providing a carbon intensity that is said to be 95% less than the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of pure fossil fuels and non-conversion of poultry waste matter. BP also has an agreement with Gevo Inc in Iowa to purchase RNG produced from cow manure, also for sale in California.
But road fuels aren’t the only avenue for large-scale embracing of renewables. It could take to the air, literally. After all, the global commercial airline fleet currently stands at over 25,000 aircraft and is expected to grow to over 35,000 by 2030. All those planes will burn a lot of fuel. With the airline industry embracing the idea of AAF (or Alternative Aviation Fuels), developments into renewable jet fuels have been striking, from traditional bio-sources such as palm or soybean oil to advanced organic matter conversion from agricultural waste and manure. Chevron, again, has signed a landmark deal to advance the commercialisation. Together with Delta Airlines and Google, Chevron will be producing a batch of sustainable aviation fuel at its El Segundo refinery in California. Delta will then use the fuel, with Google providing a cloud-based framework to analyse the data. That data will then allow for a transparent analysis into carbon emissions from the use of sustainable aviation fuel, as benchmark for others to follow. The analysis should be able to confirm whether or not the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s estimates that renewable jet fuel can reduce lifecycle carbon intensity by up to 80%. And to strengthen the measure, Delta has pledged to replace 10% of its jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.
In a parallel, but no less pioneering lane, France’s TotalEnergies has announced that it is developing a 100% renewable fuel for use in motorsports, using bioethanol sourced from residues produced by the French wine industry (among others) at its Feyzin refinery in Lyon. This, it believes, will reduce the racing sports’ carbon emissions by an immediate 65%. The fuel, named Excellium Racing 100, is set to debut at the next season of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans 2022 race.
But Chevron isn’t done yet. It is also falling back on the long-standing use of vegetable oils blended into US transport fuels by signing a wide-ranging agreement with commodity giant Bunge. Called a ‘farmer-to-fuelling station’ solution, Bunge’s soybean processing facilities in Louisiana and Illinois will be the source of meal and oil that will be converted by Chevron into diesel and jet fuel. With an investment of US$600 million, Chevron will assist Bunge in doubling the combined capacity of both plants by 2024, in line with anticipated increases in the US biofuels blending mandates.
Even ExxonMobil, one of the most reticent of the supermajors to embrace renewables wholesale, is getting in on the action. Its Imperial Oil subsidiary in Canada has announced plans to commercialise renewable diesel at a new facility near Edmonton using plant-based feedstock and hydrogen. The venture does only target the Canadian market – where political will to drive renewable adoption is far higher than in the US – but similar moves have already been adopted by other refiners for the US market, including major investments by Phillips 66 and Valero.
Ultimately, these recent moves are driven out of necessity. This is the way the industry is moving and anyone stubborn enough to ignore it will be left behind. Combined with other major investments driven by European supermajors over the past five years, this wider and wider adoption of renewable can only be better for the planet and, eventually, individual bottom lines. The renewables ball is rolling fast and is only gaining momentum.
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