Topic: Decommissioning

Boosting decommissioning efficiency through new technology

Region: Gulf of Mexico
Content Types: Report
Date: June, 2021

Screen shot for panel session

At the Deepwater Decommissioning Gulf of Mexico 2021 Virtual Workshop, Thore Andre Stokkeland, Head of Global Sales Archer Oiltools, Archer, chaired a panel to explore the latest innovations permeating the plug and abandonment (P&A) and decommissioning markets, and what the best practices are for getting new technology recognised by the industry.

Stokkeland began by noting that new technology is inherently designed to reduce risk and improve efficiency and asked the panel to outline some of the benefits which can be achieved for P&A and decommissioning operations through the implementation of these innovations.

Bart Joppe, Well Abandonment Leader at Baker Hughes, focused on the significant cost and time saving that can be unlocked through the utilisation of new technology. Providing an example of this, Joppe described an innovation Baker Hughes brought to the North Sea after they identified an opportunity in the market to remove subsea wellheads more cost-effectively. Traditionally, these have been removed by using a drill pipe-deployed cutting and pulling system from a rig, semisubmersible or a drillship which can be costly while other methods often have similar limitations.

Baker Hughes designed a solution to use a chemical cutter on a wellhead clamp and then power all of it with a ROV. The ROV and the crane wire are the only two things on the water and on deck the only equipment is the bottom-hole assembly. Once this is overboard there is no equipment on the surface. Using this technology, the subsea wellhead can be cut and pulled by two people from any vessel as long as it can deploy the tool overboard. This is a much more cost-effective solution especially for remote wells where getting a rig on location would cost a lot of time, effort and money as well as generate a lot of emissions.

Reducing emissions

Picking up on emissions reduction, the panellists noted that this had fast-become a serious concern of the industry and, therefore, technology that could help operators limit their climate impact was becoming of paramount importance.

Gabriel Barragan, Well Abandonment Advisor, Chevron, said, “We all know that operators are on a strong push to look at carbon emission reduction, with significant pressure from governments, shareholders and customers to do so. It is something pretty fresh and it is still developing now. At Chevron we are brainstorming ideas on how to achieve this such as reducing the risk of fugitive emissions and reducing idle time for rigs. While diesel engines are idly running, emissions are being produced, so reducing this time is a great opportunity. At some point we will come to service providers and see where there technology can help us in this aspect.”

Kevin Squyres, Sales and Service Deliver Manager, Archer, added to this by noting how there are a lot of indirect emissions which are only just being seriously identified as a low hanging fruit to reduce carbon footprint. Saving just a day or two of rig time, for example, is great for the environment. In regards to P&A, when dealing with wells drilled in the 1960s to 1980s the cement technology and care was not there. It is difficult to deal with these nowadays, but new technology can help clients fix these wells.

Stokkeland said, “The industry was very much focused on time saving and cost saving in environments when the rig cost was high. Now we look to reduce rig times not just for the cost saving but also for the emissions savings. Solutions are getting smarter and we can now perform more operations in one run than we could just a few years ago. That will be the way forward, to reduce footprint, reduce rig time and reduce the amount of people on the drilling rig.

Delivering new technology to the market

While at all times there is plethora of new technology being developed, often many fail at the first hurdles or are unable to make an impression on operators and so do not live up to their potential. The panellists therefore explored how providers can ensure that these innovations can make an impact on the market and help operators achieve the value they are designed for.

“Technology development starts by identifying the challenge you want to resolve and how you can address it most effectively. It is really important to understand how the perspective of the operator, customer and regulator as well as ensuring that you are selecting the technology for the right application. There have been lots of innovations where the trial did not work because the right application was not selected,” Joppe commented.

“Also, don’t develop technology and then try and solve the most complex scenario you can think of. Instead build a staircase, select multiple wells of different levels of complexity in a step-by-step testing process and learn as you go.”

Barragan noted, “Take advantage of industry events such as these. Present a technology, do some networking and get contact information from the appropriate people. It is important to understand their well management portfolio which will build your case and value proposition to that operator. Explain at what stage you are in the development phase, is it an early concept? Has a prototype been tested? Or perhaps it has been trialled multiple times. It is important to be transparent about the technology, and this includes being up front about its limitations.”

Squyres echoed these thoughts by noting that in regards to Archer’s Stronghold systems his company tried to be as open and transparent as possible. He said, “If a client comes and says we have this dual casing which is larger than we have done before we won’t just sit there and say we can do anything. Of course we want to say that but it is important to take time, and ensure you have your calculations, case histories and risk assessment as well as ensuring regulators and stakeholders are on board.”

Stokkeland added, “It is about patience and learning. As they say, Rome was not built in a day and it is the same with new technology. You have to learn, you have to go through hurdles sometimes before you end up with a field proven product.”