Topic: Intervention

The challenges and opportunities of RLWI and the advent of new technologies

Region: West Africa
Content Types: Report
Date: Nov, 2021

Adobe Stock 37335256Riserless Light Well Intervention (RLWI) is proving to be a cost-effective method of intervening in West Africa’s offshore wells, using suitable support vessels instead of rigs.

A panel of industry experts came together at the Offshore Well Intervention West Africa 2021 conference to discuss the risks posed by RLWI and how the industry is perceiving new technologies driving the uptake of such activities.

Chiwuike Amaechi, Principal Subsea Intervention Engineer of SNEPCo, said that value realisation is one of the key risks that need to be considered when picking an intervention method. “Categories for this include production enhancement and well integrity. The economic threats are mainly around the fears of obtaining the projected production gains which would justify the investment into the intervention,” he added.

Elaborating on the challenges related to environmental safety, he said it is difficult to clean out a well in a purely riserless intervention. “How do you ensure that you do not release any hydrocarbons to the environment, particularly in places where there are strict regulatory requirements and organisations that have a zero spill policy? These are some of the roadblocks that we face in the implementation of riserless interventions,” Chiwuike said.

Oladapo Ajayi, Division Geounit Manager of Reservoir Performance in Nigeria and West Africa, Schlumberger, also gave his insights on the topic from a well service company’s perspective. He said they usually look at factors like water depth, climate and most importantly, the commercial aspect. “There’s always the triple constraint – time, cost and quality of the performance. In terms of time, the schedule and planning are important and when we say cost, we mean the budget we are looking at.”

According to Andrea Sbordone, Business Development Manager for TIOS, the risk associated with RLWI does not increase alongside depth. “We see RLWI as a better option from an environmental perspective, as the impact is significantly lower and the number of people needed is less too,” he said, adding that operators who have not used RLWI before have now become much more comfortable after using it once.

Moderator Thomas Angell, Director of Offshore Network, said that the idea of ‘horses for courses’ might have changed in the last 5 to 10 years in the intervention field, and Sbordone opined that flexibility is important, and one should be prepared for surprises. “In the last 15 years, the kind of operations you can do on e-line have been increasing, the gap (with coiled tubing) is reducing slowly.” Agreeing with his co-panelist, Oladapo Ajayi said that indeed the gap has reduced in comparison to previous years.

As new technologies have entered the market, the panelists stressed the idea that these need to be properly tested before they can be utilised. “We do need to see technologies matured somewhere else. It is always good to have seen it work beforehand and find out the success rate as well as what failed for learning,” informed Chiwuike.

Sbordone noted that, in terms of downhole solutions, new technology is released every year which is deployable from a riserless light well intervention vessel such as sealing technologies for example. In terms of conveyance he added there has been big steps taken forward and riserless coil tubing solutions, for instance, are making significant progress to be field-proven.

“Last year, we did a campaign of riserless coiled tubing coring in Norway, in water depths up to 3085 m. We deployed riserless coil tubing 14 times. This confirms that water depth is not an issue for riserless coil tubing. Times are changing and people are becoming more adaptable to new technologies.

“15 years ago, if you asked a coil tubing provider to put coil tubing through open water as a pumping downline in 2,000 m, they would be apprehensive to agree. However, slowly the industry started doing it and now it is pretty much the standard,” he added. There has not been a change in the technology used, what has changed is its acceptance and the operators’ confidence in using it.

Stressing on the need for true competency and integration for achieving efficiency, Sbordone said crew integration is important. “This integration is not just for equipment but also for people. The crew working on different parts of the operation should know each other’s work and coordinate the activities to achieve high efficiency.” Chiwuike agreed, highlighting there are significant benefits in efficiency and cost that service providers have been able to bring by offering an integrated solution with vessels that incorporate a complete light well intervention package executed by a core crew that have developed experience through various campaigns.

He added the appetite for RLWI is increasing in West Africa, noting that there were three RLWI campaigns ongoing in West Africa in 2019 in three different countries for three different operators, with three different suppliers. “We believe intervention activity is increasing and will continue to do so.”

Oladapo Ajayi said, “Light intervention is the way, in terms of the efficiency that we gain. There is a full appetite for this kind of work and, for me, technology is the main thing to drive this. Digital can open a new horizon of growth in offshore intervention business and help identify candidate wells, provide a complete portfolio of intervention options to select the optimum solution as well as being able to ensure a predicable successful outcome.”

“The advancement in the digital space provides opportunities for the ability to better risk assess operations and, therefore, make calls on probability of success during the planning stages. Thus, more digital operations ahead of time can be utilised to better improve efficiency of the actual operations. In addition, better planning and utilisation of assets should result in cost reduction. All of this is only possible based upon information sharing between operators and service providers being the key,” he continued.

Angell concluded, “There is now a real understanding of the difference between cost and price and value. These are three things we understand really well known when it comes to complex well programmes.

“The providers out there are the right ones to make this a reality. It would be great to return next year for this conference and listen to some of the projects that everyone has done in that window.”