The Middle East offshore market generally has shallow water depth operations in high salinity water environments. As fields in the Arabia Peninsula mature and production declines they need extensive recovery enhancement and workovers which place added stress on the asset. In conjunction with the age and salinity of the water these works can effect the structural integrity of aging wells. This forces further works to take place, including diagnostic runs and tubing remediation.
In the Middle East companies including Saudi Aramco, QP, Zadco and ADMA-OPCO have become experts in dealing with mature offshore wellstock, and below is a case study from the region highlighting the best practice that has been learnt.
Middle East Experience of Aging Well Stock Management
With a global slowing of drilling activities, we are often finding ourselves working over mature fields with old well stock to encourage greater recovery volumes and meet the demand for hydrocarbons. Mature assets have unpredictable behaviors, and this demands highly skilled teams and well thought out intervention activities to ensure the continued production of these assets. >Case One: The Well
In one example the Middle East operator observed live wells having fluid mobility into annulus space, resulting in the bleeding of hydrocarbons at the surface. The Annulus-B pressures were reaching 1000psi, and there was clear evidence of communication within casings. The hydro-testing of annulus space showed the wells were unable to withstand the test pressures, so ultrasonic testing, cement bond logging, and other logging techniques were used to quantify the integrity and accurately identify leak paths ahead of restoring the well integrity of failed Annulus-B wells. It was decided to repair the conductor pipe and perform casing patches externally and internally and cement consolidated rock formations, then cover with a tie back. As a remediation strategy, a cement barrier was placed in production casing above the reservoir using sleeves, patches, perforating two-zone techniques and milling to mention a few.
The utilization of section milling as a remediation measure is interesting. Its effectiveness was later verified with cement bond logging to ensure that integrity was assured. The operational challenge faced from leveraging milling technology was a failure to pass the bottom of section mill cut. This was then solved by using a taper mill to drill the required section.
The root cause of the integrity issues were understood to be generic aging (the wells were approximately thirty-years old), poor cement jobs and the possibility of ineffective drilling practices used at the initial stages of the well’s life. The core objective was to restore to well integrity of production and injection wells and rule out well abandonment as an option. This was achieved and the programme was a success – resulting in the extension of the mature asset’s life.
Case Two: The Conductor
In this case the operator discusses two fields in the Arabian Peninsula, one consisting of 99 wellhead towers, and the other having 116 wellheads towers – cumulatively the integrity department is having to manage 217 wellhead towers. The technical challenge faced by the operator is that over 60% of these wellheads towers are in life extension phase.
If offshore conductors corrode to the point their structural integrity fails, they are bound to buckle leading X-mas tree and other related critical equipment to fail.
The wellhead towers are typically 3-legged and 4-legged (with 9 slots) having above water guide support and near seabed conductor support. One of the main issues the operator is facing is having 9 slots conductor’s exposure to the huge amount of wave load which may transfer through conductor guides followed by jackets to piles. It is important to highlight conductor guides support for the wellhead towers is necessary, otherwise, the conductor will be free standing and may subject to vortex induced vibrations which could fail under free vibration or due to fatigue.
When designing conductor supports it is essential that the weight from X-mass tree, BOP, lateral support, vortex induced vibration, corrosion protection and marine growth should be considered among other requirements with respecting code and standards established by NORSOK, API, and ISO.
In the region operators have typical well conductor loading depth varying from 100ft to 300ft, having two types of loadings axial compression and global bending. The operational integrity is assured by conducting scheduled screen inspection (visual inspection) followed by detailed inspection using Saturated Low-Frequency Eddy Current (SLOFEC) and Pulsed Eddy Current (PEC) quantifying the minimum wall thickness, external and internal detections, separate mapping and other techniques.
By executing these inspections and then coupling them quickly with remedial works, abnormalities in the aging conductor were identified and rectified within the scheduled inspection window. In one example it was discovered there was at least a minimum wall thickness and therefore efficient strength to assure the stability of the asset against atmospheric, splash and full submerged segments of the conductor – and therefore its ability to cope with the stress of a work over for production enhancement applications was established.
The results of applying this conductor programme across the two fields showed that a robust remedial strategy, as emphasized by this operator, reduced rig intervention for replacement and fewer rig repair strategies such as reinforced cement, bolted clamps and welded sleeves just to mention a few.
Well integrity is becoming increasingly important in maturing fields in the Middle East. The asset integrity lifecycle is ever evolving, and lessons learned must be added to our codes of practice and become ‘the norm’ for future projects. This will ensure that collectively we are able to continue the efficient production from our existing assets for the benefit of future generations.
The insights captured in this document are indicative of a culture where we need a continuous improvement across training our personnel to increase competency, safety and cost-effectiveness of operations and use innovative approaches in low price environment.
From these examples, a scheduled approach to preventative maintenance workovers are shown to be more cost-effective overtime rather than dealing with sever and critical integrity works which are bound to follow.