The annular cement sheath is one of the most important well barrier elements, both during production and after well abandonment. It is however well-known that repeated pressure and temperature variations in the wellbore during production and injection can have a detrimental effect on the integrity of the cement sheath. Degradation of cement sheaths result in formation of cracks and microannuli, which leads to loss of zonal isolation and subsequent pressure build-up in the annulus.

A unique laboratory set-up with downscaled samples of rock, cement and pipe has been constructed to study cement sheath failure mechanisms such as debonding and crack formation during thermal cycling. Cement integrity before and after thermal cycling is visualized in 3D by X-ray computed tomography (CT). However, this previous set-up had some significant limitations such as lack of direct physical confinement around the rock. This lack of direct confinement created unrealistic outer boundary conditions around the rocks during experiments as opposed to field conditions, which influenced the obtained experimental results.

This paper describes in detail an improved version of this laboratory set-up, where the set-up has been redesigned to include direct physical confinement around the rock as well as improved cement placement, while retaining all the advantages of the previous set-up.

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