With an increasing number of wells transitioning to their abandonment stages, associated operational efficiency and cost cutting have become a major focus in the industry. An operator had an objective to permanently abandon an offshore well that was suspended in 2016. The key challenge was to develop a long-term well abandonment solution leaving the completion tubing and gauge cables in the well. All the associated operations had to be completed utilizing a lightweight well intervention vessel.

Traditionally, retrieving the entire 5 ½-in. production tubing during plug and abandonment operations has added operational complexity and costs, which increases the risk of exposure to health, safety, and environment (HSE) hazards. Alternatively, a sealant technique placing cement through and around the completion tubing with gauge cables in situ exists. However, this technique is associated with a heightened risk of leak path development over time. Ongoing experimental work suggested that enhancements to the conventional cement sealant systems are beneficial to improve long-term sealing; thus, an active self-sealing cement (SSC) system that would seal microannuli or small fissures around the tubing and gauge cables was designed. The set cement sealant characteristics include low Young’s modulus to resist failure from wellbore stresses and the ability to regenerate the original seal upon contact with any hydrocarbons that may seep through any isolation defects through the life of the abandoned well. To achieve proper cement placement, advanced fluid simulation software and carefully tailored fluid density and rheology profiles were used.

During the operation, a plug of the SSC sealant was pumped through the production tubing and squeezed into the perforations to create a permanent barrier across the reservoir section. Next, a mechanical plug was set inside the production tubing to isolate the lower section, and the tubing was perforated to provide access to the A-annulus above; subsequently, a balanced plug of SSC system was spotted above. After 30 hours, the plug passed a 3.4-MPa [500-psi] verification pressure test. The operator estimated the operation saved 2 to 3 days of rig time, valued at approximately GBP 400,000 to 600,000. The operator also avoided the risk of leaving the well on long-term suspension with mechanical plugs while waiting for a rig to complete the isolation, and the operation minimized the number of intervention steps required for abandonment, thereby limiting scope growth.

Operators are constantly looking for ways to increase reliability, improve efficiency, and minimize risks; and therefore, abandonment techniques are evolving. The developed solution is a novel and robust alternative to conventional well abandonment using an advanced cement sealant technology for the first time and an innovative placement technique.

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