New Technologies to the Fore at Well Abandonment Symposium

By Graham Berry, specialist business consultant

Permanent well abandonment consists of cutting the production string around 10 to 15 feet below the seabed. If that doesn’t sound difficult enough, there are also environmental and legislative factors to consider: each well abandonment must have three barriers in place to ensure the well won’t leak in perpetuity.

In perpetuity is a long time; it literally means forever. So, it stands to reason that researchers will continue to look for new alternatives to the industry-standard concrete plugs that are used around the world today.

At the recent SPE Aberdeen 9th Well Abandonment Symposium – which saw over 200 delegates come together to discuss the topic – both the University of Aberdeen and ASTRIMAR presented their early findings.

Their technical papers revealed an exciting glimpse into the future of well abandonment, exploring the use of materials like thermite and new forms of resins as they detailed the simulations and processes which put them through their paces and test their suitability.

But while one eye was on the future at the conference, the other was firmly on the present. There are currently 180 permanent wells approved for abandonment in 2019, and rigless abandonment became a hot topic throughout the two-day event. Once untried and untested, confidence within the industry is growing as more and more examples of successful deployment come to the fore.

The major benefit of rigless abandonment is – perhaps obviously – that there is no need to tie up a drilling rig, cutting operation costs and allowing the rig to be used for the purpose it was designed for. The technology is proving itself in the Gulf of Mexico and also off the UK coastline.

With many UK operators investing in these revolutionary techniques and technologies, the good news for the HFI network is that there is a prime opportunity for exporting to other oil and gas markets around the world.

With 38 high quality presentations spread over the event – along with 17 exhibitors from around the world, including sponsors Well Safe Solutions – the level of knowledge and insight on offer was truly staggering. It was also fantastic to see operators like TAQA, Shell, BP, Total, Petrobras and Spirit Energy making themselves available to delegates throughout the symposium on the dedicated operator stand – allowing for a free flow of information and ideas.

It was inspiring to see the present and future of well abandonment coming together in Aberdeen. As long as we are producing oil and gas, well abandonment will be an important part of the process, and later this year SPE Aberdeen Section will begin planning for the 2020 Well Abandonment Conference to further progress the field.