Fresh Collaboration Aims To Accelerate P&A Technologies
The UK’s Net Zero Technology Centre looks to pave the way for new well P&A technologies to be tested, trialed, and brought to market quickly.
The Net Zero Technology Centre has launched an industry collaboration initiative designed to accelerate the pace at which well plugging and abandonment (P&A) technology is qualified and commercialized to improve industry performance. Actively supported by the Technology Leadership Board and Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), this effort aims to allow new technologies to be trialed and tested in multioperator collaboration field trials, enabling faster, lower-cost, and wider industry adoption.
A pilot project was undertaken in the second quarter of 2021 to ensure the robustness of the collaboration process. Well engineering services firm Interwell qualified its patented formation-to-formation thermite barrier in Canada. Supported by Spirit Energy and Harbour Energy, five successful field trials were completed, with the technology now recognized as part of the standard “non-routine” abandonment procedure with the Alberta Energy Regulator, paving the way for the same recognition in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) from operators and regulators.
The Interwell P&A RockSolid tool utilizes an in-house-engineered thermite mixture to remove casing and annular cement while, in the same run, creating a gas-tight barrier through the entire cross section of the well, against hydrocarbons flowing from below. Thermite is an exothermic material which releases large amounts of energy when ignited from the surface through the e-line cable.
The scope of the trial was to verify how the thermite barrier affects, or is affected by, relevant types of caprocks as well as to quantify changes in properties between impacted and unaffected materials, and verify and qualify the gas-sealing effect of the entire thermite barrier system under expected well conditions. The trial also looked to verify and qualify the temporal chemical and mechanical stability of barrier elements under expected well conditions and establish procedures and verification methods to qualify for successful implementation of the barrier in well operations.
“The success of this new collaborative approach has been driven by the commitment of the operators; Spirit Energy and Harbour Energy who participated in the first project together,” said Keith Hogg, project manager–emissions reduction at the Net Zero Technology Centre. “It is this proactive attitude and willingness to share information that is key to the future of this collaboration and meeting our industry commitment to a minimum of 35% cost reduction and 50% emissions reduction in well P&A by 2035.”
The UK Oil and Gas Authority has identified that well P&A represents about 45% of UKCS decommissioning costs, or an estimated $31 billion (£23 billion) spend over the life of the basin. Over the next 2 years the well P&A collaboration initiative has committed to increase the number of technology field trials, in low-access-cost land wells. This will support the validation and qualification of alternative P&A barrier materials, inspection, and verification technologies, and other P&A enabling technology streams to expand the reach of the rigless well P&A approach.
The wells P&A collaboration initiative will be managed by the Net Zero Technology Centre and overseen by a multioperator steering group, with backing from Spirit Energy, Repsol, and Harbour Energy already secured. The steering group will review up to five technologies per year, conducting a minimum of three field trials for each. The aim of the initiative is to have six technologies qualified and adopted by 2025.