6 Key Well Abandonment & Decommissioning Challenges

By Mark Plummer MSc BEng

In this article I will discuss 6 key well abandonment and decommissioning challenges faced by the oil and gas industry today…

Key Challenge #1 - Well Abandonment & Decommissioning Guidelines

The quality, robustness and philosophy of well abandonment and decommissioning guidelines vary by country.
In addition, new well plug and abandonment (P&A) technologies are typically not covered within these existing guidelines e.g. resin plugs and "melting the cap rock"
Note: New technologies will be discussed in more detail in future articles

Key Challenge #2 - Data Availability and Quality

Many Operators today are experiencing challenges in planning for well P&A due to a lack of centralised data, limited sharing of experience and knowledge, varying types of data and formats and often poor quality data - especially on orphan or old wells and non-operated assets.

Key Challenge #3 - Technical Standards

At the time of writing, there is no single, low cost methodology for plugging wells. Furthermore, well P&A standards and designs vary by operator and country.

Key Challenge #4 - Cost Estimating Methodology & Accuracy

A lack of benchmarks and limited standardisation have led to cost overruns of 30% to more than 100% and a 14% increase in asset retirement obligations annually.
Source: www.bcg.com

Key Challenge #5 - Limited Experienced Personnel

Today our industry is facing a shortage of experienced personnel due to the on-going "great crew change." Well abandonment and decommissioning requires a range of technical and non-technical skills and experience, and it competes for this limited talent pool with other activities such as exploration and development.
Future skill shortages will necessitate fast access to reliable data and smart tools to improve efficiency and reduce cost.

Key Challenge #6 - Ensuring Long-Term Integrity of the Well P&A

This is an area of growing concern and interest within our industry and one which will need to be given serious consideration if we are to ensure that well abandonment and decommissioning activities are conducted in such a manner that they ensure long-term integrity of the well P&A. Questions that need to be addressed include the following:

  1. How long is the well guaranteed to not release in the future?
  2. How long will the cement retain it's integrity?
  3. Could the reservoir re-pressurise over time?
  4. Who carries the liability to repair a previously abandoned, now leaking, well?

Conclusions

Thanks for taking the time to read this far! I hope you have enjoyed this short introductory article to the key well abandonment and decommissioning challenges we are facing today.
In the coming weeks and months I will write in more depth about each of these areas and, where appropriate, I will be discussing technological and other solutions and ideas to overcome these challenges which are either being considered or adopted today.
Subsequent articles will also consider the use of new technology and approaches to well decommissioning and abandonment, including the use of our in-house well barrier monitoring software, RTBC, which has been enhanced to track and verify well barriers throughout well P&A operations.

Of course these are only my thoughts and opinions based on my experiences to date. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Contact the author at https://www.linkedin.com/in/markplummer27/

Additional Info

  • Region: North Sea
  • Topic: Decommissioning
  • Month: November
  • Year: 2017
  • Content Type: Thought Leadership
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