Plugging & Abandonment (P&A) network launched

25 October, 2016

OTM Consulting has launched its latest network – the Plugging & Abandonment Collaborative Environment (PACE). Established to create an environment which promotes investment and early adoption of innovative P&A technology, PACE’s launch meeting was hosted on 20 September in Houston, Texas, USA, by ExxonMobil and supported by founding members ConocoPhillips, GE Oil & Gas and DNV GL. Around 40 attendees, representing seven operators and 16 service companies/equipment vendors, met to discuss key industry issues. Initial discussions focused on the main operator drivers, with cost effective plugging and sealing being the overriding focus, closely followed by rigless P&A, barrier verification and multi-string logging.

Core to the meeting was a facilitated discussion in which attendees identified the key focus areas under each of PACE’s four objectives:

1. Collaborate on cost-effective solutions to common technical challenges

Participants discussed various technical challenges where innovative solutions are needed, including: multi string/annuli through-tubing barrier evaluation; improved sensors and real-time monitoring, and the long-term ability for cement alternatives to deliver gas-tight sealing. By collaborating to understand the technical aspects of technologies and sharing testing and verification results, operators could increase their capabilities whilst saving on commercialisation costs. To identify specific collaborative projects, future PACE meetings will include a confidential Technical Presentation Meeting, where individual service companies will present to the operator panel.

2. Understand capabilities of current and emerging technology

Many of the innovative solutions to reduce P&A costs and improve assurance are gaining traction. Attendees were keen to have more understanding on a number of technologies including: the ability to effectively test a barrier in the appropriate flow direction and quickly understand long-term sealing capability with statistical certainty; technology qualification for new materials such as liquid metal plugs, mechanical solutions and resins; and a better understanding of barrier validation technologies such as hydraulic/gas-tight isolation verification, x-ray hydrophone array and shear & lamb cement evaluation. PACE will seek to increase understanding in these and other areas through the Technology Advisory Meeting knowledge-sharing presentations and Q&A sessions.

3. Increase awareness of global regulations, testing and standards

Operators face multiple regulatory challenges in decommissioning a well, from differences in local regulations between different regions, to ‘legacy’ regulations developed in response to previous generations of P&A technologies, to new-generation P&A technologies which do not comply with current regulations. Although the global regulatory framework is complex, participants felt that the industry could engage with regulators more and promote a consistent message in order to have guidelines updated and make requirements clearer. On the testing and standards side, areas identified for improvement included: the need for more capability to independently measure/monitor the condition of barriers in situ; the need for barrier placement options to be identified; risk-based barrier validation; and the creation of various standards covering different types of barriers. OTM has been in discussion with various regulators and will include them in the PACE Technology Advisory facilitated discussion sessions.

4. Share knowledge and experiences to improve operational best practice

By sharing experience and best practice, operators can move faster up the learning curve and make more cost-efficient viable plans from the start of a decommissioning project. Participants felt that operational best practice could be improved by implementing measures such as incorporating P&A into the overall design of a new well; interoperability and the need to ‘open source’ solutions; sharing the results of lab tests and field trials; and using production/DTS data for understanding longer term integrity. These, and other, areas will be explored further in the PACE operators-only discussion session and the open operators’ roundtable at future meetings.

Debbie McIntosh, PACE Network Manager, says: “There is space for accelerated learning through the sharing of best practice and discussion, leading to industry-wide adoption of the most cost-effective methods. However, development and commercialisation of new technologies are required to provide a real step-change in performance. Founding members and meeting attendees all agreed the best way to achieve this is through a combined format of confidential PACE Technology Presentation Meetings and open discussions/knowledge sharing in PACE Technology Advisory Meetings. Companies share a common driver: operators want to reduce risks and cut costs, whilst contractors largely want to use wells to test technologies that could resolve issues and ultimately serve the mutual interest of both parties.”

Membership to PACE is currently open, with the next meeting scheduled for March 2017 in Houston. The topic for the confidential Technical Presentation Meeting will be circulated to members in January 2017. The open Technical Advisory Meeting will include: an operator roundtable session on greenfield v. brownfield – design for improved integrity and reduced cost; a facilitated discussion on implications of regional regulations; in addition to a number of current and emerging technology knowledge-sharing presentations.

To learn more about PACE and enquire about membership, please contact Debbie McIntosh or Dawn Dukes (Network Administrator).

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