Simplified well plug and abandonment (P&A)
Clearwell Technology is developing a disruptive proprietary technology that could offer significant cost reductions on well P&A by eliminating the requirement to use a drilling rig.
Well P&A costs are expected to represent 40-50% of the predicted £17bn cost of field decommissioning on the UKCS alone in 2017-2026 (Oil and Gas UK estimates), so both the potential and appetite for rigless P&A solutions are huge.
With that in mind, Clearwell Technology’s idea was to develop and bring to market a high energy thermal device, called Therm-X-Mill®, for downhole, in situ removal of production tubing components. The technology is deployed through tubing, via conventional well intervention methods, and eliminates the requirement to recover the completion string out of the well during P&A.
The concept is based on using a modified high energy process to produce a high-intensity jet that removes sections of the well bore tubing string through melting, thereafter enabling installation of an effective barrier. The underlying core technology has been proven in industry, but Clearwell Technology’s concept involves a novel adaptation.
Having confirmed process viability through prototype testing, the company’s founders sought OGIC’s support to undertake a technical feasibility study to validate the thermal process under different wellbore scenarios and bring the concept to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4.
OGIC identified and connected the company with the relevant expertise within the university network, and it subsequently selected the University of Strathclyde’s Chemical and Process Engineering Department to work with. The project was made possible by funding and project management support from OGIC, with additional funding from the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC).
The academic team of Dr Leo Lue, Dr Jun Li and Teresa Martí Rosselló constructed a mathematical model of the operation of the Therm-X-Mill®, encapsulating the system’s underlying physical and chemical processes. The model was then used to analyse the operation of the device in representative North Sea operating scenarios and to consider different safety aspects of the use of the device.
This study validated the thermal device and process in wellbore conditions, marking another important milestone on the technology’s journey to market. Next, with support from industry and other partners, Clearwell Technology plans to proceed to field trials, with an ambition of commercialisation in 12-18 months.
“As we progress along the journey to commercialising Therm-X-Mill®, we are going through new territory, it is exciting, but also unfamiliar. It’s been invaluable to have the financial support and practical guidance of OGIC and and the technical input of the academic team at Strathclyde University along the way.”
Paul Ray, CEO, Clearwell Technology
“It was great to have an opportunity to use our expertise in process and kinetic modelling to help Clearwell Technology take their concept closer to market – especially given the size of the decommissioning programme in the UKCS and the obvious appeal of rigless P&A solutions. The project was extremely satisfying to work on, with an interesting problem, terrific partners and brilliant support.”
Dr Leo Lue, Reader, Chemical and Process Engineering University of Strathclyde