SPE Projects, Facilities & Construction
Projects progress through phases of design, construction, installation,
commissioning, initial startup, and operations. This paper addresses issues
that arise at initial startup. Initial startup is defined here as the period
when reservoir hydrocarbons are produced for the first time.
Initial startup of a subsea development is one of the most challenging
periods in the operational life of the facility. Many issues complicate this
- People issues. Many people from many teams are required to execute a
startup; roles and responsibilities may be unclear and will change over the
course of the startup; persons-onboard (POB) issues limit the number of people
who can participate; personnel involved may not be fully trained in the
operation of the facility.
- This will be the first time much or all of the equipment is used in live
hydrocarbon service. Design flaws, commissioning omissions, and infant
mortalities will reveal themselves.
- Preserving completion integrity requires low rates and slow bean-ups during
initial startup because of high formation skin. Chokes designed for high rates
and low pressure drops may not be capable of controlling the well at low rates.
Also, topside systems designed for peak rates may not function well at low flow
- Low flow rates and low initial temperatures result in hydrate risk, which
may challenge the flow-assurance strategy.
- Completion and stimulation fluids returned during the initial well cleanup
are corrosive and are difficult to treat. Typically, specialized
water-treatment equipment is installed temporarily at topside to treat these
fluids. The flowback fluids may also contain solids from the reservoir and from
construction debris that may cause problems such as plugging small ports in
- Drilling, construction, installation, and commissioning activities
[simultaneous operations (SIMOPS)] may still be in progress. The exact state of
equipment items may be unclear and may change over the course of the
- Reservoir engineers will seek to obtain reservoir information through well
tests, especially pressure-buildup tests. Other data-collection efforts are
important to validate the design and establish benchmarks.
- Some regulatory requirements apply specifically to the startup period.
- Special procedures are usually written for the initial startup. These will
differ in important ways from the normal operating procedures. There is risk
that there may be errors in the startup procedures, that operators may err in
implementing the procedures, or that equipment designed for normal operation
will not function well at the conditions imposed by the startup.
- Startup is one of the most hazardous periods in field life. Effective risk
management is essential.
Careful planning is required to achieve a trouble-free startup. This paper
describes the key requirements for generating effective initial-startup plans
© 2010. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- Original manuscript received:
23 October 2009
- Meeting paper published:
4 October 2009
- Revised manuscript received:
19 March 2010
- Manuscript approved:
17 June 2010
- Published online:
8 December 2010
- Version of record:
9 December 2010