Incorporating enhanced-recovery focus into field-management practices as early as possible is finally becoming the norm. No longer is enhanced oil recovery (EOR) something operators procrastinate with and not act on until the end of the life of a field. Growing recovery challenges of maturing fields definitely are one of the reasons for this historical change in focus. We should also acknowledge the effect of the growing unconventional oil operations and, more importantly, their severe recovery challenges.
One of the key aspects of safety in mature fields is to maintain well integrity, which is associated directly with maximizing well productivity and minimizing risks to personnel and environment. It is essential for the operators to construct, implement, and follow through with their own version of well-integrity surveillance and maintenance programs. The value of such programs goes beyond detecting problems early to avoid costly remedial treatments, because the lesson learned can become tremendously useful in the development of game-changing technology.
Cementing operations represent one of the more critical aspects concerning well integrity. Despite the large amount of research and the huge number of operations throughout the years, the industry still faces well-integrity problems during and after cementing operations. These occurrences have been experienced by the petroleum industry worldwide and can happen at any moment of the well life cycle, from the drilling phase to abandonment after the well’s production life.
As an operator approaches the end of a field’s life, the remaining value may lie predominantly in a low-cost decommissioning delivery coupled with some upside value from the retention of critical infrastructure to enable maximum regional resource recovery. Actualizing this value will require the operator to begin late-life and decommissioning planning much earlier than cessation of production. The operator will need a process to assess the field’s timing and value drivers, communicate them externally to other stakeholders, and periodically update and adjust them as time and conditions change.