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An Ounce of Prevention:
Maintaining Well Control Barriers Under Any Condition

31 August–5 September 2014 Cannes, France


Technical Agenda

Session I: Barriers Through the Life Cycle of the Well? What Has Been the Industry’s Experience Over the Past 10 Years? Why Have Barriers Failed in Well Control Situations?

Session Managers: Keith Lewis and Richard Dyve Jones

Many well control incidents are either directly or indirectly related to barrier failure. The historical consequence has in a few cases been significant and shaped public perception of the industry. Loss of life, significant injury, and negative environmental impact are unacceptable; the industry must get barrier management right every time.

Re-establishing the correct level of risk-mitigating measures following a significant well control incident is challenging, and it is easy to adopt a default position where mitigating measures required for the worst-case scenario is considered to be the norm for all cases, even when the well falls into a lower risk category. If the industry fails to demonstrate that it can effectively manage risk, then significant additional investment in well design, construction, and response measures will be required.

How do we demonstrate that our industry can effectively manage risk and that it has control over its well barriers at all times? If we fail to do this, the consequence will be a high-cost environment that may delay or terminate future projects and pose a serious risk to industry’s license to operate.

Is there a future role for advanced technology development to provide tools and processes that will provide comfort to practitioners and key stakeholders that now and in the future will ensure we can get it right every time?

Session II : What Are the Unknowns in the Life Cycle of a Well? (Risks)

Session Managers: Randy Lovorn and Kris Ravi

As we take projects from conception to abandonment, the pressure regions and stress state often become operational risk as the project evolves through its life cycle. Typically, barriers are designed in the well construction phase of a project, but do we, at this stage of a project, consider how the engineered and geomechanical barriers evolve through the well life cycle up to and beyond abandonment?

In this session we will explore if the geoscience and engineering disciplines maintain sufficient involvement and share a common understanding of risk and uncertainty as the well progresses from construction, completions, production, and through abandonment. This session will challenge you with the following topics, which also lead into the following sessions:

What are your design assumptions based on? How do we mitigate risk? Are we training staff to understand risk during the design of the well and the changes in the risk profile during well execution and as a result of the  information observed and gathered? What technologies will help us improve our predictions? Are we using the tools and technologies available to us today? What future technologies will help to better understand and mitigate risk? Is there sufficient knowledge transfer and dialogue (integration) between well engineers, geoscientists, and drilling contractors? Is it just a case of working better together or do we need improved tools?

Session III: Understanding the ‘Barrier System’

Session Managers: Pat Reilly and Andrew Grisdale

Mechanical and hydraulic (i.e., physical) barriers are components of a larger ‘Barrier System,’ which includes physical barriers, processes for barrier management, and people who are accountable for the barriers. All three components are key to ensuring barriers perform as expected.

What are the characteristics of an ideal physical barrier? What does a comprehensive and reliable barrier management process look like? What are the barriers during each stage of well life? Who owns and is accountable for the barriers during each stage of well life?

The system is totally dependent on people. How are we training our staff? This is a human factor-critical system. How can we provide assurance that the system is robust at all times?

This session will examine the complete ‘Barrier System’ and how the 3 component parts work together to ensure the well is under control from drilling to abandonment. This session will then investigate the ‘People’ component in more detail. Session 4 will follow up with a focused look at Process and Technology (Physical Barriers).

Session IV: Barriers. Where Are We Now? (Technology and Process)

Session Managers: Colin Stuart and Richard Dyve Jones

The industry has been drilling exploration and development wells for decades. Well barrier technology has evolved over the years to cater to more challenging drilling environments. Are well designs taking into consideration well barrier robustness for the full life cycle of the well?

Where is the historical database on the long-term performance of these barriers? How do we determine if these barriers are fit for purpose and how does the industry develop its research and development plans for barrier technology without a long-term view on barrier performance?

How are we monitoring these barriers after the well is brought on stream and how do we feed back the information on barrier performance throughout the life cycle of the well, from both the drilling and production phases, to the engineers that design the well and the companies that work on improved barrier technologies?

What is plan B in case of a barrier failure during production and how quickly will your asset team know this? How do we cater to the challenges of the future taking into consideration the extremes of high-pressure, high-temperature wells and unconventional well manufacturing challenges?

How are we as an industry monitoring barrier failures now, is it just based on blowout statistics, and how can we improve that to drive more innovation and improved barrier performance in the future? Could we have a consolidated barrier performance industry database, in the same way we have a worldwide cost performance database for drilling?

This session will focus on measuring the long-term reliability of barriers and discuss how to gather and disseminate this information to improve barrier technology for the future.

Session V: Hydraulic Barriers

Session Managers: Ashley Johnson, Kris Ravi, and Raul Navarro

In principle, a hydraulic barrier is durable and reliable. If the well is full of a static fluid of known and consistent density, then the bottomhole pressure is predictable with a high level of confidence. Unfortunately, perturbations to this system will have significant effects on the pressures. The simplest changes of just turning the pumps on will first have to yield any gelled fluid (pressure pulse) then counter the effects of friction to circulate the fluid. More complex situations occur where we have multiple fluids (miscible or immiscible) of different density in the hole, from just a mud rollover up to the complexities of a kick with influx, which may have variable levels of solubility in the other fluids in the well. In the more complex situations, we want to displace the drilling fluid with a cement slurry that, when it sets, will form a permanent bond with the casing and wellbore to provide a permanent barrier.

Specific barriers to be considered will include:

  • Effectiveness of an OBM barrier for a kick
  • Barriers in HP/HT reservoirs
  • Barriers for weak, depleted reservoirs
  • Low-density (SG < 0.85) barriers
  • Foam as a barrier (Foam stability and breakdown; is foam a barrier to a liquid?)
  • Cementing (How efficient is cement in mud displacement? How permanent is a permanent cement barrier?)

The session will review current conventional hydraulic barriers and address the following issues:

  • Where are these barriers efficient and reliable and where are they not?
  • Under what conditions will they be stable and when will they fail?
  • What monitoring of these barriers do we have and what is needed?
  • What would an ideal barrier look like?

Session VI: Mechanical Barriers

Session Managers: Jan Brakel, Andrew Grisdale, and Mel Whitby

In this session, we will discuss the role of mechanical barriers in drilling and well intervention operations. Mechanical barriers can be either permanent or temporary. The requirements to achieve a permanent barrier are specific: The barrier must last for a significant period without the ability to be monitored or repaired. It must remain effective beyond the time that steel casing/steel plugs will survive. How many materials can satisfy this requirement today?

There are many methods of establishing a temporary well barrier. The purpose of the barrier will dictate the type of barrier that is selected. It is therefore fundamentally important to understand the intended function of the barrier, i.e., what it should isolate and how the effectiveness of the barrier can be positively verified. In particular, barrier effectiveness during well intervention operations on live wells is critical and the session will develop a view on reliability of current barrier systems.

A third category of barriers have a safeguarding function only, e.g., blowout preventers. The session will review this barrier type to establish their effectiveness and reliability and will aim to identify further improvement opportunities.

Session VII: Automation and New Technologies—What Are the Barriers?

Session Managers: Ashley Johnson and Randy Lovorn

The prior sessions are self-examination of the state of our industry today with some forward thinking on the individual topic. In this session, we will examine whether current technologies are sufficient to meet the barrier challenges of the future and consider the barriers to implementation of new technologies. Although we will focus on automation, the scope of the session is sufficiently broad to cover all new concepts and technology.

Automating the management of barriers is an opportunity that we will further explore in the session. We will not only consider the benefits of such a system but also the potential pitfalls of automation. Of course, reliability will be key in the adoption of any new system; missed events or false positives will not be tolerated.

In other industries, automation of certain processes has become prevalent. In mass-manufacturing applications, automation brings benefits of consistency and improved product quality. Automation of the control system for modern jet aircraft can enable the plane to be stabilised where the vehicle would be unstable under manual control.

In the session, the group will be challenged to define the characteristics of a system that would be adoptable. The group will also consider how systems will vary across different applications, from depleted low-pressure reservoirs to the most complex HP/HT drilling operations. We will also consider how automation should apply to the barrier systems through the production and abandonment operational phases.

Session VIII: Barriers to Change: Perceptions, Processes, and Business Models

Session Managers: Jan Brakel and Raul Navarro

The Forum will evaluate the current situation with respect to well control barriers from a perspective of standards and regulation, acceptable risk level, process and people, and technology. A number of opportunities in each of these areas to improve barrier integrity will emerge and it is possible that some of these opportunities deviate significantly from current practices. Is our industry sufficiently receptive to change and how do we manage the risks associated with change? Is there anything that we can learn from the past or other industries? In other words, how can this forum make a positive impact on barrier effectiveness and contribute to making loss of life, significant injury, and negative environmental impact a thing of the past.

Session VIIII: Reporting/Wrap-Up

Session Manager: Keith Lewis

The wrap-up session aims to develop personal action points/plans for attendees. In addition, we will capture the main discussion points and actions raised during the forum on a few slides and the contents will be agreed upon by forum participants. The slide pack is for attendees to share when they return to their companies. The main objective of this session is to stimulate thought for future initiatives and technologies that will raise the industry’s ability to maintain well control barriers under any condition.