URTeC Manuscript and Technical Presentation Featuring the Local Expander by Charles Green

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New Technology Closes Micro-Annular Flow Paths in the Wellbore, Stopping Downhole Gas from Escaping to the Surface

C. Green*1, R. Evans1, B. Fry1, W. S. Wruck1, 1. Renegade Services. Copyright 2021, Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) DOI 10.15530/urtec-2021-5520.

Abstract

For decades, operators and service companies have attempted to minimize problems impacting aging oil and gas wells. Over time, micro-annulus can form in the cement/casing bond of the wellbore, creating potential flow paths to the surface and compromising wellbore integrity. This has long plagued oil and gas wells, especially in abandoned wells where methane leaks are common and present an environmental risk.

In 2020, the EPA published the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990-2018. The report states there are over 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the U.S. Emissions of both CH4 and CO2 increased by 50% from 1990, as the total population of abandoned gas wells increased 79%. If not cemented and plugged property, these wells will continue to release methane gas into the atmosphere. Numerous applications that attempt to mitigate these issues have been tried with limited success. These include perforate and squeeze cementing, downhole packers, section milling and recementing—all of which are either costly, time intensive or require a workover rig.

New technology recently confirmed by successful field tests offer promising alternatives. This involves a retractable, expandable mechanical device that induces plastic deformation and elongation of the inner diameter of the casing string. The result is the outer diameter of the casing expanded into the micro-annuli. The associated volume reduction in the annulus closes micro-annuli defects in the cement and results in an overall densification of the cement. This alternative offers rigless remediation of annular gas/fluid migration. In 2020, Renegade Services utilized this new technology on four wells in the Northeast U.S. for four separate operators (three in Pennsylvania, one in Ohio). All wells exhibited annular gas flow determined by either measured annular flow or pressure. This flow prevented the operator from starting plug and abandon (P&A) operations on the wells. Upon completion of running this new technology, all four wells showed zero gas discharge (on three wells the stoppage was almost immediate; the fourth well showed zero discharge after two weeks). With these results, the state granted approval for the operator to begin P&A operations. This paper will provide detailed analysis of these four wells and show how this new technology can help safely and efficiently prepare older wells for abandonment.

As the unconventional plays of the ‘00s start to mature, wells may begin to exhibit annular gas flow. With this new technology, the associated volume reduction in the annulus closes micro-annuli defects in the cement and results in an overall densification of the cement. This new technology alternative stops seepage and annular flow behind the casing, results in permanent well repair and does not affect casing integrity or burst and collapse pressure ratings.

This type of expandable technology is also applicable to other areas of well services and interventions, particularly wellbores that need to be sealed in producing wells. Other areas that could see reduced non-productive time and cost/benefit upside are cementing and drilling intervention operations as well as the thousands of ‘orphan’ wells seeping methane that will need to be treated in the future before they are plugged and abandoned.


This paper was prepared for presentation at the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 26-28 July 2021.

The URTeC Technical Program Committee accepted this presentation on the basis of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). The contents of this paper have not been reviewed by URTeC and URTeC does not warrant the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any information herein. All information is the responsibility of, and, is subject to corrections by the author(s). Any person or entity that relies on any information obtained from this paper does so at their own risk. The information herein does not necessarily reflect any position of URTeC. Any reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper by anyone other than the author without the written consent of URTeC is prohibited.

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Case Study: Plug and Abandonment Proceeds After Expansions

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Case Study:

Pennsylvania DEP grantS permission for operator to P&A well After Expansion Service 

Local Expander Data assists in Plug and Abandonment approval
» Decrease in both pressure and gas rate to zero show the effectiveness of Local Expander technology and allowed the operator to P&A the well.

 

CONDITION:

This Pennsylvania well was scheduled for plug and abandonment, however, gas flow in the annulus prevented the operator from starting the process. All gas migration and pressure had to be eliminated before the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (DEP) would let P&A operations commence. Previous attempts at stopping the gas flow with traditional squeeze cement jobs proved unsuccessful. 

PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION:

The operator contacted Renegade Services. After reviewing well problems, Renegade recommended its Local Expander technology, which expands the casing into the cement and blocks the path of any unwanted gas flow.  

 

SOLUTION & RESULTS:

Utilizing Local Expander technology, Renegade created two sets of three expansions. The first set of expansions was performed at depths of 3369, 3370 and 3371 ft while the second set was at 2069, 2070 and 2071 ft, successfully sealing the annulus. The gas rate dropped from 1.5 mscf/day to zero flow after five days while the pressure rate decreased from 105 psi to zero psi after 14 days. Upon reviewing these successful results, the Pennsylvania DEP granted permission for the operator to P&A the well. 

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Case Study: Local Expander Resolves Backside Pressure in Pennsylvania

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Case Study:

Decrease in backside pressure allows operator to return seven wells to production

Renegade Local Expander Operator E Well 1 - 5

Candidate selection is a critical factor in obtaining effective and consistent Local Expander results. Factors such as expansion depth, the number of expansions and cement quality all will affect the success of the Local Expander service on individual wells. 

 

CONDITION:

This operator in Pennsylvania had an issue with backside pressure on several wells. The pressure was causing gas to flow up the annulus between the casing and cement. The gas flow exceeded limits set by the state for maximum gas flow. The operator had to stop production on the wells until the problem was addressed.  

PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION:

Renegade Services was called in to evaluate the wells and recommended the Local Expander™ tool to shut off the gas flow. Local Expander unique technology expands the casing into the cement, densifying the cement and stopping upward gas flow. The wells were at two locations, with one pad containing five wells and the second pad containing two wells. Pre-job well pressure ranged from 130 psi to 680 psi on the seven wells.  

SOLUTION & RESULTS:

The Local Expander provided a successful remedy decreasing the unwanted gas flow. Renegade performed 12 expansions (four sets of three expansions) on each well. Upon reviewing the successful results, the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (DEP) granted permission for the operator to return the well to production. With the success of these wells, the operator engaged Renegade and the Local Expander on ten more wells.

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