Technical Paper: Demonstration of Automated Pressure Control System for Assisted Well Control Offshore Norway

Society: SPE
Paper Number: 194089
Presentation Date: 2019
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Objectives/Scope: This case history paper describes the well integrity challenges Spirit Energy was faced with for executing the drilling operations on the Scarecrow wildcat well in the Barents Sea. The expected reservoir depth on Scarecrow was the shallowest reservoir ever drilled in the Barents Sea being only 188 m below mudline with a water depth of 454 m MSL.

Several mitigating actions were implemented to improve robustness of the well integrity such as:

  • Seismic While Drilling in the pilot hole down to planned depth of the 13 3/8" shoe to reduce reservoir depth uncertainty
  • Minimum acceptable LOT value at the 13 3/8" casing shoe for allowing drilling into the reservoir
    • Unknown reservoir fluid; gas gradient used in design
    • If actual LOT value lower than minimum accepted; P&A well
  • Well Control training with the crews onshore at Maersk Training Center
  • Installation of low flow pump to improve control of actual LOT value
  • Installation of Autochoke system on the rig
  • Kick drills on the rig focusing on kick detections and optimizing sequence for closing in the BOP
  • Well control training using the Autochoke system on the rig as part of qualifying the system for use

The focus in this paper is to describe the qualification of a new automated pressure control method (Autochoke system) used on the Scarecrow wildcat well in the Barents Sea for circulating out an influx. Simulations and return of experience indicated that manual conventional well control practices would not provide sufficient pressure control precision to maintain bottomhole pressure within the +/- 4 bar (58 psi) operational window required to circulate out an influx. A new automated pressure control method based on a commercial managed pressure drilling (MPD) control system was developed, tested, and DNV approved to achieve the required pressure control precision for both single- and multi-phase scenarios, and permit safe operations.

Methods, Procedures, Process: A pressure control method was developed to automate control of well control chokes to maintain a constant standpipe pressure, as required during circulating using Driller's Method. The methodology used is comparable to commercial MPD pressure control systems, in which pressure transducer (PT) measurements are input to a control loop which actuates chokes to attain the pressure demand while minimizing overshoot. Unlike a typical MPD installation, in which PTs are typically located upstream of a choke manifold, this installation utilized PTs installed on the rig standpipe, with chokes installed in the well control manifold. The choke control system was improved to automatically compute and account for pressure wave propagation lag due to the distance between the chokes and the control PTs.

Results, Observations, Conclusions: The system was tested at a test rig in Norway that permitted the injection of air into the standpipe to simulate a gas kick. In multiple test cases, various quantities of air were injected into the standpipe, circulated into the annulus, and finally circulated out of the wellbore with automated chokes operating to maintain a constant standpipe pressure as the air was circulated out of the wellbore and through the chokes. Testing was repeated with varying quantities of injected air and varying standpipe pressure setpoints to validate the process across a range of operating conditions. The control system demonstrated standpipe pressure control precision of +/- 1 bar (14.5 psi) during all test phases, achieving the required precision. Testing under additional operating conditions was conducted to approximate a real-world well control scenario, in which constant casing pressure is maintained while ramping the pumps, and constant standpipe pressure is maintained while circulating out the kick (i.e. first circulation of driller's method of well control). The maximum observed deviation from the control value was 2 bar (29 psi), again meeting the required control precision.

Novel/Additive Information: These tests were observed, validated, and approved by DNV. The technology was introduced to the field in July 2018.

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