A new initiative aimed at accelerating the pace at which plug and abandonment (P&A) technology is qualified and commercialised has been launched.
It is hoped the scheme, designed by the Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC), will improve industry performance by allowing new solutions to be trialled and tested in multi-operator collaboration field trials.
The initiative is being actively supported by the Technology Leadership Board (TLB) and Oil and Gas UK (OGUK).
According to industry regulator the Oil and Gas Authority, well P&A represents around 45% of UKCS decommissioning costs, or an estimated £23 billion spend over the life of the basin.
Over the next two years, the well P&A collaboration initiative has committed to increase the number of technology field trials, in low access cost land wells.
This will support the validation and qualification of alternative barrier materials, inspection and verification technologies and other enabling technology streams, thereby expanding the reach of the rigless well P&A approach.
The collaboration initiative will be managed by the NZTC and overseen by a multi-operator steering group, with backing from Spirit Energy, Repsol and Harbour Energy already secured.
The steering group will review up to five technologies per year, conducting a minimum of three field trials for each.
The ambition for the initiative is to have six technologies qualified and adopted by 2025.
Keith Hogg, project manager – emissions reduction, the NZTC, said: “This collaboration could be a true game changer in the way we approach technology development in the wells P&A space.
“It has the potential to accelerate the progress of technologies being field trailed and tested making them available to operators far more quickly.
“The success of this new collaborative approach has been driven by the commitment of the operators; Spirit Energy and Harbour Energy who participated in the first project together.
“It is this proactive attitude and willingness to collaborate and share information that we need other UK operators to replicate, as this is key to the future of this collaboration and meeting our industry commitment to a minimum of 35% cost reduction and 50% emissions reduction in well P&A by 2035.”
A pilot project was undertaken in Q2 2021 to ensure the robustness of the collaboration process.
Well engineering services firm Interwell qualified their patented formation-to-formation thermite barrier in Canada.
Supported by Spirit Energy and Harbour Energy, five successful field trials were completed, with the technology now recognised as part of the standard “non-routine” abandonment procedure with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), paving the way for the same recognition in the UKCS from operators and regulators alike.
Carlo Procaccini, OGA head of technology and co-chairman of the TLB, said: “Reducing well P&A cost has long been identified by the TLB and the OGA as a very important priority for our industry. Novel technologies have the power to achieve that.
“The TLB has been proudly supporting the efforts by the Net Zero Technology Centre, Spirit Energy, Harbour Energy and other partners to bring an ambitious field trial programme to life.
“Now is the right time to expand this programme to more operators and technologies to accelerate testing and adoption of a fuller portfolio of critical technologies for P&A efficiencies.”
Joe Leask, OGUK’s decommissioning manager said: “The implementation of new technologies in decommissioning is a key priority for our members at OGUK, particularly in well decommissioning, which comprises almost 50% of the expenditure over the next decade.
“OGUK’s decommissioning forum is keen to support the Net Zero Technology Centre’s collaborative approach, which will help us lead the way on safe, environmentally sound, and globally competitive well decommissioning.”
Mike Richardson, industry technology sponsor, Spirit Energy said: “Our industry has struggled to be truly collaborative in the past but this is a fantastic opportunity for operators to work together, reduce costs, accelerate new technology have a better range of plugging solutions available…. all at the same time!”