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Engineering the energy transition with a wells-focused approach

Engineering the energy transition with a wells-focused approach

May 2, 2023

First published in OGV Magazine.

As the energy sector reaches a pivotal moment in its transition to net zero, the critical role of well engineering should not be underestimated, cautions Julie Copland, head of production technology and decommissioning at Elemental Energies.

There are clear synergies between the engineering and technical insights required to plan and safely execute an exploration or production well campaign and those required for both the decommissioning of those assets and the parallel move to carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) and other energy production technologies such as geothermal.

Within the existing upstream sector, wells are the most crucial element in maximising cost-effective recovery from existing projects – the lifeblood of current energy security. Steps must also be taken in regions such as the Gulf of Mexico and North Sea to ensure wells are leak-tight during decommissioning, or are suitable to convey and contain CO2 for CCUS projects.

“Wells are frequently the highest cost, and most complex, element of all of these activities yet few in-house engineering teams or independent engineering firms have the depth of knowledge needed to successfully transfer well expertise from the upstream industry to these other sectors,” says Julie.

“Elemental Energies, which launched at the end of 2022, following the acquisition of Senergy Wells from Vysus Group, has been able to do this very successfully with most of our engineers coming from a drilling or completions background. Decommissioning is an important part of the energy transition -  it’s going to keep a lot of people busy for a very long time. We’ve seen a significant increase in demand for both our decommissioning and low carbon consultancy services since we announced the new company. There is clearly a need for an integrated approach to the energy transition that has well engineering at its core,” she said.

For Elemental Energies, expert wells support must remain at the heart of integrated projects throughout the energy transition mix. It is our mission to engineer the energy transition by harnessing the brightest wells talent, shaping the design and delivery of wells-focused projects.

Within decommissioning, well abandonment is the most costly part of projects, and deep well engineering and geological expertise is required to permanently isolate flowing zones below ground – crucial to permanent emissions prevention.

Low carbon energy projects such as CCUS and geothermal also require a significant wells focus, and this is amplified when looking at repurposing existing oil and gas assets. If wells expertise is embedded into the planning of these projects from the earliest phases, opportunities for efficiency can be harnessed early and engineering challenges overcome, reducing cost and complexity.  

It is therefore critical to leverage wells skills and the expertise of experienced well engineers already within the industry. This transferring of skills and implementation of existing technical knowledge holds the key to unlocking the potential of these projects and supporting clients through the energy transition with high-quality, low-cost solutions.

With a track record of hundreds of wells engineered, abandoned and project managed, Elemental Energies is a significant hub of well engineering talent within the industry. Our track record also includes more than a decade of experience working on CCS projects which are now a key component of the accelerating decarbonisation efforts around the world.

With a commitment to shape the wells-centric projects of the present and the future, Elemental Energies is building a world-leading offering to solve complex challenges in oil and gas, decommissioning and the low carbon sectors of CCUS, and geothermal.

Proof of concept put into practice on Greensand carbon capture project

Elemental Energies’ team has been working on the Greensand Project, led by INEOS and Wintershall, since last year. It has led the conceptual well design assessment for the conversion and repurposing of the Nini West and Nini Main wells for CCS and, most recently, updated the approach to reflect technical advances, ahead of a final investment decision for full commercialisation.

Our involvement is just one part of a major development. Helping the client understand and minimise the risks has been key to the project’s progress.

Its latest scope of work has focused on finalising the proof of concept for the conversion of three wells for CO2 injection, the decommissioning of seven other wells, and an assessment of the abandonment status/well barrier integrity of the original four exploration wells, to ensure their suitability for the use of the Nini fields for future storage of CO2.

Delivering a multi-well deepwater campaign on time and under budget

Building on its long-standing relationship with Energean, Senergy Wells provided project management, engineering and operational supervision for a multi-well campaign, 75 km offshore Israel.

The scope included three firm wells, and two optional wells, drilled in 1400-1800 metres water depth to deliver the Energean objective of de-risking prospective resources of over 1 billion boe. The project was delivered in partnership with Stena Drilling and Halliburton, on time and under budget.

The wells were drilled using the Stena IceMAX drillship, an ice-class, harsh environment, dual-activity, dynamically positioned drillship, capable of drilling in water depths of up to 3,000 metres. Halliburton provided integrated services to deliver project management, directional drilling, drill bits, drilling fluids, cementing, solids control, wireline, slickline, completions, production enhancement, and subsea services.

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