Production, people and the environment are all put at risk when well failures hit oil and gas operators. Here, Dr Liane Smith, director and founder of Intetech, examines how well integrity management systems can give users an incisive view of corporate risk

The operational life of a well can be upward of 30 years, and ensuring optimum safe conditions during that time is vital. It is here that the management of the vast amount of operating data can be a huge challenge.

It is common practice among many oil and gas operators to manage data such as annulus pressure readings, valve and seal leak tests, and well logs using a patchwork of bespoke production management databases and spreadsheets. However, by consolidating raw operating data using a well integrity management solution, operators can have a powerful means of tracking the integrity of operating wells in real time.

These systems allow users to analyse and report on key performance indicators (KPIs) enterprise wide, or instantly access more granular data at a per well per annulus level, apply exception reporting and traffic light warnings to highlight issues immediately and optimise repair and test schedules.

This proactive approach can reduce the risk of well failure and integrity-related shut-ins by up to 80%. It can also extend safe operation beyond the original design life, a key challenge for those having to deal with ageing equipment and facilities.

An emerging discipline

Well integrity management systems exist both at a documentation and software level, and combine key well operating and production data within a framework for decision making, management processes and organisational structure.

Recently, an ISO committee began working on an international standard (ISO/NP 16530) to provide guidance on well integrity management. This will assure compliance with a defined safe operating envelope including a wide range of parameters for temperature, pressure and fluid composition and is designed to minimise the risk of an uncontrolled release of hydrocarbons or associated products.

The ISO standard will also set out a test criteria philosophy according to type of well and exposure of risk to people, environment, assets and reputation. Complying with such guidelines will present a major challenge for oil and gas operators, since the required information falls into a number of distinct categories and must be acquired from a wide range of sources. Without software to manage well integrity data, it can take as much as 70% of total project time just to assemble the necessary data for analysis during investigations concerning well integrity problems.

Costly disparate data

Data collection is time consuming and is open to error through manual data transfer. Information is often held in databases or file systems located in different departments, resulting in silos of potentially critical information, making it difficult to review and identify problem wells, while it can take weeks of intensive effort to collate the necessary information for annual audit and management reporting.

Furthermore, the frequency with which information is collected varies. Operational and production data might be collected several times a day, whereas leak testing of well barrier components is typically performed every six months. Well logging or other inspections may occur every few years. Regardless of frequency, operators need immediate access to the latest available data in each of these areas.

Combining data silos

Advanced well integrity management systems can interface to a wide range of third party databases to collate the necessary information for analysis and identification of wells shifting outside critical safe operating limits, for the assessment of equipment reliability and well risk, and for real time estimation of the corrosion in the well tubing. Data can also be acquired directly via tablet PCs in the field, entered manually, or via spreadsheet loader.

With this data consolidation, smart functionality enables operators to analyse the well condition automatically in real time and generate customised reports. This ensures they have the specific ‘tools’ needed to satisfy local regulations, proactively identify potential problems and plan test schedules and repairs.

Users can also generate and manage well handover documentation, track scaling issues and determine mean time to failure of equipment to establish risk-based inspection frequencies. However, just as important is the ability to manage by exception, given the deluge of data faced by oil and gas operators today. With such a solution automatically identifying issues using a simple traffic light system, issuing e-mail alerts and risk ranking wells that fail to meet safe operational limits, it is possible to establish effective control of well integrity.

Reducing cost and risk

The clashing of routine activities have caused many of the recent incidents within the oil and gas sector. Well integrity data ensures critical systems and equipment perform as expected, that production is optimised and that wells are operated in a way that maintains the optimum safe condition for their whole design life.

The result is higher productivity and major cost savings for operators for a relatively low cost software implementation. Also, by presenting this information via a management dashboard, senior executives and other users have a 360° view of well integrity at individual well, field and company level.


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