To determine which salt-based cement system [potassium chloride (KCl) or sodium chloride (NaCl)] was suitable for cementing across halite and anhydrite salt sections in West Africa, eight slurry recipes were tested to assess how formation salt contamination would affect slurry properties. The formation salt used for testing was sampled from a deepwater, presalt well in Angola. The recommendations developed from the laboratory study were implemented in 10 projects across West Africa over 5 years with 100% operational and well integrity success.
A candidate deepwater well was selected in which the surface and intermediate strings penetrated salt formations. A total of four slurry designs (a lead and tail slurry used on each casing string) was programmed. Each slurry was designed and tested as two distinct systems using KCl and NaCl salt respectively, yielding a total of eight slurry designs. Using the methodology and data presented by Martins et al. at the 2002 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference (SPE-74500-MS), the mass of dissolved formation salt that each slurry may receive during placement was estimated and duly incorporated into each slurry design. Subsequently, the salt-contaminated slurries were tested and compared with the properties of the initial uncontaminated slurries. Based on these results, conclusions were then made on which salt slurry system (KCl or NaCl) exhibited better liquid and set properties after contamination with formation salt. Subsequently, this knowledge was applied to 10 projects across three countries in West Africa.
This study showed that when the contact time of liquid cement slurry to salt formation was low—typically when the salt formation interval across which the cement slurry flowed was less than 100 m thick—the level of formation salt dissolution entering the slurry during placement was limited. In this case, a KCl salt-based slurry delivered improved liquid and set properties as compared with a NaCl salt-based slurry. In the field, this knowledge was applied in all oilfield projects cemented by an oilfield service company between 2015 and 2020. This included deepwater, shallow offshore, and onshore wells. All related salt-zone cement jobs, including sidetrack plugs, placed across the salt formations were successful on the first attempt.
In an absence of industry consensus around salt-formation cement slurry design, this paper validates a guideline for West Africa, based on results from laboratory testing and 5 years of field application. In contrast to current literature that recommends only NaCl salt-based slurry designs across halite or anhydrite salt intervals, this work demonstrates that KCl salt-based slurry systems can effectively be used to achieve well integrity where a halite or anhydrite salt interval is less than 100 m [328.1 ft] thick.