The Barents Sea offers unique drilling challenges related to issues such as biogenetic gas in shallow formations, thermogenic gas seeps up to the seabed from underlying formations, shallow formations with abnormal pressure, shallow reservoirs, low-fracture-pressure formations in part of the overburden, and naturally fractured/karstified carbonate reservoirs. This paper discusses cementing challenges when drilling wells in the Barents Sea and the experience gained using managed pressure cementing (MPC) practices.
When drilling the surface hole in potentially slightly overpressured formations, the riserless mud recovery (RMR) technique was used. For the first time on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS), MPC was used when cementing the surface casing. RMR compensates for drilling the overpressurized zones without a riser and blowout preventer (BOP), and MPC allows for pressurization and monitoring of the pressure on the subsea wellhead toward the formation during the cement curing stage.
Once the marine riser and BOP were installed, controlled mud level (CML) technology was used during drilling, running casing/liners, cementing operations, and other activities. CML enables manipulation of the fluid level in the riser and therefore helps optimize downhole pressure to avoid losses and maintain an overbalance. CML has proven to be particularly useful during cementing of liners in naturally fractured reservoirs and during setting of balanced cement plugs in an open hole. As a result, high circulation rates can be achieved and conventional high-density cement slurries can be used.
MPC using either RMR or CML was employed for the first time in the Barents Sea. Examples of how cementing operations were planned and executed are described and results are presented.