Emerging technologies, stringent permanent well abandonment regulations, and increasing well complexity affect the way we execute well intervention operations. One of the major operators in the Netherlands had an objective to set underbalanced cement plugs in brine across a deviated section using managed-pressure equipment to overcome high reservoir bottomhole pressure. The project involved several challenges: large-diameter production casing with a requirement to maintain high shut-in wellhead pressure, complex wellbore geometry, operations from a workover rig with zero discharge allowance, corrosive salt environment, and small cement slurry volume. These challenges had to be addressed to complete well abandonment to minimize safety risks, maximize efficiency, and achieve compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements.

This paper discusses two case studies involving underbalanced pump-and-pull and conventional balanced plug placement techniques. Thorough analysis and risk assessment, engineering design approach, comprehensive laboratory testing, and fit-for-purpose surface equipment and downhole tools enabled flawless job execution and placement and achievement of long-term zonal isolation. The first well-barrier elements were successfully verified by tagging and pressure testing in both cases.

Results of this study include the following observations and conclusions:

  • Managed-pressure cementing was proven to be an ideal solution for a well abandonment in a reservoir environment of high bottomhole pressure.

  • Highly magnesium-resistant cement slurry design should be considered when setting cement plugs across an extremely corrosive salt environment.

  • Successful verification of the first well-barrier element simplifies operations for subsequent cement plugs.

Cost-effective solutions for permanent well abandonment under challenging downhole conditions attracts increasing interest from petroleum engineers due to increasing well complexity and low oil prices that challenge the economics of wells, leading to abandonment. The current paper describes the challenging conditions under which the wells had to be abandoned, thorough analysis of the risks involved, and an effective solution. The design strategy, execution, evaluation, and results for these two wells are discussed in detail and will help to guide success and solve problems related to permanent well abandonment under similar challenging conditions.

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