The traditional Plug and Abandonment (P&A) method of exploration wells in the North Sea is to set a series of cement plugs to isolate the pressurised zones from each other and from surface. This paper describes a North Sea P&A field case. In this case an alternative method with a Bingham-plastic unconsolidated plugging material with high solids concentrations was used. This alternative method addresses well integrity issues like those caused by shrinking of cement or gas migration during setting, fracturing after setting, or long term degradation by exposure to temperature and chemical substances in the well.

The gas tight Well Barrier Element (WBE) described here does not set up after placement and does not shrink. Furthermore it cannot fracture even when shear forces exceed its strength. When this happens the material floats and shear forces are reduced below yield strength causing the plug to reshape. Since this is a purely mechanical process the transition between solid and fluid phase is repeatedly reversible forever.

The plug is thermo-dynamically stable since its sealing property is decided by the solids particle size distribution and bound water only. The closely packed particles and absence of free water means that the entire column is kept homogenous and no internal re-distribution of particles may occur. Hence, the permanent gas-tight barrier will prevent influx through the well bore forever.

In the field case a successful implementation of the technology was obtained. The field case shows how the fast and efficient placement of the plug contributes to overall cost reduction. The paper explains how the well barrier element complies with governmental permanent P&A requirements and the operational procedures are also presented in some detail.

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