Achieving successful zonal isolation during well completion is critical to minimize early water production. Currently, cementing is the only method used in Saudi fields to provide zonal isolation. However, in horizontal sections, cementing becomes a challenge and water flows can occur due to channeling. Another method for zonal isolation is to use a rubber elastomer bonded onto a base pipe. The rubber swells in water and provides a seal between the base pipe and the open hole.

This paper will outline the step-by-step qualification testing that was carried out in Saudi Aramco facilities in an attempt to improve zonal isolation in horizontal and multilaterals wells.

In this study, we present lab evaluation of elastomers at 190°F using brines of different ionic strengths and pH values. The evaluation involved examining the effect of salinity and pH on the rate of swelling of elastomers. Also, the study investigated the effect of 15 wt% HCl acid on the swelled elastomers. To the best of the authors' knowledge, no previous work was done to examine the impact of these factors on the swelling mechanisms.

The elastomer bonded in pipes was tested in autoclaves. The pressure drop across the pipes was measured as a function of time. The influences of fluid density and viscosity were also investigated using elastomer samples. Swelling was related to volume of the samples and fluid characterstics.

Water swelling elastomers withstand pressures up to 5,000 psi at 190°F after placing the elastomers in salinities up to 200,000 mg/l. However, the swelled elastomers shrink in 15 wt% HCl. This paper discusses the advantages and limitations of swelling elastomers and gives recommendations for successful field applications.

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