The Valhall field, operated by AkerBP, has been a major hub in the North Sea, on stream for thirty-eight years and recently passed one billion barrels of oil produced. The field requires stimulation for economical production. Mechanically strong formations are acid stimulated, while weaker formations require large tip-screenout design proppant fractures. Fracture deployment methods on Valhall have remained relatively unchanged since the nineties and are currently referred to as "conventional". Those consist in a sequence of placing a proppant frac, cleaning out the well with coiled tubing, opening a sleeve or shooting perforations, then coil pulling out of hole pumping the proppant frac. For the past few years, AkerBP and their service partners have worked on qualifying an adapted version of the annular coiled tubing fracturing practice for the offshore infrastructure - a first for the industry, which has been a strategic priority for the operator as it significantly reduces execution time and accelerates production.
As with all technology trials, the implementation of this practice on Valhall had to begin on a learning curve through various forms of challenges. Whilst investigating the cause and frequency of premature screenouts during the initial implementation of annular fracturing, the team decided to challenge the conventional standards for fluid testing and quality control. Carefully engineered adjustments were made with regards to high shear testing conditions, temperature modelling, and mixing sequences, these did not only identify the root cause for the unexpected screenouts, but also helped create the current blueprint for engineering a robust fluid.
Since the deployment of the redefined recipe, adjusted testing procedures and changes made to the stimulation vessel, there have not been any cases of fluid induced screenouts during the executions. The fewer types of additives now required for the recipe have lowered the cost of treatments and the lower gel loading leads to reduced damage in the fractures, thereby contributing to enhanced production over the lifetime of the wells.
This paper describes the investigation, findings and the resulting changes made to the fluid formulation and quality control procedures to accommodate for high shear and dynamic wellbore temperature conditions. It discusses the rationale behind the "reality" testing model and, proves that significant value is created from investing time in thoroughly understanding fluid behaviour in the lab, prior to pumping it on large-scale capital-intensive operations. The study demonstrated that there is always value in innovating or challenging pre-conceived practices, and the learnings from this investigation significantly improved the track record for annular fracturing on Valhall, redefined fluid engineering for the North Sea and will inform future annular fracturing deployments on other offshore assets around the world.