In the challenging North Slope operating environment, use of innovative production equipment has provided solutions to zonal isolation and packer integrity problems in viscous oil reservoirs. Operators have employed new tools and technology utilizing expandable rubber materials to manage annular fluid flow, control solids/shale production, and achieve zonal isolation in wells where high costs, shallow depths, and long step-outs create unique completion challenges. The new technology is allowing once bypassed zones to be added to existing developments, and making future developments more economically viable.

The new design approach involves installing swelling rubber packer (SRP) technology as part of the completion. This technology is based on specially designed swelling properties of rubber in crude or mineral oil based mud (MOBM) to expand and seal the annulus.

The paper describes one operator's use of as many as 17 devices in a tri-lateral horizontal undulating well to manage annular flow and minimize shale/solids production. The successful application of this technology has allowed shale interbedding to be effectively isolated behind blank pipe, thus allowing an additional zone to be added to the existing development. To date the technology has been applied to eleven wells, improving production assurance.

Another major operator on the North Slope has used the technology to isolate potentially conductive fault crossings along the lateral and inadvertent zonal crossings while kicking off from the parent bore. Multiple packers have been run in single laterals to achieve the desired isolation without noticeable effects on liner running drag. Recent density caliper data shows significantly more washout than previously envisioned, increasing the desire to manage annular flow.

Development and application of this SRP technology is detailed in the paper, including documentation of improved efficiencies as a result of its use. The paper will also discuss field operations, installation, and unique considerations associated with design and installation in viscous oil environments.

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