Insufficient wellbore cleaning prior the cementing job is considered to be the biggest single factor leading to poor zonal isolation results. A mud-spacer-cement program with suitable fluid needs to be carefully engineered for the given wellbore conditions to improve cementing quality. We discuss optimum spacer design features which are critical for the successful cementation of deep deviated HPHT wells containing heavy oil based muds and review a simulated scenario. Advanced lab test methodologies beyond industry standards are utilized to model more accurately the given complex downhole conditions.

A simulated >20,000 ft highly deviated wellbore was characterized by HPHT bottomhole conditions and the rheological performance of the cement spacer was critical to job success. The well needed a stable cement spacer that would not settle-out on the low side of the >14,000 ft horizontal section, which would potentially put the well at risk. The 16.17 ppg mud required an even higher-density spacer system to clean it effectively. But conventional high-density spacer systems only compound the settling challenge and the well's anticipated bottomhole temperature of 350°F was expected to compromise any additives that might stabilize the fluid systems. Therefore a lab study about spacer stability was performed using a HPHT rheometer and the dynamic settling test – an industry standard which was actually established for cement slurries but not for spacer fluids. We found that a conventional spacer failed at 350°F by showing a rapid decline in rheology to almost zero viscosity and severe settling. To overcome the settling issue, provide stability, and maintain a sufficiently high rheology profile at given 350°F, we re-designed the spacer by using a modified biopolymer which shows a delayed hydration and viscosification over time successfully counteracting the destructive thermal effects.

The mud-spacer-cement fluid train was eventually optimized showing good fluid compatibility and maintaining within the narrow, 1.6 ppg margin that separated the pore pressure from the fracture gradient. The cementing job was designed using an advanced fluid displacement software, which predicted high mud removal efficiency under these challenging conditions. In order to enable proper mud displacement, the Friction Hierarchy—a key design factor that is often difficult to achieve under the extreme HPHT well conditions—was achieved with the new spacer concept.

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