Good cementing practices are required to achieve effective zonal isolation and provide long-term well integrity for uninterrupted safe production and subsequent abandonment. Zonal isolation can be attained by paying close attention to optimizing the drilling parameters, hole cleaning, fluid design, cement placement, and monitoring. In challenging extended reach wells in the UAE, different methods were employed to deliver progressive improvement in zonal isolation.
Cementing the intermediate and production sections in the UAE field is challenging because of the highly deviated, long, open holes; use of nonaqueous fluids (NAFs); and the persistent problem of lost circulation. Compounding the problem are the multiple potential reservoirs; the pressure testing of the casing at high pressures after cement is set; and the change in downhole pressures and temperatures during production phases, which results in additional stresses. Hence, the mechanical properties for cement systems must be customized to withstand the downhole stresses. The requirement of spacer fluids with nonaqueous compatible properties adds complexity.
Lessons learned from prior operations were applied sequentially to produce fit-for-purpose solutions in the UAE field. Standard cement practices were taken as a starting point, and subsequent changes were introduced to overcome specific challenges. These challenges included deeper 12 ¼-in. sections, which made it difficult to manage equivalent circulating densities (ECDs), and a stricter requirement of zonal isolation across sublayers in addition to required top of cement at surface. To satisfy these requirements, several measures were taken gradually: applying engineered trimodal blend systems to remain under ECD limits; pumping a lower-viscosity fluid ahead of the spacer; using NAF-compatible spacers for effective mud removal; employing flexible cement systems to withstand downhole stresses; and modeling the cement job with an advanced cement placement software to simulate displacement rates, bottomhole circulating temperatures, centralizer placement, mud removal and comply with a zero discharge policy that restricts the extra slurry volume to reach surface. To enhance conventional chemistry-based mud cleaning, an engineered scrubbing additive was included in the spacers with a microemulsion-based surfactant.
The results of cement jobs were analyzed by playback in advanced evaluation software to verify the efficiency of the applied solutions. This continuous improvement response to changes in well design has resulted in a significant positive change in cement bond logs; a flexural attenuation measurement tool has been used to evaluate the lightweight slurry quality behind the casing, which has helped in enhancing the confidence level in well integrity in these challenging wells. The results highlight the benefit of developing engineering solutions that can be adapted to respond to radical changes in conditions or requirements.