Scale-dissolver technology has been developed and applied with varying degrees of success over the past few years to remove carbonate and the more challenging sulphate/sulphide scales from production tubing and process equipment. It can often seem a much safer, more cost-effective remediation approach than physical removal, in particular, in the new generation of HP/HT fields, where any physical well intervention carries high risk, while the high temperatures would normally be beneficial in enhancing scale solubility and dissolution rate.

The current paper reports dissolution characterstics of three solvents for calcite, barite, celestite and anhydrite in the temperature range 85°C to 176° to verify their performance up to the very high temperatures of a specific HP/HT development. These solvents included a typical alkaline-pH chelant for sulphate scale, an organic-acid mixture for carbonate scales, and a novel neutral-pH chelant as a less corrosive solvent for carbonate scale removal. In some tests the liquid-to-solid ratiowasvaried to evaluate the impact of excess scale on solvent performance.

The performance against BaSO4 of the alkaline-pH chelant unexpectedly declines very significantly at 176°C relative to that observed at 85°C. Thermal instability was ruled out as the cause becausethe solvent showed very limited decline in performance when tested at 85°C after it had been thermally aged at 176°C. Performance at 176°C showed an initial rise followed by a decreasein aqueous barium ions, strongly indicating secondary re-precipitation of a barium-containing species at this temperature. In contrast, dissolution rates of carbonate scale by organic acid were greaterat the higher temperature, as would be expected. The novel neutral chelant showed a decline in calcite dissolution performance during the 176°C test but unlike the alkaline-pH chelant used for sulphate scale, this chelant showed degradation after thermal ageing and re-testing at 85°C.

The findings from this paper suggest that there is temperature limit above which effective removal of sulphate scales may not be feasible with the selected solvents due to re-precipitation of a secondary reaction product, while for carbonate removal the current neutral chelants tested have a thermal stability issue at 176°C. These findings need to be considered when evaluating the potential role of chemical remediation in the overall scale-control strategy for HP/HT fields.

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