The deposition of carbonate and sulphate scales is a major problem during oil and gas production. Managing scale with chemical application methods involving either scale prevention and/or removal are the preferred methods of maintaining well production. However, chemical scale control is not always an option, depending upon the nature of the reservoir and well completion and, in cases of severe scaling, the problem can render chemical treatments uneconomic unless other non-chemical methods are utilised.
A variety of non-chemical scale control methods exist, the most common being injection of low salinity brines or low sulphate seawater (LSSW) using reverse osmosis and a sulphate removal plant (SRP) respectively. In addition, careful mixing of lift gas, produced waters and reinjection, coatings, smart well completions with active inflow control devices (ICD) and sliding sleeves (SS) are other methods.
All of these techniques, including combinations thereof, are currently in use and the advantages and disadvantages of the key techniques are compared to chemical methods for both carbonate and sulphate scale control. A detailed example from a North Sea field demonstrates where downhole chemical scale control has not been required through a strategy of careful mixing of lift gas, brines and produced water re-injection. This was combined with understanding fluid flow paths in the reservoir and their likely breakthrough at production wells.
Consideration is given to the injection of smart brines to scale deep in the reservoir, and data from North Sea chalk fields shows how "in situ" geochemical reactions between the reservoir and the injected fluid can precipitate sulphate scales. The necessity to understand these geochemical reactions and their implications for improved oil recovery and the design of smart injection brines for scale control are discussed.
This paper presents a comprehensive review of non-chemical methods for downhole scale control and discusses how the use of these techniques can provide alternative scale management strategies through minimising or alleviating the need for downhole chemical treatments.