New sponge coring service and technology have been introduced to the oil and gas industry. Admittedly sponge coring has been an industry offering in some form for over twenty years but until now it has been plagued by chronic problems. The objective of sponge coring was to determine separate in-situ oil and water saturations of the formation materials. The problem with conventional coring has always been that the fluids would be expelled and lost from the core by the expanding gas while bringing it to the surface. The long-time solution was to surround the core with a special oil-absorptive (oleophilic) sponge material that would capture the expelled oil and hold it in place for laboratory analysis. The challenge was to fit the sponge tightly enough around the core to prevent fluid migration and mud contamination in the sponge-core clearance annulus, and yet avoid core jamming and sponge damage.

This new, more accurate sponge liner coring service is now in place, showing excellent results. A balance seems to have been achieved between smooth core entry and a properly fitting, pre-saturated sponge with virtually no fluid migration. This new service cuts and provides oil-absorptive sponge-encased 3½-in. diameter core in 30 ft lengths with a maximum downhole temperature and pressure of 195°F (90° C) and 15,000 psi (1,034 bar) respectively. Special vacuum pump service equipment and sealing system are utilized to pre-saturate the sponge liner with brine.

In late 2012 a major operator utilized this new and previously unproven system to core nearly 300 ft of sponge core in New Mexico, USA. The coring program used a special low-invasion coring fluid with a low spurt loss and a staged trip-out-of-the-hole schedule to minimize gas expansion/oil movement. The precision core bit that cut a tight-clearance core provided exceptional results with an average rate of penetration (ROP) of 10.4 ft/hr, with 97% core recovery and observable oil saturation in the sponge, indicating the system worked as designed. This case study will be described in detail within this paper.

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