Cementing Process Control Improves Ops in Most Productive US Play

CSI Technologies, a Wild Well Control company, developed a proprietary standardized process of engineering oversight and operations control to improve cementing jobs while lowering costs for operators in shale plays. The project, carried out in the Permian Basin, resulted in a cost savings in cementing materials alone.

The Permian Basin cost-reduction project, which lasted 15 months, focused wholly on cementing operations and design. The actual cost of primary cementing is only a small percentage of the cost for each well—typically around 5%. However, the financial ramifications of poor primary cement work can be much greater. A poor cement job can result in difficulty with completions, delayed production, and potentially millions of dollars in remediation.

"When tendering for cementing services, evaluating submissions for lowest cost is common," said Travis Baughman, CSI Senior Cementing Advisor. "It is less common that operators evaluate the cementing service's approach to slurry performance associated with region-specific challenges in reference to this cost. Drilling engineers are often provided very little information on the variety of technologies available to them regarding cementing optimization. Not only do these options vary significantly in performance, but can have a large impact on operational costs."

First drilled commercially in 1920, the Permian Basin is famous for providing half of the world's oil and gas production during World War II, fueling the land, sea, and air military vehicles used by Allies to win the war. And the Permian's robust offerings continue to bolster the economy. During the industry downturn that began in 2015, high-producing wells and cost-effective operations allowed Permian-based operators to make a profit in a market that saw oil prices around $40/barrel.

According to Wood Mackenzie, the Permian Basin has lower average breakeven prices than the Bakken, partly due to its proximity to refineries, which is why the region continues to be an investment hotbed for operators.

The cementing issue specific to the Permian Basin is formation depletion and low-fracture gradients. The pressure required to fracture the formations being drilled is very low, which can result in losses while cementing the surface and intermediate strings. In many cases, these losses result in a lowered 'top of cement' and create incompliance with local regulations. The remediation efforts needed to recover compliance is often significantly more expensive than the primary cementing attempt all together.

Numerous methods and materials have been used over the years to heal losses prior to and during cementing. These methods include a vast market of lost circulation material, extra casing strings, multiple stage jobs, nitrified cement, and costly lightweight materials to name a few.

CSI's unique process couples region-specific experience, global access to relevant technologies (both new and old), and an operationally trained staff (engineers and field advisors), all dedicated to ensuring that our clients are getting the products they need at a fair cost.

"This project was initiated as oil prices began to drop, the drilling team needed to find ways to cut costs," said Baughman. "Throughout this project, the major goal was to decrease cost and improve success rate—all without compromising the integrity of cement barriers. Through some technical work altering the cement designs and properly implementing some existing operational technologies, we were able to get there.

"There are a lot of moving parts that contribute to sound cementing work. Identifying exactly where your operations are most susceptible to failure is a big piece of the puzzle. Only when you know where your problems are coming from can you evaluate your options, both technically and financially, to find the best fit for your well construction."

For more information, contact CSI Technologies at 281-784-7990 or csi-info@csi-tech.net.