Continued Technological Innovation for WellsWed, 01/21/2015 - 13:48
Many great companies begin with a great innovation. For Welltec, the invention that put it on the map was the Well Tractor, which the company’s founder, Jørgen Hallundbæk, developed while still studying in Denmark. The reason why the Well Tractor opened the way for Welltec to become a leader in precision robotics is its versatility and its ability to save a lot of unnecessary spending on equipment. The Well Tractor is an e-line deployed, robotic device that overcomes the limitations of traditional, gravity dependent operations, and can carry out operations throughout the entire length of the wellbore, regardless of the deviation and extension. In open-hole, the Well Tractor can apply the force required to push large toolstrings or pull coiled tubing past helical buckling as well as navigate past washouts. This saves a lot of time and money as the Well Tractor allows for the elimination of equipment used for interventions in oil and gas wells.
WellTec is rightfully proud of its star technological development, which Hallundbæk credits as having helped the company become the “leading provider of precision robotics for conveyance services and interventions in vertical, horizontal and deviated oil and gas wells.” Indeed, the versatility of the Well Tractor is mirrored by the range of oil and gas segments in which WellTec has worked. Nevertheless, an innovation can only go so far, which is why the company branched out into mechanical downhole services, clean-out and milling services, and well completion products. Now, José Carrillo Osorio, General Manager of Welltec Oilfield Services Mexico, is tasked with building on this success to cement the company’s position in the newly opened Mexican energy sector. However, fresh opportunities in Mexico do not isolate Welltec from the problems beleaguering the entire industry. “The sudden fall in oil prices is a major concern for all the oil companies and service providers. The main challenge for operators in Mexico will be to keep operating and production costs lower than the current price. In mature or non-conventional fields, this is a tough objective given the additional investment and production costs that the exploitation of these fields involves,” says Carrillo Osorio. “Furthermore, the decline in oil prices has an obvious negative impact on drilling, completion, and workover activities worldwide. SENER announced in January that some Round One tenders might be postponed, which would also delay the entry of foreign exploration and production companies.”
Despite the threat posed by delayed tenders and investments, Welltec can count on its ace-in-the-hole to keep revenue flowing in. Carrillo Osorio says that Welltec’s solutions are getting ready to help PEMEX and other future operators to enhance production at offshore fields, largely through the Riserless Light Well Intervention (RLWI). Traditionally, rigs have been used to perform interventions on subsea wells. However, depending on the scope of the intervention, these vessels can be expensive and require long lead times. This is where Welltec believes that RLWI can prove to be a game changer. “A paradigm was broken when the decision was taken to run an e-line through open water to intervene in a subsea well for the first time. From that moment onward, a new intervention approach was adopted. Capitalizing on existing, more readily available equipment to accomplish interventions, RLWI can be accomplished with purpose-built vessels or a vessel of opportunity,” assures Carrillo Osorio. A major advantage of RLWI is that it can be done without a rig being required, which leads to huge cost reductions. Welltec can cater to clients’ RLWI needs, either through a heavy intervention vessel with a high-pressure riser system or through a semi- submersible rig with a low-pressure marine rise.
Alongside the RLWI, during the 2014 Mexican Petroleum Congress, Welltec presented the Welltec Annular Barrier (WAB). Traditional well completion can pose challenges to operators including cementing, the formation of micro-annuli, and degradation over time. The WAB, a rugged, fully metallic, surface-controlled, expandable barrier seeks to provide a solution to these issues. “The WAB can be used to prevent annular flow between casings or between casing and open hole. Inflated into green cement, it prevents the occurrence of micro-annuli and is not weakened by thermal or expansion stresses over time. This enables longer, extended reach wells to be drilled where cementing is a challenge,” explains Carrillo Osorio. Furthermore, to fully capitalize on the completion, absolute control of the well is required. Welltec’s approach to this is discrete compartmentalization of the reservoir section. This means the WAB can then be used for zonal isolation between the lower completion and the open hole, allowing for the compartmentalization of the reservoir. This gives the operator full control of the reservoir, mitigating reservoir uncertainties and providing maximum purpose and value of the well. The reaction to the WAB has been positive for Welltec. Several producing assets in Mexico are facing serious issues with undesired water production, gas migration, and other problems related with poor zonal isolation, which leads to expensive chemical treatments. Carrillo Osorio states that they have shown interest in WAB as a way to mitigate these problems by implementing a reliable zonal isolation device.