Riserless intervention gains momentum
In the current market environment, operators are looking for
cost-effective ways of enhancing production from existing wells. The
well intervention market seems set to expand, particularly given the
impending rise in subsea P&A and decommissioning work.
In this context, oilfield equipment providers and downhole service
firms are looking for ways to implement and execute new well intervention technologies and techniques. One of these methods that is
gaining momentum is riserless intervention.
In December, James C. West of Evercore ISI reported on a subsea
intervention overview which was held by Superior Energy Services
in Houston. Aside from the overview, the presentation focused on
the company’s new riserless intervention system within the technical
solutions segment’s Wild Well Control (WWC) brand.
Well intervention encompasses the services performed after the initial
drilling, completion, and flowback/production of a new (flowing) well.
Intervention operations can take place early in the productive lifecycle of
a well, and can continue through the decommissioning phase at the end
of the well lifecycle. Purposes of well intervention include production
management/enhancement, well integrity logging, pressure control,
general remedial work, and plug and abandonment (P&A). Inter vention
operations are considered high-risk from a HSE perspective because
of the exposure to the hazardous pressures of a “live” well.
The presentation outlined the four conventional subsea inter vention
methods, noting that the selection of method is based on the well’s
needs, equipment available, costs, and regulation, to name just a few
factors. In brief, the four intervention methods presented include:
Intervention fluids. These are fluid offerings designed for post
drilling wellbore intervention and workovers, and are well-suited
for the flow-assurance risks associated with deepwater intervention.
Subsea Intervention Lubricator. This involves a single-trip riser-
less system that facilitates access to large bore subsea wells from a
Riser-based well intervention. For extended depth intervention
work, or coiled tubing intervention operations, a rigid riser is needed
to connect the subsea tree or wellhead to a well intervention vessel.
Riser-based intervention uses a high-pressure riser to contain the
pressure during a workover or intervention operation.
Intervention riser system. This method employs a marine riser with
a drilling BOP and a subsea test tree to pressurize the well.
Riserless intervention is a new unconventional method being
pioneered by WWC and others, West noted. Riserless intervention
eliminates the need of a drilling riser connected to a BOP, allowing
E&Ps to employ smaller dynamic positioned monohull vessels instead
of drilling rigs. The use of a monohull vessel reduces mobilization time
for life-of-well operations including wireline, logging, light perforating, zone isolation, plug setting and removal, and decommissioning.
Prior to the offshore drilling rig cyclical downturn, riserless systems
were expected to reduce costs by 40-60% compared to traditional
well intervention with an expensive drilling rig. The technology is
based on wireline well maintenance, where the cable is routed via a
subsea lubricator system into the subsea well. Traditional activities
are wireline operations for well logging, perforation, and installing or
pulling equipment like plugs and downhole safety valve inserts. The
operational envelope can be extended by use of tractors (electrical
tools used to push the toolstring into hole, overcoming wireline’s
disadvantage of being gravity dependent) in horizontal wells.
Several oilfield ser vice companies provide subsea well inter vention
services, with capital equipment providers, vessel operators, system
operators, and service companies all playing key roles. In addition,
several technology leaders have collaborated on packaged offerings,
such as OneSubsea and FTO Services.
More recently, Subsea Services Alliance (a contractual collabora-
tion between Helix Energy Solutions and Schlumberger) announced
the co-development of a new riserless well intervention system that
would facilitate abandonment operations in open waters.
WWC believes this offering is comparable to its BOP capping
system, meanwhile, the company has already commercialized a true
riserless system. The company’s first 7 Series system commenced
operations this time last year and is certified to water depths of 10,000
ft and maximum working pressure of 10,000 psi. The company says
that the system allows for a safe and efficient means of conducting a
variety of slickline, e-line and braided line operations, including set-
ting and pulling plugs, shifting sleeves, logging and bailing as well
as wireline conveyed tractor operations such as milling and cleaning.
WWC says that the system allows for riserless plug and abandon-
ment of subsea wells that exceeds BSEE guidelines, and Superior
offers a turnkey solution for subsea plug and abandonments inclusive
of ‘B’, ‘C,’ and ‘D’ annulus isolation and wellhead severance when
required. During its first year of operation, WWC’s 7 series system
performed nine deepwater P&A jobs in the GoM for more than 50%
market share. The company says it averaged 11 days to P&A a well
versus the industry standard of 30 days per well.
Wood Mac issues industry outlook
Wood Mackenzie forecasts that the oil and gas industry will turn
cash flow positive for the first time since the downturn if OPEC production cuts drive oil prices above $55/bbl.
Tom Ellacott, senior vice president of corporate analysis research
at Wood Mackenzie, said: “Most oil and gas companies will start 2017
on a firmer footing, having halved cash flow breakevens to sur vive the
past two years. Further evidence of a cautious, U-shaped recovery in
investment should emerge.”
Wood Mackenzie’s corporate outlook, “Corporate themes: 5 things
to look for in 2017,” assesses the prospects for the majors, indepen-
dents, and national oil companies (NOCs), focusing on five themes:
• Strengthening finances will be a top priority
• US independents to lead the sector into a new investment cycle
• Portfolios will adapt, down the cost curve and into new energy
• Modest growth in production despite past capex cuts
• An improved value proposition for exploration and mergers and
“Overall, 2017 will be a year of stability and opportunity for oil and
gas companies in positions of financial strength. More players will
look at opportunities to adapt and grow their portfolios,” said Ellacott.
Strengthening finances will still be a top priority. Capital discipline,
cost reduction, and deleveraging will frame corporate strategies in
2017. But 2016 will prove to be the low point in the investment cycle,
with confidence boosted by OPEC’s decision to cut production.
The US independents will respond first to rising prices. Lower 48
operators have three core competitive advantages: access to capital;
cost-advantaged portfolios; and flexibility to scale back spend sharply.
According to Wood Mackenzie’s analysis, the US independents
could increase investment by more than 25% if oil prices average
above $50/bbl. But spend for the bigger companies will continue to
trend down – total investment by the majors will fall by around 8% as
recent capital-intensive projects wind down.
“More companies will strive to adapt by positioning portfolios
lower down the cost curve. The hot oil plays are US tight oil, with the
Permian basin to the fore, and Brazil presalt. Both have materiality
and development breakevens which are among the lowest globally.
Renewables exposure will continue to build, though scarce capital
and improving returns from upstream suggest small steps in 2017
rather than transformational moves.”
The analyst firm forecasts production from the 60 companies cov-
ered in its corporate service to grow by an average of 2%, which is
impressive given development spend was slashed by more than 40%
between 2014 and 2016. •