Improving Well Barrier Stewardship in the Oil and Gas Industry

Table of Contents

Well Barrier
Significance of Allowing Sound Science to Guide Regulation
About RJ Lee Group


Drilling oil wells relies upon offshore platforms. Proper stewardship of these oil wells can reduce the risk associated with potential well failures, for instance, the disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

These oil and gas well failures remind the engineering challenges in drilling oil wells and emphasize the requirement of safety controls during well operation. They also remind the engineering challenges faced by producers during the extraction of fossil fuel deposits at pressures and temperatures that demand advanced engineering design and careful material selection.

Well Barrier

New drilling technologies are accountable for the expansion of new types of oil- and gas-containing formations, such as Utica Shale and Marcellus Shale. The payload extraction requires drilling through complex geological formations, thus strengthening the well is required to prevent leakage to the surrounding formations or surface. The bonding between the cementitious well barrier and the steel well casing as well as the surrounding formation must be good enough to ensure structural integrity during well exploration, production, and after abandonment. According to a survey carried out by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, barrier philosophy must be given focus to prevent major incidents due to unintentional leaks and well-control situations.

It is now possible to improve well barrier materials thanks to the development of concrete remaining life assessment technologies and remote sensing technologies that are now used in other industries. In the spirit of proactive stewardship, the combination of real-time knowledge of well-integrity status and the capability for reliable estimation of well barrier remaining life will not only protect company assets but also ensure public safety with the industry’s capability for predicting and preventing leak incidents.

Significance of Allowing Sound Science to Guide Regulation

Some oil and gas explorations have extended its boundaries dangerously close to locales unfamiliar with oil drilling operations, advantages and potential hazards. Even one spill or leak will cause severe damage to the community. Such fears can be reduced by improving industry practices through the application of sophisticated technology and tools, which ensure the industry’s capability to maintain well barrier integrity.

Structural well integrity is crucial right from the beginning of the exploratory drilling phase through the abandonment of the well. In current economy, the industry continuously evaluates wells for their production contribution and to ensure their compliance with regulatory oversight. It is possible to transfer and repurpose remote sensing technologies utilized in other industries to tackle some of the operational and safety challenges. The real time information provided by these technologies not only ensures well barrier integrity to improve business revenue and limit potential liability by mitigating the risk of leakage but also guides the development of future regulations. Through the combination of modeling technologies and proven analytical methods, oil and gas producers can acquire the much needed data to estimate the mix designs of prevailing grout systems, to perform failure analysis, and to identify expected remaining service life and future performance.

Remote sensing technologies such as Borehole Sonic wireline logging tools help to improve the assessment of grout bond and concrete grout quality through the measurement of full-field acoustic waves activated and propagated from inside the cemented steel casings of existing and new oil and gas wells.


Remote sensing technologies not only provide information about grout bond conditions at grout/formation and casing/grout interfaces but also about earth rock formation as well as the strength and quality of the grout. Innovative techniques to deploy sensors during well barrier placement provide new opportunities. The combination of chemical sensors and STADIUM software could assess remaining barrier life in real time during production and long after well abandonment.

About RJ Lee Group

For nearly 30 years, RJ Lee Group, Inc. has excelled at providing analytical services, technical consulting, information management, and expert testimony in materials characterization and forensic engineering. Our services are sought by leading organizations in academia, industry, and government. Clients choose RJ Lee Group, Inc. because of our reputation as an innovative solutions firm that is reliable, ethical, and committed to quality. The end result is outstanding customer satisfaction.

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