The subsurface well integrity is a key for utilization and abandonment of subsurface petroleum resources and reservoirs, utilization of deep geothermal energy, subsurface hydrogen storage and safe disposal of CO2 and nuclear waste.
Improperly abandoned wells are one of the most crucial factors that might compromise subsurface integrity. For the North Sea basin, more than 7 000 petroleum wells are scheduled for P&A (plugging and abandonment) from now until 2050. In Norway alone, the estimated costs are in the order of 500 billion NOK according to the Offshore Norway. The balance price for new fields, decisive for the coming investments and activity at the NCS (Norwegian Continental Shelf), are also affected by P&A costs as based on proven technology.
The regulations for NCS states that permanently abandoned wells shall be plugged with an eternal perspective which sets severe performance requirements on well integrity and plugging material. Consequently, very conservative measures are applied when it comes to length of accepted barriers, associated with considerable operational costs for the P&A-operation.
The infrastructure NorPALabs, Norwegian P&A Laboratories, will enable R&D for new and existing plugging materials and the characterisation of well integrity for coming P&A operations. NorPALabs will provide test facilities ranging from laboratory scale, medium scale and full scale. The infrastructure is distributed with nodes localized in Trondheim; existing laboratories at Lerkendal/Gløshaugen (Node 1), and in Stavanger; Ullandhaug (Node 2).
The infrastructure will also allocate for education and student projects associated with technology development and research within well integrity and plugging and abandonment of wells. This will contribute to cover the growing needs for competence and capacity towards solving the industrial needs as set by the authorities.
For SWIPA (Subsurface Well Integrity, Plugging & Abandonment), a Centre for Innovation driven Research granted in 2020, NorPALabs is an important resource for the experimental activities. Both this centre and other P&A projects, such as the NORCE P&A Innovation Program, will be important users of NorPALabs. It is expected that NorPALabs will be an important resource for Norwegian industry and technology competence in order to develop an industry which globally is expected to become significant the next 10-20 years.
The center SWIPA currently has 28 industry partners and 5 research partners who will contribute to producing important innovations and results to achieve the goal of halving the future costs of plugging and abandonment of wells. Both for SWIPA and NORCE P&A Innovation Program the test facilities made available by NorPALabs are already very important for characterizing new barrier materials and methods for plugging of wells at relevante downhole conditions.
Permanent well plugging and abandonment (P&A) with today's technology is extremely costly, both for operators and the Norwegian State. P&A also has a safety dimension, since plugged wells must remain tight in a long-term perspective. OG21 TTA3 and the Plug and Abandonment Forum in the Norwegian oil & gas association have emphasized the need for accelerated technology development within P&A to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs and maximize quality.
In this project, we will establish the Norwegian P&A Laboratories, a unique combination of laboratory-, medium-scale and full-scale research infrastructure that targets important P&A research directions:
i) Well barrier materials,
ii) Cementing and P&A operations,
iii) Barrier verification methods and logging technology,
iv) Improved and more cost-efficient P&A operations.
The facilities will be established in Trondheim and in Stavanger, in close proximity to the operations of O&G companies, service companies and the leading Norwegian academic environments within petroleum and P&A in particular. The infrastructure will build on and improve existing research infrastructure, and also represent entirely new research environments.