Imagine a world where we can safely store carbon emissions or hydrogen in wells after they've served their primary purpose. This is the vision behind the WELLFATE project, which seeks to shed light on the complex subsurface processes around boreholes. The Norwegian Continental Shelf, a sprawling petroleum province with nearly 7,000 wells, holds the promise of repurposing depleted reservoirs for carbon storage and reducing global emissions. However, concerns have arisen about the integrity of these wells, which could have serious environmental and climate consequences. The WELLFATE project seeks to fill the gaps in our understanding by characterizing leaky well sites through direct observations and available data. Moreover, a seabed observatory will be deployed to monitor emissions for an entire year. This comprehensive strategy will help us grasp fluid migration pathways, identify the origins of fluids, pinpoint the onset of leakage, and relate these dynamics to well configuration and geology. The implications of the WELLFATE project are substantial. It paves the way for guidelines and best practices to optimize well-decommissioning procedures and early drilling strategies to prevent issues in ecologically sensitive areas. Ultimately, it aims to offer solutions to mitigate leakage from already problematic wells. WELLFATE is more than just a scientific endeavor; it's a pathway to sustainable ocean management. By preventing depleted fields from leaking and making them suitable for CO2 storage, the project aligns with Norway's emission goals for 2050. Furthermore, WELLFATE positions Norway as a hub for clean and sustainable energy knowledge, supporting technological innovation through research. It's a step towards a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable future.
The Norwegian Continental Shelf is a vast petroleum province pierced by nearly 7,000 wells, either plugged and abandoned or heading for decommissioning in the next decades. Suspected leakage is raising concerns about potential implications for the environment and for repurposing depleted reservoirs for permanent carbon storage. However, the current scarcity of direct observations and samples at leaky wells limits our confidence in the mapping of emission fluxes, fingerprinting the origin of the methane, and ultimately prevents us from correlating geology and well design to a risk of leakage. The project WELLFATE aims to understand the processes of fluid migration near wells, which is crucial to achieving sustainability of marine resources from the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS), particularly when planning to repurpose depleted reservoirs for carbon storage to reduce global emissions. Our multidisciplinary approach is to characterize leaky well sites by integrating direct seafloor observations, geophysical, geochemical, and geological data with well configuration and P&A data. In addition, we will deploy a seabed observatory to monitor emission rates and variations over a full year. This strategy will allow us to interpret fluid migration pathways confidently, define the origin of the fluids, date the onset of leakage, and relate the system's dynamics with well configuration and geology to identify critical wells and predict possible leakage locations with the help of state-of-the-art fluid flow simulations. Ultimately, the project results can be used to develop guidelines and best practices to optimize well-decommissioning protocols and/or implement early drilling strategies to prevent lateral fracturing in sensitive sedimentary units and propose possible solutions to mitigate already leaking P&A wells.