New Cement Spacer Chemistry Enhances Removal of Nonaqueous Drilling Fluid
- Jason McClure (Mubadala Petroleum) | Ines Khalfallah (Schlumberger) | Salim Taoutaou (Schlumberger) | Jorge Andres Vargas Bermea (Schlumberger) | Slaheddine Kefi (Schlumberger)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 2014
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 32 - 35
- 2014. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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An efficient removal of drilling fluid is essential to successful cementing operations. When a cement slurry comes into contact with mud residue, the cement may not set properly or adhere to the casing and formation, thereby preventing the isolation of permeable zones under different pressure regimes. This can cause stimulation out of zone, production of unwanted fluids because of communication between zones, loss of hydrocarbons into lower-pressure formations, corrosion of casing, and blowouts. In recent years, the industry has focused considerable attention on enhancing cementing practices to ensure well integrity and zonal isolation.
To clean all well surfaces after the placement of casing, an intermediate water-based fluid, or spacer, is pumped between the drilling fluid and cement slurry. Typically, a package of surfactants or solvents is added to the spacer to improve cleaning and displacement efficiency.
However, over the past decade, spacer formulations have not evolved as rapidly as the chemistry of drilling fluids. Every year, operators drill deeper, more complex, and higher-temperature wells under a growing range of downhole conditions. To boost performance, drilling fluids incorporate a greater variety of nonaqueous fluids (NAFs) based on synthetic and natural oils—mineral, paraffinic, and olefinic oils—with much longer carbon chains than traditional diesel-based muds. As such, NAFs are much more difficult to clean.
Although spacers are intended to separate drilling fluid from cement, a small amount of spacer fluid—from 5% to 10%—typically contaminates a portion of the cement slurry. Many spacer chemistries affect cement properties, such as thickening time, rheology, and compressive strength, often precisely where zonal isolation is most essential.
If the cement has not fully hardened by the time a cement bond log is run, it may not show up clearly and the top of cement (TOC) may be uncertain. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that spacers remove the maximum amount of mud while having a minimal effect on cement properties.
Since NAF compositions vary widely, there are no universal spacer formulations. Most are designed and tested on a case-by-case basis using procedures that differ from one operator or location to another. Existing American Petroleum Institute (API) recommended tests for evaluating the suitability of a particular spacer have been found nonrepeatable.
In addition, no test protocols exist for well conditions above 85°C, despite the large number of cement jobs in wells with bottomhole temperatures of up to 150°C. Along with salinity and the type of drilling fluid, temperature is one of the most critical factors influencing cement integrity. Thus, enhanced test procedures and spacer formulations are needed.
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