Cementing Geothermal Steam Wells
- G. Warren Ostroot (Halliburton Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,425 - 1,429
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 4.3.4 Scale, 5.4.6 Thermal Methods, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 2 Well Completion, 1.11 Drilling Fluids and Materials, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.14 Casing and Cementing, 1.14.3 Cement Formulation (Chemistry, Properties), 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 5.9.2 Geothermal Resources
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Cementing deep, high-temperature oil wells where static temperatures range from 350 to 400F has become routine in the past decade. In the United States there were 271 wells drilled deeper than 15,000 ft during 1963. Many of these wells had static temperatures higher than 400F. Bottom-hole static temperatures near 700F are now realities in the geothermal (steam producing) wells of California's Salton Sea area. The detailed planning initiated prior to drilling the wells is discussed together with the methods, materials and equipment used in solving the cementing problems which are encountered. Data are also presented that lead to development of cementing compositions that provide adequate thickening time, do not retrogress in strength, and maintain low permeability under these extreme temperature conditions. Field data include the cementing programs used on eight relatively trouble-free geothermal steam wells in the Salton Sea area.
Not too many years ago cementing oil wells with temperatures in the range of 300F caused considerable anxiety. In some areas of the United States it is now fairly common to cement wells having bottom-hole static temperatures in excess of 400F. We are now confronted with the problem of cementing wells with temperatures ranging from 500 to 700F. Temperatures in this order of magnitude are often found in geothermal steam wells. From where does this extreme heat emanate? There are many theories as to the source of this steam flow. The most widely held views are: (1) heating of ground water fairly close to the surface by an intrusive mass of hot rock; (2) steam generation from a reservoir of metamorphic rock, normally found below 25,000 ft and not at the shallower depths of the Salton Sea reservoir; and (3) high- temperature gases (water vapor) escaping and migrating from molten or semi-molten rock (magma) at a considerable depth. Of these, No. 3 seems to be the most generally acceptable explanation. Heat from springs and fumaroles has been used for years as a means of heating and cooking; however, significant progress in harnessing the vast power of underground steam reservoirs has been relatively slow. The first large-scale attempt to use the heat generated by steam from wells was made in Italy around the beginning of the 20th century. In excess of 250,000 kw of electrical power is now being produced from holes around Larderello, Italy. Another very active drilling program was initiated in the volcanic area of New Zealand in 1949. Natural steam for power projects in the United States began in the early 1920's. An early commercial steam field is located at the Geysers, approximately 75 miles north of San Francisco, an area discovered in 1847 and used for many years as a health resort. Steam originates from 15 wells that have been drilled since 1957. The present output from this project is 25,000 kw. Success of the Geysers operation has been responsible for several companies taking a careful look at the feasibility of producing steam for power generation in the Salton Sea area of Southern California's Imperial Valley. Geothermal steam activity in this latter area began in 1961 when O'Neill, Ashmun and Hilliard completed Sportsman No. 1, at that time the hottest wellbore in the world. Since its completion seven additional wells have been successfully completed in this area.
Many problems encountered in drilling stream wells had to be oven come to make the ventures successful. Formation temperatures encountered in the Salton Sea seemed to be a straight-line function (a gradient of 13F per 100 ft of depth). This imposed severe conditions on all aspects of drilling and completion. This varied, to some extent, from gradients in the older geothermal areas. Not to be overlooked is the effect of these temperatures on casing creep or elongation by thermal expansion (Table 1), because standard API flanged wellhead equipment makes no provision for this kind of performance. Floating equipment was redesigned, and changes in types of downhole equipment were made in an effort to eliminate anticipated problems. In the later completed wells, standard oil-well cementing equipment has been used.
During the early development of geothermal steam wells there were some problems resulting from blowouts. However, these were eliminated in the deeper Salton Sea wells and no problems were encountered with the drilling mud. A sodium surfactant mud was used on the Sportsman No. 1 to drill from 2,690 to total depth. Nevertheless, it was necessary that a cooling system be added and the mud cooled before circulating it back into the well. The difficulty in evaluating the size of the steam area and its potential in terms of pounds of steam and years of productivity still bas not been resolved.
Economic complexities have also entered into the steam play in the Salton Sea. The wells at the Geysers were drilled at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000, whereas the Salton Sea wells will cost more than $150,000.
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