OE Show Daily Article: isol8 Aims to reduce P&A costs with bonded-alloy well barriers

With more than £28 billion expected to be spent on well decommissioning across the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS), out of a total of £58 billion of UKCS field decommissioning expense, the opportunities that lie ahead for the supply chain are vast. UK businesses, in particular, are well-placed to service the industry, by building on the huge amount of operational and technical experience gleaned since oil was first discovered in the North Sea over 50 years ago.

Oil services start-up isol8 is one of those businesses that has its eye firmly fixed on the decommissioning market. The company, which is building a fully-functioning well intervention business in Aberdeen, believes its technology could deliver cost-savings for North Sea operators of up to £19.6 billion, a 70% plug & abandonment (P&A) time/cost reduction.

isol8 was established in 2017, and is headed up by Andrew Louden, a former Schlumberger, Interwell and Helix-RDS manager, who spent half of his 28-year career overseeing well operations at BP and Marathon. Under Louden’s leadership, isol8 is set to undertake trials in fourth-quarter 2019 for its bonded-alloy well barriers for the P&A market. isol8’s “Fusion” well P&A barrier forms part of a portfolio of wellbore “isol8tion” products being developed to address three principal markets: new well construction; well intervention; and well abandonment; all aimed at delivering a step-change improvement in wellbore seal integrity.

isol8 is developing a range of bonded-alloy isolation products that create a true metallurgical bond with wellbore tubing and casings. By fusing an alloy seal with the tubing/casing, isol8 can deliver high-integrity barriers with superior life expectancy. isol8’s Fusion barriers can save between 50% and 70% of a well’s P&A costs by avoiding the need to recover the tubing. isol8 was one of only 12 businesses to receive investments from Scottish Enterprise’s Decommissioning Challenge Fund at the end of last year. Louden said, “With North Sea assets approaching the end of their economic lives, decommissioning is becoming an increasingly important lifecycle conversation. It has triggered a demand for alternative barriers with an “eternal” life-expectancy, and has also prompted a call to “begin with the end in mind” for new well construction. “We are already seeing a ramp-up in decommissioning activity, and our area of focus, well plugging and abandonment is crying out for innovation.”

According to the Oil & Gas Authority, the current rate of well abandonment has increased four-fold since 2016, and this is expected to continue for decades to come. P&A has been cited as making up half the decommissioning spend over the next decade. Louden continued, “Through our range of alloy-based products, our vision is to develop the highest-quality wellbore isolation solutions to drastically improve well integrity, maximise economic recovery, significantly reduce well abandonment costs, and eliminate emissions.”

The Scottish government’s Energy Strategy, launched last year, recognises that decommissioning offers significant economic opportunities and commits to enhance the capabilities and capacity in Scotland.

Louden concluded, “We believe our innovative wellbore isolation technologies will help make Scotland the centre of excellence for this particular P&A method, generating more opportunities for support services from the local supply chain. By creatively challenging established technical, operational and commercial practices, we can really help our client base reduce costs, improve operational safety, and deliver zero-emission barriers.”

Sep 06, 2019