Well integrity management
Vallourec’s concrete response
from conception to completion
From well conception to well abandonment, or during thirty years on average, oil & gas companies have to ensure people’s safety, respect the environment and reduce non-productivity to a minimum. All that is contained in the concept of well integrity management that has flourished in the oil and gas industry over the last few years. Well integrity is high on oil & gas companies’ priorities. Connection magazine asked Vallourec’s OCTG, Drilling Products and Pipe Project managers what concrete services they implement to address this key concern of their customers.
Well integrity management is generally defined as the “Application of technical, operational and organizational solutions to reduce risk of uncontrolled release of formation fluids throughout the life cycle of a well”.
“This definition which meets the particularly difficult conditions in the North Sea fits perfectly,” explains Patrice Brossard, new Director of Vallourec Global Solutions (VGS). “Better yet, we can claim that VGS was created to meet the demands of our customers for well integrity while offering a new and comprehensive range of premium services from the mill to the well. All this must of course be put into perspective with the fact that pipes – as a mechanical barrier – are at the heart of the well’s life cycle. So, it’s our duty to warn our customers about the risks that they sometimes take and to help them eliminate those risks.”
Even if quality remains a constant battle, it should be recognized that VAM® premium connections are globally renowned for their reliability and performance. We know that VAM® 21, for example, is as resistant as a pipe. For Vallourec, scoring points in well integrity now largely happens outside production lines. Endorsed by customers and checked many times, premium connections are high tech products that must be properly handled, transported, stored, installed and possibly repaired.
No one knows VAM® like VAM®, that’s why our customers are asking us to integrate more and more services upstream and downstream from the manufacturing to the running. Our common target is to ensure well integrity and have our customers completely satisfied.
Supply chain optimization
Everyone knows about the support provided by the 200 technicians from VAM® Field Service on rigs worldwide. They provide technical guidance, inspect products, oversee the smooth functioning of running operations, and can even, when and where required, carry out straightforward repairs on connection threads. The objective is to make sure that an improperly made-up connection does not compromise well integrity. But that’s not all. Investigations by Vallourec show that over 50% of rejected pipes come from damage occurred during handling, transport and especially storage.
“For one of our customers,” explains Patrice Brossard, “we recently rejected nearly 30% of the pipes on an oil rig that were ready to be run. That represents a lot of NPT hours (Non Productive Time). An example which clearly illustrates why we decided to offer an onshore stock and inspection management service for our customers. Added to that is the complexity of wells with a correspondingly large number of product references. This service, which can save a lot of time and money, is provided in the United Kingdom, Norway, Gabon and Brazil (see article p. 24). The objective is to deliver only high quality products to the rig and, it goes without saying, in the required quantities and on time.” In addition to the rig preparation service, we also manage the rig return that for many years relies on a network of 200 VAM® licensees worldwide benefiting from in-depth training and very close monitoring.
Integration of accessories
From the most straightforward to the most complex, accessories pose a major threat to well integrity. Indispensable interfaces between tubing, casing, completion equipment and OEM parts (Original Equipment Manufacturer), they must meet the same requirements for performance, quality and availability. They also need a lot of flexibility – tailor-made solutions are a significant proportion – and reactivity. Requests must often be dealt urgently to avoid a deadlock. It is the accessory that adapts to the well and not the other way round. For all these reasons, Vallourec offers notonly a wide range of products that we completely develop in-house, from design to manufacture (pup joint, nipple, crossover, flow coupling, blast joint, lifting plug…) but also offers threading services to the major Oil Field Service companies in order to ensure the highest level of quality.
The supply chain, with a particular focus on accessories, covers a large part of what we call the well integrity chain (see the above diagram). Beyond this large area, some essential steps remain where Vallourec is working hard to find more and more innovative services. That is parti-cularly the case for team skill levels, products selection or traceability.
“The correct use of our products depends on the skill level of VAM® end-users,” considers Patrice Brossard. “That’s why we have designed and developed a comprehensive education program targeted at our customer teams. Around forty modules grouped under our programme Tubular Essentials can be customized worldwide, and delivered at our own sites or at our customers’ sites. Our top experts deal in-depth with material and connection selection, logistics and installation of OCTG, from the API standard to the most sophisticated specifications for extreme applications like HP/HT. We also offer general introductory modules dealing with steel production, pipe manufacture or connections machining.”
Starting from the principle that Vallourec as premium tubular supplier is probably the best placed to advice customers in their choices, we built a well design service offer. Piloted by drilling engineers, this service is able to design a well in its entirety or provide timely advice on steel grades, pipe thickness or connection types best adapted to well conditions. Experience shows that an early collaboration with Vallourec’s teams will bring more added value to a project and, as a result, contribute to maintaining its integrity over time.
Well integrity also depends on products traceability and equipment used on rigs. However, as we have seen, the growing number of product references linked to the complexity of strings makes this particularly challenging. From the manufacturing plant to the well – and even beyond – each pipe must be able to reveal immediately and easily all its technical information. Vallourec surveyed its customers to test the merits of a technology that caught its eye: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). After extensive studies, it was decided to opt for an electronic tag embedded in PEEK and attached in the VAM® premium connections. The solution is already qualified by one major operator in Brazil and another major in Europe is taking a keen interest to the downhole performances of the solution. At the heart of the device is a database where you can easily find at any time information on steel grade, batch number, thread, length, thickness, inner and outer diameters as well as valuable information on inspections, storage, make-up or even repairs. Such information can contribute significantly to well integrity.
“We can also propose other services, including first and foremost, technical assistance supplied daily by our Technical Sales Managers or our on-line service Mr Help,” concludes Thierry Wolkiewiez, OCTG Strategy Director. “Added to this are our low torque test plug and test cap system or our work string rental* that we have recently implemented. All these services form part of well integrity management as we conceive it. In fact, well integrity is in everything and everything contributes to well integrity. It is good to know it but it is even better to propose concrete and innovative services to ensure the safety and the smooth running of our VAM® connections on some 5,600 rigs currently operating worldwide.”