Enabling Subsea Well P&A with Modern Vessels

Enabling Subsea Well P&A with Modern Vessels
November 2020
Tze King Lim, Elizabeth Tellier, Mike Campbell

An increasingly common problem faced by subsea well operators is plugging and abandonment (P&A) of
wells using modern drilling vessels. This challenge is due to older wellhead and conductor designs which
are not fatigue resistant and which have less bending load capacity. Combined with the current trend of
using larger and heavier BOP stacks provided by 5th and 6th generation drilling vessels, this results in
large motions and loads transferred to the wellhead, and hence higher risk of fatigue failure or component
capacities being exceeded during P&A. This paper discusses the methodology for assessing the feasibility
of performing P&A on wells with modern vessels and evaluates mitigation options available.

Firstly, analysis is performed to determine historical fatigue accumulation in the wellhead and conductor
system from drilling and completion operations. Historical fatigue accumulation can be refined by
incorporating details from the operational history including vessel heading, metocean conditions, and riser
configuration. Fatigue accumulation from planned P&A operations with modern day drilling rigs is then
assessed to determine if there is sufficient remaining fatigue margin for the planned P&A operations. If
required, mitigation measures such as optimizing riser tension and vessel heading, reducing BOP stack
size, calibrating analysis models using monitoring data and using a BOP tether system are evaluated.

Strength assessment for P&A operations is also performed to determine vessel station keeping requirements.
Examples from a number of case studies of recent subsea well P&A in Australia are presented.
The effectiveness of different fatigue mitigation measures are compared. Findings presented in the paper
allow operators to efficiently evaluate and plan safe P&A operations on older wells with modern drilling

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