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Why repurposing existing well integrity processes, regulations and expertise is critical to CCS success

31 August 2021 by Add Energy

The International Energy Agency’s Net Zero by 2050 initiative has encouraged several governments and oil and gas E&Ps to start and/or continue investing in decarbonization programs, through processes such as electrification and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCS).

By 2030, we can expect the annual investment in clean energy infrastructure to increase from US$290 billion to US$880 billion, with the development of large infrastructure projects and facilities.

In the oil and gas industry, Carbon Capture and Storage is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) that would usually be emitted by the production of fossil fuels, before it enters the atmosphere, so it can be transported and stored in specific underground geological formations, with the aim of reducing the national and worldwide carbon footprint and the final intent of mitigating the effects of climate change.

As a relatively new process, it introduces several different hazards and risks inherent to this operation, which leaves the approach open to putting in place new processes, procedures and controls that will ultimately improve and fine-tune all challenges that exploration and production operators face when seeking to reduce their carbon emissions.

In this blog we share exclusive insights into the challenges oil and gas operators experience when striving to utilize CCS processes as a solution for accelerating their transition to net-zero and provide advice on how best to overcome these hurdles.

CO2 CCS Carbon capture decarbonization

Challenge 1: Clear guidance to manage hazards effectively

In June 2011, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published a report on the “Assessment of Major Hazard Potential of Carbon Dioxide”. This report concluded that CO2, based on the evidence available at that time, has major accident hazard potential if released at, or above, its critical pressure, which can result in loss of containment and uncontrolled dispersion of CO2.

Whilst operators are morally ready to utilize CCS to reduce carbon emissions; approved methodology and legislation to govern the process is needed for CCS projects to stack up economically and safely, with confidence.

With little guidance available, operators look to independent bodies who specialize in topics close to the heart of the process, such as well engineering, well design, and well integrity to seek advice on how to execute CCS processes effectively.

A solution: Adopting proven oil and gas processes and standards to enable safe CCS

We recently experienced this when an operator contracted Add Energy to conduct a feasibility study to determine if their existing onshore infrastructure of decommissioned wells could withstand the injection of carbon dioxide, examined from a well integrity perspective.

As new CCS decommissioning legislations and guidance are currently being published and updated, we utilized and referenced international standards from Oil & Gas UK and NORSOK (D-010 Well Integrity Standard) to conduct this feasibility study and adapted our well-established well integrity assessment process to analyze the wells’ feasibility to withstand the injection of CO2 and long-term storage.

To provide a holistic view of all possible hazards, our study also comprised of a risk assessment that analyzed the inherent hazards of re-entering these wells and the likelihood of a loss of containment. Our experts had to consider how well integrity was being maintained throughout the carbon injection process and created a risk matrix with specific requirements that aided in the identification of suitable wells.

You can read the full case study here. 

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Challenge 2: Internal knowledge and manpower

Although various major oil and gas operators have received grants totaling $35 million USD to develop zero-emissions Liquefied Natural Gas, Hydrogen products and initiate decarbonization projects, there are significant gaps in the expertise and manpower available to execute such large and relatively new projects.

Despite the push toward a greener future, the oil and gas industry were not exempt from the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Oil prices hit an all-time low which delayed Final Investment Decisions (FID) for many operators. Many companies had to look at restructuring their business strategies, which for most meant employee redundancies, resulting in a shortage of manpower and internal subject matter expertise for ongoing projects and initiatives, without even considering how energy transition requirements would be managed in the medium to long term.

A solution: Independent support to kick-start your journey

With a lack of internal CCS specialists available, reduced capacity to execute ongoing projects, regulatory framework around carbon emissions constantly evolving, and CCS processes continuously being fine-tuned; companies are having to rely on independent experts to create processes and provide guidance during the preliminary phases of conceptualization and design.

To kick-start your CCS journey and fully understand the risk profile and viability of the CCS options available to you, investing in an initial technical assessment will enable an independent and dedicated team with expertise in well integrity, well engineering and well design to fully investigate the feasibility of your CCS goals and provide advice on how to proceed.

To conclude

Today the world stores about 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year through CCS, but the International Energy Agency’s 2020 goal is to store 5.6 billion tonnes per year by 2050.

Homing in on Australia alone, who are rapidly failing to meet their target numbers and actively looking at alternative technologies to meet their emission reduction goals, if we could re-direct that focus on adapting decades of oil and gas engineering processes, established regulations and guidance, and specialist experts in well integrity to capitalize on CCS, we can proactively and positively re-purpose specialist knowledge and subject matter experts to accelerate worldwide decarbonization.

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