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Ole Rygg

CO2 injection wells play a crucial role in the feasibility and development phase of carbon storage (CCS) projects, helping mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. However, the safe operation of CO2 injection wells is of paramount importance. Well Integrity and well control evaluation is a critical process that ensures the integrity and stability of CO2 injection wells throughout their operational lifespan.

This article explores the key considerations and methodologies involved in evaluating well integrity  for CO2 injection wells, highlighting the importance of maintaining safety and efficiency as we transition towards low carbon future.

Re-use of existing wells and infrastructure

The re-use of existing wells and infrastructure can provide cost and time-saving benefits in CO2 injection projects. However, thorough well integrity and control evaluations must be conducted to assess the suitability of these wells for CO2 injection. Factors such as wellbore condition, casing integrity, and compatibility with CO2 injection must be carefully evaluated to ensure safe and effective operations.

Well Integrity Often Not Addressed Properly

Well integrity is a crucial aspect of the well evaluation that is sometimes overlooked. Ensuring the integrity of well casings, cement barriers, and wellhead systems is essential to prevent leaks or fluid migration. Regular inspections, testing, and maintenance procedures should be implemented to address any potential integrity issues and ensure long-term well integrity.

Sustainability of Well Elements for the Lifespan of Carbon Storage

The quality of well elements, such as casings and cement, should be carefully considered during the well evaluation. The materials and design must be capable of withstanding the corrosive nature of CO2 and the operational conditions throughout the lifespan of the storage site. High-quality and sustainable well components are essential to avoid premature failures and maintain effective well integrity.

Well Control of the Injection Wells or the New Wells

Well control evaluation encompasses both existing injection wells and newly drilled wells. For existing injection wells, regular assessments of well control measures, including blowout contingency, pressure control systems, and emergency response plans, should be conducted. In the case of new wells, stringent well control requirements must in addition be implemented from the design and construction phase to ensure proper well control practices throughout their operational life.

How to Avoid a “Macondo” of CCS projects?

The catastrophic Deepwater Horizon incident, the “Macondo” in the Gulf of Mexico, highlighted the importance of rigorous well control practices. Although the experience of storing CO2 underground exists already, comprehensive well control evaluation is crucial to avoid “Macondo of CCS” during CO2 injection in CCS site development projects. Robust risk assessment, contingency planning, well design optimization, real-time monitoring, and well control training are vital components to prevent incidents and mitigate risks associated with CO2 injection.

How can well integrity and control of CO2 injection wells ensure safe and efficient operations?

According to the International Energy Agency, around 40 commercial facilities are actively implementing carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) across various sectors, including industrial processes, fuel transformation, and power generation. Starting from January 2022, project developers have revealed their plans to establish approximately 50 new capture facilities by the year 2030. These facilities aim to capture around 125 million tonnes of CO2 annually. But in order to reach the net zero 2050 ambitions, the capacity needs to rise drastically and the need for large scale storage sites will become time critical.

As carbon capture and storage initiatives continue to expand, well integrity and well control evaluation will remain an essential element in supporting global CO2 storage efforts to mitigate climate change and transition to a more sustainable future.

Well integrity and well control evaluation is a vital process that underpins the safe and efficient operation of CO2 subsurface injection wells. By focusing on well design, re-use of existing infrastructure, well integrity, quality well elements, and stringent well control practices, operators can minimize the risks associated with CO2 injection and ensure the integrity and stability of these wells.

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