A system for reducing solids production in Surat basin coal seam gas (CSG) wells was developed in the laboratory and tested in the laboratory and field trials.
Several thousand CSG wells were completed in Surat basin in eastern Australia using what was considered an economic method at a time - an open hole with a predrilled liner.
Although the majority of the wells are meeting production expectations, a many wells are producing a substantial amount of solids originating from an interburden rock representing approximately 90% of completed interval length and comprising mudstones, sandstones, and siltstones rich in illite/smectite and other water-sensitive clays. Relatively fresh water, with total dissolved solids (TDS) of approximately 4000 to 7000 mg/l, produced from multiple thin coal seams during dewatering and production phases is causing the interburden rock to swell or disintegrate. Prolific wells with high water rates or high gas velocity are capable of carrying solids to the surface where the solids are deposited in separators, flowlines, and water-treatment settling ponds. Higher solids concentration on lower-rate wells are causing issues with positive cavity pumps (PCP), the artificial lift method of choice in CSG wells. Pump intake plugging with solids, excessive torque and rotation seizure, and wear of tubing/rod strings are frequent causes of workovers and shorter-than-expected pump run-life. Some wells are able to flow freely; however, an extra monitoring program is required to ensure wellheads are not suffering from solids-induced erosion.
Recompletion of the wells is not considered practical at this stage because pre-perforated joints form an integral part of the 5 ½-in. or 7-in. casing string, which is cemented above the Walloons subgroup coal seams. An external casing packer (ECP) is often used. Some coal seams were underreamed, thus further complicating recompletion. Plugging existing wells and drilling a pair of wells using same surface location and infrastructure have been considered.
A chemical wellbore stabilization solution been developed to alleviate/stop solids production from the interburden rock. The treatment comprises two fluids separated by a spacer that contains clay stabilizer that is typically 3 to 7% KCl, the same as drilling mud base. Proprietary surfactant reduces the possibility of coal damage. Regained permeability testing performed using crushed and sieved coal pack plugs indicated a low level of damage. The wellbore stabilization system could be energized/foamed to reduce hydrostatic pressure and increase compressibility, hence increasing the chance of contacting rock surface in an enlarged wellbore.