Frequently exposed weak formations require the use of lighter slurries, and with increased wellbore pressures encountered during fracture stimulations, stronger cements are essential. Lighter, stronger cementing technologies are the key to ensuring well integrity and enabling simple, cost-effective well construction designs.

This paper describes the benefits and features of newly developed, lightweight cementing materials available for operations in the Williston Basin. Applications of these materials are supported by case histories and extensive laboratory test data.

Regionally, materials have been identified that can be used to produce innovative, bulk lightweight cementing systems. These materials can be inter-ground with the cement during manufacturing or blended with bulk cement. Both methods create cost-effective, high-strength cement systems that can easily be formulated into slurries with densities as low as 10.5 ppg.

Comprehensive laboratory test data was generated to support well simulations and field trials of the new materials. Field trial data is then analyzed to illustrate the benefits of cement systems.

Economical lightweight cements are commonly produced with fly ash extended systems, however, these systems have low strength at low densities. Lightweight, high-strength, fit-for-purpose cement materials are common in southern oil and gas basins, but transporting these materials to northern states is cost prohibitive. Exotic solutions to create lightweight cements (nitrogen foams or hollow glass micro-beads) are available but expensive, adding considerable operational complexity.

Laboratory data demonstrates mechanical properties of the cement systems, slurry properties and set characteristics. The new, low-density cement systems show far greater compressive strengths than conventional blends. Conventional slurry provides a compressive strength of 500 psi, whereas the new low-density 12 ppg blends provide compressive strengths greater than 1,000 psi.

Additional practical benefits of these systems are illustrated by varying water content to improve slurry density from 11 to 13.5 ppg without additional cementing additives.

Multiple case histories illustrate the results of the applications of these materials at downhole temperatures ranging from 140°F to 220°F and well depths up to 11,000 ft TVD in the Dakota, Mowry and Charles Salt formations.

The limitations associated with traditional cementing materials will no longer restrict the creation of efficient well designs in northern states with the implementation of new, low-density cement systems necessary to exploit these oil and gas basins. Using lighter, stronger cement technologies will provide simple, cost-effective designs that are needed to ensure wellbore integrity in the Williston Basin.

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