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IADC/SPE 59170

Foam Cementing Applications on a Deepwater Subsalt Well—Case History

S. Moore, SPE, M. Miller, SPE, R. Faul, SPE, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., and J. D’Agostino, SOI

Copyright 2000, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Inc. the first special applications was reported in 1996 when foamed
cement was used successfully to isolate problem formations
This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2000 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference held in New behind a liner in a high-temperature high-pressure (HTHP) well
Orleans, Louisiana, 23-25 February 2000.
in Mobile Bay.2 Foam was first used as a solution to shallow water
This paper was selected for presentation by an IADC/SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, flow (SWF) in the Gulf of Mexico in 1994. The first well later
have not been reviewed by the International Association of Drilling Contractors or the Society of became the model for 19 additional wells in a batch operation
Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does
not necessarily reflect any position of the IADC or SPE, their officers, or members. Papers presented in which foamed cement was used on 39 total primary jobs.3
at IADC/SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the IADC and
SPE. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words. Foamed cement quickly became popular as the cement of choice
Illustrations may not be copied. The abstract should contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where for the SWF. A 1997 paper presented the use of proper mud
and by whom the paper is presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-
3836, U.S.A, fax 01-972-952-9435. management techniques in conjunction with the foamed cement
to solve SWF.1 More recently, the use of foamed cement for
Abstract controlling SWF was reported on another large batch-set opera-
The Boris prospect is a deepwater well drilled at Mississippi tion.4 Since foamed cement was first used to control SWF, several
Canyon. This exploratory well was drilled in a subsalt environ- hundred jobs have been performed in the Gulf of Mexico.
ment, which provided many zonal-isolation challenges. Foamed cement exhibits other desirable properties for ob-
Deepwater wells in this area can have shallow water flows taining short- and long-term zonal isolation in oil and gas wells.
(SWF),1 long sections of salt, and disturbed zones or rubble zones These properties are (1) superior mud displacement, (2) gas-
above and below the salt section. While all these hazards were migration control, and (3) long-term sealing of the well’s annu-
not encountered during the drilling of this well, foamed cement lus by resistance to cement-sheath stress cracking.
was an integral part of the plan to deal with them. The paper is
a case study of how a new foamed-cementing process was used Cementing Equipment
to solve the challenges associated with the zonal isolation and The process of foamed cementing has been enhanced by the
to help Shell meet the target for the number of drilling days. The introduction of a fully integrated cement quality control sys-
paper will cover the cementing process used on three primary tem.5 Foamed cementing with this type of delivery process has
casing strings during well construction. been successfully used for steam producing wells in California.6
The new system consolidates the controls of all units into one
Foamed Cement computerized system, allowing the operator to monitor and
Foamed cement was developed in the late 1970’s to obtain low- control all units on location simultaneously when making
density cement with good compressive-strength development, adjustments to the job. The importance of precision in control-
especially in the 8- to 18-lbm/gal slurry density range. The ling a job increases with the complexity of the job and the
literature thoroughly documents the use of foamed cement for number of units involved. With the advent of foamed cementing,
its conventional, lightweight density uses. Cements are de- for example, a single job requires that the mixing system, liquid
signed to provide zonal isolation, and a competent cement additive system, and nitrogen equipment be on location. More
sheath can minimize buckling, parting, and elongation of the equipment usually requires more operators, and coordination
casing caused by stresses. The quality of the cement sheath is and logistics become more difficult.
affected by several factors, including low formation fracture Advanced computer technology provides a functional and
gradients, lost-circulation zones, tight annular clearances be- economical solution, allowing a cost-effective step-change in
tween previous casings, and variable holes sizes caused by the performance of cementing equipment. Because the new
washouts. system fully integrates the controls of the cementing skid, the
In recent years, foamed cementing has become a solution to liquid-additive injection unit, and the nitrogen unit, an operator
many different wellbore problems. In the Gulf of Mexico, one of can monitor data displayed on a computer screen, and send

References at the end of the paper.


remote-control capabilities for offsite monitoring and control, nitrogen rate. Proper selection of the gas content allows the
which can enhance safety and efficiency of offshore jobs. The foamed slurry gradient to be positioned between the fracture- and
components of the control system are housed within a PC- pore-pressure gradients to prevent both fluid loss and formation
platform industrial computer (Fig. 1) that is powered by a high- influx. Computer simulation is needed to optimize slurry design
speed microprocessor and operated through the Windows NT and predict job placement pressures and formation-fluid influx.
operating system. Because the system uses a controlled area
network (CAN) bus for data input/output, it can easily be ex- Gas-Migration Control
panded or incorporated into the rig area network. The dominant factors that control gas migration and/or gas influx
The custom designed equipment that has delivered reliable are volume losses and hydrostatic pressure decreases during
service for decades is still used, and the basic functions required slurry transition time. The gas used to foam the cement continues
have not changed. The triplex pump (1957), the recirculating mixer to expand while the cement volume decreases, allowing the slurry
(RCM,1975), the liquid additive system (1997), and nitrogen to expand. Slurry pressure remains almost constant during the
equipment (1974) remain the foundation of the system. Since the cement’s transition period.7 Consequently, gas-entrained ce-
RCM system was introduced, it has remained a reliable system, ment or foamed cement controls gas migration better than any
and an automatic density control (ADC) was added to the system other type of cement.
in 1989 to give additional control. In 1990 a continuous metering
system (CMS) was added to allow liquid additives to be injected Ductility
into the mixing and pumping system. Integrating the CMS (Fig.2) Foamed cement resists both temperature- and pressure-induced
allows operators to add liquid additives such as retarders and sheath stresses.2 Foamed cement is at least one order of magni-
dispersants directly into the mixing water stream, while also tude more ductile than other cements. Testing has shown that a
injecting other additives such as the foamer into the suction of foamed, 20 to 35 quality, Class H cement remains more ductile than
the triplex pump. The liquid-additive concentrations are critical to other cements, allowing the cement sheath to withstand higher
the operation, and are accurately metered with the positive- internal casing pressures.8 This feature permits the cement sheath
displacement pumps. Reliability has been improved by the use of to yield while the well casing expands. Consequently, the cement
mass-rate flow indicators and a feedback control loop. Today sheath has less long-term potential for cracking. Above 35
with automated nitrogen injectors, operators can simply program quality, the cement is too porous to provide isolation, and below
the stages into the operating system. Automated nitrogen units 20 quality it is too brittle to provide the required ductility.
are capable of constant rate injection, step-rate change, and
constant ramp injection. Cement Bond Logs (CBL)
Data are managed with a mobile control center (MCC). The In conventional CBL tools, a transmitter is pulsed to produce an
MCC provides a central focal point for monitoring and controlling omnidirectional acoustic signal that travels to a set of receivers
the cement job. With the data acquisition system and real time along various paths through the borehole fluid, pipe, cement, and
wellbore-simulation software, data from all cementing compo- formation. The logging system records the received waveforms
nents are fed into the MCC, where it is monitored in a controlled and displays them on the log along with the pipe-amplitude curve.
environment (Fig. 3). Advanced well-simulation models have To interpret the CBL, engineers use these two measurements to
greatly improved the design of both conventional and foamed indicate two bonds. The first bond measures the cement-to-pipe
cementing jobs. The wellbore simulator now incorporates the bond, while the second bond measures the cement-to-formation
real-time data to allow engineers to compare the planned job with bond. An additional measurement is the travel time, which
the actual job parameters and make design changes during the indicates the tool centralization and indirectly measures the
execution. Parameters include not only the traditional pressure, cement-to-pipe bond.
rate and density values, but also wellhead pressure, fluid posi- The waveform display indicates both the cement-to-pipe
tions, and pressures at any point in the wellbore (Fig.4). The bond and the cement-to-formation bond. The classic interpreta-
equivalent circulating density (ECD), which can be displayed and tion of this display is that a straight trace indicates no cement, and
monitored in real time, can help an operator run the job and stay any variation in the waveforms indicates that some cement is
within the pore-pressure and fracture-gradient limits. present. These techniques have been documented and explained
in many references.9 The waveform display will also be affected
Mud Displacement by the foam, with the wave amplitudes being less than expected.
When foamed cement is pumped, it develops higher dynamic-
flow shear stress than conventional cements, increasing its Ultrasonic Cement Evaluation Tools
displacement capabilities. In addition, foamed cement can be The ultrasonic tools provide the most beneficial data for evalu-
optimized for specific well conditions. Foamed cement consists ating the placement and bonding of foamed cements.9 These
of base cement slurry injected with nitrogen gas. Slurry density tools indicate the casing-to-cement bonding. Instead of a sepa-
is determined by gas content, and this gas content (or quality) rate source and receiver, the ultrasonic source and the receiver
depends on the base-slurry pump rate, foamer injection rate, and

are packaged together as a transducer. When the signal emitted act as cleansing agents downhole, (3) they help ensure that both
by a transducer encounters an acoustic interface, some of the the mud and slurry remain inviolate throughout the displacement
signal is reflected at the interface, and some is transmitted across process, and (4) they are pumped into the wellbore in the interval
the interface. The fractional amounts of reflected and transmitted between the other two mixes.12
energy depend on the acoustic impedance of the materials at the Spacers differ from preflushes primarily in their yield-point
interface.10 design. The yield point, which should equal or exceed that of the
The ultrasonic scanning or acoustic imaging tool uses a drilling fluid, allows the weighting materials and lost-circulation
single rotating transducer to produce high-resolution, circumfer- remedies to be incorporated in the spacer system. In addition to
ential data. Data for both cement evaluation and casing evalua- its separation and displacement functions, the yield point can
tion are obtained in the same run or pass. The rotating transducer also permit the spacer to carry the solids cleaned from the
will provide 36 to 200 measurements per depth sample, and depth wellbore, and the weighting of the spacer can combat the gas-
sample rates range from 2 to 12 samples per foot. Because of the cutting of the cement slurry by controlling formation pressure.
high sample rate, the data are normally presented in a color-coded A variable-viscosity, optimized-rheology (VVOR)13 spacer
image (Fig. 5) instead of a single curve. The color coding is based system has proven to be effective in aiding the displacement
on the acoustic impedance of gas, water, and cement. Unlike the process. The VVOR spacer is a water-based fluid capable of
CBL logs, in which the data are omnidirectional, the data from displacing water, oil, or synthetic-based drilling muds during
ultrasonic tools are azimuthal. Not only can channels in cement cementing procedures. Displacing oil and synthetic-based muds
be detected, but the orientation of the channels can also be requires adding suitable surfactants that affect water-wet sur-
determined. faces to facilitate the cement’s bonding with annular pipe and
When foamed cements are being evaluated, conventional formation faces. Formulations can be customized to satisfy the
interpretation of data from the CBL and/or ultrasonic tools can be requirements of wellbore geometry and drilling-fluid properties of
incorrect. As mentioned earlier, because foamed cements affect any job.
both the amplitude and waveform of the CBL, this type of Cement cannot adhere to oil-wet surfaces left behind by
evaluation would be invalid for foamed cements. Ultrasonic tools nonaqueous drilling fluids. A spacer formulated with surfactants
normally require an impedance contrast in the materials behind to convert oil-wet surfaces into water-wet surfaces provides a
the pipe to differentiate between cement and fluids. The imped- necessary component for drilling-fluid removal. The proper sur-
ance of foamed cement can be lower than that of water, drilling factant package is also critical for creating a smooth transition at
mud, or spacer depending on the quality of the foam. Foamed the interface between the nonaqueous drilling fluid and the
cement evaluation techniques have been expanded and im- spacer, so high-viscosity contamination that can be bypassed in
proved to allow evaluation with the new generation ultrasonic the annulus is not created. Water-wet surfaces become even more
scanning tools. critical when foamed cements are used because the oil film can act
Harness et al.11 provided a technique whereby multitransducer as a defoaming agent to the foamed slurry. The use of new
tools can distinguish foamed cement from fluid ,even when both techniques and the wettability apparatus (Fig. 6) is very effective
have the same impedance. This technique relies on a statistical for optimizing the surfactant package to a specific oil or synthetic-
variation process (SVP) to discern solid crystalline structures based fluid.14 By using apparent-wettability technology, labora-
such as cement in fluids. Analysis of the vertical rate of imped- tory personnel can design spacer formulas for optimal perfor-
ance change, once the tool position is taken into account, permits mance and efficiency.
easy determination of whether foamed cement or liquid is present.
The ultrasonic scanning device with a single rotating transducer Case Studies
improves the evaluation of foamed cement. Because the scanning Well No. 1. This deepwater well in 2,978 ft of water was drilled to
tool consists of only one transducer, the normalization required total depth in 22.5 days. The 22.5-day drilling time was days ahead
for a multitransducer tool is not necessary. Through the SVP, the of what would be expected for offset wells. Three casing strings
level of impedance activity is calculated directly as an impedance were used to reach the objective, and the well was then secured
derivative (DZ), which allows detection of minor changes in with cement plugs. All three casing strings used foamed-cement
cement or fluid composition and aids in the interpretation of technology for the primary cement. The first string (20-in. con-
foamed cement. ductor casing) did not encounter a SWF zone, which is a common
drilling hazard in the Gulf of Mexico.1 The second string (13 3/8-
Spacer System in. intermediate casing) was run to 7,777 ft, which put the casing
To create the proper downhole environment for the cement and shoe 100 ft into the salt section. The third casing string (9 5/8 in.)
to protect it from the corrupting influences of the drilling fluid, the was run as a liner with a total depth of 10,475 ft, positioning the
industry has developed agents called spacers and preflushes. top of liner at 7,259 ft. This put the shoe approximately 1,100 ft
These two fluids are similar in several ways: (1) they aid in below the salt and covered the entire remaining section of salt
effective displacement of drilling fluid with the cement, (2) they back to inside the previous casing. In many subsalt wells drilled
through salt, problems have beenn encountered below the salt

that have required special treatment.15 However, no major losses 5. Padgett, P. and Brown, P.: “Integrated Controls Ease Precision
were encountered while drilling this well, so no lost-circulation Cementing,” Drilling Contractor, Sept./Oct. 1999, 50-51.
treatments where required and no days were lost because of lost 6. Miller, L.S. and Frank, W.E.: “Foam Cementing Cyclic-Steam,
returns. Tables 1 through 3 show specifications for the three Producing Wells: Cymric Field Case Study,” paper SPE 46215
presented at the 1998 Western Regional Meeting, Bakersfield, CA,
casing strings.
May 10-13.
7. Sutton, D.L., Sabins, F.L., and Faul, R.R.: “Preventing Annular
Conclusions Gas Flow – Two Parts,” Oil & Gas J, Dec. 10 and 17, 1984.
1. A new foamed cement delivery process has been proven 8. Goodwin, K.J., and Crook, R.J.:“Cement Sheath Stress Failure,”
applicable and reliable for use on an entire well program. paper SPE 20453 presented at the 1990 SPE 65th Annual Technical
2. Foamed cement has a wide range of properties, which make Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, LA, Sept. 23-26.
it an ideal choice for many critical well-cementing applica- 9. Frisch, G.J., Graham, W.L., and Griffith, J.E.: “Assessment of
tions, including cementing across shallow water flow zones, Foamed Cement Slurries Using Conventional Cement Evaluation
and through long salt sections. Logs and Improved Interpretation Methods,” paper SPE 55649
presented at the 1999 SPE Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting ,
3. The VVOR spacer provides adequate separation, compat-
Gillette, WY, May 15-18.
ibility, and displacement for effectively placing foamed 10. Frisch, G.J., and Wyatt, W.L.: “Economic Evaluation of the Use
cement in a synthetic oil-based mud (SOBM) system. of Well Logs for Diagnosing Conformance Problems,” paper SPE
40036 presented at the 1998 SPE Gas Technology Symposium,
References Calargy, Alberta, Canada, March 15-18.
1. Griffith, J. and Faul, R.: “Cementing the Conductor Casing Annu- 11. Harness, P.E., Sabins, F.L., and Griffith, J.E.: “New Technique
lus in an Overpressured Water Formation,” paper OTC 8304 Provides Better Low-Density Cement Evaluation,” paper SPE
presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, TX, 24050, presented at the 1992 SPE Western Regional Meeting,
May 1997. Bakerfield, CA, March 30-April 1.
2. Benge, O.G., McDermott, J.R., Langlinais, J.C., and Griffith, J.E.: 12. Crook, R.J., Wilson, J.M., Heathman, J., and Carpenter, B.:
“Foamed Cement Job Successful in Deep HTHP Offshore Well,” “Effective Cement Placement,” Well Servicing, March/April 1999.
Oil & Gas J, March 1996. 13. Crook, R.J., Wilson, J.M., Heathman, J., and Carpenter, B.:
3. Young, W.S., May, B.C., and Varnado, B.R.: “Genesis Develop- “Spacer Tech Saves,” Hart’s Oil and Gas World, April 1998.
ment Project Overview,” paper OTC 10796, OTC, May 1999. 14. Heathman, J., Wilson, J.M., and Cantrell, J.H.: “New Test Proce-
4. Eaton, L.F.: “Drilling Through Deepwater Shallow Water Flow dures Optimize Surfactant Blends,” Oil & Gas J, Oct. 4, 1999, 71.
Zone at URSA,” paper SPE 52780 presented at the 1999 SPE/ 15. Sweatman, R,. Faul, R., and Ballew, C.: “New Solutions for
IADC Drilling Conference, Amsterdam, Holland, March 9-11. Subsalt-Well Lost Circulation and Optimized Primary Cement-
ing,” paper SPE 56499 presented at the 1999 SPE Annual Technical
Conference and Exhibition, Houston, TX, Oct. 3-6.

Table 1—Specifications for 20-in. Conductor Casing

Previous casing 36-in. jet pipe; 3,178 ft RKB, 200 ft BML
Casing depth 20-in. conductor; 4,930 ft RKB, 1,952 ft BML
Hole size 24 in.
Drilling sweep 8.6 lbm/gal gel sweep
Kill mud 11.6 lbm/gal water-based
Excess volume 120%
BHT 72°F
Lead cement fill 1,452 ft
Tail cement fill 500 ft
Lead cement details 460 bbl; Class A cement + flow enhancer + foamer mixed with seawater
Base density 15.6 lbm/gal
Foamed density 12.0 lbm/gal using 214 scf/bbl N2
Tail cement details 165 bbl; Class A cement + flow enhancer + foamer mixed with seawater
Base density 15.6 lbm/gal
Foamed density 14.0 lbm/gal using 113 scf/bbl N2
Shoe cement details 17 bbl; Class A cement + flow enhancer mixed with seawater
Results Foamed cement returned to the seafloor with no flow observed after cementing. The shoe
drilled hard and tested to the expected EMW.

Table 2—Specifications for 13 3/8-in. Intermediate Casing

Previous casing 20-in. conductor; 4,930 ft RKB, 1,952 ft BML
Casing depth 13 3/8 in.; 7,715 ft RKB, 4,737 ft BML
Hole size 17 1/2 in.
Drilling mud 10.3 lbm/gal salt PHPA
Excess volume 50%
BHT 114°F
Lead cement fill 3,100 ft
Tail cement fill 500 ft
Lead cement details
143 bbl; Class H cement + KCl + flow enhancer + dispersant + foamer mixed with seawater
Base density 17.35 lbm/gal
Foamed density 13.5 lbm/gal using 439 scf/bbl N2
Tail cement details
51 bbl; Class H cement + KCl + flow enhancer + dispersant + foamer mixed with seawater
Base density 17.35 lbm/gal
Foamed density 14.5 lbm/gal using 344 scf/bbl N2
Shoe cement details 13 bbl; Class H cement + KCl + flow enhancer + dispersant mixed with seawater
Density 17.35 lbm/gal
Results Full returns occurred during cement placement. The shoe drilled hard and tested to the
expected EMW.

Table 3—Specifications for 9 5/8-in. Liner

Previous casing 13 3/8 in.; 7,715 ft RKB, 4,737 ft BML
Liner depth 9 5/8 in.
Liner top 7,259 ft RKB, 4,281 ft BML
Hole size 12 1/2 in.
Drilling mud 12.1 lbm/gal synthetic based
Excess volume 15%
BHT 130°F
BHCT 113°F
Lead cement fill 2,000 ft
Tail cement fill 600 ft
Spacer details 80 bbl VVOR spacer + surfactant package (for SOBM)
Density 12.5 lbm/gal
First lead cement details 48 bbl; Class H cement + KCl + flow enhancer + extender mixed with seawater
Density 13.0 lbm/gal
Second lead cement
95 bbl; Class H cement + KCl + flow enhancer +dispersant + foamer mixed with sea water
Base density 17.35 lbm/gal
Foamed density 13.0 lbm/gal using 688 scf/bbl N2
Tail cement details
24 bbl; Class H cement + KCl + flow enhancer + dispersant + foamer mixed with seawater
Base density 17.35 lbm/gal
Foamed density 14.5 lbm/gal using 449 scf/bbl N2
Shoe cement details 7 bbl; Class H cement + KCl + flow enhancer + dispersant mixed with seawater
Density 17.35 lbm/gal
Results Full returns occurred during cement placement. The shoe drilled hard and tested to the
expected EMW. The top of liner used the liner-top packer; top of liner tested OK.

Fig. 1—Cementing unit PC controller.

Fig. 2—Continuous Metering System (CMS) liquid-additive injection unit.


Fig. 3—A mobile control center allows customers to observe cementing parameters in real-time.

Actual: ECD at Weak Zone Design: ECD at Weak Zone

Design: Fracture Gradient Design: Pore Pressure





1 3 4 5 6 7
05:20 05:40 06:00 06:20 06:40
Event Log
1 Start job 5:15:01 2 Pump spacer 5:15:37 3 Pump lead cement 5:28:23
4 Pump tail cement 6:14:11 5 Pump cement 6:17:32 6 Pump displacement 6:20:43
7 Bump plug 6:52:53

Fig. 4—Equivalent circulating density (ECD) graph comparing designed parameters with real-time parameters.

Fig. 5—Bond-log evaluation.


Fig. 6—Apparent wettability apparatus.