Advanced Well Control using Rapid Cross-linking Polymers

Nedwed, Tim (ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company) | Kulkarni, Kaustubh (ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company) | Jain, Rachna (ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company) | Mitchell, Doug (ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company) | Meeks, Bill (ExxonMobil Development Company) | Allen, Daryl P. (Materia Inc.) | Edgecombe, Brian (Materia Inc.) | Christopher, J. Cruce (Materia Inc.)


Industry maintains well control through proper well design and appropriate controls and barriers. This has made loss of well control a very low probability event. Currently the final barrier to maintain control is a valve system (blowout preventer or BOP) located on top of wells capable of sealing around or shearing through obstructions that might be in the well (e.g. drilling pipe and casing) to isolate the well. Although the risk is low when proper drilling practices and design are employed, there are still concerns about well control especially for operations in sensitive environments. Adding an additional barrier could alleviate these concerns.

One scenario for well control loss is if the BOP fails to seal allowing drilling fluids and reservoir fluids to flow. We are currently evaluating a concept to respond to such an event and seal leaking BOPs by injecting a liquid monomer and a catalyst below a BOP leak point to form a polymer-plug seal.

Mixtures of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) and other monomers mixed with a ruthenium-based catalyst cause a rapid polymerization reaction that forms a stable solid. These reactions can occur under extreme temperatures and pressures and withstand significant contamination from other fluids and solids.

Lab studies have shown that DCPD-based polymer plugs can withstand axial stress of 15,000 psi without significant deformation even at temperatures of 200°C and with 20% drilling fluid contamination. For well control, one option is to preposition monomer mixes and catalyst into pressurized cannisters located at or near subsea BOPs while drilling high-complexity wells. Connecting the pressurized cannisters to appropriate ports on the BOP will allow rapid transfer. During a well-control event, actuating valves would rapidly force the monomer mixes and catalyst from the cannisters into the BOP to initiate polymerization. Polymerization reactions can be as short as a few seconds depending on the monomer mix and catalyst. The resulting solid polymer plug will block the leak path to potentially seal the well.

This paper describes the concept details and summarizes the current status of research.