Estimating permeability distribution of leakage pathways along existing wellbores
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Increasing surface pressure buildup levels and surface venting flow rates on intermediate wellbore casing strings provided an opportunity to analyze wellbore field data to determine a distribution of leakage path permeability values. The gas leakage source in the leaky wellbore originated at depth, and formation gas/fluid traveled along defects in the cement to accumulate at the surface wellhead. The most likely pathway is the cement interface with casing or formation. Due to uncertainty about the location of the leak, and the different methods that were used for calculating leakage parameter values, a range of leakage path permeability values was produced. Most leakage pathway permeability values were greater than intact cement permeability (few microdarcies). This finding supports the practice of using cement filled annuli to provide a safe protective barrier against leakage and to prevent gas flow to surface. Proper cementing techniques are presented in order to identify possible reasons for cracks to form. It is hypothesized that the higher permeability values are a result of cracks in the cement interface with the casing or formation. These types of defects could also be found in wellbores that are in communication with CO2 sequestration reservoirs. The risk of leakage along such existing wellbores associated with CO2 sequestration projects is quantified by the distribution of leakage path permeability. The gas migration path through existing leaky wellbores is an analog for wellbores that are in contact with migrating CO2 plumes. Cracks in the leaky wellbores provide a highly permeable conduit for CO2 to migrate out of the injection zone to the surface. By quantifying leakage path permeability, proper leakage risk assessment can be further developed.