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Parametric Study of Gas Entry Into

Cemented Wellbores
Fred Sabins, SPE, Westport Technology Center Intl., and M.L. Wiggins, SPE, U. of Oklahoma

Summary This parametric study involved developing detailed equations for

A cement slurry is placed in a wellbore to harden into an imperme- three principal aspects of the gas-flow process: the physical properties
able mass that seals the annulus from fluid flow and protects the cas- of the cement during the gelation-and-set period; the pressure loss in
ing from corrosion for the life of the well. If fluid flow does occur a column of cement, taking into account the slurry properties and the
in the form of gas migration, expensive remedial squeeze-cement- well parameters; and the influx of gas into the cement column.
ing techniques are generally required.
The objective of the work covered in this paper was to study the Physical Properties of Cement
parameters that affect entry of gas into a cemented annulus. This re- The loss of hydrostatic pressure within the annular column must oc-
search incorporated a detailed study of the factors that contribute to cur before gas can enter. In this study, it was assumed that the hydro-
gas influx from the time of initial placement of the slurry, through static pressure within the annular column exceeded the reservoir
the gelation or transition state of the slurry, to the set condition. On pressure immediately after placement. Once the cement started to
the basis of the understanding of the processes involved in gas entry, gel, volume changes occurred; the hydrostatic pressure in the annu-
a simulator was developed that predicts the amount of gas that enters lar column decreased as a function of the basic characteristics of the
a cemented wellbore, and identifies the critical parameters that af- cement slurry as it gelled and sets. Equations were developed for
fect the gas entry. four key physical properties that affect the hydrostatic-pressure loss
This study concerns itself with a portion of the gas flow problem: in the column of cement: static-gel-strength development, hydra-
the entry of gas into a cemented annulusand not with the flow of tion volume reduction, fluid loss to permeable formations, and
the gas up through the cement and the formation of a gas channel. permeability of the gelling cement.
Slurry designs that try to address the issue of gas migration gener-
This study will provide insight to the following questions.
ally focus on one or more of the above properties. Some additives
What cement properties are important to minimize gas entry?
used in slurries modifiy the static gel strength by using delayed gel-
What role does fluid loss play in minimizing gas influx?
ling or thixotropic characteristics. Most all of the gas migration ma-
What well parameters affect gas entry? terials effect the fluid loss of the cement. In addition, some latex ce-
ments are sold as low-permeability cements. Each of these
Introduction parameters will be described individually by mathematical equa-
A computer simulator was developed for establishing detailed pa- tions; however, they are related to each other in the wellbore and
rameters that affect gas entry. Specifically, this simulator used math- must be studied collectively.
ematical relationships to describe the chemical and physical proc-
esses involved in the gelling and setting of the cement column. Static Gel Strength. Static gel strength is a resistant force applied to
When the cement is placed into the annular space, the cement will the wetted perimeter of the surface of the borehole and the pipe. Static
lose hydrostatic pressure until the pressure in the annular column gel strength is the result of a small amount of hydration products be-
equals the formation pressure. At that time, fluid will enter the annu- ing formed in the early stages of hydration. The values of importance
lus based upon the volume losses in the wellbore. This research ap- are those up to the initial set of the cement slurry. This initial set of
a cement slurry is the point at which the cement has some solid char-
proached the problem by mathematically modeling the gelling and
acter and is generally defined as 50-psi compressive strength.
setting of the cement, as well as the hydrostatic-pressure loss and
Compressive strength refers to the capability of the cement to sup-
gas entry in the cement column.
port a compressive load (measured in force per unit area). Compres-
The hydrostatic-pressure loss and ultimate gas entry in a cement sive strength is the most common property used to describe the solid
column were studied by investigation of three cement-slurry prop- characteristics of a hydrating cement. At some point in the cement-
erties and three well parameters. The cement-slurry properties ad- hydration process, the cement slurry will have enough solid character
dressed were static gel strength, volume losses, and permeability of that the gas will not percolate up through the cement column. At what
the gelling cement. The static gel strength, or shear resistance, sets gel strength this solidification will happen is unknown. It is assumed
the maximum limit on the pressure decrease that can occur in a ce- that a cement slurry obtaining an initial set would prevent any addi-
ment column; the volume losses in the slurry permit the potential tional gas from forming a channel in the matrix of the cement.
pressure loss. Volume losses can occur as a result of two mecha- The only data available that relates static gel strength and com-
nisms: fluid loss from the cement slurry and hydration volume loss. pressive strength for two cement slurries are shown in Table 1. This
The permeability of the cement enables volume losses from the table shows two different cement slurries having a compressive
wellbore to be transmitted through the entire cement column. The strength of 250 and 200 psi, respectively, at the equivalent static gel
interstitial water in the matrix of the gelling cement can experience strength of 2,400 lbf/100 ft2 gel strength. Although this work con-
Darcy flow when a differential pressure is applied. The relationship tains only two data points, a reasonable estimation of the initial set
between static gel strength, volume losses, and permeability are ad- value of static gel strength can be made for the purpose of this study.
dressed in detail. The well parameters studied are geometries, length From an extrapolation of the data in Table 1, it was assumed that a
of cement column, and overbalance pressure. A parametric study static gel strength of 2,000 lbf/100 ft2 would be required to achieve
was performed to determine which parameters are important in the 50-psi compressive-strength/initial-set value. This value was
dealing with gas entry. used as the upper limit on the time for the analysis of the gas influx
into a cement column.
Copyright 1997 Society of Petroleum Engineers Figs. 1 and 2 show two types of static-gel-strength curves for two
typical cement slurries. The slurry in Fig. 1 has no inactive period
Original SPE manuscript received for review 13 February 1995. Paper peer approved 13 May
1997. Paper (SPE 28472) first presented at the 1994 SPE Annual Technical Conference and and a long, slow-developing static-gel-strength curve, while the
Exhibition held in New Orleans, 2528 September. slurry in Fig. 2 has an extended inactive period and a very fast gela-
SPE 39494, Supplement to SPE 28472, Parametric Study of Gas Entry Into Cemented Well-
tion time. In this work, these slurries will be identified as slow-gel-
bores, is available from the SPE Customer Services Dept. ling and delayed-gelling slurries, respectively. Both of the static gel

180 SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997



Static Gel Strength Compressive Strength

Slurry (lbf/100 ft) (psi)

A 2,400 250
B 2,400 200

strengths presented are typical of the slurries used in field operations

to cement gas wells.1,2
The data in Figs. 1 and 2 respectively can be described with equa-
tions in the form of
SSG +A)B(t))(t)3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1)
Fig. 1Static-gel development for slow-gelling slurry.
and SSG +[D)(F/t)]2, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (2)
where SSG is static gel strength (lbf/100 ft2), t is time (min), and A,
B, D, and F are constants for each slurry type.

Hydration Volume Reduction. Another important cement-slurry

property is hydration volume reduction. As cement gels, sets, and
develops compressive strength, hydration volume reduction occurs
when the hydration products formed by the chemical reaction
occupy less volume than the reactants. Although this volume reduc-
tion occurs in the cement, most of the reduction is manifested by in-
ternal reduction, not bulk volume reduction.3 When coupled with
static gel strength, this internal volume reduction can cause a drop
in the pressure in the cement column.
Five slurries were presented in Ref. 3 with the absolute volume
losses measured by some customized equipment. This volume re- Fig. 2Static-gel development for delayed-gelling slurry.
duction is very small during gelation times, with the average of the
five slurries being 0.08% at 200 lbf/100 ft2 gel strength to 0.5% at
initial set (2,000 lbf/100 ft2). Fig. 3 shows the hydration value re-
duction from Ref. 3 vs. static gel strength. From the data, an equa-
tion relating the hydration volume reduction to static gel strength
was developed as
VHR +A)B(SSG ) 0.5)C(SSG )3, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (3)
where VHR is hydration volume reduction (vol%) and A, B, and C
are constants.

Fluid Loss to Permeable Formations. The estimation of downhole

fluid loss of cement slurry is critical in determining gas-entry volume.
Downhole fluid loss was estimated by use of a relationship
derived by Sutton and Ravi.4 This method takes into account the
static fluid loss of a cement slurry on top of a predeposited drilling
Fig. 3Hydration volume reduction.
fluid filter cake of a given thickness. Their fluid-loss estimates were
based on the equation
where kcs is the permeability of the cement slurry (md) and A and

V + 2 A fl C 2 C 22 t 1C 21 ) t t
* C 22 t 1C 21
, . . . . . . . . (4) B are constants for different slurries.
The permeability of cement slurries can change dramatically de-
pending on the type of cement and additives used in the slurry. The
where V is the volume of filtrate (ft3), Af l is the area of fluid loss slurry permeability vs. static gel strength using the above equations
(ft2), t t is the total time of fluid loss for cement (min), t1 is the time with Ref. 3 is provided in Figs. 4 and 5.
of fluid loss for mud (min), and C1 and C2 are fluid-loss coefficients
for the drilling fluid and cement slurry, respectively. Permeability and Fluid-Loss Synergy. Even though the fluid loss
and the permeability of the cement slurry are discussed in separate
Permeability of the Gelling Cement. As the cement starts to hy- sections, the two properties are synergistic in nature. The lower the
drate, not only does it start to develop static gel strength and undergo permeability, typically the lower the fluid-loss value will be. Poly-
hydration volume reduction, it also develops permeability. Sutton mers that are used in the cement slurries as fluid-loss control will
and Sabins3 indicated that cement permeability can vary in light- also have an effect on the permeability of the cement. The fluid loss
weight cement from 1,000 to 10 md as the SGS ranges from 200 of the cement, however, is not just dependent on the cement slurry
lbf/100 ft2 to initial set while normal-density, low-fluid-loss ce- itself. The mudcake that is already present on the formation can dra-
ments can vary from 100 md at an SSG of 200 lbf/100 ft2 to less than matically effect the cement-slurry fluid loss.
1 md at initial set.3
An equation that calculates the permeability vs. static gel strength Pressure Loss in Gas Entry. The pressure loss in a column of ce-
data was developed to be ment is a function of several phenomena occurring simultaneously.
As described earlier, the cement undergoes static-gel-strength de-
kcs +A)B(SSG )2, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (5) velopment, experiences volume losses including both hydration

SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997 181

Fig. 4Permeability vs. static gel strength and time for high- Fig. 5Permeablility vs. static gel strength and time for low-
permeability slurry. permeability slurry.

ZZvolume and fluid-loss volume, and develops permeability. The should be greater than the high-pressure gas zone. At this time, an
pressure drop in the cement slurry during this time can be calculated overbalance exists on the fluid-loss zones and the gas zones. As a
directly by relating the permeability and the flow of interstitial water result, filtrate will be lost to each zone as a function of the thickness
through the permeability to compensate for the hydration and fluid- of the mudcake deposited on each zone (before cementing) and the
loss volume reductions and the static gel strength. If a permeable differential pressure. During the inactive gelation period of the ce-
system is present, the flow of fluids through a linear matrix is gov- ment (when the slurry has no static gel strength), no pressure is lost
erned by Darcys equation. Darcys equation can be rearranged to in the column. During this time, a cement filter cake is being depos-
calculate the pressure drop that corresponds to the volumetric flow ited on top of an already existing mudcake and the downhole fluid-
of fluids with constant media and fluid properties, as shown in loss rate will decrease with time. This decrease is caused by the in-
DP+0.55 QmDL/k Acs , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (6) creasing thickness of the highly impermeable filter cake.
During the active-gel-strength period, the cement column begins
where DP is the differential pressure for flow (psi), Q is the volu- to lose hydrostatic pressure according to the limits of the static-gel-
metric flow rate (ft3/min), m is the viscosity of fluid flowing (cp), DL strength equation and the permeability equation. This rate of inter-
is the length between flowing zones (ft), k is the permeability (md), stitial water flow can be used to calculate the pressure drop from Eq.
and Acs is the flowing cross-sectional area (ft2). The pressure differ- 6. If this pressure drop is larger than that calculated by Eq. 7, the
ential across the length of the cement column can be calculated from pressure drop from Eq. 7 is used to calculate the volume of intersti-
tial water flow at the new pressure differential in Eq. 6. Any excess
DP+(4 SSG DLc )/De , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (7)
volume above this calculated volume will be compensated for by the
where DP is the pressure drop (psi), DLc is the length of cement (ft), whole cement column moving. If the pressure drop calculated from
and De is the effective diameter (in.). Eq. 7 is the basic relationship the total interstitial water flow is less than the pressure drop allowed
for calculating the pressure drop resulting from static gel strength. by Eq. 7, the interstitial flow occurs at the calculated pressure drop
During the gelation period of the cement slurry, the volume losses and the bulk cement does not move.
occurring from both hydration and fluid loss to the permeable Once the hydrostatic pressure of the cement column across from
formations produce a flow system in the matrix of the cement. The the gas zone decreases to the gas-zone pressure, gas can enter the
total amount of flow of the interstitial water in the cement column annulus. At constant pressure, we can assume that the total volume
will be governed by the permeability and limited to a total pressure in the annulus across from the gas zone divided by the total moles
drop allowed by the static gel strength. The static gel strength will in the annulus is a constant. If it is assumed that the moles of gas en-
limit the pressure drop for the flow of interstitial water in the matrix tering are very small compared to the existing water and cement,
of the cement. then the volume of gas entering into the cement column can be
Any volume change occurring downhole that could produce a approximated by the volume of fluid lost in the cement column
larger pressure loss than that given by Eq. 7 will produce a move- across from it.
ment in the whole column of cement (a drop in the column of cement
slurry as well as in the fluid column above the cement column). This Simulator Structure and Operation
equation assumes that the fluid on top of the cement slurry in the
well will not provide any resistance to water flow through the matrix Once the equations were developed to describe not only the physical
of the cement and will supply a source of interstitial fluid above the properties of the cement slurry, but also the interaction of the various
cement column. If volume losses occurring in the cement produce well parameters as to the gas entry, a study was undertaken to deter-
a potential pressure loss less than that allowed by the static gel mine the sensitivity of different variables on the ultimate gas entry
strength, the actual pressure drop in the cement will only be a func- into the cemented wellbore.
tion of Eq. 6. Thus, Eqs. 6 and 7 must be considered before the actual All of the parameters were studied by a simulator that used the
pressure drop can be calculated. previously developed equations to predict the quantity of gas that
For calculation of the actual pressure drop throughout a column of enters a cemented wellbore. This was accomplished by a Fortran-
cement with time under realistic downhole conditions, the physical language computer program capable of simulating any cementing
relationships between the fluid-loss zones and the gas-entry zone scenario. Fig. 6 shows a well schematic indicating the approach
must also be considered. The total volume of fluid lost to the forma- used for the simulator. A drilling-fluid column of any length in con-
tion as filtrate and the hydration volume reduction must be compen- junction with a cement column of any length can be studied. Two
sated for by interstitial fluid flow through the matrix of the cement. fluid-loss zones of any length can be placed above and below a gas
The volumetric flow of the interstitial water through the matrix of the zone of any length. The physical location of the fluid-loss zone to
cement will change at different locations in the annulus. The top por- the gas zone and to the top of cement and total depth can be varied.
tion of the cement will require a rate of water through the cement It is very important to be able to simulate a fluid-loss zone above and
permeability equal to all the volume losses in the well below that below the gas zone so that volume loss in these zones can be re-
point. All portions of the cement column lower in the well will have flected by gas volume entering the annulus. The proximity of the
all the volume losses, minus any losses occurring above that point. fluid-loss zone could have a dramatic effect on the gas entry. The
When the cement slurry is first placed in the annular space, it will fluid loss in each zone can be varied with the fluid-loss properties
transmit all of its hydrostatic pressure. The hydrostatic pressure of the drilling fluid and cement and the pore pressure of the forma-

182 SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997


Drilling-fluid density 75.55 lbm/ft3
Cement density 118.18 lbm/ft3

Time for the mudcake 60 minutes

Length of the cement column 2,500 ft
Concentration of solids in the mud 32.0 lb/ft3

Concentration of solids in the cement 121.3 lb/ft3

Viscosity of the filtrate 0.0239 lbm/(ft-s)

Mudcake resistance factor 5.0 E+13
Cement-cake resistance factor 5.0 E+13

Pressure factor for mud 0.600

Pressure factor for cement 0.8
Mudcake density 122.9 lbm/ft3

Cement-cake density 140.0 lbm/ft3

Mud-solids density 263.6 lbm/ft3
Cement-solids density 195.6 lbm/ft3

Hydrostatic pressure of mud above cement 3,407 psi

Top of cement 6,500 ft
Top of Fluid-Loss Zone1 7,000 ft

Bottom of Fluid-Loss Zone 1 7,300 ft

Top of gas zone 8,000 ft

Bottom of gas zone 8,300 ft
Fig. 6Well schematic for calculations. Well temperature 180F

Top of Fluid-Loss Zone 2 8,500 ft

tion. The pressure of the gas zone can be set to simulate any overbal- Bottom of Fluid-Loss Zone 2 8,700 ft
ance pressure desired. Pressure of Fluid-Loss Zone 1 3,100 psi

Pressure of the gas zone 4,519 psi

Example of Simulator Results Pressure of Fluid-Loss Zone 2 3,767 psi
Total depth of well 9,000 ft

Input data and results for all the simulations showed a summary of Hole size 7.5 in.
the various parameters studied vs. the total volume of gas that en-

Pipe size 5.5 in.
tered.6 The various parameters were studied in two types of situa-
Gelling characteristics slow-gelling

tions. The maximum and minimum values for seven different pa-
rameters were studied in Runs 1 through 128. These were used so Permeability characteristics low-permeability

that a wide range of values could be studied. In Runs 129 through
Overbalance pressure 200 psi

155, the various parameters other than maximums and minimums
were investigated, as well as slurry permeabilities of fixed values. Fluid loss of cement 0.101 cm3/API
Parameters that were studied are fluid loss of the cement slurry, area (400 psi)
static gel strength, slurry permeability, size of the fluid-loss zone be-
low the gas migration zone, geometries, cement-column length, and A detail of Computer Run 129 will be provided as an example of
overbalance pressure. the data that was obtained on all the runs. The input data used in this
The downhole cement-slurry fluid loss values ranged from 0.014 simulation is shown in Table 2.
and 0.32 cm3/min per API area with 400 psi applied pressure. The The first portion of Table 2 shows the input data needed to calcu-
slurries used for the static-gel-strength development were the two late the fluid loss under downhole conditions. The second section
slurries described in the static-gel-strength section, the slow-gelling shows the well parameters used, and the third section provides the
slurry and the delayed-gelling slurry. hole and pipe sizes used in the simulation. Additional data, like the
Two different slurries having different permeability vs. static gel gelling and permeability characteristics and the overbalance pres-
strength were used. The size of the fluid-loss zones below the gas sure, are listed. All the information in this table is input data with the
zone were 100 to 400 ft, while the annular clearances were tested exception of the downhole fluid-loss rate of the cement, which is
from 1.5 in to 4 in. The pipe size was kept the same and the hole size calculated in the program.
was changed to adjust the annular clearance. The cement column The pressure profiles of the example well as a function of time are
length above the gas zone was tested from 600 to 2,000 ft while the shown in Fig 7. These profiles are for points at Fluid-Loss Zone 1,
overbalance pressure was 100 to 900 psi. which is above the gas zone; the gas zone itself; and Fluid-Loss

Fig. 7Pressure loss vs. time for all zones. Fig. 8Fluid-loss rate at each zone vs. time.

SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997 183

Fig. 9Drop of column vs. time. Fig. 10Gas volume vs. time.

Zone 2, which is below the gas zone. The pressure loss shown is the slurry, permeability of the gelling cement, geometries of the hole
hydrostatic-pressure loss in the column of cement accross from the and pipe size, overbalance pressure, and length of the cement col-
fluid-loss zone. umn above the gas-entry zone. The results of the parametric study
In this example, the Fluid-Loss Zone 1 was located at 7,000 ft, and are detailed in the following sections.
had a 500-ft cement coulmn above it, while Fluid-Loss Zone 2 was
located at 8,500 ft, and had a 2,000-ft cement column above it. Each Downhole Fluid Loss. The fluid loss of the cement slurry is a key
fluid-loss zone had a pore pressure equivalent to that of water, while parameter in the gas migration process that can be adjusted and con-
the gas zone had a pressure slightly below the hydrostatic pressure of trolled by fluid-loss additives in the slurry. The fluid loss in this in-
the drilling fluid (in this case, the density of the drilling fluid was 10.1 vestigation was studied at several different levels, from a low down-
lbm/gal). In the slurry across from each fluid-loss zone, the pressure hole fluid-loss rate of 0.03 cm3/min per API area to a high downhole
fell to the pore pressure of the formation at different times. After fluid-loss rate of 1.0 cm3/min per API area. All the fluid-loss values
placement, the slurry across from the gas zone had a pressure greater are reported in cubic centimeters per minute (the average of the first
than the formation pressure (200 psi). The cement slurry across from 10 minutes) on the test area of the API test cell with 400-psi pressure
the gas zone decreased fairly rapidly because the gelation and the vol- applied even though the downhole fluid loss was not at 400 psi. This
ume reductions (both from fluid loss) and the hydration of the cement representation was used so that relative fluid-loss values could be
were ongoing. Once the slurry across from the gas zone decreased to compared even though the downhole fluid-loss changed continually
the formation pressure, the gas began to enter the cemented annulus. with pressure and time as the cake built up.
The fluid-loss rates at each zone are shown in Fig. 8. The fluid- Fig. 11 shows how the downhole fluid-loss rate of the cement
loss rate for Zone 2 starts higher, but quickly becomes lower because slurry affects the total amount of gas that enters the annulus. In this
of the significant drop in the hydrostatic pressure as shown in Fig.7. case, all the parameters were maintained constant with only the
When the cement-slurry pressure falls to the formation pressure downhole fluid-loss rates varying. The size of the fluid-loss zones
and fluid loss is continuing, any volume losses below the gas zone were all the same, so the comparison of the fluid-loss rates was the
above that required to reach the pressure restriction caused by static same as comparing the downhole volumes. The variation in the gas-
gel strength will result in a substantial amount of gas entering the entry volume was very significant, ranging from less than l ft3 at
cement. Zone 1 continued to have fluid loss up to about 130 minutes, 0.032 cm3/min to more than 9 ft3 at a downhole fluid-loss rate of
while Zone 2 and the gas zone equalized pressure in 90 and 30 min- 1.01 cm3/min. This graph indicates that the amount of gas that enters
utes, respectively. the annulus is related to the fluid loss of the cement.
Figs. 9 and 10 show the drop in the cement column and the total Estimating the downhole fluid-loss volume of the cement slurry
amount of gas that entered the wellbore. The combination of gela- with laboratory fluid-loss values without considering the effects of
tion, volume reduction, and slurry permeability works collectively the mudcake interaction can be deceiving. The mudcake permeabil-
to allow the hydrostatic pressure to drop and gas to enter the cement ity (related to the fluid loss of the drilling fluid) and the thickness of
column. Any volume above those losses needed to decrease the po- the cake deposited on the formations plays a significant role in the
tential pressure drop resulting from static gel strength will manifest downhole fluid-loss volume of the cement. It is also important to
itself in a drop in the cement column immediately after the cement realize that the total downhole fluid-loss volume is also a function
slurry is placed, and continues throughout the gelation of the cement of the amount of permeable formation available to accept the fluid
slurry. The behavior of the column drop slows down with time. The lost from the cement slurry. All the simulation runs shown in Fig. 11
gas volume increases very rapidly as soon as the hydrostatic pres- had 800 ft of permeable open hole. The fluid-loss-zone thickness
sure decreases to the formation pressure. This rapid gas-influx rate above the gas zone was 300 ft, the gas-zone thickness was 300 ft,
decreases when the volume losses in the fluid-loss zone decrease.
Fig. 10 indicates that the gas-entry rate was rapid, between 30 to
90 minutes, and then slowed significantly. These results correspond
to the downhole fluid-loss rate of Zone 2 shown in Fig. 8. The down-
hole fluid-loss rate at 30 minutes was about 0.135 cm3/min and con-
tinued to decrease until 90 minutes. At 90 minutes, the pressure in the
cement column across from the gas zone was equal to the formation
pressure. After this time, additional volume losses and resulting gas-
entry volumes were caused by hydration volume reductions only.

Parametric Study
The development of the numerical simulator yielded a convenient
method to analyze gas influx into a cement column by studying the
important variables in the process. The parameters studied during
the analysis were: fluid loss of the drilling fluid and the cement
slurry under downhole conditions, static gel strength of the cement Fig. 11Gas volume vs. fluid loss.

184 SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997


Gas Volume for Low Gas Volume for High

Fluid-Loss Rate* Fluid-Loss Rate** Gas Volume for Gas Volume for

Set/Run (ft3) (ft3) Slow-Gelling Slurry Delayed-Gelling Slurry

(ft3) (ft3)

A/9, 10 0.49 7.12 Set/Run

B/17, 18 0.59 2.42 A/2, 4 1.98 0.28

C/25, 26 0.85 8.21 B/10, 12 7.1 0.526

D/33, 34 0.27 1.97 C/26, 28 8.21 1.13

E/49, 50 0.7 3.72 D/34, 36 1.97 0.22
F/57, 58 1.14 13.4 E/58, 60 13.4 1.48

*0.014 cm3/min
**0.32 cm3/min F/106, 108 2.68 0.175

and the fluid-loss-zone thickness below the gas zone was 200 ft. As and annular clearance to create a situation that would not be encoun-
the borehole changed size, the downhole fluid-loss volume also tered in any but a few gas-migration situations. In Series 2 and 3, the
changed, even with the same laboratory fluid-loss values. gas volumes only changed a minor amount as the permeability var-
Table 3 summarizes representative results from the study focus- ied from 1 to 5,000 md.
ing on the downhole fluid-loss rates. For each data set, the only vari- Permeability of the gelling cement is one of the factors that many
able that changed between the runs was the fluid-loss rate, as all the in the industry believe is a major contributor to the influx of gas. It
other parameters were held constant. The downhole fluid-loss rates is true that the cement slurry can have a substantially different
used were 0.014 cm3/min for the low fluid loss and 0.32 cm3/min permeability depending on the slurry makeup. This permeability in
for the high fluid-loss data. It is obvious that the downhole fluid-loss the cement is necessary for the cement slurry to lose hydrostatic
rates of the drilling fluid-cement slurry combination is very signifi- pressure; however, in the range of values tested here (1 to 5,000 md),
cant, and in some cases, it dramatically increases the gas volumes. it does appear not to change the gas volume that enters a cement an-
Although fluid loss of the cement is typically considered an im- nulus in most cases. Lowering the permeability does not appear to
portant property of the cement slurry, no one has quantified how sig- alter the cement slurrys capability to control gas migration.
nificant the downhole fluid loss is. Because of the extreme changes
of the gas volumes with changes in the fluid loss, the downhole Static Gel Strength of the Cement Slurry. The static-gel-strength
fluid-loss rate should be considered a major driving force for gas development of a cement slurry should be an important parameter
entry and gas migration. Any technique to determine gas-flow se- in gas entry because many of the cement-slurry properties depend
verity that does not include a fluid-loss factor may not accurately on it. Slurries with two types of static gel strength were tested in this
represent field conditions. study. These were a slow-gelling slurry and a delayed-gelling slurry.
Table 4 shows a comparison of several computer runs when all the
Permeability of the Gelling Cement. The effect of cement slurry other parameters were the same for each data set. The slow-gelling
permeability was studied in two ways. First, computer simulations slurry indicated a significant increase in the gas volume when
were conducted where the permeability changed with respect to the compared to the delayed-gelling cement slurry. The delayed-gelling
static gel strength. Two different permeability/static-gel-strength cement slurry generally had a lower gas-volume influx as a result of
relationships were used. In these simulations, the permeability of a long, inactive gelling time. This long, delayed-gelling time allows
the cement slurry changed continually from the highest value at
the cement to lose filtrate, but does not allow any drop in pressure
small static gel strengths to low values at high static gel strengths.
or gas influx. During this time, the cement filter cake builds up,
Next, computer simulations using a constant permeability through-
which lowers the downhole fluid-loss rate when the volume losses
out the gelation time from l to 5,000 md were conducted.
in the well are contributing to the gas flow.
Fig. 12 shows the effect of the slurry permeability in the ranges
Although the gel-strength development of a cement slurry has
just described in relation to the gas volume that enters the cement
column. Three different series of tests with constant slurry and well been considered significant to the gas-migration process, no one has
parameters (except for slurry permeability) are shown. Series l tests investigated which specific gelation characteristics help prevent gas
were Computer Runs 62, 147, 148, and 149. Series 2 tests were invasion. It is clear from the results shown here that the preferred
Computer Runs 46, 150, 151, and 152. Series 3 tests were Computer gelation profile for a cement slurry to limit gas entry is one that has
Runs 38, 153, 154, and 155. a delayed gelation time.
In each series, all the parameters used in the simulations were the
same except for the permeability. As the results indicate, the perme- Overbalance Pressure on the Gas Formation. The well parame-
ability had little or no effect on the ultimate gas-volume amount that ters associated with gas influx in a well are important because they
entered into the cement column except in Series 1. In Series 1, the can have a great effect on the gas influx. The overbalance pressure
well and the cement-slurry parameters were very severe and indi- is defined as the original hydrostatic pressure in the cement column,
cated a very high gas-volume influx. Series 1 results combined the minus the gas-formation pressure. The technique of increasing
parameters of downhole fluid-loss volume, cement-column length, overbalance pressure in the cement column has been used to prevent
the gas-migration problem. In theory, the higher the overbalance
pressure, the more pressure drop will be needed to reach the gas res-
ervoir pressure, and the longer the time for the cement slurry to de-
velop the solid characteristics to prevent entry and flow. In this
study, overbalance pressures of 100 to 900 psi were used to investi-
gate this effect. These values were chosen as representative high and
low values typically observed in gas wells. The overbalance pres-
sure was changed only by changing the gas reservoir pressure,
which allowed other parameters like cement density and hydrostatic
pressure to be the same.
Fig. 13 shows the effect of the overbalance pressure vs. gas volume
for two different situations. Series 1 combines the results from Com-
puter Runs 129, 139, 140, 141, and 142. Series 2 used data from Com-
puter Runs 30, 143, 144, 145, and 146. In each series, the well and
Fig. 12Gas volume vs. permeability. slurry parameters are the same except for the overbalance pressure.

SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997 185

Fig. 13Gas volume vs. overbalance pressure. Fig. 14Gas volume vs. annular clearance.

From the results shown in Fig. 13, it is evident that the overbal- at 5.5 in. and the hole size was varied to achieve the annular clear-
ance pressure is a critical parameter that significantly affects the gas ance. When the hole size was changed, the total fluid-loss volume
volume. In Series 2, the overbalance pressures of 100 and 200 psi also changed because of the increased formation surface area. The
provided a substantial gas volume, while any overbalance pressure additional volume loss resulted in increased gas influx.
of 400 psi and greater showed about the same amount of gas influx. Fig. 14 shows a representative plot of gas volume vs. annular
Apparently a critical overbalance pressure must be achieved to limit clearance for several of the simulator runs. The data points used had
the gas-entry volume. In this case, the critical overbalance pressure the same well and slurry parameters, so the effect of the annular
was 400 psi. In wells with different parameters, this value would clearance could be studied. The annular clearances tested varied
probably change. In Series 1 the overbalance-pressure change did from 1 to 6 in. The data clearly show that as the annular clearance
not affect the gas volumes as much as in Series 2. This result is not increased, the gas volume also increased. This observation is con-
surprising because the well conditions in Series 1 did not allow large trary to the observations of Sutton et al.,5 who predicted that the in-
volumes to enter the wellbore. crease in annular clearance should decrease the gas-flow severity.
Overbalance pressure has been used by some in the industry5 to The authors only took into account the gelation of the cement and
analyze the potential for gas entry. Those authors suggest that in- overbalance pressure in the system. This work included the effect
creasing the overbalance pressure would decrease the gas-entry vol- of the total downhole fluid-loss volume. The increase in the hole
ume. This work appears to confirm that observation. size and subsequent increase in fluid-loss volume when the annular
clearance increased was more significant than the small drop in hy-
Length of the Cement Coulmn. For the study, 600-ft, 1,500-ft, and drostatic pressure caused by cement gelation. This result may ex-
2,000-ft cement columns were used. These lengths represent only plain why some of the worst gas-flow situations have been encoun-
the length of the cement column above the gas formation. Table 5 tered in shallow-surface pipe cementing, where the hole size is large
shows a comparison of some representative results generated from and the drilling fluid typically has a high downhole fluid-loss value.
computer runs using 600-ft and 2,000-ft cement-column lengths.
The simulator results used in each set have all the same parameters. Conclusions
This condition was accomplished by changing the formation pres- This study involved determining cement-slurry properties and
sures to compensate for the cement-column-length changes, keep- downhole properties that affect the pressure drop and gas entry into
ing the overbalance pressure the same. In most cases, the gas vol- a cemented wellbore.
ume associated with the 2,000-ft column results were higher than The following conclusions and observations were made.
the 600-ft results. In Sets A and B, the gas volumes were not very 1. Downhole fluid-loss volume is an important slurry parameter
large, and the resulting changes in gas volumes with cement column that affects the gas influx into the cement column.
length were small. In Data Set C, the gas volume from the 2,000-ft 2. The static gel strength of the cement slurry is a critical property
column was almost the same as the 600-ft-column gas volume. In that greatly affects the gas entry into a cemented annulus. The ce-
Data Sets D and E, the gas volume for the 2,000-ft column was sub- ment slurry that has a delayed-gelling profile is much preferred over
stantially more than the 600-ft-column gas volumes. the slow-gelling cement slurry.
The data in Table 5 indicate that the cement column does have 3. The geometries of the well in question do affect the amount of
some effect on the gas-entry volume in most well scenarios. The gas that enters the annulus. The larger the hole size, and thus the
longer the cement column, the larger the gas-volume influx. The larger the annular clearance, the greater the gas influx will be.
higher the magnitude of gas volumes entering the cement column, 4. The overbalance pressure is also a very significant factor in the
the more the cement-column length affects the gas volume. volume of gas that enters the wellbore. The larger the overbalance,
the smaller the amount of gas that will enter.
Downhole Geometry. The hole and pipe size should be a major fac- 5. The length of the cement column usually does affect the gas
tor in the loss of hydrostatic pressure and ultimate gas-volume in- volumes that enter the annulus. The longer the cement column, the

flux into a cement column. In this study, the pipe diameter was kept larger the quantity of gas that will enter the cement column.

6. The cement-slurry permeability is not a significant factor for

TABLE 5EFFECT OF CEMENT-COLUMN LENGTH gas entry into the cement, except in severe gas-migration situations.


Gas Volume for 600-ft Gas Volume for 2,000-ft

Field Recommendations. To apply the conclusions to a real gas-
Cement Column Cement Column migration senario, one must optimize which parameters can be realis-

Set/Run (ft3) (ft3) tically changed. All of the above parameters can affect the amount of
gas that enters the wellbore, but some can be altered more easily than

A/74, 98 0.14 0.22 others. With the well parameters, for example, the length of the ce-

B/90, 120 0.30 0.53 ment column can be easier to adjust than the hole and pipe size. The
C/2, 34 1.98 1.97 overbalance pressure can be adjusted with heavier cement slurries or

D/18, 50 2.42 3.72 by applying back pressure at the surface. The cement-coulmn length
E/26, 58 8.21 13.40 can be shortened by use of a multistage cementing tool, as long as the

186 SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997

hydrostatic pressure is not significatly altered. With the slurry proper- Fred Sabins has 18 years of experience in the petroleum service
ties in mind the permeability of the cement slurries are not routinely industry with worldwide field and laboratory experience in ce
measured, so that parameter may also be difficult. Typically, the menting and engineering applications. He worked for 16 years in
slurry properties like fluid loss and static gel strength are the easist to cementing research with Halliburton Energy Services, where he
optimize, although static gel strength is not routinely measured. was manager of the cementing materials research. He is current
ly a cementing technology manager with Westport Technology
Center Intl. He has authored more than 30 papers and has nine
References patents on a variety of cementing topics. His areas of expertise
1. Sabins, F.L., Tinsley, J.M., and Sutton, D.L.: Transition Time of Cement include hightemperature/highpressure applications, gas
Slurries between the Fluid and Set State, paper SPE 9285, presented at migration through cement, largescale mud displacement proj
the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Dallas, 2124 Sep- ects, bulk bending and sampling, acoustic and ultrasonic evalu
tember 1980. ation tools, computer modeling, and special additive develop
2. Sykes, R.L. and Logan, J.L.: New Technology in Gas Migration Con- ment. His education includes an MS degree in petroleum
trol, paper SPE 16653 presented at the SPE Annual Technical Confer- engineering from the U. of Oklahoma (1992) and a BS degree in
ence and Exhibition, Dallas, 2730 September 1987. chemical engineering from New Mexico State U. (1978). Michael
3. Sutton, D.L. and Sabins, F.L.: Interrelationship Between Critical Cement L. Wiggins is an assistant professor of petroleum and geological
Properties and Volume Changes During Cement Setting, paper SPE engineering at the U. of Oklahoma, where he specializes in the
20451 presented at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, areas of production operations, reservoir management, and en
New Orleans, 2326 September 1990. vironmental issues. He holds BS, ME, and PhD degrees in petro
4. Sutton, D.L. and Ravi, K.M.: New Method for Determining Downhole leum engineering from Texas A&M U. He is a member of the Engi
Properties that Affect Gas Migration and Annular Sealing, paper SPE neering Registration Committee, and was the U. of Oklahoma
19520 presented at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, SPE Student Chapter faculty adviser from 1991 to 1996.
San Antonio, 811 October 1989.
5. Sutton, D.L., Sabins, F.L., and Faul, R.: Preventing Annular Gas Flow,
Oil & Gas J., Part 1 (10 December 1984), Part 2 (17 December 1984).
6. Sabins, F.L., and Wiggins, M.L.: Supplement to SPE 28472, Parametric
Study of Gas Entry Into Cemented Wellbores, paper SPE 39494 avail-
able from SPE, Richardson, Texas.

SI Metric Conversion Factors

Sabins Wiggins
ft 3.048* E*01 +m
ft2 9.290 304* E*02 +m2
ft3 2.831 685 E*02 +m3
F (F*32)/1.8 +C
gal 3.785 412 E*03 +m3
in. 2.54* E)00 +cm
lbf 4.448 222 E)00 +N
lbf/ft2 4.788 026 E*02 +KPa
lbm 4.535 924 E*01 +kg
md 9.869 233 E*04 +mm2
psi 6.894 757 E)00 +kPa
*Conversion factor is exact. SPEDC

SPE Drilling & Completion, September 1997 187