Behind the Scenes: What Professional Expertise Powers Pump-and-Pull Cementing Success?

In the realm of oil and gas extraction, setting a cement plug to seal off fluid movement in wells is a critical task. Whether it is for well abandonment or providing a starting point for sidetrack drilling, achieving a reliable seal demands precision and expertise.

While the classic gravity-assisted balanced plug technique holds its own in vertical or moderately deviated wells, we're talking about a whole new ball game when it comes to horizontal or highly deviated holes. In those situations, it's time to pivot and explore alternative strategies. The industry successfully practiced the pump-and-pull method (Fig. 1). Unlike its gravity-dependent counterpart, pump-and-pull does not rely on gravity alone to spot the cement plug. Instead, the cementing crew pulls the pipe out of the hole while simultaneously pumping fluids into it. This approach offers superior control during plug placement, minimizing the risk of cement stringing out—an invaluable advantage in highly deviated or horizontal wells.

Fig. 1—Pump-and-Pull Method

Let's face it, executing pump-and-pull jobs comes with its fair share of challenges. Synchronizing pulling speed with pumping rate is paramount to minimize contamination, making meticulous flow rate design critical. During the design phase, predicting fluid tops and slurry contaminations, along with calculating pumping pressure and downhole equivalent circulating density (ECD), are essential—but manually crunching these numbers in the face of complex wellbore structures, survey data, and pump sequences proves inefficient.

Enter PlugPRO – Cement Plug Placement software, a successful computer model in cementing design. PlugPRO introduces an innovative "pump-and-pull" feature alongside its existing balanced plug and dual annulus methods (Fig. 2), empowering engineers to tackle complex plug jobs with confidence.

Fig. 2—Existing Balanced Plug and Dual Annulus Methods in PlugPRO

This feature offers three distinct options for pump-and-pull simulation, catering to various operational scenarios:

1. Sacrificial Cement: This method involves initially pumping a controlled amount of cement into the annulus before initiating the pump-and-pull operation (Fig. 3). The synchronization of pulling speed and pumping rate is crucial to effectively mitigate contamination risks in this method.

Fig. 3—First Pump-and-Pull Method: Sacrificial Cement

2. Pump and Pull after Cement Placement: Tailored for open holes, this method allows for the displacement of a significant portion of the cement slurry to the desired plug top, with the stinger positioned at the bottom depth of the cement (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4—Second Pump-and-Pull Method: Pump and Pull After Cement Placement

3. User-Defined Pump-and-Pull: Providing unmatched flexibility, this option empowers engineers to customize pump-and-pull sequences according to specific operational requirements (Fig. 5). By doing so, engineers can gain a comprehensive understanding of progress and identify any potential synchronization issues proactively.

Fig. 5—Third Pump-and-Pull Method: User-Defined Pump-and-Pull

PlugPRO now stands out as the go-to solution for enhancing pump-and-pull cementing operations. By precisely computing essential results such as fluid tops, pump pressure, ECD, temperature, and more, it empowers engineers with the tools they need to carry out their tasks with precision and confidence. With PlugPRO at their disposal, professionals can rely on the dependability and effectiveness of their cementing jobs, guaranteeing favorable results in the field.

Ready to take your plug jobs in cementing to the next level? Watch the video below to learn the Pump-and-Pull methods mentioned in this article and start mastering your technique.

For more information on the features of PlugPRO, visit our website:

Explore PlugPRO firsthand - contact us at to schedule a complimentary demo.

Let’s elevate your cementing operations together!

From the Designing

Cementing operations represent one of the more crucial aspects regarding well integrity. Despite the vast amount of research and the large number of operations throughout the years, well integrity problems, during and after cementing jobs, is something the industry still faces. These problems have been experienced by the petroleum industry globally and can occur at any moment of the well’s life cycle. Well integrity issues have been categorized according to the moment at which they happen:

  1. During the cement displacement in the wellbore.
  2. After the cement placement.
  3. After the cement has been cured.

The first category may result in very serious well-control problems, including blowouts. During the period between 1992 and 2006, the leading cause for blowouts was cementing. These problems usually occur because of improper design of the cementing operations due to hydrostatic pressure of the cement slurries, failure when mixing the slurries to obtain the desire density, and lost circulation during the cement displacement.

The second category is normally associated with the loss of hydrostatic pressure of the cement slurries during the initial hydration period. This also can cause we-control problems, pressure build up in the annulus between the casing strings and zonal isolation problems eventually and the remedial solutions for this are normally expensive and difficult.

The last category refers to long-term problems normally caused by poor cementing jobs. Defective drilling mud removal during the cement slurry displacement in the annulus, insufficient cement height that may lead to casing leakage and corrosion problems are some of the factors that can contribute to long-term well integrity failures and the cost to fix these problems are highly expensive.

PVI has taken into consideration these types of problems and has created two great software for these situations: CEMLab and CEMPRO+.

CEMLab - Cement Lab Data Management Software

CEMLab - Cement Lab Data Management Software

This integrated database management application formulates slurries and calculates lab amounts for all ingredients such as cement, dry and liquid additives, salts and water. It also generates weigh-up sheets, stores API test results and generates lab reports. CEMLab allows quick access to all slurry formulations and testing statuses from anywhere, anytime.

CEMPRO+ : Mud Displacement Software

CEMPRO+ : Mud Displacement Software

This mud displacement program has the capability of displacement efficiency modeling. Designed for land, offshore, conventional and/or foamed operations, CEMPRO+ accounts for many factors that can affect the efficiency of a displacement job including fluid properties, pumping rates, casing standoff and complex wellbore geometry. CEMPRO+ is the must have software for cementing operations.

Before designing your next well, keep these two models in mind to help you achieve, from the designing of the slurries to the mud displacement, a successful cementing operation.

Step Two: Displacement

After the cement slurries have been designed and formulated the next step is:

Cementing the Well

After the casing is run into the well, a cementing head is hooked to the top of the wellhead to receive the slurries from the pumps. Then there are two wiper plugs, also known as cementing plugs (bottom plug and top plug) that sweep the inside of the casing and prevent mixing the drilling fluids with the cement slurries. The bottom plug is introduced into the well, and cement slurries are pumped into the well behind it. The bottom plug is then caught right above the bottom of the well by the float collar, which functions as a one-way valve allowing the cement slurries to enter the well. The pressure on the cement being pumped into the well increases until a diaphragm is broken within the bottom plug, permitting the slurry to flow through it and up the outside of the casing string.

Once the proper volume of cement is pumped into the wellbore, the top plug is pumped into the casing pushing the remaining slurry through the bottom plug. After the top plug reaches the bottom plug, the pumps are turned off, and the cement is allowed to set. The amount of time it takes the cement to harden is called thickening time. For setting wells at deep depths, under high temperature or pressure, as well as in corrosive environments, special cements can be employed.

When it comes to cementing operations the ultimate and most difficult goal is to provide zonal isolation by displacing drilling mud with cement slurries because an incomplete mud removal causes a poor cement seal which can lead to a catastrophe.

PVI has developed CEMPRO+ with the capability of displacement efficiency for a successful cementing operation.

CEMPRO+ : Mud Displacement SoftwareThis software is designed for used for both land and offshore operations as well as conventional and/or foaming operations. CEMPRO+ uses advanced numerical methods to solve momentum and continuity equations on 3D grids and calculates the fluid concentration as well as the displacement efficiency. It accounts for many factors that can affect the efficiency of displacement jobs, including fluid properties, pumping rates, casing standoff, complex wellbore geometry and many more.

7 Basic Ideas

In completion of oil and gas wells, cement separates the wellbore, prevents casing failure, and keeps wellbore fluids from contaminating freshwaters. The basic factors engineers and operators must consider for successful cementing jobs are summarized in seven basic ideas:

  1. Condition the Drilling Fluid
  2. Use Centralizers
  3. Move the Pipe
  4. Increase the Displacement Rate
  5. Design Slurries for Proper Temperature
  6. Select and Test Cement Components
  7. Select a Proper Cementing System

1. Condition the Drilling Fluid

The drilling fluid condition is the most important variable in achieving very good displacement during a cementing job. As the workers pull the drill pipe, run the casing, and prepare for cementing operations, the drilling fluid in the wellbore basically remains static and hardens. Pockets of mud commonly exist after a wellbore is drilled and they make displacement difficult. These pockets of gelled fluid must be broken up. Regaining and maintaining good fluid mobility after running the casing is essential.

2. Use Centralizers

Centralizers are effective mud displacement helpers. Centralizers make easier the removal of gelled-mud and allow better cement bond with the wellbore. Centralizers are designed to serve various needs, for instance, they help with well control, provide increased mud-removal benefits, optimize drilling-fluid displacement. When a casing is poorly centralized the cement bypasses drilling fluid by following the path of least resistance. Good pipe standoff helps ensure uniform flow patterns around the casing. Centralizers also change fluid flow patterns and promote better mud displacement and removal.

3. Move the Pipe

Moving the casing before and during cementing breaks up the gelled pockets and it loosens the cuttings trapped in the gelled mud. Pipe movement allows high displacement efficiency at lower pump rates by keeping the drilling fluid flowing.

Movement compensates partially for poorly centralized casing by changing the flow path and allowing the slurries to circulate completely around the pipe. In some instances, some liner hangers and mechanical devices prevent casing movement, which must be considered during the cement displacement design.

4. Increase the Displacement Rate

High-energy flow in the annulus is more effective in ensuring good mud displacement. Turbulent flow around the casing circumference is desirable, but not necessarily essential. The best cementing results are obtained when the spacers and cement are pumped at maximum energy, the spacer is appropriately designed to remove the mud, and a more proficient cement is used.

5. Design Slurries for Proper temperature

Operators can optimize the slurry design if they know the actual temperature the cement will encounter. Bottomhole cementing temperatures affect the slurry thickening time, set time, rheology and the compressive-strength development. Operators tend to overestimate the amount of materials required to keep cement in a flowing for pumping, which can result in unnecessary cost and well-control problems. They can optimize cost and displacement efficiency by designing the job on the basis of actual wellbore circulating temperatures, obtained from a downhole temperature sub recorder.

6. Select and Test Cement components

Operators are encouraged to design cement slurries for specific applications, with good properties to allow placement in a normal period of time. The ideal cement slurries have no measurable free water, provide adequate fluid-loss control, have adequate retarder to ensure proper placement, and maintain a stable density to ensure hydrostatic control.

Before performing the job, they should check the cement reaction and actual location mix water to ensure that the formulation will perform as it is expected. Contaminants in the mix water can produce large variances in thickening time and compressive strength.

Organic materials and dissolved salts in mix water can affect the slurries setting time.

Cement dehydration from the loss of filtrate to permeable formations can cause bridging and increased friction pressure, viscosity, and density. Pump pressures can increase and additives can be used to provide fluid-loss control when is necessary to compensate for dehydration.

7. Select a Proper Cementing System

Operators select cement systems based on job objectives and well requirements.

Cement is basically inflexible. Cementing systems are similar in many ways, but sometimes they vary, for instance, in their capability to provide good zone isolation in changing environments. The cement selection has always been on the basis that higher compressive strengths result in higher cement sheath quality. Research has proven that the ability of cement to provide good zonal isolation is better defined by other mechanical properties. Good isolation does not necessarily require high compressive strength. The real competence test is whether the cement system in place can provide zone isolation for the life of the well.

For all these situations PVI has developed a series of software such as:

CentraDesign - Centralizer Placement Software

CentraDesign - Centralizer Placement Software

MUDPRO - Drilling Mud Reporting Software

MUDPRO - Drilling Mud Reporting Software

StuckPipePro - Stuck Pipe Analysis Software

StuckPipePro - Stuck Pipe Analysis Software

that can help engineers and operators to perform a better quality job and avoid any potential problems that can put at risk the production.