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.

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Antique Store and OTC

My brother, who is a civil engineer in Kentucky, came to visit us during OTC in 2013. During his stay here in Houston, we did many things together, including visiting the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) and a local antique store.

OTC is an annual event that takes place in the month of May in Houston. As the largest oil and gas conference and exhibition in the United States, OTC attracts typically 30,000 – 50,000 visitors from around the world. The exhibition area is huge. My brother and I got tired after a couple of hours walking in one of the exhibition halls. OTC covers numerous technical areas which are totally new to us. We got lost in the aisles of booths, instruments and equipment. We felt so behind in many of the new technologies. However, we also felt that we were lucky to be part of the engineering world (drilling software for me) and that we are contributing to the big wave of technology advancement. We felt the vibe of the next generation. OTC is like a stage, where people dance with their dreams and where dreams come true.

After OTC, we visited a local antique market which had many small, individually owned shops selling items that have history. We were delighted to see many items that had quite a storied past, as the shop owners explained their history. We found an old kerosene lamp which captured a moment in our technology development.

These items are like fragments of time. Touching them allows us to travel back in time. When we are young, we spend more time dreaming, looking into the future. As we grow older, we are more occupied by things we are busy with at the present time; less time to dream, more time for memory review, perhaps.

When we are looking back at the past and forward into the future it gives pleasure to us both ways. A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation on TADPRO, our torque and drag model, to SPE Gulf Coast Section in Houston. I used two slides to summarize the history of drilling. The first one was a schematic of the drilling scene 2,000 years ago in China. The second one was a picture of an offshore platform, representing modern drilling technology. Both pictures represented the very advanced drilling technologies being used at the time. Centuries and millenniums elapsed. Our knowledge accumulation from history enables us to stand where we are.

Similarly, our drilling software development is the result of continuous engineering research and development over the past few decades. I have been fortunate to work with people with engineering and information technology backgrounds; some new and some seasoned. We, as developers are getting older, but our software stays young and robust.