Innovation Awards finalists 2018: Interwell and Solution Seeker

Interwell and Solution Seeker have been appointed finalists for the ONS 2018 Innovation Awards. Interwell has developed “Thermite P&A Barrier” an innovative and rig-less approach to well abandonment. Solution Seeker – an NTNU technology spin-off company – is nominated in the “small and medium enterprises” (SME) category for “ProductionCompass AI”, the world’s first artificial intelligence for upstream oil & gas production optimization. More finalists will be announced soon.

Interwell introducing: Thermite P&A barrier

Over the next decades, a significant number of wells will require plugging in the North Sea. As P&A (plug and abandonment) has no value creation for operators, it is important that these operations are conducted as efficiently as possible.

Currently, operations are completed using older and conventional methods, but for P&A to be economically sustainable in the future there is a great need for new technology and methods. In addition, regulators play a part in achieving operations that are more effective by tailoring requirements and guidelines. The ultimate goal for any P&A project would be to minimize time and cost spent.

For platform P&A, the goal is to perform offline operations, eliminating the use of a derrick, coil tubing, or pumping unit. For subsea abandonment, there is great potential to move operations away from the traditionally used semi-submersibles over to smaller and significantly cheaper, light well intervention vessels.

The innovation is a true rig-less approach to well abandonment, resulting in no need to remove tubing prior to P&A operations, and no need for drill pipe while placing barriers: A heat-generating mixture is conveyed in a steel cylinder on wireline to the relevant depth and then remotely activated by e-line. Once ignited, the heat-generating mixture will react and start an exothermic reaction that in a very short period of time will combust and then melt all the surrounding materials in the well.

The mixture will burn with a core temperature of 3.000 degrees C, and in less than a minute, will become similar to molten lava. This molten mixture will melt tubing, casing, cement and any other well components in situ – before melting portions of the formation – and, as the last stage in the process, will form a strong bond with the host rock/formation. Once this material solidifies it will create a permanent and impermeable barrier.

A sizeable high-pressure tank system (HP) was built and put into operation late 2015. This HP enabled Interwell to test and verify the behaviour of the exothermic material under realistic pressures (up to 700 bar) and temperatures. The company has completed +300 scale tests to verify the concept, proving ignition and combustion of the exothermic material under realistic conditions.

By the start of 2018, Interwll has finished five Pilot wells in Canada with Centrica, Shell and ExxonMobil; all wells deemed as technical successes. In April 2018 they completed the first onshore well in the UK with Spirit Energy, said well also considered a technical success, with further wells in Canada, Italy and Norway on track to

Since 1966, more than 5,000 wells have been drilled on the Norwegian shelf alone. Norwegian Oil and Gas has concluded that more than 3,000 wells on the NCS must be permanently plugged. Globally, the exact number of wells is not confirmed, but as an indicator, more than 2 million onshore wells have been drilled in USA and Canada alone.

This constitutes a real problem for the industry because:
• The number of old wells that eventually must be permanently plugged increases dramatically
• Onshore and Offshore P&A has a very high cost for owners/society, with no income potential
• Today’s technology/methodology for P&A is both time-consuming and way too costly
• Today’s procedures for P&A entails a high degree of uncertainty in a long-term perspective in terms of quality requirements
• 38% of temporarily abandoned wells on the Norwegian shelf have identified an integrity issue

Estimates done by Interwell´s partners are indicating potential savings in the range 50-75% if the product delivers. The ultimate goal for any P&A project would be to minimize time and cost spent on operations. For platform P&A, the goal is to perform offline operations, eliminating the use of a derrick, coil tubing, or pumping unit. For subsea abandonment, there is great potential to move activities away from the traditionally used semi-submersibles over to smaller and significantly cheaper, light well intervention vessels (LWIs).

An even more significant potential would be cost savings for subsea wells. The method allows one to make the majority of the P&A operation using a LWI, as opposed to today where one LWI is only engaged in the initial/final phase of a subsea P&A project. The potential for reduced time spent can be at least 50%. The concept would thus contribute to significant cost savings related to the P&A operations for the operating companies and not least for Norwegian society, where 78% of P&A costs are paid for by the Norwegian state.

By ensuring full integrity in abandoned wells and reducing the number of temporarily closed wells, Interwell´s technology will contribute to a significant reduction in the environmental impact of oil and gas production. It will prevent future leaks on the seabed and groundwater contamination from off and onshore wells. For society as a whole, it will have major positive effects because oil and gas wells constitute a ticking environmental bomb.

It may be considered to leave wells with a more significant portion of the components left behind in the well, versus today’s practice of removing tubing/casing. It is a major environmental problem related to the handling of old tubing which is often radioactive, which creates a significant problem both in connection with handling offshore as well as treatment ashore. We see no adverse environmental impacts of the project.

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Solution Seeker introducing: ProductionCompass AI

Solution Seeker – an NTNU technology spin-off company – is developing ProductionCompass AI, the world’s first artificial intelligence for upstream oil & gas production optimization.

Leveraging big data and machine learning techniques, ProductionCompass provides production engineers with recommendations on how to best operate an asset to maximize production. Bringing together the latest advances in machine learning with tailored methods that have been researched and developed since 2007 in the Center for Integrated Operations at NTNU, and further in Solution Seeker, ProductionCompass solves the daily production optimization problem in a truly novel way.

Through its data mining algorithms, ProductionCompass fuels on vast amounts of raw production data, capturing thousands of time series continuously sampled and tracing them back for years. Leveraging machine learning techniques for automatic pattern recognition and classification, the production data is refined and distilled through advanced statistical analyses and compressed to high-grade information through the proprietary and patented algorithm.

Thereafter, ProductionCompass builds estimation and prediction models by leveraging multiple real-time machine learning systems working in parallel. The AI combines hierarchical neural networks, first principle physics, statistical models, and truly known parameters. Finally, leveraging the power of its predictive capabilities with up-to-date, fast and accurate models, ProductionCompass enables a continuous search for maximum with its optimization algorithm.

ProductionCompass is currently being piloted with ConocoPhillips, Neptune Energy, Wintershall, Lundin and Aker BP on six fields on the NCS.

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About ONS Innovation Awards

Through the Innovation Awards ONS recognize the crucial importance of cutting-edge products and solutions. The awards reflect our long-standing commitment to presenting and promoting innovative ideas to the international oil, gas and energy industry.

This year ONS received a total of 127 applications/nominations. 56 companies applied for the Innovation Award and 56 companies applied for the SME Innovation Award. The jury has nominated five finalists to compete in each category.


The ten finalists will present their technologies in the session “Meet the Innovation Awards finalists”, Monday 27 August at ONS Technical Sessions.

The Innovation Awards Ceremony is held at the Conference session “Leadership: Stimulate to innovate”, Tuesday 28 August. The Awards will be presented by Chair of Innovation Award, Norwegian Research Council.

The first ONS Innovation Award was presented in 1982. The winner was Norwegian Contractors for Condeep – a gravity-based structure for a platform built from reinforced concrete instead of steel. In 2004 the SME Innovation Award was established to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises were given the chance to highlight their new developments.

A total of 26 companies have been recognised by the ONS Innovation Award juries for their cutting-edge technologies and solutions.

See list of previous winners.