‘Level‑off’ cement plugging method to cure lost circulation verified with case studies

Asad Elmgerbi, Rahman Ashena, Ali Ghalambor, Abdol‑Azim Hekmatinia, Muhammad Mubashir

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Controlling lost circulation during drilling operations in a reservoir prone to fluid losses is typically remedied by cement
squeezing or plug setting as the last resort. The aim being to minimize or stop drilling fluid losses and to regain full returns
at surface, and to maintain wellbore integrity. Different placement methods of cement plugs have been discussed in detail
in the literature, except for the ‘level-off’ method, which can be effective for curing complete loss circulation cases. Following
modeling and calculations of this cement plug placement method, its design and execution procedures are discussed,
together with two successful field cases in highly fractured carbonate reservoirs in the Middle East. Using drill pipe and a
Retrievable-Test-Treat-Squeeze (RTTS) packer, set with some spacing from the loss zone, the method entails that the cement
slurry is allowed to drop by gravity in order to cure lost circulation. As the column of fluid, mud and slurry in the well
exceeds formation pore pressure, i.e., overbalanced conditions, a volume of acid-soluble cement slurry is allowed to slowly
drop and freely penetrate the formation, i.e., through its fractures or caverns. During the penetration of this viscous slurry
into the loss zone, the cement slurry can set and the fracture or fissure openings are plugged. Presented are detailed design
calculations for the level-off placement technique, determination of required cement slurry and displacement volumes, and
recommended displacement and RTTS packer setting depths. The expected depth of the top of cement plug is estimated.
The design parameters are compared with field cases and explanations are given for possible discrepancies. Success of the
operation is discussed in terms of final mud loss after cement plugging and Non-Productive Time mitigation. Detailed field
procedures and execution are also presented. The level-off job is already practiced by the industry, but it is not published in
the literature, in some cases they have different methods with causing some errors. To the best of authors’ knowledge, this
is the first detailed description and stepwise calculation of the level-off cement placement technique in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021

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