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New decommissioning tool begins tests

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A programme of feasibility testing has begun for a new tool developed by Clearwell Technology that promises to radically reduce the cost of decommissioning oil and gas wells.

The start-up company was founded in Aboyne by Paul Ray and Bruce Cardno to advance and commercialise Therm-X-Mill, a thermal milling technology that may remove the need to use rigs and other associate equipment when decommissioning a well. The testing programme was supported by an £84,000 SMART:Scotland grant from Scottish Enterprise.

Clearwell Technology Director Bruce Cardno said that testing was ramping up from the company’s Aboyne site. He also said:

“As energy companies focus on transition, our technology aims to make the oil and gas well decommissioning process simpler and more environmentally friendly, while also releasing resources to drive net zero projects in the industry. Almost half the cost of any decommissioning project is spent on the plugging and abandonment of the wells…”

Oil and lubricant companies like BP and Shell have often found ways to extend the life of wells in the North Sea, but with them now transitioning to alternative forms of energy, this new technology may help them decommission these wells in a way that is both better for the environment and cheaper.

An estimated 4,000 wells still need to be decommissioned, with some £16 billion currently being expected to be spent on this in the coming decade. Offshore Energies UK currently estimates that decommissioning accounts for about 12% of total expenditure in the offshore industry of the UK, suggesting that the new tool could indeed deliver substantial savings.

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