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Negative pressure testing, also know as inflow testing, offers oil and gas companies a reliable way to test well barrier integrity. These tests are so critical that regulators have stepped in to require them via the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 30 § 250.721(g). During a negative pressure test, displacement occurs through the use of a lower density completion fluid, and with pressure lowered, the well barrier is monitored for leaks. The process is highly controlled, which makes these tests incredibly safe to perform.
The upsides to negative pressure testing are numerous. Yes, such tests are required for anyone who operates an oil or gas well, but they should be viewed as gifts rather than curses. They’re an effective tool for ensuring safety at the drill site, enabling efficient operation of a well and avoiding costly damage down the line.
Here are a few reasons for why negative pressure testing is so important.
The wellbeing of the crew should be top-of-mind for any oil or gas company, whether workers are stationed on an oil rig or spend their time at some other type of well. Drilling is a risky job, as is maintaining a live well. Every step should be taken to ensure your team is protected, and that starts by keeping a close eye on every potential failure point.
Negative pressure tests can identify well barrier integrity issues before they develop into something more serious. If a leak exists, the test will catch it, giving you an opportunity to address the issue and possibly prevent injury or — in the case of a catastrophic blowout — loss of life. That is reason enough to take these tests seriously.
The purpose of your well is to extract oil or gas from the earth, and to do so efficiently. You want optimal performance — a benchmark you can’t achieve if there are issues with well barrier integrity.
If you fail a negative pressure test, that is a sure sign the well production recovery process is being impacted. When that’s the case, you are operating inefficiently, consuming the same amount of energy while falling below your peak recovery potential. Regularly scheduled tests help you diagnose slips in performance — even before you reach the point of failure — so you can make improvements and keep your well operating at a high level.
Not every well barrier breach develops into a disaster. In fact, some simply render a well inoperable for a not-insignificant period of time while repairs are made to fix what’s broken. This is what makes a proactive process like negative pressure testing so crucial. By performing tests at regular intervals, you can get a sense of how your well barrier is going to hold up in the future.
Negative pressure testing grants you knowledge about which aspects of the barrier are in good shape, and provides insight into where integrity is starting to slip test after test. With this data in hand, you can plan for maintenance ahead of time instead of being forced into it at a moment’s notice. Should some sort of failure occur, you could be looking at costly repairs and replacements. Reconditioning your system while everything is still intact will save you a lot of time and a lot of money.
IPT has decades of experience helping the oil and gas industry perform negative pressure tests. Countless companies rely on SureTec for consistent and accurate testing, and SureView for reviewing data and documenting trends both on-site and remotely.
Contact IPT today for more information on our digital testing solutions, and to learn more about how SureTec and SureView contribute to safe operation, efficient production, and cost-effective maintenance.