Aramco scientists develop solution to mitigate buildup of iron sulfide debris
EXPEC ARC teams up with Research and Analytical Research Department and Aramco Americas promptly to a challenge that can hamper production.
Aramco scientists have developed a new chemical to mitigate the buildup of iron sulfide debris in carbon steel pipes. Such debris presents a major challenge to production, especially in sour gas and oil producing wells.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series on Aramco technologies that are being commercialized by the company’s licensing arm, Saudi Aramco Technologies Company (SATC).
The newly patented chemical solution, Iron Sulfide Dissolver (ISD), has the potential to be a game changing technology. It could significantly improve Aramco’s reliability in producing affordable oil and gas, thanks to a recent commercialization agreement with two local vendors.
The technology offers a solution specifically tailored to address challenges posed by Aramco’s extensive sour producing facilities, characterized by the pervasive presence of highly corrosive compounds such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S). In this sulfurous setting, iron sulfide deposits can build up in the pipes, which can reduce production, restrict accessibility, and complicate the utilization of essential well surveillance and intervention tools.
Saad M. Al-Mutairi, chief technologist of the EXPEC ARC Production Technology Division (PTD), asked and supported the ISD team to initiate a new research and development project to resolve this challenge. Fahd I. Al-Ghunaimi and Tao Chen, also from EXPEC ARC PTD, collaborated with Qiwei Wang from the Research and Analytical Services Department, and Frank F. Chang from Aramco Americas, to develop the technology.
Laboratory and field tests have shown that ISD has superior dissolving capacity compared with alternative chemical treatments. It is noncorrosive, and it doesn’t generate toxic H2S.
“Iron sulfide is one of the most persisting challenges for sour gas wells, and the existing solutions on the market, such as mechanical milling, are time-consuming and very costly. We are grateful to have received full management support to work on the challenge,” said Chen, the ISD project leader at EXPEC ARC.
The EXPEC ARC team responded promptly to the operational need, after field proponents requested support to solve the problem: a team was organized in 2016 to search for solutions; by 2018, the team had come up with a chemical solution ready for deployment in sour wells; and in 2020, additional ISD was utilized in water injection wells.
Field tests in the sour oil and gas fields quickly showed the benefits of ISD, including:
• Effective removal of iron sulfide deposits and blockages
• Substantial gas productivity increases, via well stimulation
• Significant reduction of average shut-in time
• Significant cost savings per treatment and up to 80% time savings, compared with mechanical descaling.
The ISD technology has earned prestigious recognition, winning the 2017 Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East awards, for the Sour Gas and Sulfur Management Project. It solidified its pioneering status as a finalist for the 2020 IChemE Global Research Project Award and the 2021 World Oil Best Oil Fluids and Chemicals Award.
In the gas fields near ‘Udhailiyah, Jairo A. Leal Jauregui, a petroleum engineering specialist with the Gas Production Engineering Technical Support Unit, said, “ISD solved our problems beautifully, which was a big challenge for us.”
Mauricio A. Espinosa Galvis, a petroleum engineer with the ‘Uthmaniyah Gas Producing Engineering Department said that during the field-test, ISD was able to perform in a high H2S zone, at very high temperatures.
In Abqaiq’s sour oil fields, ISD enabled senior petroleum engineer Mubarak A. Al-Muraikhi’s team to remove enough deposits from well tubing to retrieve a lost — and stuck — tool.
Mohammed A. Bataweel, the leader of EXPEC ARC’s Technology Deployment Group, said, “With such impressive outcomes, it is a sound business decision to bring ISD to the commercial market, benefiting not only our regional oil and gas industry peers, but also [the industry] on a global scale.”
The patented technology was licensed to Saudi-based service providers Clariant-Tamimi and Saudi MultiChem. The two companies are developing plans to offer ISD support to other companies, which will generate royalties for Aramco.
For more information about this technology, please reach out to Subashini Asokan, head of Licensing, SATC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caption for top photo: Fahd I. Al-Ghunaimi, Salem A. Al-Balharth, Mubarak A. Al-Muraikhi, Mauricio A. Espinosa Galvis, Esmael A. Al-Belharith, and Tao Chen (from left to right) visit the EXPEC ARC Production Technology Division lab with Southern Area Production Engineering Department proponents and discuss the lab support of ISD development. (Photo: Hatim B. Oweida/MPD)