CLEAR Service Identifies and Mitigates Wellbore Instability

Published: 06/17/2014

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The operator, Foxtrot International, was drilling the first horizontal ERD well of its development campaign in Ivory Coast. The MAHI-A1 well was to be drilled in the Mahi structure in the north/northeast of the country.

ERD has proven to be an efficient solution in restricted reservoir production, reducing wellsite footprint and minimizing environmental effects, while dramatically improving reservoir drainage at reduced cost. However, this method of drilling horizontal wells requires advanced technology that can describe downhole conditions accurately to identify the factors that cause harmful vibrations, bottomhole assembly (BHA) damage, poor performance, and inadequate hole cleaning.

First ERD well of drilling campaign poses hole cleaning challenge

A 12 1/4-in section of the well was to be drilled to 5,797 m measured depth (MDRT), in a long slant section of 3,795 m. The section TD was intended to be the top of the Albian reservoir. The main objectives were to

  • drill the long slant section with optimized parameters (to minimize the number of bit runs and avoid overloading the annulus with cuttings)
  • maintain wellbore stability
  • successfully run and cement the 95⁄8-in casing string to section TD

Due to the nature of the horizontal well, cuttings buildup posed a significant challenge to efficient drilling performance. To ensure the success of operational objectives, hole cleaning during drilling of Well MAHI-A1 would have to be carefully monitored.

In order to optimize the drilling of this well, the operator used tandem pills (required for hole cleaning). Tandem pills consist of two pills: a low viscosity pill to stir up the cuttings from the bottom of the hole, followed by a weighted pill which then sweeps the cuttings out to surface.

CLEAR Service Identifies and Mitigates Wellbore Instability
CLEAR service equipment in operation, collecting cuttings from the shale shaker.
CLEAR Service Identifies and Mitigates Wellbore Instability
The well hole cleaning log (top) and sections from it highlighting the point at which the pill began to impact the wellbore (bottom).

Successful hole monitoring prevents wellbore instability and provides pill analysis

While drilling the 12 1/4-in section of the well, tandem pills were pumped on 200 to 300-m intervals. The CLEAR service engineer identified that mechanical cavings were present in the returned pill—there had been no signs of caving during drilling. Using the CLEAR service technology, the engineer analyzed the mud logging surface data, detecting cavings at the point where the pill emerged from the drillstring into the open hole and concluded that they were creating an area of instability in the wellbore. It was decided that, if it was necessary to pump a pill, the flow rate should be reduced once the pill was close to the bit to reduce the impact of the change in mud properties.

This learning was also successfully applied in the drilling of further wells. It is estimated that, without this intervention, around 15 to 20 pills would have been pumped in each subsequent well without additional benefit. The actions prompted by the CLEAR service analysis saved the operator valuable time and cost in the drilling of its wells.

Ivory Coast, Africa

Challenge: Wellbore instability was suspected during extended-reach drilling (ERD) operations, raising safety concerns and posing a threat to the operator’s schedule and budget.

Solution: The CLEAR cuttings loading and wellbore stability surveillance service was used by the operator to monitor cuttings removal from the hole and to analyze the efficiency of the pill program.

Results: The CLEAR service engineer identified evidence of caving and concluded that a 900-psi pressure increase was causing instability at a certain point in the wellbore. Adjustment of the pills program, drilling parameters, and mud properties was applied with success, verified by subsequent CLEAR service monitoring. Learning from this situation was also applied to the drilling of further wells, resulting in time and cost savings for the operator.

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