2M. FERRAS, M. GALAL, and D. POWERAADE-02-DFWM-HO-30
Performance improvement was the target of thisproposal to the operator, with the performanceimprovements being directed not at the drilling fluid, butthe large gap existing between conventional LCM andcement squeezes for severe loss of circulation. TheCACP proposed to the operator had the followingproperties.1.A simple fluid that can be pumped through thebit and bottomhole assembly (BHA).2.Adjustable particle-size distribution to fitformation specific requirements (squeezable intomicro-size fractures).3.Forms a semi-ridged gel structure as a fillingmaterial for the loss zone.A time breakdown was conducted on a number ofoffset wells in the HMD field. The results of this analysissuggested that if the sub-salt lost circulation problemscould be eliminated, a drastic enhancement of thedrilling performance was possible. The followingexample illustrates the time and cost benefits availablethrough eliminating the non-productive time (NPT)associated with the sub-salt losses.If HMD field developed with an average of 25 wellsper year, the following savings would be realized.
Average 49 days per well
Average 3 cement plugs per well
2.0 days lost per plug
Total NPT = 150 days
3.06 additional wells could be drilled
Over all performance could be improved by,3.06 / 25 = 12.2 %
12.2 % possible additional production.The CACP technique was proposed as a lostcirculation solution in the TAG formation with the specificrequirements to cure losses with maximum possiblesealing efficiency and increase formation integrity acrossthe weak sections. Additionally, the process of applyingthe CACP was to involve less time than that currentlyassociated with applying the cement squeezes. The newtechnique was applied successfully, sealing the TAGformation without any lost tripping time, and allowingdrilling to continue with no further losses.
The following section describes the typical formationproperties and drilling conditions for a HMD well. Thesub-salt sections are typically drilled with 1.98 – 2.1 sg(16.5 to 17.5 lb/gal) salt-saturated mud system. Thehigher mud density is required for the Jurassic Dogger,LIAS, and Trias-Salifere, which require typical pressuresof 10,000 psi to maintain over-balance (Fig. 1). Once theTrias Argileux has been penetrated, a pressurereduction is encountered. This interval contains weakformations, highlighted in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, which arereadily broken down by the high hydrostatic pressure inthe annulus. The mechanically induced fracturessubsequently lead to total loss of returns. Severity of thelosses varies from block to block due to the variation information integrity common to the HMD field and themechanical forces applied while drilling each section.The above scenario was encountered numeroustimes in the HMD field while drilling the troublesomesections. It must be stated that changing the casingdesign is not an option. If the 7-in. casing is set higher,the situation becomes worse due to the resultingreservoir depletion which leads to a greater pressuretransition problem. Establishing a link between the TAGand Cambrian (reservoir section) formations is not anappropriate completion strategy for the wells.Numerous attempts had been made to attack thesub-salt thief zone using different solutions suggested bycement and drilling fluids companies. Results variedfrom total failure to partial success The most commonpractice to cure the massive losses on the offset wellswas to spot and squeeze cement into the inducedfractures. The aim of the cement squeeze was toreconsolidate the formation to allow drilling to continuewithout further losses. Depending on the severity of thelosses, this process often had to be repeated severaltimes on some wells. Prior to application of the CACP,no other remedy was able to satisfactorily solve the fluidloss problem.
Sub-Salt Lost Circulation
Drilling through salt formations can be troublesomefor a number of reasons. Typically, the formationsimmediately below the salt are either mechanicallyweaker or fractured, introducing a greater risk for loss ofreturns. The lost time treating severe sub-salt losses canbe up to several weeks, with obvious cost implications,especially for deepwater drilling operations. Though notthe case in the extensively developed HMD field, oftenon exploration wells, little information regarding porepressure and fracture gradient is available. Gulf ofMexico sub-salt wells often encounter higher porepressures below the salt, creating challenging wellcontrol issues. In this instance, the higher mud weightsrequired to balance the pore pressure place evengreater stress on the weakened sub-salt formations.
Inthe case of the HMD field, the pore pressure, andsubsequent required mud weight, was significantly lowerthan that required in the actual salt formation. As such,the formations directly below the salt are drilled in a highover-balance environment.Losses in the formations directly below the thick saltzones are typically severe, ranging from 16 m
/hr (100bbl/hr) up to total loss of returns and the inability tomaintain a full annulus. A wide variety of lost circulationmaterials (LCM) have been applied in sub-salt thiefzones, in an effort to control losses. Pills containingsized solids, gunk squeezes, conventional cementsqueezes, and foamed cement have all been proposedas solutions to sub-salt lost circulation. While the cement