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1.1 Introduction___________________________________________________ 64
Mechanical effects ___________________________________________________ 64 Chemical effects_____________________________________________________ 64 1.1.1 1.1.2
Common Misconceptions _________________________________________ 64 The Mechanisms of Wellbore Instability - Mechanical Aspects ____________ 66
Unconsolidated Formations ____________________________________________ 66 Competent Formations ________________________________________________ 67 Increased well inclination ______________________________________________ 70 Open hole time ______________________________________________________ 70 Pre Drilling ________________________________________________________ 71 Planning Stage ______________________________________________________ 72 Symptoms and Remedial Action_________________________________________ 74
Mud weight window_____________________________________________ 70
Preventative Action - Mechanical __________________________________ 71
1.5.1 1.5.2 1.5.3
The Mechanisms of Wellbore Instability - Chemical Aspects______________ 75 Preventative Action - Chemical ____________________________________ 76
Pre Drilling ________________________________________________________ 76 Oil Based Mud - Engineering Comments __________________________________ 77 Water Based Mud - Engineering Comments ________________________________ 78 Symptoms and Remedial Action_________________________________________ 79 Salt Formations _____________________________________________________ 80 Coal Formations_____________________________________________________ 81
1.7.1 1.7.2 1.7.3 1.7.4
Special Cases __________________________________________________ 80
1.1 Introduction The maintenance of wellbore stability is one of the most critical considerations in any drilling operation. An unstable wellbore will reduce drilling performance, result in drilling and tripping difficulties and in the worst case could result in the loss of the hole throug h borehole collapse. Wellbore instability can occur as a result of:
• Mechanical effects, • Chemical effects,
• Combination of both.
1.1.1 Mechanical effects In simple terms, mechanical effects are usually related to :
• Inadequate mud weight (too high or too low). • Inappropriate drilling practices (rate of penetration, vibration
effects, torque and drag, poor practices, and frequency of trips). 1.1.2 Chemical effects Chemical effects are mud type related for formation being drilled and may result due to
• Inappropriate mud type
• Inadequate inhibition.
The following sections give more detail on this, and provide a guide to minimise wellbore instability in the planning, implementation and drilling phases. 1.2 Common Misconceptions Before detailing aspects of hole stability problems some of the common misconceptions should first be discussed.
Too high an annular velocity will result in hole enlargement. whereas some mudstones can be drilled problem free in “underbalanced” conditions. Area experience is a better guide. practical mud weights. 6.g. Mud recommendations based on theoretical models are liable to be unreliable and often require “fixing” to give sensible. 5. 7. 4.1. Hole collapse is not simply a result of drilling with insufficient mud weight. Increasing the mud weight will rectify hole instability problems. whereas in some porous formations the resulting higher fluid losses and thicker mud cakes could promote differential sticking. The logic behind the above statements are fundamentally flawed as certain weak formations may need overbalance in excess of 1000 psi to prevent hole collapse. Backreaming is an efficient and effective method to trip out of the wellbore or work the drillstring through excess drag. More rapid failure could occur in fractured rocks. Increasing mud weight can in instance amplify problems. Well control purposes do not solely dictate the required mud weight. Reducing API filtrate and increasing inhibition and overbalance will often have a more beneficial effect than reducing annular velocity. Hole instability can still occur however particularly if mud weight or water phase salinity is inappropriate. . 3. E. Drilling with a nominal safe overbalance will not necessarily ensure hole stability. 2. Oil-based mud will prevent any problems occurring while drilling in shales. Reciprocating the drillstring and pumping out may have a more beneficial effect and not result in filter cake removal or inducing wellbore pack off or instability to occur. 8.
in some tectonically active areas. the fluid (e. hole can often be achieved. avoid rotating stabiliser next to the unconsolidated formation.1 Unconsolidated Formations Unconsolidated formations are associated with top hole intervals.Mechanical Aspects 1. Xanthan polymer and mixed metal hydroxide muds have an application in these situations. The mud may be added with bridging solids (usually calcium carbonate or fibrous seepage loss material) to promote the rapid build up of a filter cake. a fault zone will be encountered that contains rock flour and unconsolidated rubble.3. Use the minimum flow rate that will clean the hole to prevent the erosion of the filter cake. sea water) exerts no conflicting stress on the wall of the hole and the formation will slough into the hole.3 The Mechanisms of Wellbore Instability .1 Preventative and Remedial Action • • • Drilling this type of formation with a mud that has good filtration characteristics will produce a filtercake on the rock. in deep water. cobbles and/or boulder beds.3. However. Consider the use of a mud with good low shear rheology so that high pump rates are not required. Cons ult with mud companies to discuss how this can be best achieved. Use of a mud known to have enhanced fracture sealing capabilities to help stabilise fault zone “rubble beds” etc.1. Consequently when they are drilled with a clear fluid. or near gauge. • • • • . The pressure drop across this cake will impart cohesive strength and a gauge. but may also be encountered in fault zones or in unconsolidated or depletedreservoirs.g. Unconsolidated formations have no cohesive strength.1. Most commonly the unconsolidated formation will be a sand. 1. Recent work by fluid specialists has highlighted the use of specific mud systems and specialist additives for this problem. Do all that is possible to avoid the mechanical removal of the filter cake minimise trips. If a cake is not quickly established the turbulent flow at the bit will produce washed out hole. minimise reaming and backreaming.
. Mud pressure may then induce a fracture or open a natural fracture system. Compressive failure occurs when the mud weight is too low .3. 1.2 Competent Formations There are two extremes of mechanical hole instability.1.3.2. In contrast to this.2 Formation breakdown. referred to as compressive failure and formation breakdown (Figure 1).2.this results in hole closure (tight hole) or hole collapse. formation breakdown occurs if the mud weight is too high.1 Compressive failure. 1. leading to massive mud losses.3.
one or both forms of instability must be tolerated to some extent . Hence the risk of wellbore instability is much greater. In certain highly tectonically stressed regions (e. The narrower the window the more difficult it is to contain the mud weight within the stable region. even for nominally vertical wells. These upper and lower bounds to the mud weight define the “mud weight window” (see Figure 2a). To drill a hole section with little or no instability problems requires the maximum mud weight tolerated by the sand/carbonates to exceed the minimum mud weight required to support the mudstones.In general. foothills of the Casanare region in Colombia) the collapse gradient in the shales can exceed the fracture gradient in the sands. Hence. hole sections will contain shales / mudstones tha t will collapse if given insufficient support. Breakthrough in Sands / carbonates may result in mud losses and/or differential sticking if drilled with too high an overbalance.g. In such cases there is no drilling window and it is impossible to select a mud weight to simultaneously a void both losses and collapse. • • The wider the window the easier the well is to drill.
increasing the risk of staying in the region of safe mud weights. increased open-hole time are a natural consequence of drilling ERD wells.1 Increased well inclination Increased well inclination will usually reduce the width of the mud weight window (Figure 2b). When assessing ERD options in a region previously drilled with conventional wells. b ut primarily well inclination.4.2 Open hole time Another factor strongly influencing the integrity of the hole is the open-hole time. This is particularly the case when using water based muds. 1.1. The “width” of the window will depend on a number of operator controlled factors. ERD wells are typically more prone to instability than other more conventional wells drilled in the region. Increased hole section length and therefore. the primary hole stability consideration is to assess the impact of trajectory on the mud weight window. If conventionally drilled wells have proved difficult to drill due to a narrow mud weight window.4. . then serious thought must be given to whether a casing program can be designed to combat the increased risks projected in the ERD well. Even stable shales are seldom stable for an indefinite period and the longer the open-hole time the greater the risk that instability will occur. Where possible. a mud weight window will exist. Hence.4 Mud weight window In general. a gradual increase in mud weight can be effective in combating this time element and can stabilise the formation for a longer period. 1.
The data of most value are:• • • • • • • Drilling Completion reports from offset wells (which may contain much of the other information listed below). Composite logs.). stick-slip. etc. backreaming. Without any offset well data then there is little value in any wellbore stability study.1. any caliper logs. Daily mud properties. Details of any mud losses encountered. Details of any pipe “sticking” and/or excess reaming. Details of any formation stress tests including LOT’s and FIT’s. density logs and sonic logs.5. Description of any major faulting in the region (normal.1 Pre Drilling The purpose of any data collection is to attempt to define the optimum drilling window for offset wells and to project that window to planned wells. dipmeter or borehole geometry logs.5 Preventative Action . .Mechanical 1.
2 Planning Stage 1.1 Well Inclination • Allow for increases in mud weight of between 0. Formations with reasonable matrix permeability can be drilled with nominal overbalance.5. consider performing micro-frac tests (essentially a LOT taken beyond the point of breakdown) to better determine the fracture gradient in formations that may prove to be critical in an ERD well.g.5.2. The extent and effect of ECD’s need careful consideration at the planning stage. e.2.1. Only local experience will determine at which end of the scale you need to be.2 Fracture Gradient • Recognise that the fracture gradient for a hole section is more likely to be controlled by a carbonate or sand rather than the shale within which the LOT was performed (see Figure 2). During appraisal.5 ppg and 1. • On ERD wells.5. sands. • • 1. • . drilling high-pressure reservoirs may prove extremely difficult due to a very tight mud weight window between taking a kick and getting losses. No increased in mud weight with hole inclination is necessary across permeable formations.0 ppg per 30 degrees inclination through shale/mudstone sections to combat hole collapse. Be aware that the fracture gradient may reduce with increased inclination. regardless of well trajectory or formation strength.
thus allowing the reservoir to be drilled with a nominal overbalance.3 Regional Stress State • Process any dipmeter or boreholes imaging log data to determine in situ stress directions.5 General • • Oil based muds often allow a lower mud weight to be used to prevent collapse in shales.2.4 Casing Program • Having planned for an increased mud weight to control shales in an ERD well.1. 1. cross-dip or vertically.2. This may help to interpret any problems seen during the drilling operation and thus hasten corrective actions. The in-situ stress state near a salt diapir is highly disturbed. In highly tectonically stressed regions.5. such that well trajectories which approach the diapir normal to its surface provide a larger mud weight window than trajectories tangential to its surface. . assess whether the planned casing setting depths still provide a sufficient mud weight window. The setting of the production casing should minimise or exclude the presence of cap rock in the reservoir hole section. drilling up dip of the major faults may provide a larger mud weight window than drilling down-dip. • In ERD wells the mud weight required to drill a normally pressured reservoir is often significantly less than that required to prevent collapse in the cap rock. The risk of instability in highly laminated shales may be reduced when adopting a trajectory normal to bedding.2. • • 1.5.5. This provides a larger mud weight window.
3 Symptoms and Remedial Action • The onset of cavings from a formation while it is being drilled may indicate underbalance conditions. Consider repeating the LOT where low values have originally been obtained. Be prepared to increase the mud weight in wells with azimuths sub -parallel to the maximum horizontal stress direction. do not reduce the mud weight while drilling if a shale is present in the open hole section. If operational difficulties necessitate a mud weight reduction then the slower this is done the better. An increase in mud weight and/or a reduction in fluid loss are likely to help. Particular care is required when running in and pulling out of hole sections with such formations present.5 ppg (0. This is a result of migration of filtrate into the formation causing near wellbore pressure increases. Pressure while drilling (PWD) measurements indicate that surge pressures equivalent to 1. Even in normally stressed regions the mud weight window may be influenced by well azimuth. Swab and surge pressure may trigger off instability in weak or highly fractured shales.5. • • • • • • . not simply the reservoir section. Controlling mud filtrate loss to a minimum is particularly important in ERD wells and all hole sections.18 SG) can be generated not just when tripping but also on connections made with a top drive.1. Unless absolutely necessary. otherwise the risk of hole instability is greatly increased. The onset of cavings more than a few hours after drilling a shale indicates that the benefit of the initial overbala nce has been lost. An increase in mud weight or a reduction in ROP may help. Often an improvement in LOT value can be observed as the section is drilled.
they can soften. ledging. swell and crack. The use of an incorrectly formulated fluid will lead to uncontrollable washouts in these situations.Shale Problems). chemical instability occurs if the formation is soluble in water. To minimise these problems it is important to characterise the shale type at the planning stage of a well and to use an appropriately-designed drilling fluid (see Section 1 . In salt formations. When shales react with water. This can occur in two main types of formation: • • Shales Salt formations In both cases.6H2 O) Bischofite (MgCl2.6 The Mechanisms of Wellbore Instability . Formation types which exhibit this behavior are:• • • • • Halite (NaCl) Carnallite (KMgCl3 .Chemical Aspects Chemical wellbore instability is due to chemical interaction between the formation being drilled and the drilling fluid. bit balling and caving. it is an interaction with water which causes instability.6H2 O) Sylvite (KCl) Polyhalite (K 2Ca2Mg(SO4)4 . chemical instability is always minimised by using oil based muds. disperse.1. hole enlargement. These effects can cause a wide range of operational problem such as tight hole. Thus.2H2O) .
The best way to minimise chemical instability in shales or salt sections is to use an oil based mud. but water can slowly penetrate leading to time-delayed effects. • • • • .1.7. There is invariably insufficient input data. first decide if shales or salts will be encountered. A mud system compatible with both formation types will be required. Because shales have very low permeability (10-9 .10-6D) they may appear stable for a time. This should be the first choice.Chemical 1. Watch out for inter-bedded formations (e. and they do not take account of specific chemical reactions. Characterise shale types by XRD analysis. which are best done on preserved shale. • Design the casing/well programme to minimise the length of time reactive formations are exposed to the mud. Offset well data and mud reports will be particularly useful.7 Preventative Act ion .g. This technique should also be supported by laboratory inhibition tests. Do not rely on chemical-mechanical wellbore stability models to design the mud.1 Pre Drilling • When planning a well. salt stringers in shale or reactive shale in competent shale).
Always consult BP mud specialists as systems vary widely in rheological properties.7. Synthetic oil muds (pseudo oil muds) should be considered where environmental constraints restrict the use of conve ntional oil.2 Oil Based Mud .g. to minimise salt dissolution into the water phase of the mud. • • When drilli ng salt formations. Shale inhibition is equally effective in these systems. use a very low fluid loss mud (HTHP < 3 mls) and add fracture sealing additives. • • . This will prevent water entering the shale by osmosis.Engineering Comments • Oil mud salinity must be at least as high as the pore fluid salinity of the shale.000 mg/l chloride). OBM salinity should be high (e. temperature stability and cost per barrel. 300. In microfractured shales.1.
mixed salt systems are available for complex salts such as Carnallite. therefore expect higher torque in high angle wells.Engineering Comments • If water based mud is to be used. HTHP (250°F) <14ml) in microfractured shales and add fracture sealing additives. it is important to match the fluid to the type of salt. • • .3 Water Based Mud . It may be necessary to add lubricants to the system. Salt saturated muds (NaCl) are used for simple halites.g. carry out a screening programme at an early stage to allow optimisation and discuss issues with BP fluids specialists and the mud companies.1. In salt sections. API < 5ml. Use a low fluid loss mud (e.7. Obtain specialist advice on these. • Water based muds are less lubricating than oil muds.
The gauge of the hole will give an indication of whether mud weight and inhibition was at a correct level for that interval. in the case of OBM. Very soft cuttings will mean insufficient chemical inhibition or. An unplanned i ncreased in mud rheology could be due to a build up of fine solids in the mud which in turn could be an indication of poor inhibition or hole washout. Difficulty running in the hole could be attributed to ledges. Indication of the condition of the hole can be inferred from torque and drag measurements. If an oriented 4-arm caliper is used information on stress orientations can be obtained. would suggest that the water phase salinity is too low. A typical indication of stress induced borehole instability is the presence of an oval rather than circular hole. • When drilling shales. the condition and quantity of cuttings seen at the shale shakers and variations in mud volumes. .1.4 Symptoms and Remedial Action Having planned the well using all available data the risk of mechanical and/or chemical borehole instability will be limited. • • • • • A caliper log can be run at section TD. A sudden appearance of large or increased volume of “cuttings” at the shale shakers is indicative of well bore caving. Knowing the direction of the stresses is valuable when planning development wells as the well directions least prone to hole problems can be established. however.7. Information regarding the two horizontal in situ stresses can be deduced from this type of log. swelling clays or caving formations. High torque values would suggest a tight hole possibly requiring increase in mud weight or an increase in inhibition to reduce the swelling of clays. It is. monitor cuttings quality as a qualitative measure of inhibition. important that should instability occur it should be identified and suitable remedial action should be quickly adopted. The downhole loss of whole mud would indicate that the formation was being fractured by the use of too high a mud weight.
• The maintenance of gauge or near gauge hole is important when drilling massive salt formations. in extreme cases cause the casing to buckle. In general hole problems are accentuated near a diapir. The only way to stop this process is to drill with a mud weight equivalent to overburden pressure (approximately 19 ppg in the S N Sea and 17 ppg in the Gulf of Mexico).0 ppg. Salt formations tend to creep and impinge on the drillstring.1. The use of eccentric bits to slightly increase the diameter of the hole has proved beneficial in some operations. • .1 Salt Formations • Drilling near a salt diapir presents a special case because of the altered in situ stresses near to the diapir. typically 14. The behavior of wells within a few hundred meters of a diapir may be totally different to wells only a kilometer or so away. Greatly washed out hole will probably result in a poor cement job. impinging on the casing and. This in turn will allow salt behind the casing to creep.8 Special Cases 1. Stuck pip is a common problem when drilling in salt formations. In practice the rate of creep can often be reduced to acceptable levels at lower mud weights.8.
1. When coring with water based muds a low filtrate should be utilised and jet velocity should be minimised. Alternatively viscous. experience shows that spotting a high pH pill around the coal can help to freeze the pipe. Should the pipe become stuck in coal.this is particularly appropriate if the coal seam is anticipated to be thin. There is some evidence that these fractured rocks can be stabilised with products such as Gilsonite and Soltex. Seat earth’s and marine bands both provide valuable information about the coal but both are easily washed out.stuck pipe is often the end results. The recognised technique to drill coal is to limit penetration so that the stresses are given chance to equilibrate and so that the blocky pieces of coal can be removed from the hole.8. . and circulation is possible. The properties can be restored to normal when the coal has been drilled. It is usually highly fractured and in areas of high tectonic stress can instantly collapse into the bore hole when the horizontal stress is relieved by the bit . weighted sweeps can be used to enhance hole cleaning . Good hole cleaning is essential . Where the coal seam is not tectonically stressed and geological information regarding the seam is required care must be taken with fluid properties and drilling practices.2 Coal Formations Coal is a very brittle formation with low compressive strength. High mud weights can rarely be used to stabilise the coal formations because of their inherent low fracture gradients.it may be necessary to modify the cleaning capacity of the mud while drilling coals.
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