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1st National Iranian Drilling Industry Congress.

Underbalanced Drilling in Depleted Formation Achieved Great Success-A Case Study

Arash Shadravan Islamic Azad University of Omidieh-Omidieh Mohammad Khodadadian Islamic Azad University of Omidieh-Omidieh Abbas Roohi NIDC

Abstract : The drilling technologies have evolved over the years. The prime reasons for the advancements in these technologies are the ever increasing demand for energy and the increase in energy price. Underbalanced drilling (UBD) is gaining popularity as a drilling methodology to overcome some of the problems encountered in conventional overbalanced drilling. UBD was initially adopted for resolving drilling problems; it is defined as a drilling operation where the pressure of the circulating drilling fluid is lower than the pore pressure of the target formation of interest. By far, it has also been proved that the advantages of underbalanced drilling are most evident in depleted reservoirs. Well Parsi 70 was the 3rd well of National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) UBD campaign in Parsi oil field. Well PR 70 is the first well that produced while drilling. The reason behind selecting UBD technique to drill PR-70 well was because of the depleted reservoir pressure. The reservoir pressure has dropped to 2728 psi at depth of 2755m (5.8 ppg). Drilling such depleted reservoir with conventional mud would cause a huge overbalanced state, loss of circulation, and increase the possibility of blowouts or damaging the reservoir. Other reason of implementing the UBD technique was to increase productivity of the well by decreasing formation damage resulted from drilling fluid losses. The main objective of this paper is to investigate execution of Underbalanced technique at well PR-70. It also discusses the well design, UBD design parameters, underbalanced modeling considerations and the lessons learned from this job that all led to the success of this project. As soon as the well started to produce oil, UBD conditions were established and continued to TD. No losses were experienced while UBD operation and production continued throughout the UBD section. Key Words: Underbalanced Drilling-Depleted Zones-Loss of Circulation-Drilling Technology Introduction : Parsi field is located at 130 km from South East of Ahwaz with 3MMBBL recoverable oil and 9 TCF gas. It has produced from 1966.Some 99 PI tests show that Asmari is highly fractured reservoir. The North Sector with the average permeability of 731 md and West sector with average permeability of 178 md is the highest and the lowest productive zones of this field respectively.

1st National Iranian Drilling Industry Congress.

Being fully fractured and low bottomhole pressure caused serious amount of LCM especially at Northern and Southern part of this field. The sectors with the higher permeability, the more volume of acid (HCL) injected to remove formation damage area. North and South sectors are good candidate for UBD method so that the need for reservoir stimulation is eliminated. [2] The 8 1/2 deviated hole was to be drilled from 2226m MD (one meter below 9 5/8 casing shoe) to a total depth of 2639m MD. The UBD section of this well was drilled in approximately 86 hrs. The reason behind selecting UBD technique to drill PR-70 well was because of the depleted reservoir pressure. . Mud and drill cuttings invasion into the reservoir rock had adverse affect on the ability of reservoir fluid to flow into the well bore. The PR-70 was a deviated well where UBD will start from 9 5/8 casing shoe at depth of 2226m to the final depth of 2592m. The underbalanced condition was established by injecting nitrogen gas down the drill string along with native crude. The primary objectives of this underbalanced drilling project were to Eliminate drilling fluid losses Improve drilling performance Minimize drilling induced formation damage Well Plan : The well plan of this well is outlined in Figure 1. [3]

Figure.1. PR-70 Well Profile Diagram

Production Casing
Size: 9 5/8 inch WT: 53.5 lbs/ft

Drill Pipe
Size: 5 inch WT: 19.5 lbs/ft

Size: WT: 5 50 inch lbs/ft

Drill Collar
Size: 6 1/2 inch WT: 99 lbs/ft

Motor 6 3/4" , 7/8, 3 stages

TVD: 2,200 m CSG @ 2,226 m Incl. 33 o

300 gpm <



600 gpm

8 1/2" Openhole


2,511 m 2,592 m 33 o

1st National Iranian Drilling Industry Congress.

Geological and Reservoir Description : The target formation was the gas cap drive Asmari. This formation is a fractured carbonated layer. It consists of cream to brown limestone and some times gray with intercalations of dolomite, clay roasts into Shale layers. In general, Asmari formation is sub divided into five zones and it is extensively naturally fractured. Strings of shale are expected in the Asmari formation as well as in the Pabdeh formation, which is just beneath the Asmari. Even though, this shale layer is only 10 meters thick, depending on the characteristic of the shale, drilling problem such as stuck pipe might be encountered. More clarification was needed to determine if this shale caused any hole instability due the mechanical disturbance in the stresses around the well bore during UBD operations. Expected reservoir pressure at top of pay zone was 2190 psi. Reservoir temperature was about 150 F. It was an oil bearing reservoir rock producing oil with API gravity of 33.5, and a GOR of 700 SCF/STB. H2S and CO2 concentration in the produced gas was negligible. Reservoir permeability was 50 md with a porosity of 15%. [3] Drilling Fluid Selection : In order to maintain the well in underbalanced state during the whole drilling operations and assure hole cleaning. The right fluid(s) selection will not only lead to suitable BHCP but will also minimize pressure transients and thus eliminating/minimizing formation impairment. The open hole underbalanced section of PR-70 was drilled with diesel initially and latter on with a Parsi field native crude oil, received from the reservoir oil production, and the NIDC membrane nitrogen generation circulating system. Since the specific gravities of diesel and Parsi crude were similar, 0.82 and 0.86 respectively, and the diesel would most likely be contaminated with reservoir influx as soon as the UBD starts thus this drilling program was based on native crude as drilling fluid. Liquid Phase- Native crude oil from Parsi field was chosen because it was the natural reservoir fluid for this well. This minimized the chances of formation damage in event of pressure transients and/or from fluid imbibitions. Due to the availability of this native crude, the UBD drilling phase of the PR-70 commenced with diesel though. As more oil production realized at surface, diesel switched to reservoir crude. Gas Phase- Nitrogen was selected as the injection gas because of its inert nature, economic availability and suitability for this specific underbalanced drilling project. Nitrogen was obtained from the surrounding air and generated onsite, by NIDCs nitrogen production unit. . Underbalanced Drilling Design Criteria : In order to achieve maximum benefit from the use of underbalanced drilling technology, operations were designed around following criteria. 1. Maintaining downhole pressures below the effective reservoir pressure at all points along the open hole section at all times. 2. Minimize bottomhole pressure transit even during connection time. 3. Maintain sufficient liquid volume fraction and sufficient annular velocities to clean the hole effectively.

1st National Iranian Drilling Industry Congress.

4. Selecting drilling fluids compatible with all produced reservoir fluids. 5. Minimization of drilling fluid costs. Operating Envelope and Optimum Rate : The multiphase flow behavior in the well bore during underbalanced drilling is very complex. The response of the down hole conditions to changes in various flow parameters were characterized prior to the commencement of underbalanced drilling operations in order to maximize chances of success. Figure 2 contains a plot of the bottom hole circulating pressures induced by a variety of nitrogen and Parsi native crude oil injection rates. This plot is referred to as the operating envelope that derived from various constraints (boundaries), which must be fulfilled during underbalanced drilling operations. The range of flow rates that satisfy all of the constraints, defines the acceptable operating region. The target bottom hole circulating pressure at the bit for this well was 1800 - 2000 psi. A minimum drawdown at the bit of 200 psi was required to ensure adequate underbalanced conditions in the well, with a maximum drawdown of 300 psi to minimize any near well bore depletion effects.

Figure.2. UBD Operational Envelope Native Crude

NIOC PR-70 Deviated Well Drillpipe Injection of Native Crude & N2


Survey Injection Rate: * 1000 scfm N2 & 400 gpm crude * BHCP: 2529 psi * Min.Liq Velocity: 244 ft/min * Motor ELV: 457 gpm * Stdpipe Gas fraction: 18 %



BHCP (psi)


Reservoir Pressure: 2,190 psi

2,100 Target BHCP: 1,971 psi (10% Draw down) 1,900 Lower Target BHCP: 1,752 psi (20% Draw down) 1,700 Drilling Injection Rate: * 1500 scfm N2 & 300 gpm crude * BHCP: 1997 psi * Min.Liq Velocity: 213 ft/min * Motor ELV: 386 gpm * Stdpipe Gas fraction: 35 % 1,000 1,500

1,500 0 500

Nitrogen Injection Rate (scfm)

600 gpm 300 gpm Min Motor ELV (>300 gpm) 500 gpm 200 gpm Max Motor ELV (<600 gpm) 400 gpm Min Vert liquid Velocity (>180 ft/min) Max Stdp Gas Frac (<20%)

Minimum annular liquid velocities provided sufficient cuttings carrying capacity to effectively clean the well bore. While drilling however, It was also programmed that, if tight hole was encountered, stop drilling and circulation while reciprocating the drill string would eliminate the blockages. A wiper trip was another option to mitigate the problem. The down hole conditions were also constrained by the ability of the circulating system to effectively achieve an underbalanced state, provided adequate hole cleaning, and motor throughput given the maximum nitrogen generation capacity of

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the underbalanced drilling package was 1500 scfm. Different injection blend of nitrogen and crude injection rates were considered. A range of 0 to 1500 scfm of nitrogen and 200 to 600 gpm of Crude Oil were investigated and a recommended Drilling Injection Rates was selected and their derived UBD conditions are summarized as follow [4]: Drilling Injection Rates = 1500 scfm Nitrogen & 300 gpm Crude Oil Induced BHCP = 1997 psi (no production); Wellhead Pressure = 65 psia Motor equivalent flow rate = 386gpm Min Deviated Liquid Velocity = 213 ft/min Drill pipe gas volume fraction = 35 %

Production Sensitivity : To investigate the effect of introducing the reservoir fluid to the system on the bottomhole pressure, several production rate scenarios were assumed. Figure 3 demonstrates the effect of oil production in barrels per day (bbl/d) on the bottom hole circulating pressure (BHCP) with fixed nitrogen and native crude injection rate of 1500 scfm of N2 and 300 gpm of crude oil (optimum rates).

Figure.3. Effect of oil production on BHCP

NIOC PR-70 Deviated Well BHCP vs Oil Production
2,500 2,400 2,300 2,200 2,100 2,000 1,900 1,800 1,700 1,600 1,500 0 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000 10,000 12,000 14,000 16,000 18,000 20,000

Reservoir Pressure: 2190 psi

BHCP (psi)

Oil Production (bbl/d)

The circulation system was hydrostatically dominated up to 5000 bbl/d and then frictional dominated afterward. Prior to an oil production rate of 5000 bbl/d, as more reservoir fluids (oil and gas) enter the wellbore, the gas portion of the reservoir

1st National Iranian Drilling Industry Congress.

influx reduced the drilling fluid density and thus lowers the BHCP. To control this reservoir influx, one could raise the BHCP by increasing the wellhead pressure with the UBD choke or varying the injection blends. Selecting a higher liquid rate and/or a lower nitrogen injection rate would raise the equivalent circulating density (ECD) of the drilling fluid and therefore reduce the drawdown. This will have to be done without compromising the effective wellbore cleaning. The well site UBD engineers were available to re-evaluate the UBD conditions and make adjustment and appropriate recommendations. Surface backpressure was necessary in stabilizing the circulating system during and after connections. H2S Consideration : One of the most important safety considerations while drilling was presence of H2S. Hydrogen sulfide is a major concern in hydrocarbon production. Operating problems caused by H2S can include: severe corrosion and fouling, injection well plugging with iron sulfide and QHSE problems associated with H2S gases. Trace amounts of H2S were anticipated. A thorough monitoring system was put in place before the underbalanced drilling phase in preparation for any emergencies. The advice of Weatherford QHSE department was fully enlisted. H2S scavenger was also supplied by NIOC and added to the Native Crude if needed while drilling reservoir section of this well underbalanced. Conclusions and Recommendations 1. The well PR-70 was drilled successfully to the target total depth. 2. No loss circulations were encountered while drilling UBD section. 3. PR 70 well was successfully drilled UBD, if the well was drilled in conventional mode, losses and gain would be encountered frequently. The early oil production even added more value to the well drilling economy. 4. For drilling H2S wells, specific modifications are needed to guarantee safe and successful job. 5. The supplied pump-truck exporting rate was inaccurate and did not allow accurate engineering calculations while exporting. It is recommended to use suitable exporting pump in terms of pressure and volume to keep drilling with production with no need to stop drilling to export extra production. 6. It is recommended to have DAQ(data acquisition system) on rig to record different drilling parameters such as WOB, RPM Hook Load, Pump rates, Torque, etc., the system has to use WITS protocol in order to interface easily with NIDC data acquisition system. Getting all the drilling parameters on one DAQ system will add more values to UBD operations. 7. It is recommended to use electromagnetic MWD (EMMWD) in directional wells to supply surveys with high concentration of injection gas. 8. Drilling long section of gas cap is not recommended as the gas production will prevent producing reservoir oil while drilling and will increase the ECD causing losses at the bottom. 9. NIDC mist pump rate was not enough to export at the well production rate and the operations stopped many times because the tanks were full. It is recommended to use high volume pump with enough pressure suitable for the production facilities.

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Acknowledgement : The authors would like to thank NIOC for permission to publish the results presented in this paper and J.Mohammadzadeh, M.Assadi& A.Mohammadian. References : 1. Coy A, Hall D, Vezza MA Safe Approach to Underbalanced Drilling in H2S Producing Fields SPE Paper 87986 2. Shadizadeh S.R, Zaferanieh MThe Feasibility Study of Using Underbalanced Drilling in Iranian Oil Fields SPE paper 97317 3. NIOC, South Drilling Engineering Division Underbalanced Drilling Program for well Parsi 70.April 2005 4. NIOC, South Drilling Department Underbalanced Drilling End of the Well Report, Well Parsi 70.October 2005 .