Drilling Speeds t

The author presents drilling data on Texas wells
showing the influence of various factors upon drilling
speed. Those factors tending to increase drilling speeds
are concluded to be:
1. Smaller holes; although dependent upon casing and
screen programs, the hole should be only large
enough to run casing without sticking.
2. Increased circulation rate of drilling fluid, now lim-
ited by power and related items.
3. Proper weight carried on the bit, dependent upon
type of bit, rate of fluid circulation, and tendency
of hole to deviate f ron~ vertical.
4. Proper rotational speed, determined by fohati on.
5. Use of hard alloy tubes in water courses of bits to
reduce wear and permit choice of water-course
size to give desired hydraulicking action.
The subject of drilling speed is becoming of increas-
ing interest a s the depths t o which operators are forced
to drill become greater. An 8,000 to 9,000-ft. Gulf Coast
well, costing from $50,000 to $100,000, is, a t a n economic
disadvantage compared to the 3,600-ft. wells of East
Tesas drilled and completed for $10,000 or $15,000. A
definite indication of the savings t o be espected from
. a decrease in the time to drill and complete a deep well
is indicated by t he cost of operating a modern heavy
rig, amounting approximately to $500 daily for labor,
fuel, water, field supervision, r i g depreciation, and re-
pairs. However, all the benefits of faster drilling can-
not be so definitely evaluated. For instance, a drilling
program originally designed to satisfy lease obligations
may be inadequate, due to shortage of company or con-
tract rigs-in which case introduction of practices and
equipment resulting in faster drilling may be an eco-
nomical substitute for acquisition of additional rigs.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the various
factors known to influence the rat e of penetration of
the bit and in conclusion, to determine those factors t hat
will probably prove most beneficial.
There are six variables affecting drilling speed:
1. Formation.
2. Size of hole.
3. Lifting effect of drilling fluid on cuttings, and hy-
draulic action.
4. Weight carried on bit.
5. Rotational speed.
6. Type of bit.
1. Formation
The formations encountered in each well may be con-
sidered the independent variable, determining the in-
* Humble Oil a nd Refining Co., Houst on, Tex.
t Present ed before Hous t o~i Chapt er, Division of Production.
Ilouston, Tex., Mar ch 26, 1936.
fluence of the other factors on drilling speed, and pre-
suming adjustment of those variables to obtain the most
economical penetration.
2. Size of Hole
The size of the hole drilled is governed by the casing
and screen program. One company changed i t s casing
program in May of 1935, substituting a 54-in. oil string
for the 7-in. pipe previously used, with a corresponding
decrease in the size of hole drilled from 98 in. to 78 in.
in diameter. An increase in bit service was immediately
obtained-footage per bit increasing by a third, and
footage per hour by a fourth. This increase was uni-
form for three different fields in East Tesas, and is
given in Table 1, Groups I, 11, and 111.
Rock-bit service in groups IV and V, from a well
drilled in West Tesas in which i t was felt t hat a fairly
accurate con~parison could be made, also indicated t hat
greater footage per bit and per hour could be gained
with bits drilling smaller-diameter'holes-although the
increase was not as great as in the case of the fishtail
bits in East Tesas.
In the Gulf Coast the bit service of two offset wells
shown in group VI was compared. One of these wells
used 95411. bits to drill the hole for the oil string, and
the other used. 9-in;. bits. Later, two more wells were
drilled with 98-in. bits, and one with 9-in.; these ar e
compared in group VII. I n both wells drilled with 9-in.
bits difficulty was experienced in running 7-in. casing,
the pipe hanging in the hole and requiring use of the
slush pump t o wash down. Further trouble was ex-
perienced in obtaining circulation aft er landing the cas-
ing, unusual punlp pressures being required. No such
trouble was experienced in running and setting casing
in the wells drilled with 9;-in. bits.
The two extreme right-hand columns of Table 1 show
the theoretical amount of hole excavated. I n most of
the groups the smaller bit, although making faster
progress and giving better service, did not remove as
much material from the hole as the larger bits. The
9-in. bits were exceptions to this tendency.
3. Lifting Effect of Drilling Fluid on Cutting8
and Hydraulic Action
The amount of lifting effect of drilling fluid on cut-
tings ordinarily influences drilling speed more noticeably
than any other single item than can be controlled by
the drilling company. Tomball is an outstanding ex-
ample, with a perfect correlation between drilling speed
and steam working pressure, which directly affects the
pump speed and, therefore, t he volume of drilling fluid.
This is shown in Table 2, wherein are compared the
drilling time of several types of rigs, grouped according
to boiler horsepower and pTessure, drawworks size, and
slush pumps. Seventy-three wells were considered in the
average. I11 order to make a t rue coinparison of drilling
time, miscellaneous time, such as waiting on orders,
taking Christmas Day off, drill-stem tests, and unusual
ri g repairs, was not included in the total time. Sixty-
nine of the wells were drilled with 4841-1. 16.6-lb. drill
pipe; and four wells i n group I were drilled, where
5&-in. 22.2-1b. drill stein was used. Full-hole tool
joints and fishtail bits were used on all wells.
Note the similarity of conditions in group V and VI
with the exception of the pumps, the No. 18 pump giving
group V an advantage in drilling time.
Other factors influencing the amount of drilling fluid
t hat can be handled are:
1. Restriction in path of fluid flow, including:
a. Drill-pipe size and type (internal-flush, internal-
b. Type of tool joints (regular or full-hole) .
c. Size of mud line (standpipe, rotary hose and
connections, swivel and kelly) .
d. Area of water courses in bit.
. e. Annular space between drill stem and wall of
f. Bottom hole assembly.
2. Pump characteristics, including:
a. Size.
b. Efficiencies (volumetric and mechanical).
3. Characteristics of drilling fluid :
a. Weight.
b. Viscosity.
c. Tendency to gel.
Effect of Hole Diameter on Drilling ,Speed
Cubic Feet of
7 - 7 Average Footage :
Hole Excavated :
Size , No. of n I \
Group Type (Inches) Bits Used Per Bit Per Hour
Per Hour Per Bit
9 a
I Fishtail . . . . . . { 71
L - -
[ 9s 70 480 62.5 33.1 253
I1 Fishtail . . . . . .
1 7a
38 656 . 77.2 25.9 220
ga 182 411 62.4 33.0 217
I11 Fishtail . . . . . .{ 7r
124 555 74.8 25.1 186
IV Rock Bit . . . . . ri:
9 s
V Rock Bit . . . . . { 72
( 9s
VI Fishtail . . . . . .
1 9
Effect of Steam Pressure on Drilling Speed
Total Wor k~na
Rated ~r essu;
Horse- (Lb. Per Drawworks
Group power Scl. In.) Size
I 300 300
I1 250 300
I11 250 300
IV 330 250
V 255 200
VI 255 200
VII 220 250
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
No. 18 and No. 16
No. 18 and No. 16
No. 18 and No. 16
No. 18 and No. 16
No. 18 and No. 16
Two No. 16
No. 18 and No. 16
Average Days Per Well:
No. of Wells A
Analyzed Total Drilling
30 21.9 .9.2
15 24.3 10.4
6 23.2 10.5
3 24.0 11.2
10 24.5 12.2
8 25.9 12.9
1 28.0 13.0
- - -
73 Average 23.5 Average 10.5
The effect of drill-stem size on drilling time is given
in Tables 3 and 4.
Effect of Drill-Stem Size on .Drilling Thne, Gulf
Coast Field
Average Days
Per wel l : -
' No. of
Drill Stem Wells Total Drilling
Total ......... 16 Average 21.6 Average 9.0
Effect of Drill-Pipe Size on Drilling Time in East Texas
Average Days
Per Well :
41 77 3,644 11.85 5.09
41 and 5i"n 55. 3,669 11.36 5.13
5 & 17 . 3,743 10.98 4.84
48 and 68 68 3,737 11.75 5.62
6 1 60 3,679 11.22 4.95
The ri g in Table 3 was equipped with three 100-hp.
300-lb. boilers; one No. 18, and one No. 16 pump.
In Table 4 the combinations for pipe sizes do not mean
that nixed strings were used, but t hat par t of the wells
were drilled with one size and the remainder with
another size. The rigs obtained steam from two or three
boilers a t 200-lb. working pressure, and had only one
slush pump, a No. 16.
A tendency for faster drilling with large drill stem
is shown in this table which, when coupled with the
results in Table 3, indicates t hat 5?~-in. drill stem i s
preferable to 43-in. in the 98411. hole common to both .
The effect of the type of tool joint upon the amount of
drilling fluid that can be circulated has been covered in
March and Gilbert's paper " Resistance of Mud Through
Regular vs. Full-Hole Tool Joints," * in which i t was
shown t hat the pressure required for circulating could
be reduced a s much a s 38 per cent for 5ia-in. pipe, and
as much as 28 per cent for 41-in. pipe, by using full-
hole tool joints.
Little is known about the hydraulic action of the mud
stream a s i t leaves the water courses of the bit, other
than the importance of a strong jetting action in keep-
ing clean the blades of a fishtail or multi-bladed bit
when cutting soft sticky formations to prevent the bit
from balling up. That there is a certain hydraulicking
effect of the mud jet upon the fornlation has been indi-
* Tjvilliilg nlld Prodllctio~h Prnct i cc, 1935.
cated by the fact t hat in some cases new hole can be
made by washing down, without rotating the bit-al-
though the rat e of penetration is considerably slower
than in normal drilling operations with the bit rotating.
An approximate evaluation of the kinetic energy avail-
able for jettirg a t the water courses may be derived
rationally, and is expressed by the equation:
zol ~ere : Eip = horsepower developed by jetting.
w=mud weight, lb. per cu. ft.
V=r at e of flow, bbl. per min.
a=cross-sectional area of water courses, sq. in.
This equation shows that' the jetting action may be
increased either by increasing the rat e of flow of the
drilling fluid, or by decreasing the total cross-sectional
area of the water courses.
4. Weight Carried on Bit
The weight carried on a bit affects the drilling speed
directly, provided there is sufficient mud volu~ne to keep
the cuttings cleaned from the bottom of the hole.
However, if pipe is compressed too much, the resulting
lateral deflection will cause the hole to deviate from
vertical; and continued reversal of stresses while ro-
tating in a crooked hole will cause fatigue and failure
of .the pipe-any time saved by increased drilling speed
being offset by time lost in recovering the pipe.
Typical bottom-hole assemblies consist of a single
drill collar from 6 f t . to 20 ft. long, weighing approxi-
~nat el y 140 lb. per ft. in the 60-in. nominal (8-in. out-
side diameter) size, with one or two joints of 68-in.
drill pipe to give added weight and rigidity below the
regular drill stem. The weight ordinarily carried on
the bit varies from 3,000 lb. to 10,000 lb., corresponding
to one to four points a s measured by a weight indicator.
As the typical bottom-hole assembly described above
weighs between 2,000 lb. and 4,000 lb., conlpression in
the drill stem is required to make up the difference-
with resulting lateral deflection in the slim section of
the drill stem, which tends to cause crooked holes, and
concentrates bending stresses a t the point of dianletral
In order to overcome these disadvantages, one opera-
tor has used the asse~qbly shown in Fig. 1. I t gives
12,000 lb: of weight in a relatively rigid assembly con-
centrated in a short space above the bit and below the
51%-in. drill stem.
A so~newhat similar installation, adopted for use with
43-in. drill pipe by some operators, is shown in Fig. 2.
From previous experience it was considered advisable to
"streamline " the drill collar to reduce the fluid pres-
sure required for circulation, and. to minimize any ten-
dency of the drill collar to ball up-precautions not
considered necessary when using 51%-in. drill pipe, due
to the greater volume of fluid t hat may be circulated
through the larger pipe.
The use of tapered sleeves for coupling large sections
to smaller sections was adopted to reduce stress con-
centrations a t tlie points of changes in cross-sectional
St r eam
6z +apered Sl eeve
Ada pf e r
Joi nt s Thus
I J o i n t
Lined Drill
Streamlined Heavy Bottom-Hole Drilling Assembly.
FIG. 2
area. The tapered sleeve i s shrunk on the drill pipe, the
tool-joint pin then screwed onto the pipe, power-tight,
and welded to the sleeve. It has since been found t hat
although the tapered sleeves eliminated failures a t the
threaded section of the pipe, the stresses were merely
transferred from the threaded upset to the thin section
of the wall a t the end of the sleeve. ,
Table 5 shows the results obtained by using the new
assemblies, faster drilling and straighter holes being
obtained in both cases. Using the assembly shown i n
Fig. 2, with 51%-in. drill pipe, weights of 15,000 lb. to
25,000 Ib. were carried on 95-in. bits', of which 12,000
Ib. was from. the drill collar and hydraulic pipe, and
the remaining weight was obtained from the 51%-in. drill
stem in.compression. When using the streamlined as-
sembly (Fig. 2) with the 48-in. drill stem, approxi-
mately six points on the weight indicator, correspond-
ing to 16,000 lb., was carried on the 9Z-in. bits--of which
10,000 Ib. was from the assembly, and the remainder
from the drill stem. In these tests rotary speeds av-
eraged 100 r.p.m., or less.
The assemblies described have been used in Gulf Coast
drilling to depths of 6,000 ft., but for other applications
the lengths of the drill collars and the number of drill
collars and joints of hydraulic pipe may be varied. For
instance, if i t is desired t hat additional information be
obtained with an even heavier bottom-hole assembly on
the 5&-in. string, three 20-ft. drill collars (instead of
two 15-ft. collars shown i n Fig. 2) and five 20-ft. joints
of hydraulic pipe, with properly-tapered sleeve connec-
tions, will give a bottom-hole assembly weighing about
16,000 lb.
Care should be exercised in adopting heavy assemblies
for fields where there is a tendency to ball up. I n one
locality where this tendency is quite marked, the use
of even a single 15-ft. regular drill collar on 41411. drill
strings with 300 lb. steam was found to retard drilling
by requiring frequent spudding, and resulted in the use
of 8-ft. or shorter drill collars on all 41411. drill strings,
until a streamlined assembly was tried and found
In one West Texas well the use of heavy drill pipe
above the bit, amounting to about 16,000 Ib., was con-
sidered. an important factor in elimination of twist-offs
between the depths of 7,421 ft . and 12,786 ft.
Another West Texas well was drilled from 4,943 ft. to
11,144 ft. without a pipe failure, using a bottom-hole
assenlbly weighing more than 12,000 Ib.
In neither of these deep wells was there a tapered
sleeve used a t the change in cross-section.
One new string of drill pipe in the Gulf Coast failed
twice a t the change of cross-section on top of the 12,000-
Ib. bottom-hole assembly in drilling its first well. On the
second well a tapered sleeve was added, and the well
was completed ivith no failures near the bottom
5. Rotational Speed
Within the last year a change has been evident i n
the theory of proper rotational speeds to use on bits. It
has been the accustomed practice of some drillers to ro-
tate slowly in soft formations and relatively fast (above
125 r.p.m.) in hard formations.
Conlmon practice of one operator in drilling the hard
formations of \Vest Tesas has been to rotate a t speeds
of 100 ie.p.m., or less with 10,000 Ib. to 15,000 Ib. of
weight 011 98-in. rock bits. However, on one well rota-
tional speed was increased to from 150 r.p.nl. to 200
r.p.m. with 14,000 Ib. t o 19,000 Ib. carried on the bit.
Faster drilling was obtained, but between the depths of
2,409 ft. and 5,024 ft. nine twist-offs occurred, an av-
erage of one fishing job every 291 ft. In the same well,
a t slower speeds (below 125 r.11.m.) only two drill-string
failures occurred while drilling 3,826 ft., an average of
1,913 ft. per failure. In the Rocky Mountain area the
number of fishing jobs occasioned by drill-stem failures
has been reported to be greatly reduced by decreasing
maximum rotary speeds from 125 iS.p.m. to 85 r.p.m.,
or less.
The necessity of high rotary speeds to obtain fast
drilling in hard formation is refuted by a t least one
rock-bit manufacturer. From both laboratory and field
tests, greater weight and slower rotary speeds (com-
pared to former standards) will increase rock-bit foot-
pressures sufticiently to clean the water course. In
slightly harder formations, multi-bladed bits have dem-
onstrated their superiority, due to the greater number
of blades offering resistance to wear.
With the advent of the 20-in. pump, which circulates
fluid a t the rat e of 20 bbl., or more, a minute, water
courses of ordinary fishtail bits have been found to wear
away rapidly, causing the fluid stream to be dissipated
by changing the direction of flow to away from the bit
blade and losing the hydraulic action of the jet. This
has occurred even when the water courses have been
made as large as the body of the bit would permit, a
diameter of about 12-in.
A solution to this problem has been offered by one bit
manufacturer, who is using replaceable hard tubes to
protect the water courses: Three types of tubes have
been tried : tungsten-carbide, high-nickel-cast-iron, and
cai-borized steel. More general use of these wear-re-
sisting tubes should lead to a trial of smaller water
courses, with a possible increase in drilling speed re-
sulting from the stronger jetting action mentioned in
the section discussing the hydraulic action of drilling
. .
EfTeet of Heavy Bottom-Hole Assembly on brilling Speed and Angular Deviation
- No. of
Drilling Time
(Average) Footage Slope Tests
Size of sore ells Average , --- E'er Hour (-' -,
Drill Stem Bottonl-Hole Horse- (Lb. Per Con- Depth Days Hours for Average Maximum ,
(Inches) Assembly No. power Sq. In.) sidered (Feet) Drilling Rotating 9bIn. (Degrees) r )
5?B Standard 3 100 300 6 5,583 7.3 131, 40.2 2.4 3.9
51% Heavy bottom-hole 3 100 300 6 5,571 6.1 109 46.2 1.6 2.3
48 . Standard 2 125 300 6 5,584 9.0 159 31.3 1.9 ' - 4.2
41 Standard 3 110 250 6 5,566 9.9 184 26.5 1.8 3.3
48 Streamlined heavy
bottom-hole 2 125 300 4 5,560 7.0 130 38.6 1.3 2.8
age and cutting speeds-the theory being t hat forma-
tions will be cut faster with the greater weight; whereas
if a lighter weight is used, the formation wears more
on the bit. This manufacturer states that, in general,
for hard formations a weight equivalent of 2,000 Ib.
to 2,500 Ib. per in. in bit diameter, with rotary speeds
of from 60 r.p.m. to 80 r.p.m. will give the best results.
I n drilling shales or other softer formations with fish-
tail bits, a weight of 1,000 Ib. to 1,500 Ib. per in. in di-
ameter of the bit, with somewhat higher rotary speeds,
will give the best results. However, care must be taken
in using such heavy weight on the bit to avoid drilling a
crooked hole.
6. Type of Bit
I n the softer formations, fishtail bits have retained
their popularity, due principally to their resistance to
the tendency to ball up. In sticky formations, weight on
a multi-bladed bit must be reduced to lessen the ten-
dency to ball up, with a corresponding decrease in drill-
i ng speed. Another disadvantage of the 3- and 4-way
bits, due to larger number of water courses, is the
.tendency for the outlets to be plugged. On a fishtail bit,
j a hole t hat is plugging will ordinarily raise the pump
Six factors affecting drilling speed have been dis-
cussed. The first, the type of formation penetrated, i s
beyond control, a t least for the present. The second,
the size of hole drilled, is dependent upon casing and
screen programs. For fastest drilling, the hole should be
just large enough to allow the casing to be run without
sticking. The lifting effect of drilling fluid was the most
noticeable factor; but advancement in this direction
seems limited a t this time, due to the tremendous weight
t hat would be necessary in the design of larger slush
pumps and boilers of higher steam pressures and horse-
Dower. There is left. however. the nossibilitv of better
design of the fluid passages to elhiinate m;ch of t he
restricted areas. Weight on the bit in soft formations i s
limited by the amount of fluid circulated; but i t may
be found that, for rock-bit drilling, weights greater
than any yet carried may be beneficial. Rotary speeds
in rock-bit drilling have recently been lowered to im-
prove bit service. For soft formations, a t least one
company feels t hat f ast rotation will increase drilling
speed. In bit design, the use of hard tubes in water
courses should lead to the trial of various sizes of holes
t o determine the hydraulic effect of the fluid jet.