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DRILL STRING DESIGN
1.4.1 INTRODUCTION
When designing a drill string the aim is :-
• Keep the maximum stress at any point in the drill string less than yield strength derated by a design factor.
• Select components and configure assemblies to retard fatigue as much as economically practical.
• Provide equipment that is resistant to Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) if H2S is expected.
This Topic covers simple drill string design steps for vertical and directional wells, including some
considerations for extended reach drilling. Loads applied by tension, torsion, combined tension and torsion,
burst pressure, collapse pressure, slip crushing and stability forces are considered. It does not cover techniques
for vibration analysis, torque and drag modelling, hydraulics design, directional control or jar placement.
Proprietary software programs for performing the calculations described in this Topic is now available in
most OUs. As always, however you should be aware of what data they are using and what they are doing with
it.
1.4.1.1 DESIGN ASSUMPTIONS
For simplicity, the assumptions outlined below are built into the calculations in this section.
• Tension is approximated using the "Buoyed Weight" method when doing manual calculations. Although
this method ignores the effects of circulating pressure on tension, it continues to be very popular for
tensile design. This is no doubt due to the following:
o It's the way we've always done it (Tradition!),
o It's simpler than the more exact "Pressure-Area" method, which is used by Torque/Drag
software such as Well plan for Windows, and
o The error that it causes is easily compensated when selecting the Margin of Overpull (MOP).
• Buckling is assumed to occur only below the point where buoyed string weight equals weight on bit.
This point will be called the "Neutral Point". This assumption ignores some pressure forces in order to
simplify design calculations. In fact, unless the drill pipe is stuck, the neutral point will never be above
this point except temporarily when pump rate is increased with the bit on bottom.
• Increasing hole angle at the BHA reduces the fraction of BHA weight available for bit weight.
• Tension calculations assume the string is hanging vertically. For high angle and extended reach drilling,
this assumption will be modified as it would otherwise result in too conservative a design.
• Material yield strength is the specified minimum for the component being considered.
• Drill pipe tube wall thickness is the minimum for the stated drill pipe class.
• Connection torsional strength and makeup torque are calculated using the A.P. Farr formula from API
RP 7G.

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1.4.1.2 DESIGN FACTORS
Design factors are numbers that are used to derate the load capacities of components and assemblies. Design
factors provide an extra margin of capacity to take care of inexactness in our assumptions about material
properties, loads and hole conditions. For drill strings, the following design factors will be used:
For Tension (DF
T
): This factor is divided into a component's maximum tensile load capacity to determine the
maximum allowable load that we're comfortable applying to that component. Design Factor for tension (DF
T
should be 1·15, based on SIEP recommendations.
Margin of Overpull (MOP): This is excess tensile capacity above the normal hanging or working load (P
w
) to
account for factors such as hole drag. MOPs may vary from 50,000 to 150,000 lbs, depending on hole
conditions.
For excess BHA weight (DF
BHA
): This factor is multiplied by desired weight on bit (WOB) to determine
minimum buoyed BHA weight. This excess weight in the BHA provides an extra margin to keep the neutral
point below the top of the BHA. The recommended value for DF
BHA
is 1·15.
For Torsion: Applied torsion is limited to tool joint makeup torque. Standard makeup torque is either 60% or
50% of tool joint torsional yield strength, according to the Class of the pipe, and tool joints are almost always
weaker in torsion than the tubes to which they're attached. Therefore a design factor in torsion isn't necessary
for drill string design.
For Collapse Pressure (DF
C
): Collapse pressure capacities are first derated to account for the effect of any
simultaneous tension, then the derated capacity is further reduced by dividing by the collapse design factor. DF
should be 1·125.
For Burst Pressure (DF
B
) Burst pressure loading is rarely a concern in drill string design because surface
pressures rarely approach the burst capacities of most drill pipe. The design factor for burst is divided into a
component's burst pressure capacity to give the maximum permissible burst pressure that may be applied to that
component. DF
B
should be 1·176. Burst capacity is increased by simultaneous tension, but this benefit is
normally ignored in drill string design.
1.4.2 DESIGN PROCEDURE
Design is a multi-step process which usually begins at the bottom of the hole and works upward. The following
is a discussion of a simple tension and torsion design. These steps and considerations will be present in most
design situations. Special considerations for extended reach drilling are also included. The following steps in
the process are discussed:
• Selection of drill collar diameter
• Selection of BHA connections and features
• Stabiliser and jar placement
• Determine length of drill collar section
• Determine length of the heavy weight drill pipe section
• Other checks to make
• Drill pipe tension design nomenclature
• Calculate allowable load (P
A
)
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• Set margin of overpull (MOP)
• Calculate working load (P
W
)
• Calculate the maximum length of the first drill pipe section
• Calculate the maximum length of the second drill pipe section
• Calculate the maximum length of the third drill pipe section
• Burst pressure
• Collapse pressure
• Combined loading
• Stability forces and drill pipe buckling
• Slip crushing
• Buoyancy factor for non-steel components
• Special considerations for extended reach wells
1.4.2.1 SELECT DRILL COLLAR DIAMETER
Unless geometric sticking (see Topic 1.2.1 of Section 5, Part 1 - Stuck pipe prevention and fishing operations)
is a problem, the largest diameter drill collars consistent with other needs are generally best. Their increased
stiffness means more directional stability. Also, they will have fewer connections for a desired weight on bit.
They allow shorter BHAs which can lessen the likelihood of differential sticking. Larger OD collars in a given
hole also mean less lateral freedom of movement in the BHA. This decreases buckling stress and the rate of
connection fatigue. In practice however, drill collar size is often determined by existing rig stocks. Other factors
which come into play are:
• Fishability considerations.
• Capabilities of the rig handling equipment.
• Directional control requirements.
• Hydraulics.
• Desired exterior features (spiral grooves, elevator groove, or other features).
1.4.2.2 SELECT BHA CONNECTIONS AND FEATURES
The following points apply not only to drill collars and HWDP from the rig inventory, but also to the many
specialised tools that find their way into the hole. Stabilisers, motors, MWD and LWD tools, hole openers,
under-reamers, jars and other tools are all subject to fatigue.
Bending strength ratio:
The predominant consideration, especially in selecting larger BHA connections is Bending Strength Ratio
(BSR). BSR is a ratio of the relative stiffness of the box to the pin for a given connection type. If we select a
connection with either a pin or box that is out of balance with the other member, we tend to increase the stress
level and accelerate fatigue in the weaker member (see Figure 2.1.28)
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Figure 2.1.28 : The effect of BSR of
2.5 on fatigue life.
The traditional target BSR is 2·5, and acceptable BSR
ranges centre on this point. However, BSR ranges are
rough guidelines established by "experience" and should
not be used as strict operating limits. Staying within
recommended BSR guidelines does not eliminate
connection fatigue failures, nor does exceeding the
recommended ranges always lead to fatigue failures.
In theory, high BSRs should cause accelerated pin failure,
and low BSRs should cause accelerated box failures. A
balanced BSR should provide maximum connection life.
However, field experience shows that larger OD collars
(8" and up) suffer predominantly from box fatigue cracks
even when they operate at or near the ideal BSR of 2·5.
This indicates that higher BSRs may be more appropriate
for these sizes. On the other hand, 43/4"collars with BSRs
as low as 1·8 are widely used but rarely experience box
fatigue cracks. Therefore, the suggested BSR ranges in
Table 2.1.5 are probably better. In every case however,
experience under given conditions should be a major
factor in BSR selection.

One frequently overlooked
connection is the one between the
top drill collar and the bottom joint
of HWDP. If a straight (non-
bottleneck) crossover sub is used,
and the collar OD is larger than the
HWDP tool joint OD, the resulting
BSR of that one connection will be
exceedingly high. Pin failures in the
bottom joint of HWDP are not
uncommon, and this is the probable
reason. The problem is helped by
using a bottleneck sub to smooth
the change in cross section.

Table 2.1.5 : Recommended BSR ranges

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Figure 2.1.29 : BHA thread forms
BHA Connection Thread Form
Thread forms with full root radii should be used in all BHA
connections to maximise fatigue resistance. API Regular, NC,
and 51/2" Full Hole connections meet this requirement, though
the API NC thread form (V 038R) is superior to the others. The
H90 thread form is also considered acceptable even though it
does not have a full root radius. Remember, all connections that
employ a "standard" V065 thread form, except the PAC, are
obsolete. Therefore, you should specify "NC" instead of the
obsolete "IF" or "XH" names. This eliminates the (very low)
probability of receiving the fatigue prone V-065 thread form in
your collars.
Stress relief features
Stress relief features as described in API Spec 7, should be
specified on all BHA connections which are NC 38 and larger.
These features include the "stress relief pin" and "bore-back
box". They prolong connection fatigue life by eliminating un
engaged thread roots which act as stress concentrators. Stress
relief features are beneficial on HWDP connections. Pin stress
relief grooves are not recommended for connections smaller
than NC 38 because they may weaken the connection's tensile
and torsional strength, and because fatigue is often less of a
problem than static loads on small connections. Bore-back boxes
could be used on smaller connections without weakening them,
and should be considered if box fatigue is occurring.
Cold rolling
Cold rolling BHA thread roots and stress relief surfaces
increases fatigue life by placing a residual compressive stress in
the thread roots. Cold rolling is also beneficial on HWDP
threads, though not on normal weight drill pipe tool joints.
Fatigue is rarely a problem on normal weight drill pipe tool
joints owing to the relative stiffness of the tool joint compared to
the tube.
BHA connection torsional strength
Since torsion is transmitted from the top down, BHA connections are usually subjected to lower torsional loads
than the connections above. However, if "stick/slip" is occurring, or if you are running a tapered or "slim"
assembly, especially one using PAC connections, torsional strength should be checked to confirm that it is
greater than the expected operating torsion at the BHA. Tool joint torsional strength tables cannot be used
directly for this purpose because tool joint and drill collar materials have different yield strengths.

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However, drill collar connection torsional strength can
be calculated by the following equation:
TS = MUT/f [Eq.1]
where:
TS = DC connection torsional strength
MUT = Make up torque
f is taken from Table 2.1.6
(all in consistent units)

Table 2.1.6 : Factors for converting drill collar MUT to
torsional strength
1.4.2.3 STABILISER AND JAR PLACEMENT
Stabilisers
The size and placement of stabilisers is often determined by directional considerations. However, stabilisers
also impact other important design concerns:
In a vertical hole, the lower part of the BHA will be buckled and supported by the sides of the hole. Stabilisers
reduce connection stress by restricting the freedom of lateral drill collar movement. This lengthens connection
fatigue life, other things constant.
If mechanical sticking is a concern, more or larger stabilisers may increase the chance of becoming stuck. On
the other hand, stabilisers can reduce the probability of differential sticking by holding drill collars away from
the side of the hole.
When considering contact between drill collars and the wellbore wall both the stabiliser spacing and the collar
OD should be taken into account. It is common to use the same stabiliser spacing in BHAs regardless of the
collar size (OD). For example, 90ft stabiliser spacing in a 17·5" BHA with 9" collars will give much less wall
contact than 90ft stabiliser spacing in a 6" BHA with 43/4" DCs. It is important to remember this fact when
designing BHAs with a low risk of differential sticking.
Tables 2.1.7 & 2.1.8 give an indication of the stabiliser spacing required to minimise contact between drill
collars and the wellbore wall. Above 50° inclination the results would be substantially similar to Table 2.1.8.

Table 2.1.8 : Wellbore contact with inclination 30° - 50°

Table 2.1.7 : Wellbore contact with inclination 0° - 3°
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Jars
The two main considerations for jar placement are preventing jar fatigue failure and maximising jar impact at
the probable sticking location.
For fatigue failure prevention in vertical or near vertical wells, the "rule of thumb" is to run jars in "tension" (or
more precisely, above the axial neutral point - see Topic 1.3). More recently, jar companies say that it's
acceptable to run jars in "compression" (below the axial neutral point) but not at the "axial neutral point" itself.
To simplify matters, we should apply the following rule: Don't run jars buckled at any time. Obviously, this
rule prohibits running jars in compression (below the buckling neutral point) in vertical or near vertical hole
sections. In high angle holes, the compressive load a jar may carry without buckling will depend on many
factors, but can be easily estimated using jar dimensions and the Dawson-Pasley relationship for drill pipe
buckling.
Regarding the prohibition against running jars at the "axial neutral point", this will not always be practical in
high angle holes. For example, in a recent North Sea extended reach well, with a hole inclination of 75°, bit
weights varied between 5,000 and 25,000 lbs as stringers were drilled. In the soft formations it was necessary to
limit the ROP to clean the hole, thus the lower bit weight. The higher bit weight was necessary to drill the
harder rock. The upshot was that the "axial neutral point" was constantly moving over a range of about 1,800
feet in the string (and past the jars). Although the jars cycled from open to closed, the change in position
occurred at low energy levels because care was taken not to add bit weight too fast, and no problem occurred
with the jars. If you expect a situation like the one above, you should discuss the circumstances with your jar
company and develop operating limits to prevent cycling the jar while too much energy is stored in the drill
string.
For maximising jar impact see Section 5, Part 1 - Stuckpipe prevention and fishing operations.
1.4.2.4 DETERMINE LENGTH OF DRILL COLLAR SECTION
The length of the drill collar section will be determined in part by whether or not HWDP is to be used for bit
weight and by the BHA configuration. Three types of BHA configurations are covered in these design
recommendations and are illustrated in Figure 2.1.30.

Figure 2.1.30 : Types of BHA

• Type A: This configuration uses heavy weight drill pipe above the
drill collars as a transition to smooth the abrupt section change. Full
weight on bit is still applied with drill collars.
• Type B: This configuration has only enough drill collars to achieve
desired directional control or other objective and applies bit weight
with both collars and HWDP. It provides easier and faster rig floor
handling of the BHA, reduces differential sticking tendency and has
apparently reduced drill collar connection failures.
• Type C: The Type C configuration has more than one drill collar size
but still applies bit weight with both collars and HWDP.
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Type A BHAs
If the Type A BHA configuration is used, the minimum length of the drill collar section is calculated as follows:

The design factor for excess BHA weight (DF
BHA
) is chosen to ensure that the neutral point stays below the top
of the BHA. This factor is assigned a value of 1·15 in most Shell applications. Hard drilling conditions may
require higher values. After the minimum drill collar section length is calculated, it is usually rounded to the
next full stand of collars for convenience.
Type B and C BHAs
If a Type B or Type C BHA configuration is used, the number of drill collars is determined by directional
control, equipment availability or other considerations. The amount of HWDP required to apply the necessary
WOB and keep the neutral point in the BHA can be determined by Equation 3.

1.4.2.5 DETERMINE LENGTH OF THE HEAVY WEIGHT DRILL PIPE SECTION

Type A BHAs
For a type A BHA configuration, the amount of HWDP for transition is determined by past experience.
Anywhere from 12 to 30 joints is common.

Type B and C BHAs
When HWDP will be used for bit weight, the minimum length of HWDP to provide the desired weight on bit is
calculated as follows:
{eq.3}
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Where:
L
HWDP
= Minimum length of HWDP section
WOB = Maximum weight on bit
DF
BHA
= Design factor for excess BHA length
W
HWDP
= HWDP air weight
W
DC1
= Air weight of drill collars in first section
L
DC1
= Length of first drill collar section
W
DC2
= Air weight of drill collars in second section
L
DC2
= Length of second drill collar section
K
B
= Buoyancy factor
* = Maximum hole angle at BHA
(all in consistent units)
As hole angle increases, the point is reached when a heavy BHA is more detrimental due to increased tensile
and torsional drag than it is beneficial for adding weight on the bit. Equations 2 and 3 for calculating necessary
BHA weight will not apply if the hole angle exceeds the critical angle. Beyond this point, it is customary to
apply bit weight by running the normal weight drill pipe in the high angle hole section in compression. (These
issues are covered in Topic 1.4.2.20).
1.4.2.6 OTHER CHECKS TO MAKE
Check tool joint torsional capacity
To prevent downhole makeup and resulting torsional failure, maximum operating torsion should never exceed
tool joint makeup torque.
API "standard" tool joint dimensions fix tool joint torsional strength at about 80% of the drill pipe tube torsional
strength. Therefore, if a string fails due to simple torsion loading, failure nearly always occurs in the tool joint.
Moreover, all API tool joints employ material of the same specified strength, so the torsional capacity of a given
drill string is established by its tool joint ID and OD and not by drill pipe weight and/or grade. Be aware that
some tables exist that give make-up torque as a function of pipe weight and grade. Such tables cannot be trusted
and should not be used.
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Drilling contractors and rental companies often order non-API standard dimensions in tool joints; it is therefore
essential to base the torsional performance limit on measured dimensions and not on an assumed standard.
Recommended values of tool joint makeup torque are tabulated in the Well Engineers Notebook (pages C-8 to
C-12). These are based on a tensile stress of 50% of the minimum tensile yield strength for Class I (new) tool
joints and 60% for the other classes.
When high operating torsion is expected, makeup torque may be increased above the standard recommended
value. However, this must not be done without checking the tool joint combined tension/torque capacity to
ensure that the increased make-up torque doesn't reduce pin tensile strength below an acceptable level. This is
discussed further in Topic 1.4.2.16.
Always be sure to confirm connection dimensions and check the accuracy of torque gauges, whether or not you
plan to exceed standard makeup torque.
Calculate Stiffness Ratio
The Stiffness Ratio (SR) of the sections above and below each transition must be compared to help quantify the
abruptness of the section change and determine the need for transition pipe. This is accomplished by dividing
the section modulus (Z) of the lower section tube by the section modulus of the upper.

The section moduli for tubular elements are given by:

Like BSR, stiffness ratio is not a strictly quantitative performance limit, and experience should be a major
determinant in setting the desired maximum SR. If drill pipe failures are occurring near the top of the BHA
despite adequate drill collar weight for applied WOB, transition pipe may be needed to smooth the section
change. Criteria for permissible stiffness ratio varies between different operators and areas. The following
maximums are typical:
• For routine drilling or very low failure rate experience, keep SR below 5.5.
• For severe drilling or for significant failure rate experience, keep SR below 3.5
.4.2.7 DRILL PIPE TENSION DESIGN NOMENCLATURE
The basis for selecting various pipe grades to make up a drill string is to always maintain at least the desired
Margin of Overpull (MOP) at all points in the string. This is accomplished by adding the lowest pipe grade a
joint at a time starting from the top of the BHA and working upward. Each joint must support the BHA weight
plus the drill pipe below that joint. When the working load (PW) is reached for that grade of drill pipe, the drill
pipe is switched to a higher grade.
This process continues until the string is complete. Tensile design nomenclature is reviewed below and
illustrated in Figure 2.1.31.
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.
Figure 2.1.31 : Drill pipe tension design nomenclature

• Tensile Load Capacity (P
T
) : This is the calculated tensile pull to yield the pipe body. Values for the
different sizes and grades of drill pipe are given in the Well Engineers Notebook.
• Design Factor in Tension (DF
T
) : The factor used to derate the tensile load capacity to obtain allowable
load (P
A
).
• Allowable Load (P
A
) : This is the maximum load we are comfortable placing on the pipe, including an
allowance for possible trouble. It is the tensile capacity derated by the design factor.
• Margin Of Overpull (MOP): The design excess pull capacity above working load (PW) to compensate
for expected drag, possible sticking, slip crushing and the effect of circulating pressure on tension.
• Working Load (PW): Working load is the expected maximum tension that will occur during normal
operations.
Drill pipe weight : Like the "IF" connection, the "nominal weight" of drill pipe is what we call it,
not what it is. For example, "19·50 lb/ft" drill pipe doesn't actually weigh 19·50 lb/ft. - its
approximate real weight (in air) is called "adjusted weight" or just "air weight" and will be
something between 20.89 and 22.60 lb/ft, depending on the grade of pipe, the tool joint, and
whether or not the contractor bought standard tool joint diameters. This "adjusted weight"
(estimates of which are available in the IFP Drilling Data Handbook) is the one to use for design
and displacement calculations. Nominal weights are useful only to communicate the type of pipe
with which we're dealing.




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Refer to Topic 1.4.2.18 for instructions on how to include slip crushing forces when setting MOP.