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SPE 68729

Erb West Field : The World's First Offshore Level 6 Multilateral Well
Noren Samsudin, Abdullah Kassim, M Zaidan Khalid, A. Aziz A. Rahman, Abu Bakar Che Mad (Petronas), Richard Liau,
Matthew Jabs, Ben Lim (Baker Oil Tools)

Copyright 2001, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and
Exhibition held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17–19 April 2001.

Introduction

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at
SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of
Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper
for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is
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words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous
acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.
Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

The Erb West Field is situated, 125km offshore Malaysia, in
approximately 215ft of water. The first discovery well in the
field was EW-1, drilled in 1971, and subsequent development
brought on first oil in October 1981.

Abstract
The oil industry has lately seen the introduction of more
complex, purpose built multilateral wells of the TAML
(Technology Advancement Multilateral) levels 4 and 5
categories. The debris management issues, junction integrity
and the risk involved in the well construction are still
perceived as operational challenges to operators. In reviewing
the risk profile, operators and service companies alike have
sought to look into techniques outside the realm of
conventional well construction methods. Expandable tubular
technology is one such area. The manufacturing concept is to
form a junction with a 9-5/8” trunk casing branching into two
separate 7” liner legs. This junction is then pressed and formed
in order for it to be able to pass through the drift ID of 13-3/8”
casing. The junction is then reformed downhole using an
innovative downhole swaging process.
This paper describes the process of deploying the TAML level
6 multilateral junction in the Erb West Field (offshore
Malaysia) during the EWDP-A Revisit 4 Campaign (well EW117S1). The discussion follows the full cycle of well
construction for a level 6 multilateral junction. It encompasses
the well planning phase, the deployment and the installation
phase, the lateral drilling phase, and finally the completion of
the level 6 multilateral well. The result is a multilateral well
construction technique which eliminates the debris
management, reduces well construction risk and provides a
hydraulically sealed junction, integral with the trunk casing.

In the field appraisal campaign almost 2 decades ago, a total of
6 exploration/appraisal wells were drilled. In subsequent
development plans two offshore platforms have been
constructed namely, EWDP-A and EWDP-B.
The EWDP-A Revisit 4 Campaign involves the sidetracking of
existing wells to develop and produce from undeveloped
blocks South-East of the Erb West structure. A total of 7
horizontal targets have been identified, and 5 candidate wells
have been earmarked for the workover. However, slot
constraint is a challenge, and the azimuth of the existing
candidate wells are not aligned in the South Easterly direction.
The revisit campaign poses a daunting challenge across all
disciplines in the well construction team. Amongst the options
identified, the concept of a dual lateral multilateral well with
long reach laterals gave the best fit within the solution set. The
team consensus was that the campaign economics favored the
adoption of a multilateral approach to well construction.
Description of the Reservoir Characteristics
The Erb West structure is an elongated hydrocarbon bearing
sand layer, and it lies in a North-Easterly by South Westerly
direction. The main faults in the blocks are in the East – West
direction, concentrated in the Southern half of the structure. It
is the entrapped hydrocarbon within these southern blocks that
are targeted for the revisit campaign.
The main oil bearing layers in the cross section are the “N”
sands, serialized from N-2 to N-7, and these are stratified
fluvic deposits. The gas oil contact from offset information is
around 6803ft TVD and the water oil contact is around 6930ft
TVD. Oil gravity averages around 31 API, and the gas
constituent is 92% methane.

SPE 68729

ERB WEST FIELD : THE WORLD'S FIRST OFFSHORE LEVEL 6 MULTILATERAL WELLABU

The lithology section shows the presence of a 60ft shale bed at
around 6500ft TVD. This shale bed was identified as a stable,
relatively impermeable site for placing the level 6 junction.

CROSS SECTION OF THE JUNCTION
DEPLOYMENT SCHEMATIC

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suspected to be heterogeneous. Therefore, the junction at
which the laterals merge into the mainbore should ideally be
kept isolated to maintain production integrity from each
lateral. The 3-1/2” lateral liners were also designed to be
cemented to offer zonal isolation across the length of the
producing interval.
Dual String Completions. The oil-water contact in the Erb
West Field have been known to be breached based on the
production history of the previous development. The concern
PROPOSED WELL COMPLETION
SCHEMATIC

Depth
5,651ft MD

8,971ft MD
@ 67deg

Depth 8,483ft MD
@ 67Deg

Pilot Well

Well
Path
#1

Well
Path
#2
14,910ft MD

SANDS
MNSands
LATERAL
LEG #2

15,260ft MD

Well objectives for Erb West Well EW-117S1
The well objective for Erb West Well EW-117S1 is to exploit
the reserves in the “N” sands by drilling two horizontal laterals
into the sand reservoir and to run and cement 3-1/2” tubing in
the laterals as a monobore completion. The requirement is to
construct two laterals that are hydraulically isolated, allowing
independent production from each lateral. For well
intervention and subsequent coil tubing operations,
independent access into each of the laterals was a requisite
feature.
Well Construction Requirements
From the onset of the project planning phase, it was
determined that the junction of choice had to fulfill several of
these key criterion.
Hydraulic Isolation at the Junction. The “N” sands are
stratified fluvic layered deposits, and the water oil contacts
and pressure regimes across the reservoir structure are

LATERAL
LEG #1

was that if a dual-lateral multilateral well was constructed,
water ingress into one of the lateral legs would compromise
the production of the entire well. In order to maintain
production isolation between the laterals, a dual string
completion was selected for the production completion. By
completing the multilateral well with a dual completion,
independent production and selective isolation may be
achieved, therefore mitigating the potential loss of revenue
should one of the laterals water out prematurely.
Reservoir Exposure. The reservoir sands are known to be
fairly consolidated from production data of mature wells in the
field. It was also know that the mature wells in the field are
completion without sand control screens, i.e. with standard
casing cemented and charge perforated completions. For the
Erb West multilateral wells, this same mode of production
completion was adopted. The scheme is to cement the 3-1/2”

SPE 68729

ERB WEST FIELD : THE WORLD'S FIRST OFFSHORE LEVEL 6 MULTILATERAL WELLABU

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lateral liner, and perforate the lateral liner with coiled tubing
conveyed perforating guns.
Independent Access into the 3-1/2” Laterals. Independent
access was considered a prerequisite for several reasons.
Firstly, it was anticipated that there may be a need to
selectively isolate sections of the production interval if water
ingress is detected. Secondly, with the view to minimize
formation damage, consideration was made in the design to
eliminate the process of killing the well after underbalanced
perforating. This design consideration necessitates that the
laterals are independently accessible with through-tubing
devices and coiled tubing conveyed perforating guns.
New Technology - The Level 6 Formable Junction
Various multilateral options were considered from the
conception of the Erb West project. The necessity of achieving
hydraulic isolation across the junction was a key deciding
factor in the selection of multilateral junction types. This
prerequisite for hydraulic isolation narrowed the choice of the
junction type to the TAML level 5 or level 6 junction category.
Further consideration was made in the risk profile comparison
between the TAML level 5 and level 6 junction types. The key
feature that made the level 6 junction a superior choice over
the level 5 junction was the exclusion of debris management
issues. The level 5 well construction process requires a
window to be milled in the trunk casing, and a subsequent
process to mill over the lateral liner stub. The mill cuttings
generated by these two processes needs to be carefully
managed. This key consideration led to the adoption of the
level 6 junction for the Erb West multilateral development.
The level 6 junction is a 9-5/8” X 7” X 7” preformed junction.
Unlike all other previous junctions, where the junction
construction process is carried out down hole, the construction
of the level 6 junction is initiated at it’s manufacturing
facility. The junction is then pressed to enable it to pass
through a 12-1/4” hole. Once it is placed at depth, a swaging
assembly is run to the junction depth to re-form the junction to
its original dimension, thus creating a 9-5/8” X 7” X 7”
junction downhole.

The inherent advantage of this technique is quite apparent.
Firstly, the methodology does not involve milling downhole,
thereby eliminating the difficult process of debris management
in the subsequent phases of well construction.
Secondly, the lateral legs and the junction section is
manufactured as an integral workpiece. After the re-forming
process by downhole swaging, the junction remains as an
integral and continuous part of the trunk casing. Unlike other
lower category TAML junctions, hydraulic isolation across the
level 6 junction is not dependent on the primary cement bond.
Thirdly, from the drilling perspective, re-entry into the
junction for drilling out of the lateral legs is a positively
guided process. The diverters for kicking off drilling
assemblies into each leg are designed to track the bit assembly
into the 7” cased lateral legs. This is a distinct advantage over
lower level multilateral junctions where re-entry into the
drilled lateral hole is through a casing exit. In such cases,
washouts or irregularity in the casing window geometry can
compound the re-entry attempt.
General Overview of the TAML Level 6 Junction Installation –
The deployment of the TAML Level 6 junction involves the
following steps:
1. Setting the 13-3/8” casing and drilling out the 12-1/4”
hole section.
2. Underreaming a section of approximately 100 ft to 171/2” hole ID to place the junction.
3. Swaging the junction to achieve the installed dimension
of 9-5/8” X 7” X 7”.
4. Drilling the 6” hole section for lateral leg #1 and
completing the lateral with a cased and cemented 3-1/2”
monobore liner.
5. Retrieve the swaging diverter and install the drilling
diverter for leg#2
6. Drilling the 6” hole section for lateral leg #2 and
completing the lateral with a cased and cemented 3-1/2”
monobore liner.
7. Retrieve the drilling diverter and run dual completion
with a Dual Completion Module (DCM)
8. Perforating the lateral liners with coiled tubing TCP.
The Well Construction Process
A Level 6 multilateral project on the well EW-117S1 was
started in May, 2000. The project consisted of running a
Level 6 formable junction size 9-5/8” x 7” x 7” to a depth of
8,500ft and cementing two lateral 3-1/2” liners back to the
junction from a depth of 15,235ft Leg#1 and 14,910ft. Leg#2.
A dual completion utilizing 3-1/2” tubing was run from the
junction back to the surface to complete the well.
The Level 6 Multilateral Well EW-117S1 began by drilling a
12-1/4” well hole out of 13-3/8” casing set at 5,651ft. The 121/4” wellbore was drilled to a TD of 8,971ft with a deviation
of approximately 67 degrees. An open hole underreamer was
then run to a depth of 8,468ft before being activated thereby

SPE 68729

ERB WEST FIELD : THE WORLD'S FIRST OFFSHORE LEVEL 6 MULTILATERAL WELLABU

opening the 12-1/4” hole to 17-1/2” hole section for a length
of 100ft. The final 17-1/2” underreamed section was from
8,468ft to 8,568ft.
The 9-5/8” x 7” x 7” formable junction was run to the 17-1/2”
underreamed section on 9-5/8” casing with approx. 400ft of 7”
casing extending off of leg#1. The final placement of the
junction put the float shoe on leg#1 at 8,956ft and top of the
junction itself at 8,483ft. The float shoe run on the 7” leg#1
was for 9-5/8” casing and crossed over to 7” for attachment.
This was done to help the end of the liner pass through the
underreamed transition section from the 17-1/2” to the 12-1/4”
more smoothly. Centralizers were placed on each casing joint
of the 7” liner for center placement in the 12-1/4” hole.
Once the junction was placed at the 17-1/2” underreamed
section, the 9-5/8” tieback casing was hung off in the well
head. A BHA was then run which consisted of the swage tool
for reshaping the preformed leg. The preformed leg section of
the junction was reformed which corresponded to a downhole
depth of 8,495ft to 8,519ft. The reforming process involved
pushing the swage through the junction area by stroking open
expansion joints that expand via hydraulic force supplied by a
high pressure pump.
With the junction reshaped, a cement string was run and the
junction cemented in place with the top of cement at 8,000ft.
The cementing string consisted of a 2-7/8” tubing stinger with
seals. This stinger was run in on drill pipe with the seals on
the stinger landing in a seal bore located at the end of the 7”
casing string above the float equipment. A standard cement job
with wiper darts was performed.
Drilling a 6” wellbore for lateral well #1 was achieved with a
depth of 15,260ft reached. A 3-1/2” liner was run to a depth
of 15, 233ft. and cement back to the 7” leg#1 of the junction.
The liner was run with an ECP which was inflated and set at a
depth of 8,802ft. The top of the liner string had a 4” seal bore
which located at 8,760ft. A permanent production packer was
then run and landed in the 7” casing with the 4” seal assembly
hanging below it. The seal assembly landed in the prepositioned seal bore and the packer set at 8,743ft.
The use of the permanent packer and seal bore configuration
was due to the original liner packer having an OD and length
that prevented it from entering into leg#1. This was verified
by a drift test run of the proposed liner hanger packer prior to
drilling leg#1 to depth.
With leg#1 drilled and cemented, the diverter for leg#1 was
pulled with the running tool. The drilling diverter for leg#2
was then placed in the top of the junction.
Lateral #2 6” wellbore was then drilled to a depth of 14,910ft
out of leg#2 of the junction. A 3-1/2” liner was then run to a
depth of 14,878ft and cemented back to the 7” leg. An ECP
was run with the liner string and set at a depth of 8,606ft. A
production liner packer run at the top of the 3-1/2” liner string

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was set in the 7” leg#2 1.5ft below the junction area. This
close placement was achieved by running a No-Go hanger
below the packer in the 3-1/2” liner string. The No-Go hanger
landed on a profile manufactured in the leg#2 of the junction.
The drilling diverter for leg#2 was then retrieved and the well
switched to completion fluid. A dual completion was run
utilizing 3-1/2” tubing. A Dual Completion Module (DCM)
tool was run at the bottom of the dual tubing stings. The DCM
allowed a seal stack located at the end of the tubing for leg#2
to be directed into leg#2 and land in the completion packer
located 1.5ft below the junction. A dual completion packer
was run with the dual completion and placed above the DCM
at a depth of 8,385ft. The dual tubing was run to surface with
gas lift mandrels placed at predetermined points in the tubing.
Coiled tubing was to be run for final liner clean out and
perforation. However, as of Aug 15, 2000 coiled tubing was
unable to reach bottom due to friction lock. A solution is
being worked on.
Challenges and Continuous Improvements
Undereaming the 17.1/2” section for the junction deployment
The concern with the underreaming operation was the high
deviation at the junction deployment section. The deviation at
that section was 63 degrees +/- , and it was anticipated that
unbalanced loads may be created by high inclination of the
tool axis during underreaming. It was initially planned to
underream a 150ft long section, which is 50ft longer than the
recommended minimum distance, in order to gain a longer
landing distance in case the junction landed high. However,
due to the tough well/formation conditions a total underreamed section of only 100ft was achieved.
Forming the junction using the swaging process
The swaging process was executed with no problems. It was
observed that the volumes pumped correlated closely with the
stroke dimension of the swaging piston to within 5-10 gallons.
In the swaging operation, the pump rates were monitored by
observing the water level movement in the tank versus time.
This method proved accurate in determining the amount of
displaced fluid.
Achieving drift runs through the junction
After the junction was deployed, swaged, and cemented in
place an initial clean up run was made with a 6” bit slick
assembly. The drilling BHA was run to junction depth and
rotated during junction pass through to facilitate entry into
lateral leg #1. The 6” hole section was drilled using various
directional drilling assemblies consisting of 1.3deg AKO’s
(adjustable kick off sub) and 5-7/8” OD stabilizers. Both
roller and PDC bits types were used in drilling. Slight rotation
of some drilling assemblies was needed to impart smooth
entry from the junction into lateral #1. Therefore, to ensure
unrestricted entry of the completion equipment, drift runs
were made with the largest OD and length completion

SPE 68729

ERB WEST FIELD : THE WORLD'S FIRST OFFSHORE LEVEL 6 MULTILATERAL WELLABU

equipment. These drift runs revealed that a 5.63” OD sized
completion tools would enter the lateral without drag.
Running the dual completion
The dual completion string was run with a dual completion
module (DCM) for latching into the junction and for ensuring
a tieback into the lower lateral completion liners. The DCM is
the bottom-most assembly of the dual string completion and
when landed it maintains a depth reference and rotational
orientation. The landing of the DCM can be confirmed by
means of a collet latching mechanism which springs into an
internal profile at the DCM setting depth. A positive landing
can be confirmed by applying a tension of 40,000lbs i.e.
picking up on the dual string completion, to unlatch the collet .
This indication on surface is a means to determine if the latch
is engaged. However, during the drilling phase higher than
normal drill pipe drag was encountered which was attributed
to the well path tortuosity. Therefore, the collet latch force on
the DCM was reworked to lower the latch in value to
20,000lbs. By decreasing the latch in/out value of the DCM it
was assured that the maximum over pull rating of the 3-1/2”
production tubing would not be exceeded.
Zonal Isolation Issues
The higher N-sands were thought to contain gas which may
permeate the primary cement bond across the junction. In view
of the need to maintain isolation from one lateral leg to
another, a solution was formulated to address this issue. The
application was to place fluid inflated external casing packers
(ECP) in the 3.1/2” lateral liners. The design intent was to
have the ECPs maintain a barrier across the annulus after the
cement is placed, thereby preventing gas channeling.
Summary and Recommendations
Undereaming the 17.1/2” section for the junction deployment
It was proposed that a minimal acceptable underreamed
section length be determined for the next deployment in case
extreme well conditions are encountered again. Post project
re-analysis of the junction dimensions and possible geometry's
when located in the underreamed section; coupled with “real
world” practicalities in placing running casing indicated that a
100ft section should be considered the minimum underreamed
distance. Shorter underreamed distances should only be
considered in extreme instances and extensive well analysis
done before a shorter distance accepted.
Forming the junction using the swaging process
The pumps used were air positive displacement pumps. Given
that the pump rate/stroke can be calibrated manually, it was
proposed that the pump rate can be accurately monitored by
maintaining a constant number of strokes/minute based on
tabulated values.
Junction completion drift assessment
The determination of the absolute OD and length of equipment
and tools that can be run through the junction will only be
gained with deployment experience. Surface testing of
certain tools and drilling BHA had been done prior to the

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project and during the junctions development. However, due
to the extreme number of possible BHA’s that the junction
could encounter this data base is limited. Subsequent level 6
projects in Africa utilizing the same dimensioned junction
proved that a completion packer with a 5.803” OD could pass
through the junction with no impedance, thus adding to the
data base of acceptable OD/Length tools. Further, tools with
suspect OD’s and length that have not been proven to pass
through the junction geometry should be tested prior to well
deployment.
The Dual Completion Module
It was noted that the latch in/out values of the DCM should be
adjusted to accommodate the drag forces generated as a result
of the well tortuosity or the dual string buckling to ensure the
ratings of the completion tubing is not exceeded..
Conclusions
The deployment of the TAML level 6 multilateral junction
went very well. The placement of the junction and the
diverters for the selective re-entry of each lateral leg was
found to meet the requirements of the job.
As most of the tools used in the junction installation were
enhancements over downhole tools that have been proven and
time tested, there was a very low element of risk in most
phases of the operation.

Despite the challenging well conditions ( a challenging well
profile, and a highly deviated junction depth), a high degree of
confidence has been generated in this, the world’s first offshore
deployment of a TAML level 6 multilateral junction.
Acknowledgements
We thank Petronas for their consent and cooperation in the
publication of this paper. We would also like to thank the
following individuals for their participation in this project :
Noridah Nordin, Norjusni Omar, Yurnili Salleh, Marliana
Habidan, Guus Nobbenhuis, Neil Hudson, Aladin M Nor,
Fauzi M Noor, A. Hadi Yahya Ludin, M. Zaki Sakdilah, Juhari
Ismail, Gandu Giyang, the late Ian Piercy, Khairil Azam,
Razali Paimin, Ahmad Sharrudin M. Shariff, Hamizan
Maksari, M. Taufik Hussin, Baharin Ibrahim, Yusop Radiman,
Bill Brown and Jeff Gomez.
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ERB WEST FIELD : THE WORLD'S FIRST OFFSHORE LEVEL 6 MULTILATERAL WELLABU

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STRUCTURAL CROSS SECTION

STRUCTURAL CROSS SECTION ALONG EW117LATERAL 1 PROPOSED WELLBORE TRAJECTORY
EBW117s1TARGET4

ft
0

EBW117s1TARGET4-P

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

6000

7000

8000

9000

ft

10000

ft

ft

EW117 Pilot Hole

-5500

-6000

-5500

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-6500

-6500
L12.0
L14.0
M1.0
M2.0
M3.0

GOC-6803

M4.0
M4.5

-7000

EW117L1
OWC-6930

N2.0

-7000

N3.0
N4.0
N5.0
N6.0

N7.0

-7500

N7.5

-7500

N8.0

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-8000

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