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IADC/SPE 77219

Improving Rotary Steerable Systems Performance By Using Real Time Drilling
Mechanics Measurements
Nicolas Payer, Benoit Ludot (TotalFinaElf), Graham Riley, Richard Davies, Bertrand Cozon, (Schlumberger Oilfield
Services),
Copyright 2002, IADC/SPE Asia Pacific Drilling Technology
This paper was prepared for presentation at the IADC/SPE Asia Pacific Drilling Technology
held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 9–11 September 2002.
This paper was selected for presentation by an IADC/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 International Association of Drilling
Contractors or 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 IADC or
SPE, their officers, or members. Papers presented at the IADC/SPE meetings are subject to
publication review by Editorial Committees of the IADC and SPE. 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 prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is
restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 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.

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the benefit of
monitoring drilling mechanics to improve rotary steerable
systems performance in a tough drilling environment.
Early 2001, rotary steerable systems were used for the first
time in the Balikpapan (Borneo, Indonesia) location.
TotalFinaElf is the operator of the Tunu gas field located to
the North of Balikpapan. Difficulty sliding with conventional
steerable assemblies on the S shaped wells drove the initiation
of a rotary steerable drilling campaign.
Very soon after the start of the campaign, it was evident that
the rough drilling environment was having a major impact on
drilling, particularly the performance of the rotary steerable
tools. It was clear that it was necessary to reduce or eliminate
the high levels of shocks which were being
generated downhole.
To achieve this it was decided to run a full suite of real time
downhole and surface drilling mechanics measurements to
gain a better understanding and control of the drilling
mechanisms in order to improve the drilling efficiency. A
Multi-axis Vibration Cartridge (MVC®) was used to identify
the mode of downhole vibration. The analysis and
interpretation of that data meant that the specific type of
vibration - axial, transverse, torsional & stick slip - could be
identified in real time.

The successful interpretation of the data lead to a dramatic
reduction in harmful downhole vibrations. Subsequent
significant improvements in the tool operation and thus overall
drilling performance were also evident.
Introduction
Early 2001, TotalFinaElf Indonésie made the decision to start
using Rotary Steerable Systems (RSS) in the Mahakam area.
This was the first time TotalFinaElf had used an RSS in
Indonesia. There were eight wells in the campaign, seven
wells located in the Tunu gas field, offshore to the north of
Balikpapan, and the eighth well was located in the Tambora
field, also in the delta of the Mahakam River.
All eight wells have a similar S shape trajectory design (Fig
1): they all start with a 17½” section down to 13 3/8” casing
point set at around 1200 m TVD with an inclination between
37 and 46° deg. A 97/8” tangent section is then drilled for +/1300mMD, followed by a drop off section at a drop rate
between 0.6 and 2.1° deg/30m. 7” casing is set at the end of
the 97/8” section. The final section is a 6” hole section drilled
through the reservoir to final TD.
The RSS tools were used only in the 97/8” section to control
the inclination in the tangent and then to perform the drop off.
The main driver for using the RSS was the difficulty
experienced in previous wells to achieve the required drop off.
This was mainly due to major difficulties steering and
controlling the trajectory with conventional steerable mud
motor assemblies due the interbedded nature of the formation.
The BHA’s run in the 97/8” sections were specifically designed
RSS assemblies (Fig 2). The diagram shows the BHA and drill
pipe configuration for the first 5 wells.
As early as the first well in the campaign it became apparent
that the drilling environment was extremely harsh. These
harsh drilling conditions were sustained during the drilling of
the 9 7/8” sections on the first five wells in the campaign
resulting in a series of mechanical failures within the BHA –
mechanical failures of internal RSS components, cracked
MWD collars and a twist off.

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N. PAYER, B. LUDOT, G. RILEY, R. DAVIES, AND B. COZON

Root Cause Analysis
To understand the failures, a thorough root cause analysis was
conducted on all the tools. It soon became apparent that the
tools had been subjected to severe downhole shocks and
vibrations which had lead to 65% of the encountered failures.
Those not directly caused by the vibration were significantly
accelerated by the difficult conditions.

IADC/SPE 77219

The lack of downhole data in real-time meant that it was
impossible to clearly identify the vibration mechanism that
was the cause of the failure of the BHA components. All the
data available was extracted from tool memory and could only
be used in ‘post mortem’ style analysis, although very useful it
is impractical for failure prevention.
Solutions

Despite the shortage of detailed downhole drilling mechanics
data, there was a wealth of evidence that pointed to the
occurrence of severe downhole shocks. The following
examples are taken from the first five wells to illustrate the
presence of downhole vibration as a contributing factor to
most of the failures.
The PowerPulse® MWD tool used makes a lateral shock
measurement; by utilizing a single axis accelerometer it is
capable of measuring shocks in a single direction. The tool is
set up to measure the intensity of any shocks and the number
of shocks experienced above a certain threshold (25g).
High levels of downhole shocks were seen on a number of the
runs that resulted in mechanical damage to the BHA. As an
example Fig 3 shows an MWD memory shock log recorded
whilst drilling on the Tunu field. Three separate runs are
presented on the log. The upper section of the plot shows the
actual g values of the shocks above a 25 g threshold. The
lower section of the plot indicates the shock rate, the number
of shocks over 25 g recorded per second. On this log it is
apparent that the BHA was exposed to high intensity shocks,
reaching a maximum of 230 g’s during the first run. During
run number 3, although the BHA is subjected to lower
intensity shocks, note the significant increase in the frequency
of the shocks.
The nature of some of the damage caused to the BHA
components also indicates high levels of downhole vibration.
Fig 4 shows some internal parts of the RSS tool which were
found to be broken when the BHA was pulled out of hole. No
other data was available for this run, but the broken pieces
leave not doubt as to the violence of the shocks experienced
downhole. The example shown is a 0.8” steel shaft that has
been sheared into 2 parts.
The RSS tool itself has a measurement that can be used to
identify BHA stick slip during the run; this data is stored in the
memory and can be downloaded after the run for analysis.
There was evidence of stick slip in the memory data from
the tools.
Overall, during the first five wells, it was concluded that the
RSS failures were caused by severe stick slip and/or high
levels of lateral shock. The levels of vibration can also be used
to explain all the additional BHA component damage.

Data
The root cause analysis made it clear that although useful, the
downhole shock measurements being taken had limited value.
The real-time data itself was limited and using the data for the
interpretation of vibration mechanism was very difficult.
Additional measurements were needed to gain a complete real
time understanding of the downhole dynamics that the BHA’s
were being exposed to. This data also had to be available realtime in order that interpretations could be made and decisions
taken before the damage to the BHA had taken place. This was
key in order to be able to react immediately to potentially
harmful vibrations.
To achieve this, the PowerPulse® MWD was configured to
measure and send the downhole collar RPM (CRPM),
downhole weight on bit (DWOB), downhole torque (DTOR),
and delta RPM (SticknSlip). In addition, a Multi-axis
Vibration Cartridge (MVC®) was included in the PowerPulse®
MWD tool. The MVC® provides a three axis shock
measurement.
From all these realtime measurements the following types of
downhole vibration data were made available:
- Axial shocks
- Transverse shocks
- Torsional shocks
The data gives the opportunity to identify which one of the
type of vibrations is occurring downhole. The 3 main type of
vibrations have been widely discussed and published, in brief
they are as follows:
- Bit bouncing
- Stick Slip
- Bit / BHA Whirl (Forward and backward)
All these downhole measurements were then combined with
the surface drilling parameters. All available data was then
displayed in the drilling office and on the rig floor in real-time
so that the decision makers on the rig could see the problems
as they were developing in order to facilitate faster
interpretation and response. Reduced response time minimizes
the potential for BHA damage. The data was also consolidated

IADC/SPE 77219

IMPROVING ROTARY STEERABLE SYSTEMS PERFORMANCE
BY USING REAL TIME DRILLING MECHANICS MEASUREMENTS

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and sent to the office onshore so that a wider audience was
able to view it and contribute to the interpretation.

shocks by using the downhole measurements to optimise the
drilling parameters.

Training
The data itself is a very valuable tool but it is of no use to the
team if they are unable to interpret the results and act
accordingly. The interpretation of the data can be complicated
and the different modes of vibration can be difficult to identify
– it is crucial however, that the mode of vibration is identified
correctly as this is what determines the cure. If you
misinterpret the data and try to cure the wrong type of
vibration then you are likely to make the situation worse, not
better. As such, training was given to the whole drilling team
(drillers, company men, rig superintendent, tool pusher,
directional drillers and MWD engineers) to allow them to
recognize and act on vibration problems in real time.

Results

Drill string Design
The drill string was also identified as an area for concern,
particularly the section of 4” pipe that was directly above the
BHA. The drill string design was modified by removing all the
4” drill pipe for the 97/8” section.

Three field examples have been extracted from these wells and
are presented to demonstrate the value these additional
measurements provided to the drilling team.

Prior to this, the 97/8” section drill string included +/- 1000m
of 4” drill pipe on the top of the BHA. The use of the 4” drill
pipe was driven by a strong will to save rig time for the
subsequent 6” section. The main drawback of the 4” drill pipe
is that it has less torsional rigidity than the 5” drill pipe and
will sustain stick slip more easily. Although stick slip was
only partially evident on surface during the early runs, it was
definitely identified downhole from the memory of the RSS
system. It was thought that the 5” drill pipe in the upper
section of the drill string was masking the symptoms at
surface. Beside the stick slip problem, the use of 4” drill pipe
was also a limiting factor regarding the maximum flow
available on the rig, resulting in possible hole cleaning issues
toward the end of the section.

Example 1: Stick slip
On this example the main problem was stick slip. From the 13
3/8” casing shoe to 3000m a lot of stick slip was experienced
while drilling, then from 3000m to TD (4738m) the well was
drilled without stick slip. This demonstrates the learning curve
of the drilling team. At the beginning of the section weight on
bit (WOB) was used as the defining drilling parameter, with
the driller trying to maintain a constant WOB value. After
three shifts the drilling team was convinced that drilling using
the downhole drilling data to select appropriate drilling
parameters was more efficient. Once this was demonstrated,
the remainder of the section was drilled without only minor
stick slip. It was also clear while drilling this section that one
of the drillers learnt how to control the stick slip faster than his
back to back as for two shifts the stick slip reappeared right at
driller’s crew change. This further emphasizes the importance
of training the people on how to interpret to the measurements
available to them.

Bit Optimisation
Lastly, it was found that correctly optimising the bit choice did
have a dramatic effect on the shock reduction without
compromising the ROP.
As an example from the first wells, two different bits were
used on two similar wells (same profile, same TVD, same
field). The first bit, a six bladed 19mm cutters drilled 1076m
with shocks to TD in 44.3 bit hours (average ROP = 24.3
m/hr). The second bit, a six bladed 13mm cutters drilled 855m
without shocks to TD in 32.5 bit hours (average ROP = 26.3
m/h). In this case the less aggressive bit drilled faster and
without shocks, showing the importance of not dissipating
energy into shocks.
However, later in the campaign, it was demonstrated that it
was possible to drill with a 6 bladed 19mm cutter bit without

Following the introduction of real time drilling mechanics
data, training, interpretation and redesign of the drillstring,
three wells remained to be drilled. In each of the 97/8” sections,
the first run was performed with a rotary “locked up
assembly”, designed with the same stabilisation as the RSS
BHA. This allowed the drilling team to validate the vibration
reduction techniques and fine tune the drilling parameters to
achieve efficient vibration free drilling.
In the final 3 wells drilling related shocks were minimised and
RSS failures were eliminated.

Field examples

Fig 5 gives a good example of the severe stick slip
experienced during the first half of the section. The difference
between minimum and maximum downhole Peak to Peak
RPM while drilling was as large as 270 RPM, which
represents twice the nominal RPM used to drill the section.
This means that the rotation of the drill string was slowing
down in the stick phase and accelerating to approximately
twice the speed of the average RPM in the slip phase. It is
important to notice that the surface RPM log shows lower
variation. This is mainly due to the recording sample rate
available on the rig and the damping effect of the drill string.

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N. PAYER, B. LUDOT, G. RILEY, R. DAVIES, AND B. COZON

Example 2: Stick slip versus lateral shocks
This event shows clearly the difficulty caused when
identifying and curing one mode of vibration and exciting a
different mode. In this example curing stick slip by increasing
the RPM induces lateral shocks, interpreted as BHA whirl.
From 2090m to 2098m on Fig 6, the formation was drilled
with a RPM of 140 to 150, which resulted in stick slip. This is
indicated on log by the peak to peak RPM and collar RPM
measurements. At this stage, the lateral vibrations are low.
Once the stick slip was correctly identified the RPM was
increased to 180+ in an attempt to cure the problem. Indeed,
the stick slip reduced, but lateral shocks then increased
significantly as did the shock rate. Surface RPM was then
reduced to 165-170 curing the lateral vibrations without
inducing stick slip again. Note that with the reduced shocks
ROP is significantly improved.
Example 3: BHA Whirl
Fig 7 is a very good example of solutions available to cure
shocks. This log is presented on a time scale to fully clarify
what is happening downhole, depth based logs can often hide
a problem as the data is missing when the bit is off bottom and
compressed when drilling.
From 14:50 to 15:10, a dramatic increase in both torsional and
lateral vibrations with associated axial vibrations is seen. This
is interpreted as a clear indication of the BHA entering a
severe state of whirl. In an attempt to reduce the shocks, RPM
is reduced while picking the string off bottom. This reduces
the vibrations correspondingly, but never completely
eliminates them. Subsequently, when returning to drilling, the
shocks rapidly return to their former levels. Adjustments made
to the drilling parameters helped by reducing the overall shock
levels. It was found that the only way to completely remove
the shocks was to bring the string to a halt (15:58) before
returning to drilling with new parameters (WOB and RPM).
Conclusion

Shock related BHA damage cost the operator and
service company a large amount of time and money.

Reducing downhole vibration prolongs the life of
BHA components and improves overall drilling
performance.

These field examples demonstrate that the additional
real time drilling dynamics measurements used on
these wells had a significant impact on performance.

Using the downhole drilling mechanics data made it
possible to interpret the mode of vibration occurring
downhole. Once the mode of vibration is properly
identified the correct cure can applied.

IADC/SPE 77219

In all the cases seen here it was possible to eliminate
the downhole vibration by altering the surface drilling
parameters.

Acquiring the data is only the first part of the
solution, the data needs to be interpreted correctly,
the entire team need to understand the basic concepts
and the potential solutions, without the co-operation
of the whole drilling team the problem is likely to go
unsolved.

In future, through the use of communication
technology, this process would benefit from real time
data interpretation by a wider audience

Nomenclature
BHA: Bottom hole Assembly
CON_INC Continuous Inclination
CRPM: Collar Revolutions Per Minute
DTOR: Downhole Torque
DWOB: Downhole weight on bit
MD: Measured Depth
MWD: Measurement While Drilling
RSS: Rotary Steerable System
RPM: Revolutions Per Minute
ROP: Rate Of Penetration
STOR: Surface Torque
SWOB: Surface Weight On Bit
T_FLOW: Total Flow
TD: Terminal Depth
TUR_RPM: Turpine Revolutions Per Minute
TVD: True Vertical Depth
WOB: Weight On Bit
References
Dubinksy, V.S.H., Hennevse, H.P.,and Kirkman, M.A.,
“Surface Monitoring of Downhole Vibrations: Russian,
European, and American Approaches”, SPE 24969
presented at European Petroleum Conference held in
Cannes, France, 16-18 Nov. 1992
Rewcastle, S.C., and Burgess, T.M., “Real-Time
Downhole Shock Measurements Increase drilling
Efficiency and Improve MWD Reliability”, IADC/SPE
23890 presentedd at 1992 IADC/SPE drilling Conference
held in New Orleans, Louisiana, 18-21 Feb. 1992
Warren, T.M., Brett, J.F., and Sinor, L.A., “Development
of a whirl-Resistant Bit”, paper SPE 19572 presented at
the 1989 SPE Annual Technical Conference and
Exhibition, San Antonio, Oct. 8-11
Langeveld, C.J., “PDC bit dynamics”, IADC/SPE 23867
presented at 1992 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference held in
New Orleans, Louisiana, 18-21 Feb. 1992

IADC/SPE 77219

IMPROVING ROTARY STEERABLE SYSTEMS PERFORMANCE
BY USING REAL TIME DRILLING MECHANICS MEASUREMENTS

Burgess, T.M., McDaniel, G.L., and Das, P.K.,
“Improving BHA Tool Reliability with Drillstring
Vibration Models: Field Experiences and Limitations”,
SPE/IADC 16109, 1987 drilling Conference, New
Orleans, Louisiana, March 1987.
Brett, J.F., “The Genesis of Bit-Induced Torsional
Drillstring Vibrations”, SPE/IADC 21943, 11-14
March 1991.

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N. PAYER, B. LUDOT, G. RILEY, R. DAVIES, AND B. COZON

WELL

FIELD

TN - K6

Magnetic Parameters
Model: BGGM 2000
Dip: -18.227° Mag Dec: 1.193°
Date: May 22, 2001 FS: 41633.3 nT

STRUCTURE

TUNU

0

NORTH >>>

Grid North
Tot Corr ( E 1.20° )
Mag Dec ( E 1.19° )
Grid Conv ( W 0.00° )
Vertical Section View

Tie-In 0.00° 0 MD
Tie-in
30 shoe CP0.00° 80 MD
KOP 0.00° 300 MD

1000

13 3/8 CP

-500

-1500
<<< SOUTH

13 3/8 CP45.85° 1404 MD

2000

EOBU

Build 2.10°/30 m

1000

1500

30 shoe CP
KOP
PLAN VIEW Scale (1 cm = 250 meters)

-1000

EOBU 45.85° 955 MD

True Vertical Depth (1 cm = 250 meters)
Elev Ref: RKB(17.00m above MSL)

500

Hold Azimuth 146.97°

500

GTS - K

Miscellaneous
Surface Location
Slot: 6
Plan# : Tunu K-6 Plan 1
Lat: S0 27 35.262 Lon: E117 34 25.528
Elev Ref: RKB(17.00m above MSL)
North: 9949181.14 m East: 563836.51 m
Date Drawn: 01:34:04PM 24-Sep-2001
Grid Conv: -0.0046° Scale Fact:0.9997

0

0

IADC/SPE 77219

-2000

DOP
7 shoe CP
4 1/2 shoe/TD
EoD

1500

-2500

<<< WEST

EAST >>>

2000
Hold Angle 45.85°

2500

DOP 45.85° 3988 MD

3000

Drop 2.10°/30 m

7 shoe CP24.33° 4295 MD

3500
EoD 0.00° 4643 MD
Hold Angle 0.00°

4000
4 1/2 shoe/TD0.00° 5173 MD

0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

Vertical Section Departure at 146.97 deg from (0.0, 0.0). (1 cm = 250 meters)

Fig 1 : Typical well profile on the Tunu field

IMPROVING ROTARY STEERABLE SYSTEMS PERFORMANCE
BY USING REAL TIME DRILLING MECHANICS MEASUREMENTS

IADC/SPE 77219

5" 19.50 DPS, 10% Wear

CUM
Length (m)
258.42

5" HWDP (16 joints)

248.42

Dart Sub

89.06

BHA DESCRIPTION
ELEMENT

5" HWDP

88.26

Hydraulic Jar

78.85

r Crossove

73.30

6 1/2" Drill Collar (5 joints)

LENGTH
(m)

OD (in)

ID (in)

MAX OD
(in)

9 7/8 " Bit

0.35

9.88

3.25

9.88

PowerDrive675®

4.06

6.75

3.00

6.75

9 3/4" String Stabilizer (Float)

1.56

6.75

2.83

9.75

MWD with MVC®

8.94

6.88

5.11

6.88

9 1/2" String Stabilizer

1.85

6.50

2.81

9.50

6 1/2" Monel Collar (Totco)

8.97

6.50

3.13

6.50

6 1/2" Drill Collar (5 joints)

46.86

6.50

3.00

6.50

Crossover

0.71

6.50

3.00

6.50

Hydraulic Jar

5.55

6.50

2.75

6.50

5" HWDP

9.41

5.00

3.00

6.50

Dart Sub

0.80

6.50

3.00

6.50

5" HWDP (16 joints)

159.36

5.00

3.00

6.50

5" 19.50 DPS, 10% Wear

10.00

4.93

4.28

6.63

72.59
Weight below jars

6 1/2" Monel Collar (Totco)

25.73

9 1/2" String Stabilizer

16.76

®

7

®

PowerPulse w/IWOB and
®
MVC

14.91

9 3/4" String Stabilizer
(Float)

5.97

PowerDrive675® High Flow

4.41

9 7/8” Bit

0.35

Fig 2 : Typical RSS BHA on the Tunu field

8639 Kg

Bit to Center Stab 1

4.96 m

Bit to Center Stab 1
Bit to Direction & Inclination
Sensor

15.70 m
10.51 m

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N. PAYER, B. LUDOT, G. RILEY, R. DAVIES, AND B. COZON

IADC/SPE 77219

Max shock (G)
Run1

Run2

Run3

Shock magnitude

Counts per seconds
Shock rate

Fig 3 : Shock log recorded from MWD

Broken shaft (0.8in. diameter steel shaft)

Fig 4 : RSS Shaft found broken inside the collar

IADC/SPE 77219

IMPROVING ROTARY STEERABLE SYSTEMS PERFORMANCE
BY USING REAL TIME DRILLING MECHANICS MEASUREMENTS

9

2600

Peak to Peak RPM
2625

2650
Fig 5 : Stick slip

Severe stick slip

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N. PAYER, B. LUDOT, G. RILEY, R. DAVIES, AND B. COZON

IADC/SPE 77219

Severe stick slip
3000

RPM
Lateral shocks
3025

SurfaceTorque
3050

Fig 6 :Stick slip versus lateral shocks

Peak to Peak RPM

IADC/SPE 77219

IMPROVING ROTARY STEERABLE SYSTEMS PERFORMANCE
BY USING REAL TIME DRILLING MECHANICS MEASUREMENTS

11

Lateral shocks
Peak to Peak RPM
Torsional shocks

RPM

Off Bottom Flag

Fig 7 :Lateral shocks