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IADC/SPE 77253

Mathematical Modeling of Gas Kicks in Deep Water Scenario
J.O.L. Nunes, A.C. Bannwart, and P.R. Ribeiro, SPE, UNICAMP
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.
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paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the International Association of Drilling
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Well control has always been a very important issue in
the oil and gas exploitation business, since it involves
money savings, people safety and environment
The advancement of the exploration
frontiers from onshore to offshore fields, particularly,
deep and ultra-deep waters, has increased even more
the relevance of kick control and blowout prevention
during drilling operations. Widely used drilling practices
have been optimized and re-evaluated, so have new
technologies been developed to handle specific issues
related to deepwater drilling operations, such as reliable
and efficient well control practices. This effort has great
importance to some countries like Brazil, which have
most part of their oil and gas production (close to 75%)
concentrated on offshore wells, about 70% of those
reserves are located in deep waters. Regarding such
scenario, this article presents a comprehensive and
discussed literature review about well control in deep
and ultra-deep waters, covering the evolution of the
analytical and numerical kick models. A mathematical
model has been developed to predict the pressure
behavior inside the annulus during a gas-kick circulation
out of the well in deep water scenarios. Considerations
regarding the effects of wellbore geometry, frictional
pressure losses, influx expansion, and two-phase flow
models have been implemented in the present model.
The analysis of the effect of some important parameters
in well control in the surface pressure, such as the pit
gain, water depth, mud density and pump flow rate
are presented.

The exploitation in deepwater and the development of
concepts related to this activity has been changing a lot
throughout the years. In the sixties, for example, the
exploitation and the development of offshore fields used
to be restricted to 150 ft water depth. Nowadays, depths
up to 1,300 ft are considered as deep water and above
3,300 ft are considered as ultra-deep water.1
Particularly in Brazil, about 75% from the national
production come from the Campos basin, in the north
coast of Rio de Janeiro, with more than 70% of those
reserves located in deep and ultra-deep waters.2 Deep
water drilling in Brazil was stimulated by the discovery of
the Albacora field, in 1984, in a water depth that varies
from 1,000 to 6,500 ft. In 1985, Marlim field was
discovered with the well RJS-219, in 2,750 ft water
depth. In 1994, the Marlin-4 well (3,400 ft water depth)
was completed and its production was started. In 1996,
the giant field of Roncador was discovered, with water
depths varying between 5000 and 10,000 ft. The
brazilian record of water depth is the 1-RJS-543 well,
located at Roncador field, reached in November 1999 in
a 9,300ft water depth.
In deep water drilling operations, an accurate control of
all the drilling parameters, added to a detailed project
and program are factors of extreme importance in the
environmental, economic and security aspects. A
permanent concern in these operations is the control of
kicks and the prevention of blowouts.
Literature Review
The first mathematical model of kick circulation was
proposed in 1968.3 The model disregarded the friction
pressure losses in the annulus, the slippage speed
between the gas and the mud, with a uniform annulus
capacity and the gas insolvable in the mud.
The model of Ref. 4 incorporated the effect of friction
pressure losses in the flow inside the annulus. Even
though there was an improvement regarding the
previous model, it presented results that did not match
field data, properly.
Refs. 5 and 6 presents a model that simulated the
flow dynamic behavior, incorporating the momentum
equations to describe the pressure in a vertical line and
with a constant sectional area. They adjusted the



properties of the two-phase flow region as average
properties, in such a way that they could consider the
two-phase flow as a single-phase flow. They applied
Griffith7 correlation and a bubble flux pattern.
Ref. 8 presents a mathematical model for kick
circulation in deepwater considering the slippage
between the gas and the drilling fluid, the friction
pressure losses in the two-phase region and the void
fraction. The model also considered a pattern of bubbles
in the two-phase region and a constant well geometry.
Orkiszewski9 method was used to compute the friction
pressure losses in the two-phase region, considering the
power-law rheological model for the mud. According to
the results, the gas density, the geothermal gradient and
the minimum diameter of the gas bubbles cause a
minimum effect in the circulation of the kick. Otherwise,
variables such as the initial fraction of gas, the well
geometry, the water depth, the diameter of the choke
line, and the mud rheological parameters exert a
moderate effect. The initial volume of the influx and the
specific mass of the drilling mud exert a great effect
during the circulation of the kick.
Ref. 10 presents a model based on the equations of
change for the mass (mud and gas), the momentum
(gas-mud mixture), with an empirical correlation
associating the gas speed with the average speed of the
mixture plus the slippage between the phases, besides
the state equations for the mud and the gas. The model
also considered the effects of the well geometry,
drillstring, bit, mud pumps, and the coupling between the
wellbore and the reservoir.
A well control simulator with similar characteristics of
the previous model was developed11, but with a different
solution method for the differential equations. Instead of
a fixed grid, a moving boundary technique was applied.
Gas kick was modeled in a deep water floating rig,
applying correlations to the two-phase vertical flux of the
mud (Bingham Plastic model) and gas mixture12. The
model can predict the choke line pressure during the
kick control. Beggs-Brill13 correlation was applied to the
two-phase region.
A mathematical model for kick control in horizontal
wells was proposed14, based on a previous model10. The
model could predict the pressure behavior in the annular
space, during the circulation of the kick in the well. It
was also presented a simplified theory for the swabbing
effect during the drillstring pull-out of the hole and the
risks of taking a kick during this kind of operation were
demonstrated. The model showed that a horizontal well
has a larger kick tolerance during well shut in than a
vertical one has. That would help to conclude the lower
probability of casing shoe fracture when shutting in a
horizontal well.
Ref. 15 presents the performance tests carried out
with the kick simulator that considered most of the
physical effects related to the kick circulation as well as

IADC/SPE 77253

to the oil-based and water-based drilling fluids. The
surface and bottomhole data were obtained in
Ullandhaug 2 test well (Norway), a 60 degree inclination
and 6,700 ft deep well.
A mathematical model for kick control in deep water
wells was developed16, with a formulation similar
previous studies10. The program was divided in submodels: borehole annulus, gas reservoir, choke line and
two-phase flow region. The development of the natural
gas flux inside the annulus was based on experimental
data from the Louisiana State University test well.
Model Description
The present model17 is analytical, with an iterative
procedure to compute the pressure distribution and
gas/liquid fractions inside the annulus and choke line, at
each time step, for a constant flow rate. The simulation
of the kick circulation in vertical wells in deep and ultradeep waters can be achieved considering the
following aspects:
• Variable
concentric drillstring
• Gas kick
• Driller´s method
• Slippage between mud and gas
• Water base mud (Power Law and Bingham
Plastic rheology)
• Bottomhole pressure is kept constant during
kick circulation
The basic equations applied in the mathematical
formulation can be observed in the appendix.
The validation of the model has been performed by
the comparison with other kick simulators8,12,15. Despite
the capabilities of the codes were different, particularly,
the two-phase flow modeling, the results were
quite satisfactory17.
In order to investigate the effect of some important
parameters in the choke pressure
a basic well
configuration was considered, according to Fig. 1 and
the data presented in Table 1.
Fig. 2 shows that the larger is the pit gain, the larger
is the choke pressure to maintain a constant bottomhole
pressure. This expressive effect in the pressure profile
indicates the need of fast kick detection.
The influence of the water depth is evidenced in Fig.
3. It can be noticed that the choke pressure is reduced
with the increase of the water depth, due to the increase
in the friction pressure losses inside the choke line.
Fig. 4 shows the effect of the pump flow rate in the
pressure profile. It can be observed that for higher pump
flow rates, the kick is removed more quickly from the

IADC/SPE 77253


well and the pressure profile is lesser, due to the
increase of the friction pressure loss.
The mud density is very important, therefore it
determines the differential pressure between the drilling
fluid pressure and the formation pressure, besides being
directly related to the hydrostatic pressure and the
friction pressure loss during the kick circulation. Fig. 5
shows that a small variation in the mud density results in
a significant change in the pressure profile.
The main conclusions that can be drawn at this point
are listed below:
1. The increasing exploitation activity in deep and ultradeep waters in some areas require careful well
planning and reliable well control practices to
minimize blowout risks.
2. The significant evolution of the kick simulators in the
last four decades has allowed the development of
versatile and reliable codes to simulate various
offshore applications.
3. The present model, based on a slug flow pattern and
a simple mathematical formulation, has proved to be
useful for well control simulations in deep waters.
4. The water depth, mud density, pit gain and pump
flow rate have a significant effect in the surface
pressure profile during kick circulation in
offshore wells.
The computational resources were provided by the
Department of Petroleum Engineering of the
Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil.
The authors would like to thank the Petroleum National
Agency of the Brazilian Government (ANP) for the
scholarship, and Dr. Otto Luiz Alcantara Santos
(PETROBRAS S.A.) for his important suggestions.


Ohara, S. and Bourgoyne Jr., A. T. Circulating Kick
Tolerance for Deepwater Drilling. IADC Well Control
Conference of the Americas, Caracas, Venezuela, Oct.
29-30, 1998.
Martins, F. S. B., Santos, O. L. A. and de Paula, I. L. “Well
Control in Campos Basin-Brazil.” IADC/SPE Drilling
February 2000.

3. LeBlanc, J. L., and Lewis, R. L. “A Mathematical
Model of a Gas Kick.” Journal of Petroleum
Technology, p. 888-898, August 1968.
4. Records, L. R. “Mud System and Well Control.”
Petroleum Engineer, v. 44, p. 97-108, May 1972.
5. Hoberock, L. L., e Stanbery, S. R. “Pressure
Dynamics in Wells During Gas Kicks: Part 1 – Fluid
Lines Dynamics.” Journal of Petroleum Technology,
p. 1357-1366, August 1981.


6. Hoberock, L. L., e Stanbery, S. R. “Pressure
Dynamics in Wells During Gas Kicks: Part 2 –
Component Models and Results.” Journal of
Petroleum Technology, p. 1367-1378, August 1981.
7. Griffith, P. “The Prediction of Low-Quality Boiling
p. 327-333, 1964.
8. Santos, O L. A. “A Mathematical Model of a Gas
Kick When Drilling in Deep Waters”. MS Thesis,
Colorado School of Mines, 1982.
9. Orkizewski, J. Predicting Two-phase Pressure Drops
in Vertical Pipes. Journal of Petroleum Technology,
v.19, p. 829-838, 1967.
10. Nickens, H. V. “A Dynamic Computer Model of a
Kicking Well.” SPE Drilling Engineering, p 158-173,
June 1987
11. Podio, A. L. e Yang, A. P. “Well Control Simulator for
IBM Personal Computer”. IADC/SPE 14737, 1986
12. Negrão, A. F. Controle de Poço em Águas
Profundas. Campinas: Faculdade de Engenharia
Mecânica, Universidade Estadual de Campinas,
1989. 102 p. Dissertação (Mestrado)
13. Beggs, H. D. e Brill, J. P. “A Study of Two-Phase
Flow in Inclined Pipes”. Journal of Petroleum
Technology, p 607-617, May 1973.
14. Santos, O. L. A. “Well Control Operations in
Horizontal Wells.” SPE Drilling Engineering, p. 111117, June 1991.
15. Rommetveit, R., e Vefring, E. H. Comparison of
Results From an Advanced Gas Kick Simulator With
Surface and Downhole Data From Full Scale Gas
Kick Experiments in an Inclined Well. 66th Annual
Technical Conference and Exhibition of the Society
of Petroleum Engineers, Dallas, TX, October
6-9, 1991.
16. Ohara, S. Improved Method for Selecting Kick
Tolerance During Deepwater Drilling Operations.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1995. 152
p. Tese (Doutorado).
17. Nunes, J.O.L.: “Estudo do Controle de Pocos em
Aguas Profundas e Ultra-Profundas,” M.Sc. thesis,
in Portuguese, Universidade Estadual de Campinas
(UNICAMP), Campinas (SP), Brazil, 2002.
18. Yarborough, L. and Hall, K. R. How to Solve
Equation of State for Z-Factors, Oil and Gas Journal,
p. 86, February 1974.
19. Sadatomi, M., Sato, Y. and Saruwatari, S. Two
Phase Flow in Vertical Noncircular Channels.
International Journal of Multiphase Flow, vol. 8, nº 6,
pp. 641-655, 1982.
20. Harmathy, T. Z. Velocity of Large Drops and
Bubbles in Media of Infinite or Restricted Extent.
AIChE, 6,281, 1960.
21. Zuber, N. and Hench J. Steady State and Transient
Void Fraction of Bubbling Systems and Their
Operating Limit. Part 1: Steady State Operation.
General Electric Report, 62GL100 (1962).



Appendix – Basic Equations
The formation pressure is calculated by:

The gas slip velocity is a function of the two-phase
flow pattern. For slug flow, the following equation19
was considered:

Pf = SIDPP + ρ m ⋅ g ⋅ D ………………………(A-1)
Where SIDPP is the Shut-in Drill Pipe Pressure (Pa),
ρm is the mud density (kg/m3), g is the gravitational
acceleration (9.81 m/s2) and D is the vertical depth (m)
The Equation (2) shows the average pressure in the
two-phase region:

dpbi 

 1   ρm ⋅ g⋅H(i )+ dL  −(α(i )⋅A⋅Hk)
⋅ Pb+
P(i ) =
α(i )⋅ A 
α(i )⋅ A⋅Hk 


dp 

 ρm ⋅ g⋅H(i )+ bi 
dL 
 α(i )⋅ A 


is the friction pressure loss in the twodL

phase region, calculated by Beggs-Brill13 correlation,
α ( i ) is the void fraction, Hk is the kick length (m),

H ( i ) is the liquid holdup, and:

0.36 ⋅ γ g
T ⋅Z


The Z factor is calculated by Hall-Yarborough18
correlation, T is the gas temperature (º C) and γg is the
gas gravity.
The velocity in the two-phase region is calculated
considering the influx as a slug flow pattern, where the
top of gas kick is considered as a Taylor bubble and a
tail of gas kick as a bubble flow.
The rise velocity of gas may be expressed by:

v g = C o ⋅ v m + v sl ………………………...………(A-4)
Where Co is a distribution coefficient, vm is the mud
velocity and vsl is the gas slip velocity (m/s).

IADC/SPE 77253

v sl = 0.345 ⋅ g ⋅ d ep ………………...…………..(A-5)
Where dep is the equiperipheric diameter, expressed

d ep = d e + d i ……………………….…………….(A-6)
The terms di and de are the inside and outside
diameter (mm) of the annulus, respectively.
For bubble flow, the following equation20,21 was

 g ⋅( ρm − ρ g ) ⋅σ 
v sl = 1.53 ⋅ 
 ⋅ ( H l ) ……....(A-7)

Where Hl is the liquid holdup, n is a swarm index.

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Figure 1- Wellbore scheme




Figure 2 - Pit Gain Effect

Figure 3 - Water Depth Effect

IADC/SPE 77253

IADC/SPE 77253


Figure 4 - Pump Flow Rate Effect

Figure 5 - Mud Density Effect