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IADC/SPE 81627

Planning is Critical for Underbalance Applications with Under-experienced Operators
Ron Divine, Weatherford International Ltd.
Copyright 2003, IADC/SPE Underbalanced Technology Conference and Exhibition
This paper was prepared for presentation at the IADC/SPE Underbalanced Technology
Conference and Exhibition held in Houston, Texas, U.S.A., 25–26 March 2003.
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,
SPE, their officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of
this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the International Association
of Drilling Contractors or 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.

The benefits of a properly executed Underbalance
Operation (UBO) can result in a well of higher quality
and value than that of a conventional well, if proper
planning and execution is achieved. This paper discusses
the importance of detailed planning when undertaking a
UBO and the consequences when conducted improperly.
UBO has demonstrated numerous times that:
• Higher penetration rates (>2X) can be realized
• Higher productivity (>2X) can be achieved
• Higher reserves recovery are achieved
UBO has proven to reduce development costs, on multiwell projects. The timing for this cost reduction depends
largely upon:
• the well construction staff in charge of the
• the rate of knowledge transfer from the
experienced personnel (service technicians) to
the operator
• the utilization of the information by the
The current knowledge base of UBO is miniscule
compared to conventional Overbalance Operation
(OBO) knowledge. Access to this knowledge base and
implementing the value of the knowledge are critical to
expansion of the technology and the establishment of
credible operating practices. Global industry
organizations such as the International Association of
Drilling Contractors (IADC), Society of Petroleum
Engineers (SPE), and Gas Technology Institute (GTI)
have dedicated significant time and resources to
promote the exchange of knowledge and develop safe

operating practices of UBO. These organizations should
be accessed to reduce the learning time for companies
considering the use of UBO equipment and services.
The critical keys to achieving the benefits of UBO, are
planning and execution. Several real case histories are
presented, which demonstrate the impact of critical
planning and execution on project cost. Accessing the
knowledge base and implementing lessons learned will
enable the user to achieve a successful UB Operation.

Globally, thousands of oil and gas wells are drilled
annually. Many of these wells have little to no detailed
planning conducted prior to spud of the well and many
of these wells are drilled under an IADC Footage
Contract, with little or no direct Operator Supervision.
This method generally results in a successful effort
relative to drilling cost and predicted productivity
outcome. As the well plan becomes more complex, the
more detail in planning is required (Figure 1). Drilling a
well with Underbalance Technology requires a
significantly higher level of planning detail be conducted
and reviewed by experienced staff (1) prior to final
acceptance and implementation, since the well could
produce hydrocarbons to surface. The typical UBO
process involves not only producing live hydrocarbons,
but also storing of volatile hydrocarbon liquid and
flaring of hydrocarbon gas. This physical difference to
OBO drilling requires greater attention relative to well
control and safety.
A UBO is one where the hydrostatic head (circulating
pressure) in the wellbore is less than the reservoir
pressure for every operation. Industry experience has
shown that employing conventional drilling practices
and 'conventional wisdom' is not always applicable to an
Underbalance Operation (2).
In many instances, UBO is employed to achieve
enhanced drilling performance only. The rationale for
using Underbalance Drilling (UBD) is to achieve a
higher rate of penetration to reduce drilling costs. This

care must be taken to not damage the formation face after exposing the interval. due to the drilling and completion processes. the operator does not know. after exposing the formation to the mud column. However. and safety procedures should be outlined and adhered to during any operation. Therefore. during the drilling process. the planning group will have to determine the skill sets necessary. • Some level of damage is inevitable using conventional drilling and completion methods. taking advantage of prevailing wind direction to carry flammable gases away from the rig (4). • Pressure is declining in most reservoirs. after exposure to the mud?” In most cases. If the training or skills are not appropriate to the plan. longterm production data obtained on wells post UBD. Figure 2 illustrates the relative size of available personnel as compared to well type experience. etc. However. reservoir. Due to the release of pressured gases near the rig floor. Several indisputable facts of the upstream oil and gas business are: • The world’s readily producible hydrocarbon reserve base is diminishing. the operator must review accepted HS&E policies to ensure compliance to corporate and regulatory procedures. or eliminated? IADC/SPE 81627 • • • • What benefits are available? Which benefits are critical. A favorable well test rarely returns to the same level in post completion. Phase 1 – Planning Reservoir Screening Planning begins with the screening and candidate selection process. The operator often pumps drilling mud or completion fluid into the borehole to kill the flow before running casing to complete the well (drill-kill concept). When Underbalance Operations become more commonplace. while drilling. all personnel should be equipped with adequate hearing protection. The oil and gas industry lacks qualified Operational Consultants. nor does he have the data to query the possibility. indicate enhanced well performance (relative to productivity and additional reserves realized) (3). However. skilled in UBO. the operator must determine what achievement is required from the operation. Underbalanced operations can enable the continued development of these hydrocarbon assets while minimizing damage. due to the low pressure drop along the borehole length. There is no managed database from which to access the appropriate consultant. Before the UBO commences. • What drilling problems will be minimized. as horizontal wells are drilled with UBO. UBO require additional safety measures. Several questions must be answered before continuing to the next phase of planning. then shake many hands and see many faces to obtain the . versus which are nice to have? What is the economic sensitivity to these benefits? Can these benefits be achieved from another method? HSE Compliance HSE Compliance is crucial in today’s environment and is required for all systems used on a drilling operation. Caution should be used when rigging up the UB equipment. Supervisory personnel skill sets should match the level and type of operation. Because the UBO may require handling of live hydrocarbon. The drilling contractor equipment must be fitted with specific safety equipment. time and cost should be provided to obtain the necessary training. Since UBO may produce live hydrocarbons or other dangerous gases. It is critical for success to concurrently plan the well with the Drilling and Geology Groups. a definitive HAZOP/HAZID should be conducted. This lack of skilled UBO personnel drives operators to procure supervision from the abundant pool of consultants skilled in OBO method. Safely securing all equipment used in the release of pressured gases. Critical questions every operator should ask before employing UBO are: • “What is the current value of the production and reserve asset?” • “What will the value of the production and reserve asset be. An underbalance operation is not a panacea for improving productivity and increasing reserves. Conventional drilling operations pose numerous situations that require safety measures being implemented. and through the productive reservoir. to assess the presence of hydrocarbon. the personnel must have adequate PPE. project. Sometimes. This function should also include a review of personnel training levels and skill sets to determine whether the appropriate training or skills are available. This drill-kill concept is inappropriate for horizontal drilling. Minimizing damage and developing the reserves in a cost effective manner requires substantial planning and successful execution of the plan. the well is drilled to. until this time comes. an organized network may enable the operator to select the most appropriate consultant for the area.2 operation is mainly conducted in vertical wells.

Air Compressors and Booster Pumps often replace the rig pumps in the provision of hydraulic pumping services. but is often overlooked in horizontal boreholes. HAZOP.Execution Rig Selection – Crew Training – HSE In an ideal world. and Competency needs for UB Operations (5. based on the well objectives. The pre-planning exercise should consider not only the desired outcome.” Conventional drilling methods attempt to limit formation damage. Taking the time and effort to assess the various aspects of the well plan and integrate the specific components into it will help significantly toward achieving success.and 10). Phase 2 . However. and good drilling practices must be employed to achieve operational success on any well being considered (6). Reservoir Goals The goal of any operation when drilling in the reservoir should be to “First do no harm to the reservoir.10). so that while drilling the reservoir. the remedial stimulation will no doubt add to the overall damage. Proper crew orientation to UBO is imperative for safe operations. chemicals handling and PPE. This is not critical for vertical drilling applications. abundant UB experience is limited to a few regions. While some of the skin damage can be by-passed through remedial stimulation. the drilling fluid which contacts the formation should be compatible to both the rock matrix and reservoir fluids. resulting in a basic generic well plan lacking detail. However. Underbalance drilling in the reservoir can dramatically reduce skin damage in many reservoirs. Training. The rig selected should be capable of operating under normal conditions should the well stability require replacing the compressible fluids with a normal drilling fluid for use in OBO. These should be attainable and measurable. outlining procedures. Discussions with the various suppliers should focus on the goals and objectives. On a normal planning exercise. This source is often neglected and/or overlooked. a diligent review of recent and close offset data should be made. This will be the beginning of a team building exercise. When the operation significantly departs from a traditional operation. The objectives and goals should be a mantra to all suppliers and staff involved in the project. and GTI have begun to fill the gap through an awareness campaign. Detailed Planning Phase and Rig Selection A systematic approach to planning. There is only one opportunity to not damage the formation while drilling. Plan the drilling operation. However. if at all possible. 3 Before any drilling operation is undertaken. The crew should receive supplemental training of well control measures. Service Companies are a good source for much of the data. the need for detailed planning should be elevated to a higher level to manage the risk and ensure risk does not overtake the project. as per IADC UBO Classification (5. and other suitable topics as necessary for the particular well plan. the drilling contractor is the center foci. such as the IADC. the drilling contractor’s equipment will be primarily limited to the hoisting and rotating functions and emergency well control aspect of the operation. However. formation damage will occur. many times this aspect is deemed to be insignificant and time consuming for the “routine” infill development well. Service Company personnel have specific knowledge and operational expertise relevant to their product line application. However. especially when departing from the “conventional” drilling method. Furthermore. Industry groups. The majority of the wells drilled today use conventional methods and thus crew training is required when selecting a rig with no UB experience. The IADC has established the Underbalanced Operations Committee. in the real world. rig selection would be based in-part on the rig crews knowledge and experience with UB operations. and often it is extensive. Failure to select a rig without this capability will necessitate securing additional pumping capacity at a significant cost. the desired plan will likely not be achieved. Clear definition of Objectives and Goals The project should have clearly defined goals and objectives well in advance of initiating operations. roles and responsibilities. without this disciplined routine. to develop basic HSE Guidelines.IADC/SPE 81627 appropriate consultant. The successful planning effort for an Underbalance Operation should be an expansion of a traditional well planning effort. otherwise any benefit that was achieved near the heel of a horizontal borehole may be diminished as the borehole is lengthened to the toe target. Operating Risk Levels. the opportunity for damage is substantially reduced or eliminated. . but also the possibilities and probabilities of many contingencies. SPE. Maintaining an underbalance state while drilling is critical. The various sources of offset data are abundant within a mature oil. A disciplined planning routine will enable the planning effort to assess the detail necessary to achieve success.and gas-producing region. with UBO.9.

and this creates a unique problem to accurately determine bottom hole pressure. The accuracy of the data should be confirmed.or multi-phase. and the injection rate requires an adjustment to remain underbalanced. Utilizing the consultant’s expertise during the planning phase can greatly enhance the probability that the operation will achieve the desired goals and objectives. Post well Analysis Immediately following the drilling operation. can determine the operational impact and its cost. Three of the four case histories will not . the compressible fluid may either be single. Continued technology growth and reduction of operating cost is dependent on knowledge transfer from successes and failures. Today. This is an “apples to oranges” comparison at best. The well site consultant should possess a “minimum” level of competency as described in the IADC WellCap Program (9. Real-time pressure measurement can confirm if the entire borehole is UB. Continuous measurement and recording can enable the wellsite engineer/supervisor to detect trends earlier and to react more quickly than with “snapshot” data management.4 IADC/SPE 81627 Operator Supervisor – Competency Underbalanced drilling is one of the most demanding operations for a wellsite supervisor (12). or if the toe is UB and the heel is OB in a horizontal borehole. Furthermore. Often the measured pressure is different than that modeled. UBO is compared to OBO. due to the phase separation that occurs during a connection and the time required to re-establish stable flow and pressure conditions. Further. Pressure must be measured continuously to have accurate understanding of the fluid pressure acting on/along the borehole. the exact reservoir pressure is not known. one can determine the total impact to ROP. Generally. 10). one can determine the impact of the independent variable to ROP. Having the capacity to see long-term trends rather than “snapshots”. ROP. it is best to contract a well site consultant that has demonstrated experience on the type Underbalance operation planned. the DAS will permit assessment of the data relative to numerous measurements to understand impact of one controllable parameter to that of other parameters. Pump Pressure. is one such operation where the number of adequately trained personnel is at a minimum. Prior to implementing downhole continuous pressure measurement. Case Histories Several Case Histories are presented which demonstrate the planning effort and detail involved and the outcome of the operation. As the complexity increases. Figure 2 depicts the relative number of adequately trained personnel relative to the well type.The safe and economic management of UBO necessitates a higher level of supervisor competency. would be unfounded. a reference pressure is required. RPM. the recorded data should be collated. Numerous “Wellsite Consultants” are available to manage the generic well type as indicated at the top of the inverted pyramid. they both involve circulations system. thus creating further difficulty. Data Acquisition System (DAS) – Continuous Monitoring Data Acquisition can aid in comparing the post well actual with the pre-well estimate. assessed. even more so when the drilling operation is UB. UB drilling a horizontal well. True. Measuring and Recording WOB. straight up. Generally. UBO utilize compressible fluids. The vast numbers of operator supervisors and contract “well site” consultants do not possess adequate knowledge of Underbalance Operation. onsite modeling should provide indicated parameters to achieve underbalance along the borehole. can the root cause be identified? • Is the root cause a problem with mechanical design or human error? • What cost did the problem generate? • Why did the problem occur? • What is the solution to prevent the problem on future projects? A post well discussion is essential for every well. If not. and analyzed. a large number of systems are capable of electronic measurement and recording. but further comparison beyond this Real-time pressure measurement will allow the onsite UB engineer to determine if the bottom-hole condition is being managed underbalance. The analysis should determine lessons learned to be incorporated into forward planning on future projects. fewer adequately trained and experienced personnel are available to properly manage the well operation. Critical questions should be asked during the analysis: • Did the operation achieve the preset goals and objectives? • If not. Phase 3 – Execution Assessment UB Confirmation – Pressure knowledge + Pressure Measurement It is very difficult to improve anything not first measured and compared to an expected outcome. with multiple measurements managed by a Data Management Service. when executed. Holding constant one or two parameters. Therefore. This multiphase component further complicates steadystate pressure measurement.

and 3 lines devoted to the entire UB Operation. The steering tool operation resulted in substantial connection time (3X more than expected) due to the need to decouple from the wet connect. A greater level of detailed planning with contingency in place prior to commencing operations. The Well site Supervisor had no previous UB experience and quickly tried to gain knowledge of UB operations. as only 2 pages were devoted to drilling plan. the efficiency quickly dropped (Figure 3). The total well cost was $2. The UBO sustained frequent high standpipe pressure (Figure 6). and wellsite supervisor experienced in UBO could have prevented a significant portion of the cost overrun. a few were managed by under-experienced Wellsite Supervisor personnel.0MM over 51 days. However. The operator accepted the prospect concept and quickly put a drilling program in place. an opportunity to gain reservoir pressure was considered too costly and thus the horizontal lateral was drilled with an estimate of reservoir pressure. Case History 2 Small Private Production Company – Underbalance Drilling Fractured Carbonate for Reservoir enhancement . it was apparent the operator was unaware of UB operating practices and equipment. which protected the drill string from corrosion in a highly oxygenated environment. The Wellsite Supervisor believed the high pressure was due to excessive soap injection and discontinued the soap injection. The operator employed poor drilling practices to remediate hole cleaning. Case History 1 Large Independent Operator – Underbalance Drilling Fractured Carbonate for Reservoir enhancement – Grassroots well – Oklahoma The well planning was conducted “conceptually” without an operator. when the operation converted to UBO in the reservoir. The specific section within the reservoir was selected but the exact depth subsea needed confirmation. all were horizontal wells. ultimately reducing the lateral extent of the borehole. These issues contributed to not drilling the well as planned and over AFE. such as: • The Wellsite Supervisor selection was not made until the drilling contract was executed • Minimal coordination between the service companies to ensure compatible equipment • Certain services were selected based on price. Upon initiating UBO. Other issues received little to no attention. against an AFE of $1. so that reservoir entry could be controlled and placed in the best possible portion of the reservoir. all had differing levels of detailed planning. The N2/Water Foam also contained corrosion inhibitor. and 7” casing set through the curve in preparation to drill the lateral UB. The intent was to drill a pilot hole. all had significant cost over-run. The depth confirmation would be from a pilot hole and logged open hole. The conventional drilling operation including drilling the curve was without incident. which resulted in lower standpipe pressure but also poor hole cleaning. This was the wrong time and place to gain the needed knowledge. rather than efficiency • No contingency plan was developed prior to spud During the execution phase. Was the lateral drilled UB? The pilot hole was plugged back. The reservoir pressure was not known and thus the UBO modeling was conducted at several pressures to ensure adequate compression volume was available on location.39MM over 35 days. the curve drilled. most sustained incorrect decision making for the application. which resulted in excessive torque and drag. several issues were identified that would improve the success of the UBO project. During the planning. The Operator had little UBO knowledge and relied heavily on the service companies for information. due to disappointing geologic results. The planning effort was minimal. pull the cable into the Kelly. A steering tool with GR was used as the directional guidance system versus an EM-MWD with focused GR. then after connection re-run the wireline and reconnect to the wet connect to transmit the GR to the surface recorder.IADC/SPE 81627 move beyond a single well project. as the project was being planned during the promoting phase. Common factors in each case are: all utilized nitrified compressible fluid systems (UBO). The reservoir pressure and geologic target were unknown prior to operation start-up. A miscommunication between operator and service provider caused a delay of several days to mobilize the UB equipment and rig-up. determine the geologic target from 5 open hole logs. However. The well was a new-drill well. several issues developed that were not considered during planning. Only two of the case histories were completed as producers.

During the re-entry operation. This necessitated using a whipstock to direct the borehole. The workover rig was less efficient that expected. Significant flow modeling was conducted for the UB phase of the plan. which prevented maintaining a consistent level of corrosion inhibitor in the returned fluids. the drill string parted. The prospect hinged on this concept. The geology was not considered to be a significant issue and as such little to no in-depth evaluation was made. and the belief that a horizontal borehole could be drilled to access probable fractures to deliver high rate oil production. The nitrified water required the addition of chemicals to control the corrosion. due to dayrate. No contingency plans were made in the event that the operation deviated from plan. However. 5). Additional planning meetings were held with the operator to focus . or handling the larger IADC/SPE 81627 drill pipe and BHA. casing size. This caused substantial drag and torque on the drill string. However. The “do something/do anything” syndrome was apparent in view of the mounting costs of the daily operation. in an effort to reduce the daily spread cost. The cost could have been limited with more detailed planning. Greater detail to planning with contingency plans and a more experienced wellsite supervisor would have prevented many of the mistakes on this well. complete with “What if this happens? What do we do then?”. low recoveries. The cost of the well was in excess of $2MM against an AFE of $700K. thus allowing several early logistics issues to be apparent at the beginning. preventing an on-bottom Kick-off. The plan execution was pertinent for the planning level. the second lateral used nitrified water as the drilling fluid. A nitrified-diesel mist was selected as the drilling fluid. the corrosion inhibitor was added through the injection system. An unsuccessful fishing operation ultimately caused the loss of the borehole. This slow trip rate resulted in very costly trip times.000. but had little to no experience with horizontal underbalance operations. A large acreage position was secured at favorable terms. Improper job preparation and installation resulted in a much higher dogleg at the whipstock than was planned. the well was found to be in very poor condition and the cleanout operation required more time and money than was allotted. A more complex whipstock was employed over a simpler method. beyond a cursory review of permitted wells in the targeted reservoir for the purpose of geologic well control. but required costly decisions at the well when managing a significantly high spread cost operation. Furthermore. The planned drill string design utilized a production tubing string.6 – Re-entry well – Oklahoma This project was conceived from analysis of early high rate production data. The ineffective corrosion inhibition ultimately caused a total loss of the drill string. The effort consumed several meetings to define the objectives and goals of the well. The earlier use of nitrified-diesel provided considerable protection against corrosion. The operator was aware of underbalance benefits. with no predictive analysis conducted to evaluate expected stresses. The second lateral was drilled under a similar plan as the previous lateral. While drilling. due to a long established relationship. extensive hydrocarbon remaining in-place. The various services required to drill the horizontal well were not coordinated prior to spud. Debris was found in the wellbore that could not be removed. thus requiring a second sidetrack. The well plan was developed by the operator’s consultant. the UBO allowed greater water influx. a cost of $200K. The wellbore selection was based on previous reservoir penetration. when considering the high daily spread cost. based on an offset well down-structure in a fault intense horst-graben field and an analogous field nearby. Water influx was observed very early in the second lateral and this caused much difficulty with corrosion inhibition. as the crews were not used to drilling. Case History 3 Medium-size Independent Operator – Underbalance Drilling in Fractured Carbonate for Reservoir enhancement – Re-entry well – Texas The prospect. was planned for using underbalance operation to prevent near wellbore damage and easily confirm the presence of gas filled rock. A focused planning effort was launched with the inclusion of experienced personnel from an Underbalance Drilling Services provider. equipping the workover rig for 24 hour operation exceeded the dayrate of a drilling rig. This fluid would minimize corrosion. The rig and location layout did not permit the efficient pre-treatment of injected water. After drilling only a short distance below the whipstock. a thick carbonate section. The projected cost for a single lateral re-entry was planned for $700. The operation was trip intensive and trip time was 40% slower than with a drilling rig (Figure 4. and well availability for immediate re-entry. The re-entry operation initiated the well recovery and cleanout in preparation to direct the well path to target. The operator selected a workover rig over a drilling rig.

had an effective corrosion management program been considered. The drilling was initiated on plan. The operator wanted to try underbalanced drilling. The corrosion inhibition was not managed continuously. which resulted in the mill being left in the hole. mostly in part to the drilling of multiple laterals (Figures 7. although the surface location prevented the lateral to be drilled in the ideal trajectory. A cement plug was then planned along with a higher bend on the motor to achieve the sidetrack. Corrosion Mitigation was planned to minimize Drill String corrosion. UBO was planned to minimize formation damage and to confirm gas presence. was the reason the fault was detected so early. the operator quickly contacted the partners to determine the best plan of action. excessive drilling fluid losses made subsequent drilling uneconomic. The geologic structure was defined with limited seismic data and well control. thus causing the $100K+ sidetrack. An existing wellbore was available for use. the operator obtained and processed 3D seismic data over a small portion of the field. The higher motor bend setting proved successful and the drilling continued. due to a mud ring forming above the BHA. thus preventing the gathering of critical influx information. The UB drilling fluid consisted of nitrified water mist to reduce the potential for downhole fire. since the reservoir contained mostly gas. problems were encountered initially while attempting to drill with an air hammer BHA. contributing to overspending. 9). The shoe track appeared to be causing excess drag.IADC/SPE 81627 on specific issues of the well plan. and casing installation were all achieved as planned and on schedule using a small workover rig to complete this phase. The use of a mill in open hole proved to be a poor choice. A previous well drilled with current methodology. Due to error in displacement of cement. thus requiring a second sidetrack. An open hole low side sidetrack was attempted. A post well cost of $150K. but failed to consider contingencies and experience of the Wellsite Supervisor. with support from partner personnel. The total cost for the well was twice the planned AFE. The operator initiated a search to secure UB knowledge from available UB experts. Circulation was lost temporarily. A horizontal borehole was planned to increase the chance of fracture intersection. Application of horizontal well profile has greatly improved recovery from the reservoir. The fact that the well was drilled UB. limiting the use of the air hammer. The operator staff provided detailed planning. the lateral drilled out of the structure and a sidetrack was planned. The lost time for the sidetrack operation was less than 3 days. The reservoir is complex and not well suited to vertical well development. and a reamer run was planned. Nonetheless. Case History 4: Small Private Operator – Underbalance Drilling Fractured Carbonate for Reservoir Enhancement and High-end Data Confirmation – Re-entry well – Texas This field was discovered in early 1930’s and has seen several drilling activity spurts. thus preventing considerable drilling time to see the change in lithology. without success. directional sidetrack. which was necessary for commercial gas delivery. plugback. since the ROP was low due to the considerable 7 time spent in oriented mode to achieve the angle and direction change. The well planning detail was improved over Case History 1 and 2. This operation required considerable time. A Directional Drilling BHA with EM-MWD was used to drill the lateral. Furthermore. The Wellsite Supervisor did not display the necessary experience to justify 50+ days on the well and contributing to several costly on-site decisions. but the water prevented the use of the air hammer. The rig selection considered the personnel experienced in UBO and past history providing work in UBO wells. To obtain better understanding of the geology. The reaming BHA used a mill and stabilizer. The wellbore was prepared for sidetrack operations. The drilling continued while dropping angle and changing direction. the plug was overdisplaced and a second cement plug was required. The cleanout. Water was added to the injection stream to eliminate the mud ring. Additional Well site Supervision was planned when drilling the reservoir to better manage live well hydrocarbon production and safety. The well was planned to re-enter the well and cleanout to original TD and obtain and FMI Log to confirm the presence of fractures and gas to reduce the geologic risk for an AFE of $700K. did not have circulation while drilling. The operator wanted to drill . Due to the unknown size of the horst block. A routine bit trip encountered a tight spot. and after 50 days of drilling with nitrified water mist. The plan did not consider drilling out of the block to be a high probability. The loss of the drill pipe could have been prevented. The borehole eventually encountered water and drilling was terminated and the well plugged. The rig was less efficient than expected and trip time was slow. the drill string did not pass API Class II inspection. At the initiation of the UB phase.

This should be standard drilling practice to prevent undesirable debris from entering the wellbore. The drilling fluid is flooding into the open fracture and displacing the gas. The failure to rabbit the pipe caused a trip to unplug the scale from above the EM-MWD. . Extensive flow-modeling was conducted simulating fluids from nitrified water at various liquid and gas rates to foam. The drilling fluid would be highly corrosive and therefore corrosion mitigation was planned to prevent excessive loss of drill string below API Class II grade. The rig was placed on day work to pick up the drill string. Foam also reduces the velocity and improves hole cleaning. The plan included data acquisition to measure and record all: injected and return fluid volumes. but this can not be quantified to a volume. The rental provider did not provide clean pipe as was expected. The Well Site Supervisor acclimated to the goals and objectives and was a constructive component to the planning phase – Total Integrated Planning and Execution. Compatibility testing was conducted to ensure the foam was suitable in the range of expected reservoir influx. and the injected volume known. a Pitot Tube and Oxygen Sensor were installed into the flare line to measure the gas volume. Membrane Nitrogen provided the gas phase of the foam. and analyze the drill cuttings. etc. due to the limited clearance when tripping or making connections. However. For this well. but in the presence of oil. The seismic map IADC/SPE 81627 indicated distinct areas considered fractured and hydrocarbon filled. When picking up the rental drill string. The operator wanted detailed planning and execution of the project to bring real value to the 3D seismic data and to the oil and gas lease holdings in the area. Extensive testing of the rigs BOP equipment and the additional UB equipment required more time than allotted and required the replacement of the ring gaskets between the Double Ram BOP and the Annular Preventer.8 the next well. The total exit gas was to be measured and the injected volume subtracted from the total volume. It can lift large volumes of water. The operator realized that underbalance drilling was not an off the shelf effort. the foam begins to degrade. and field personnel to ensure the goals and objectives were well understood. A Top-Drive was deemed necessary to minimize the pressure spikes on connection and to reduce the number of connections made. The re-entry operation was initiated with the plugging of the existing lateral before the drilling rig was moved on location. The rig selected had a short derrick compared to others considered. and the rig up of the additional equipment required more time than expected. pressure. the rig had not utilized a Top-Drive or UB equipment before. Foam was ultimately selected. with Gamma Ray (GR) and Pressure measurement. Directional control would be provided using EM-MWD technology. gas is observed at surface as indication of fractures. it would be difficult to know where the influx originates and its magnitude. To achieve this. A measure of Oxygen gas provides a second means to determine produced gas volume. volumes. This short derrick with a Top-Drive installed made hoisting the blocks slow. due to a thick resistive formation above the target formation. UBO require a more thorough testing of the rig’s well control equipment. than with conventional OBO drilling. The EM-MWD would require an extended antenna to transmit the signal to surface. as it offered a lower bottom hole circulation pressure than nitrified water. and managed with an onsite data management system with Satellite uplink to a secure internet website. it was not rabbited to remove any loose scale or other obstructions. Data was provided to the service company and various flow modeling conducted to define the window of UBO in an area of uncertain reservoir pressure. The Pressure measurement would permit real-time BHCP and knowledge of influx. The drilling rig was moved on location and equipped with Top-Drive and UB equipment. cuttings. without proper measurement capability. while maintaining circulation throughout the drilling operation and observe oil and gas flow data while drilling. as it is at very low pressure. However. oil. but this means that the borehole condition is no longer at equilibrium. The accurate measurement of the fluid was necessary to enhance the understanding of the complex geologic seismic map. an experienced UBO Well Site Supervisor was accessed for the detailed planning phase with provision to continue with the execution phase. The GR was required to maintain the borehole in the clean carbonate stringers. The flare height is recorded. The combination of the two should enable the operator to have independent measures of gas at very low pressure differential (<2 psi). The intent is to maintain continuous returns and measure the gas. Large volumes of oil make the use of foam “management intensive”. Generally. water. partners. Typically. the gas volume is not measured. like conventional drilling operations. Numerous meetings were held between operator. temperature.

The fluid selected did not work as intended. while adjusting nitrogen and water injection rate with marginal success. but post well analysis identified a possible solution for future wells of this type. in horizontal wellbores. Post well analysis determined that more predictive modeling is needed to apply the proper bit and motor combination. While drilling. These case histories each had differing degrees of planning and differing levels of success. Elevating the planning effort can reduce the potential exposure when an unplanned event occurs. The drill pipe inspection post drilling did not encounter any loss due to corrosion. in that the fluid also contained corrosion inhibitor. The value of the foam was lost as the base fluid was not available for re-use. but rather a challenge to reduce risk and increase probability of success through an enhanced planning effort. The effort to maintain circulation was terminated. Additional testing is required to ensure the foam chemistry is compatibility with the reservoir fluids. the success of the overall UB operation can be greatly benefited by improved planning detail. However. the deployment of UB fluids proved successful and economic. as are each of the case histories. However. The oriented time for the well was more than the rotary time. The ability to . primarily onshore and recently offshore. miscommunication between the service provider and operator resulted in not having sufficient surface volume to handle the returning foam to process and re-use. However. A compounded issue. Therefore. Annular pressure measurement indicated the second lateral was drilled slightly UB initially. Several papers on UB have been published discussing the UB process. The corrosion program was successfully managed even with the loss of re-useable fluid. The EM-MWD directional measurement package was almost 70’ behind the bit. such as high angle/horizontal laterals. since some thought has been devoted to the probability of occurrence and to the process to mitigate the incident. as the time on the well is quite short. Additional surface volume storage is required to adequately process the returned fluids for re-use and minimize the cost of chemicals. The planning and execution of Underbalance Operations should not be viewed as an arduous and problematic task. The successful management of the fluid and corrosion programs was impacted by the lack of surface volume to process the fluid for re-use. In vertical well drilling projects using UBO. The BHA design must place the directional measurement closer to the bit to prevent drilling beyond critical points to ensure maintaining the geologically intended path. Numerous papers have been written extolling the benefits of UB drilling. However. 11). BHA selection did not work well in conjunction with the frequent orientation for geological steering. Of the case histories discussed herein. a fracture was intersected. significantly detailed planning may not be required. Considerable water volume was lost to the formation during this phase. thus causing a significant delay in drilling completion. The planning effort for this well far exceeded that of the previous three case histories. However. normally associated with UB as compared to OBO drilling. Upon completion of the first lateral. which made it necessary for the driller to drill a greater distance after a slide to observe the BHA performance. Contingency plans were in 9 place. In some cases. it is the author’s belief and that of his colleagues that improved planning is critical for complex operations. This made the fluid management extremely personnel intensive. as drilling progress ceased. which necessitated redrilling the first lateral (Figure 8). The decision was made to terminate nitrogen injection and revert to conventional drilling with fluid losses. Conclusions: Underbalanced Drilling has proven its value in many regions of the world. The drilling did not achieve the expected high ROP. all new water injected had to be pre-treated to suitable levels of corrosion inhibitor prior to use.IADC/SPE 81627 The UBO was initiated using Foam and a recirculating system normally used in the area. permitting continued operations without interruption. A portion of the failure could be attributed to the environments the wireline was subjected to prior to this operation. the recurring root cause for cost overrun was inadequate planning and contingency implementation. The expectation of high ROP was not achieved. Considerable time was spent to regain circulation. the daily spread rate cut in half to a normal $25K/day. However. new reservoirs have been identified due to drilling UB (8. a decision was made to terminate use of the foam. few papers have been found on the criticality of planning for UBO. and convert to nitrified water to drill the second lateral. the only component failure due to corrosion was with the wireline antenna. In every case presented here. encountering lower pressure than expected and circulation was lost. when the plan was altered. This miscommunication resulted in considerable cost overrun as the treated fluids were hauled to disposal to prevent overrunning the existing storage capacity.

8. Robinson. TX 26-28 February 2002 12. 2002.Fuller: “Wells Drilled Overbalanced and Underbalanced Prove UBD Value”. most sustained incorrect decision making for the application. in Houston. the drilling of UB wells will necessitate a higher degree of planning to ensure that all parties involved are aware of the potential hazards and operational differences. Colombian Underbalanced Drilling Operations – Startup Experience 3. Haselton. page 1068. J. Hazzard. detailed planning and proper execution with experienced personnel are needed to achieve total success.W.E. G.10 manage new technology in a cost effective manner.. Gas Research Institute (now Gas Technology Institute) 5. It is this cost that increases the cost over OBO. D. R. T. Boyle: SPE/IADC 37677. and also can replace come equipment that is normal. all were horizontal wells. Underbalanced operations should be considered when damage to the reservoir is expected. Rehm: “Practical Underbalanced Drilling and Workover”. Moore: “Drilling Practices Manual”.iadc. JPT (December 1995). R.Pia. M. Underbalanced Operations need thorough planning and execution to achieve the desired goals. T. S. PennWell Publishing Co.3). Preston L. Cade: May 23. T. a few were managed by under-experienced Wellsite Supervisor personnel. Carmack. Houston. August 28-29.: “Redeveloping The Rhourde El Baguel Field with Underbalanced Drilling Operations. realizing that a perfect well may not come from the initial operation. ments. There are no short cuts to success. The road to success is not always smooth. 1986. This will take time for UB to be as common place as OB wells. B. However. 2002. Until the drilling industry gains adequate volumes of experienced/competent personnel. The results of properly planned and executed wells will be easy to identify. 2000 2. TX. all had significant cost over-run. but the ride can be more enjoyable with careful planning and using the right equipment.M. T.iadc. Reservoir Study Group. Hogg. Tulsa OK 7. World Oil. TX 11. presented at the IADC Underbalanced Drilling Conf. all had differing levels of detailed planning. such as mud pumps not being required for compressible fluids. At least 5-6 wells are needed to achieve this success (1.html 6. The case histories presented all have common traits: all utilized nitrified compressible fluid systems (UBO). Austin. Dallas. information on Underbalanced Operations Committee www. Kirvelis: SPE 74446.. Underbalanced Drilling 10. May 2002. Efficiency . V. A Case History of Remote. Beliveau: “Heterogeneity. R. SPE Luncheon. C.. Fuller. WellCAP® IADC Well Control Accreditation Program (WCT-2UBDS) http://www. IADC/SPE 81627 References: 1. Each of the referenced case wells was of development type. G. Second Edition. International Association of Drilling Contractors. Underbalanced-Undervalued? Direct Qualitative Comparison Proves the Technique! IADC/SPE Drilling Conference. page 35-38 9. the benefits of UBO are generally not achievable with OBO. The cost for UBO compared to OBO will most likely be higher initially. attempting to minimize reservoir damage. TX 4. D. or when needing to diminish a drilling related hole problem.. Eresman: Underbalanced Drilling Guidelines Improve Safety. by enhanced production rate and reduced drilling costs. Proper screening and candidate selection. UBD Implementation and Optimization”. Geostatistics and Blackjack Poker”. T.Haselton. but over time the cost should be less than OBO.. Petroleum Extension Service. The UBO employs equipment that is not normal to an OBO. depends on the desire of management to recognize the need to supplement a traditional plan. Pia. Kirvelis.

Depth 60 8500 0 10 20 30 40 Tim e. Depth 60 70 . DD t o 90° 6500 7000 7000 7" casing @ 7367' M D 8000 9000 7500 8000 Lat eral.Days vs. days 50 Figure 4: Case History 2 . PB.Lateral 2 6000 Lateral 2 4000 5000 Actual Depth 6000 Depth. ft Plan .Expanding Technology Exploration Enabling Technology High Angle (~90°) Vertical Wells Footage Drilling In fill Wells Day Work Drilling Mature Asset/ Mature Technology New Technology Application Many Turnkey Drilling Horizontal Well OBO Vertical Well UBO Experienced Personnel Appraisal Vertical Well – Conventional OBO Directional Well Conventional OBO (Air/Gas Drilling) Directional Well UBO Horizontal Well UBO Few Underbalance OBO Day-work Drilling Drilling Method ERD UBO Directional Conventional 11 Un-Conventional Asset Value IADC/SPE 81627 Complexity Figure 1: Planning Detail Matrix Figure 2: Experienced Personnel Relative to Well Type Case History 1 Drilling Progress Case History 2 Days vs. Depth 0 5000 9.Lateral 1 Pilot Hole. Log. drilled UB 10000 0 20 40 Time.Days vs.5/ 8" casing @ 540' M D 1000 5500 2000 Lateral 1 3000 Planned . days Figure 3: Case History 1 . ft Depth.

Total Liquid Injection Rate vs. g p h SIP / ROP / TLIR 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Tim e. Tim e SPP. Liquid Injection Rate.12 IADC/SPE 81627 Ca se History 2 Tota l Tim e Distribution 25% Change BHA Circulating 9% 3% 3% Drilling Fishing 6% Other 1% Reaming 4% Rig Repair Standby 8% 6% Survey + Connection 35% Trip Figure 5: Case History 2 – Time Distribution Case History 1 Surface Injection Pressure. ROP. days (hourly measurem ent) Figure 6: Case History 1 . ROP 11 12 13 14 . p si ROP. f p h*10 0 To t al Liq uid Inject io n Rat e.Surface Injection Pressure.

1 S/T 1 ( Redrill Lateral-1) Lateral .00 40.000 Planned Lateral 1 Unplanned Sidetrack Unplanned Sidetrack 2 4. Depth Case History 3 Planned vs. Actual Costs Cost.000 2.00 Time.000 Depth.00 20. ft Depth.000 0 10 20 30 40 50 Time.000 200.000 400.00 .Days vs.00 12.000 Planned Lateral .000 10.000 Pe rm its D ay /L w oc or at k+ io M n ob / D C m om ob pl D e tio ire n ct R io ig na lS er vi ce C em B it/ e Sc nt in ap g er /R M ea ud m er /C he m ic M al ud s O Lo pe gg n H in ol g e R Lo en gg ta in lE g qu Tr ip uc m en ki ng t /H au P& lin A g /P lu O g th ba er ck In ta n To gi ta bl lT e an gi bl es 0 Planned Major Cost Category Figure 9: Case History 3 – Cost Comparison Actual 50. USD 600.2 6.000 8.IADC/SPE 81627 13 Case History 3 Days v.00 30.000 500. days 80 Figure 8: Case History 4 .Days vs.000 10. ft 4. Depth 0 0 2.000 0. Depth Case History 4 Days v.000 12. Depth 10.000 6.000 8.000 100. days 60 70 Figure 7: Case History 3 .000 300.