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IADC/SPE 81629

A Direct Comparison Between Conventional and Underbalanced Drilling Techniques in
the Saih Rawl Field, Oman
Culen, M.S. - Precision Drilling Services UBD, Harthi, S. - Petroleum Development Oman, and Hashimi, H. - Petroleum
Development Oman
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,
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this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the International Association
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The history of UBD in Petroleum Development Oman
stretches back to sporadic projects in the mid 1990’s, however
it has not been until recently that tangible gains have been
realized using the technique.
Although the benefits of UBD are widely accepted within
North America, internationally the technology has not been
fully exploited for a number of reasons, namely the
justification of increased drilling costs against perceived
‘intangible’ benefits. Such a justification is particularly hard
for asset managers and well planners to make in the absence of
any concrete industry data regarding production increases.
PDO embarked on a focused campaign to trial UB and
evaluate its applicability as an enabling technology. A ‘Zero
Cost Implementation’ approach was used to introduce the
campaign, and drilling began in June 2002. Wells targeted in
the Saih Rawl Field are under pressured oil wells, drilled as 5
legged producer-injector pairs off of a 7” backbone. The wells
are normally completed by means of an Electric Submersible
Engineering for the UB project in Saih Rawl focused on
the Asset Team’s mandate of eliminating reservoir damage.
Consequently, equipment was chosen and a program
developed utilizing the injection of field natural gas via a
concentric casing string to establish UB conditions.
As the technology was newly re-introduced to PDO and its
local contractors, a stepwise approach to drilling
underbalanced was adopted for the first well, and ultimately
demonstrated the benefits of UBD. The first two legs of the
first well were drilled conventionally overbalanced and

stimulated, while the third leg was drilled overbalanced,
stimulated and tested with the UB separation equipment. The
remaining two legs were drilled underbalanced and tested.
The post drilling flow tests proved to be invaluable for
evaluating the applicability of UBD, as the results showed a
distinct increase in production from adjacent legs
approximately 200 m apart in the same reservoir. This paper
focuses on the design issues and the results of drilling SR 153
Underbalanced drilling is not a new technique to PDO and
historically various trials were undertaken to prove the
technology2&3. Initial results from these campaigns proved
promising, however due to the small number of wells drilled,
the definitive economic benefits of UBD were unclear.
Further UB drilling in PDO was therefore suspended for a
number of years.
A defining moment for the future of UBD in PDO was the
identification of it along with four other key enabling
technologies for Shell. Shortly thereafter, a UBD Global
Implementation Team was formed, tasked with the
(re)introduction of UBD to all applicable global Shell
interests. A new, focused, strategy was developed to fully
exploit the technology4.
Fresh on the heels of the formation of the UB GIT and the
decision to retrial the technique, a PDO project management
team was assembled to technically evaluate prospective
contractors and implement the execution of the UB campaign.
The team consisted of:

Project Manager
HSE Advisor
Contract Manager
Drilling/UB Engineers

This team was responsible for overseeing two UB strings
operating in different fields concurrently. The team was also
augemented by PDO drilling engineers assigned directly to the
project, and reported directly to the PDO Senior Well
Engineer responsible for the asset. Rounding out the team
were members from Precison Drilling Services (PDS),

and. Saih Rawl wells have been drilled using a weighted mud system and stimulated with acid and bleach. it was suggested by the onsite drilling team that perhaps rather than flushing to heavy wellsite water after stimulation. The reservoir produces 35 API crude with a viscosity of 1. typically with 26 % porosity.Drilling SR 153UB SR 153 is a five legged producer situated in the southeast flank of the reservoir.96 days. with produced fluids exported from location and gas flared. but also providing an explanation as to why dynamic losses were seen on the conventionally drilled legs. Only once the company designed HSE certificate was signed off IADC/SPE 81629 and proper rig site training completed was UB drilling allowed to commence. in an effort to provide a base line PI for the campaign. S. Once pseudo-steady flow was achieved and wellhead pressure had built up to approximately 3000 kPa. The resulting skin was calculated as slightly negative. Each leg is then displaced with wellsite water to allow the deployment of a retrievable sealing whipstock. Legs 1 and 2 – Drilled OB Leg 1 of SR153 was successfully drilled in 4. The Underbalanced Drilling Option The Saih Rawl field was chosen as a prime candidate for underblanced drilling as the few PLT logs run on Saih Rawl wells showed that only up to 10% of the laterals drilled were contributing to flow. Immediate back production from leg 3 versus the suspension of drilled legs prior to production is seen as the driving mechanism for the PIF increase. Leg 4 – UB With the onsite audit complete. The drilling program was altered and approved. with the mandate that the operation must eliminate any such damage. The same stimulation program was followed. and in many cases. Prior planning suggested that. The rig and her crew which were chosen to drill UB had never drilled with a crude oil previously. HARTHI. with a measured 16% PI improvement over the field average. This team worked together to plan the drilling of the first well from a combined HSE and technical point of view. Establishing Underbalanced Conditions Underbalanced drilling conditions were established initially by pumping oil (at 500-600 lpm) and natural gas (at 60-90 m3/min) down the concentric casing. Initial drilling proved to be slower than conventional OB drilling while the rig crew became conversant with UB . total dynamic losses in the magnitude of 485 m3 were seen. due to rigourous HSE and training prerequisites. for a total of 1493 metres.. Commencement of the Campaign .000 kPa at 1. providing the specific technical and operational expertise for the project. The reservoir has a GOR of 40 m3/m3 with no H2S. Oil production is from tight (1-10 mD permeability) matrix carbonates.79 days for a total of 1632 metres. and the HSE certificate signed off. underlining the effectiveness of the stimulation recipe. and figure 2 the resulting PDS UB equipment layout. with measured losses of 366 m3. while also raising the bar for the pending UB operations. Next. and flushing to a crude oil system was a success. flushing to substantially lighter crude oil could reduce the losses sustained in the previous two legs. with an average reservoir temperature of 74 °C. With equipment on site capable of handling hydrocarbon returns. never recovered. The whipstock was then set and window milled for leg 2.7 cp at 30°C. rigiste training finished. with the remaining two legs drilled underbalanced. The stimulation program called for a recipe of acid and bleach. UB Well Design Issues & Challenges Specific well design issues and the challenges faced have been discussed in depth previously4. Saih Rawl Field Development Strategy The Shuaiba reservoir in Saih Rawl is a low relief anticline about 60 m thick. Figure 1 shows the well schematic for SR 153. Sayyala crude oil was used as the drilling liquid. The asset team therefore agreed to trial UB on the Saih Rawl field. rig modifications complete. with an initial water cut of 40 %. The oil assisted the gas in overcoming the hydrostatic pressure of the static oil column in the annulus and flowed into the injection sub at a concentric casing injection depth of 1450 meters (perforations in the 177. let alone underbalanced with a crude oil.250 m TVD. the first three legs of SR 153 be drilled conventionally. M. The Shuaiba is typically sub-hydrostatic. the PDS UB kit was mobilized and rigged up on site.2 CULEN. with a natural gas compressor tied in to the standpipe to provide a further underbalanced state in the case of lower pressured candidates. This news proved to be very interesting to the project team and to PDO. Dynamic losses have been encountered when the legs are displaced to after stimulation. The root cause of this problem was believed to be drilling induced formation damage.8 mm liner).S. AND HASHIMI. The final UB design centered on the use of field natural gas through a concentric liner as the lift medium. The results were very promising. the oil injection down the concentric was shut down while gas injection remained active. The field is being developed by a series of 3 to 5 leg multilateral injector/producer pairs with barefoot laterals of over 1000 m AH from a 7" cased horizontal backbone. Leg 3 – Drilled OB and tested During the drilling of leg three. Conventional Drilling Operations Historically. H. the rig was now ready to accept liquid hydrocarbons and begin UB operations. No losses were encountered with the lighter fluid flush. the UB kit was used to flow test the conventionally drilled leg. Leg 2 was completed in 5. upon the post stimulation flush to wellsite water. carefully balancing safe operations and the ‘zero reservoir damage’ mandate set forth by the asset. 8 to 10.

The curves are presented as a comparison of percentage of total oil produced while drilling over the open hole length. What may be interpreted from these numbers is that a UB trial campaign of only one well can result in erroneous assumptions on the economics and operational efficiency of the technique. PIF’s realized for legs 4 and 5 were 1. Oil was produced throughout the drilling of leg 4. with an overall productivity 3 improvement for all 5 legs of SR153 of 1. A Note on UBD and ROP Much has been publicized about the fact that UB drilling can dramatically increase ROP. for the total amount of oil produced while drilling legs 4 and 5. was adopted to control potential sudden increases in bottom hole circulating pressure. Production declines are normally noted after this amount of time. The flushing of the stimulation performed on leg 3 with crude oil instead of wellsite water resulted in a PIF of 1. Figure 3 depicts the production profile curve versus depth. Graphical depiction of the time depth curves for the entire well is shown in figure 6. and accessible reserves are then calculated.85. Ultimate Recovery At the time of writing SR153 had been on production for approximately 4 months. distinct productivity increases were seen for both leg 4 and 5. Daily improvements were evident and as drilling progressed off bottom circulating time decreased while daily footage increased. Familiarity of operations. the length of time taken to drill leg 4 is not indicative of actual time required to drill underbalanced. These results are shown graphically in figure 5. with no medium to high potential incidents. A total of 1266 m was drilled UB on leg 5. and leg 5 after 8m. coupled with some non-UB specific equipment problems (annular preventer. Drilling Performance Safety Safety performance during the drilling of SR 153 was excellent. Leg 4 began producing oil after 22 metres drilled. and greater drilling efficiencies were realized as shown in figure 3.94 16. along with trace amounts of water. a 5 % increase in ultimate oil recovery is forecast based upon the PI improvements seen. and hydrocarbon production numbers can augment LWD/MWD information received from downhole tools. Table 1 shows the total drilling time associated with each leg. plant supply gas) resulted in the lengthy time to reach the target depth of leg 4.80 respectively. The total amount of early oil produced during the drilling of SR153 was substantial and produced substantially early. Interpreting the Results: A Direct Comparison Early Oil Data gathering while drilling UB is a positive by product of the technique. this type of data recording can help identify reservoir characteristics such as fractures. A total of 1340 metres was drilled underbalanced.UB OH Length (m) 1485 1625 1667 1340 1260 Actual Drilling Days 4. Production Improvement The effectiveness of drilling underbalanced was immediately evidenced through the use of the UB separation equipment to flow test the well and measure the resulting Productivity Index. after the wellbore was cleaned of any drilled cuttings.18 As can be seen from the numbers in Table 1 above.IADC/SPE 81629 A DIRECT COMPARISON BETWEEN CONVENTIONAL AND UNDERBALANCED DRILLING TECHNIQUES operations. The time to reach a depth of 850 m took approximately two days less drilling leg 5 than leg 4.86 and 1. whereas the duration for leg 5 is more representative. A limitation of 35 m/hr. the primary mandate for drilling UB in Saih Rawl was to minimize formation damage. LTIs or LTAs recorded for the duration of drilling operations. Although not encountered. Trips and other non-drilling activities were accomplished with the well balanced. with the initial leg being an exception. for both sliding and rotating.16 over field average.28 6. Figure 3 depicts the time depth curves of legs 4 and 5 respectively. As noted previously.96 5. Although not measured at this time. Drilling Time The time required to drill UB may be directly compared to conventional drilling practices. Oil production was steady throughout the drilling of the leg. however water production ceased at a depth of approximately 1588m. Although some OB spikes were noted for brief periods of time during the initial stages of drilling leg 4. Controlled drilling was used immediately upon drilling open hole section. Table 1 – Drilling Time Leg 1 – OB 2 – OB 3 – OB 4 – UB 5 .79 5. Initial production showed a high water cut. SR153 production continues to be strong and sustained. for a well comprised of 5 leg multi-laterals takes in excess of 30 days to drill. and the increase in operational efficiency from only one well can be seen during the first drilling days of each leg. when in fact ROP increase and minimization of formation damage may be seen as mutually exclusive targets to drilling UB. This can be nowhere more evident than on this project. Leg 5 – UB Oil production from leg five was noted after drilling eight metres. Tests were conducted at key points during the drilling process as well as at the end of each leg. since there was a defined . New procedures were orchestrated by the PDS UB site team until the rig crew was comfortably familiar with them.

HARTHI. March 4-6. Achievable ROP is limited to MWD data quality as a function of the sampling frequency. with PIFs bearing out similar to those seen on SR153. IADC/SPE 81629 References 1 2 3 4 Schoenmakers. E. Amsterdam. M." paper SPE 27525 presented at the 1994 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference. and the staff at Frontier Technology Network. February 15-18. Productivity improvement factors as high as 1. M. et al: “Low Risk/High Reward Strategy Drives Underbalanced Drilling Implementation in PDO” paper SPE/IADC 79853 presented at SPE/IADC Drilling Conference held in Amsterdam. Extrapolating PI and early production numbers from SR153 indicate that as a result of UB operations.4 CULEN. Certainly much greater penetration rates are attainable in the very porous Shuaiba formation. A. Francis. as well as onsite actions. Testing of the second well in the UB campaign shows promising results. J. however the underbalanced state would then be compromised. P. The Netherlands.: "Introduction of Game-changing Drilling Technology. S. Work on future wells in the project has highlighted numerous new challenges.: "Underbalanced Drilling through Oil Production Zones with Stable Foam in Oman. Dallas.PDS Operatioons Manager ME. They would also like to thank all those who contributed to the success of this project. The results from drilling SR153 provide concrete evidence of the benefits of the judicious application of underbalanced drilling techniques. Rudy Schipper – PDS Regional UB Manager ME. et al.: "Approach to Underbalanced Well Operations in Petroleum Development Oman. Tailoring the UB program. Focus on the minimization of reservoir impairment has ensured that the health of the wellbore was of primary importance during drilling operations. . Tom Everitt – PDO Team Leader New Oil Delivery North. ultimate oil recovery has increased by 5 %. Sheldon Sephton – PDS UB Engineer. to ensure that the ‘zero damage’ objective was continually met has yielded PIFs upward of 1.80 above field average. New Orleans. and subsequent operations fell closely in line with conventional drilling operations. Surewaard. in particular Jason Allard . These encouraging early results from the project have prompted an extension of the initial UB trial period to 18 months. Drilling performance followed the classic line of the learining curve. Kitsios. with further work ongoing to discover other applicable candidates. 19–21 February 2003. Mustapha Bakry – Senior Well Engineer PDO.. AND HASHIMI. Conclusions Initial results from the UB drilling campaign in PDO have produced very favourable results. H. Initial drilling time reflected training and familiarization with UB procedures.55 above adjacent OB laterals. An added benefit from the drilling operations resulted in substantial early oil production. J." paper SPE 35069 presented at the 1996 SPE/IADC Drilling Conference. This effect could be enhanced further by allowing the legs to flow while drilling subsequent laterals.86 over field average were realized. and 1. has shown that penetration rates on par with conventional OB drilling is possible. namely adapting the UB design to allow drilling of the longest continuous onshore underbalanced well (1742m) and the use of dual concentric casing/drill pipe injection of natural gas to accomplish it. et al. Altering the drilling rates on current projects. paying particular attention to hole cleaning velocities. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the Ministry of Oil and Gas and PDO for permission to publish this paper. underbalanced window to stay within." paper SPE 37635 presented at the 1997 SPE/IADC Drilling Conference. March 12-15.S. Paul Francis – PDO DVD Team Leader.

Injection Point: 1450 mMD Target BHCP: +8000 kPa 9 5/8” casing to 1560 m MD 1355 m 1388 m 7” tie back liner to 1450 m MD CC injection point at 1450 m MD (1355 m TVD) 121mm PDM 7” back bone liner from 1450 m to 2440 m 2440m MD 1388 m TVD OBD 1 4190m MD 1388 m TVD UBD UBD OBD + Flow Test OBD 5 4 3 2 Reservoir Data: Saih Rawl Crude: 37 API GOR: 40 m3/m3 BHP: 10000 kPa Note: TVD of legs 1-4 is 1388 m.IADC/SPE 81629 A DIRECT COMPARISON BETWEEN CONVENTIONAL AND UNDERBALANCED DRILLING TECHNIQUES 5 Figure 1 – SR 153 Well Schematic 3 1/2” Drill Pipe SR153 Fluid: Saih Rawl Crude Gas: Natural Gas C. Figure 2 – UB Equiment Layout Concentric casing injection line Centrifuges & solids handling Flare line Second stage separator Tank farm First stage separator Choke manifold .C.

S.00 20.00 90. fractures) could be interpreted from this data.00 50. H. HARTHI.00 Drillpipe reshuffle 30.S.00 Note trend increase in production rate over this interval 60.6 CULEN.00 % Production 70.00 40. M. IADC/SPE 81629 Figure 3 .00 Production profile shown as a percentage of total oil produced per leg. 80.SR 153 Leg 4 & 5 Production Profile vs. Although not experienced during the drilling of this well.00 0. Depth Drilled (m) 400 600 Equipment and gas supply problems 800 Flow test 1000 Leg 4 TD = 3160m Total drilled = 1340 m 1200 Leg 5 TD = 2844m Total drilled = 1266 m 1400 Figure 4. reservoir characteristics (ie. AND HASHIMI. Depth 100.00 Leg 5 window @ 1591m Leg 4 window @ 1834m Trip for MWD 10.SR 153 Time Depth Curves Days Drilling 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 0 200 Drilling efficiency increase of almost 2 days at 850 m between legs 4 and 5..00 1500 1700 1900 2100 2300 Depth (m) 2500 2700 2900 .

8 0.4 1.8 1.2 0 3 4 5 1-5 SR 153 Multilateral Figure 6 – Time – Depth Curves for SR153 SR_153 UBD "TvD chart" Time.86 Production increase over field average 1.8 1.16 PIF 1.6 0.4 0.85 1.2 Saih Rawl Field Average 1 0.days 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 0 500 1000 Leg 5 1500 Leg 4 Depth.IADC/SPE 81629 A DIRECT COMPARISON BETWEEN CONVENTIONAL AND UNDERBALANCED DRILLING TECHNIQUES 7 Figure 5 – SR 153 Productivity Improvement Factors over Saih Rawl Field Average Productivity Improvement of SR153 Over Field Average 2 1. m Leg 1 2000 Leg 2 Leg 3 2500 3000 3500 4000 4500 UB training 120 .6 1.