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Conditions with Concentric Casing Injection

C.G. Mykytiw, I.A. Davidson, Shell UBD Global Implementation Team, P.J. Frink, Blade Energy Partners

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., 2526 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.

Abstract

Underbalanced drilling (UBD) has the potential to add value

by maximizing productivity and ultimate recovery by reducing

formation damage. The benefits of UBD are of course

dependent on the ability to maintain underbalanced conditions

throughout the entire life of a well, especially during the

drilling phase.

The ability to maintain underbalanced

conditions is complicated because real UBD wells are rarely,

if ever, in a steady-state condition and are subject to

constantly changing or transient flow behavior. Improved

understanding of the transient flow behavior will increase the

ability of the rigsite engineer to maintain the desired

bottomhole pressure and thus minimize potential formation

damaging, overbalanced periods. This paper illustrates how

detailed transient analysis provides a rigorous engineering

basis for selection of the appropriate methods, to maintain

optimum downhole conditions by minimizing bottomhole

pressure instability.

Methods to mitigate destabilizing transient effects with

drill pipe injection are relatively well understood, due to

extensive case histories, but less experience is available with

concentric casing (CC) injection and thus less is known on

options to control pressure instability.

The UbitTS transient flow simulator is used to optimize

design and operational parameters to minimize well slugging

tendency and pressure instability when the concentric casing

injection technique is employed. Reference is made to a

generic test well, but the methodology has application to all

UBD operations considering CC injection.

Introduction

The primary purpose of this paper is to provide insight for

achieving

stable

underbalanced

conditions

during

underbalanced drilling operations utilizing a concentric casing

injection method. Since pressure instability is inherently a

models provide little assistance in mitigating against this

behavior. Therefore, the use of transient flow simulations

during UBD well design and implementation is discussed, to

enable wellsite personnel to make real time decisions in order

to achieve desired downhole conditions.

At the time this paper was prepared three projects utilizing

the CC injection method were being performed by Shell in the

Middle East. A recurrent problem in the initial wells in these

projects was transient slugging behavior and resultant well

instability associated with CC injection of gas. The ability to

properly analyze this problem, and develop practicable

methods to obtain pressure stability was limited by the use of

steady state flow simulations. Steady state modeling provides

a level of understanding whether a project is technically

viable, and gives clues as to the transient controllability of the

well, but does not model the true well behavior after flow

disturbances, such as choke manipulation, are introduced.

This deficiency is normally addressed in the design process

thru the use of safety factors incorporated into the steady state

design of maximum pressures and flow rates.

This paper details design considerations, such as gas to

liquid ratio, critical gas injection rate, concentric casing

volume, injection port restriction, and fluid density, to

minimize pressure instability. Also discussed are operational

techniques that in combination with real time transient

modeling will assist the well site engineer make more

informed decisions to efficiently stabilize pressures. It will

also expose methods that actually amplify the problem.

Realtime transient modeling may prove to be a more costeffective approach to address pressure stability problems,

when compared to the commonly adopted time-consuming

and expensive trial and error approach.

Since detailed transient modeling is required for both the

design and operational methods to minimize pressure

instability, it is first required to validate the transient flow

model. The model was validated against real well data

collected from Shells recent wells during periods of well

slugging using the concentric casing injection method. An

acceptable level of confidence was established with the model

results, after actual data trending was properly matched.

Thereafter, detailed sensitivity analyses on various control

parameters were conducted to determine the most effective

approach to reduce pressure instability. The validation

exercise results are outside the scope of this paper but will be

detailed in a subsequent paper.

Both UbitTS and Olga were used in the pressure instability

analysis. Both applications use the Olga engine, which is a

mechanistic transient two-phase flow model originally created

for analysis of complex transient pipeline flow problems.

UbitTS is a UBD interface to the full Olga Simulator, which

allows interactive control of parameters, such as injection rates

and choke pressures amongst others. This enables the user to

analyze the impact of user controlled changes to well

conditions before the actual changes take place. It also allows

visualization of dynamic well responses. The full Olga

program, on the other hand, is not interactive. Olga requires

that all inputs are entered into the program in batch mode.

This of course requires pre-knowledge of exactly what

conditions will be changed and the duration of each change.

Figure 1 summarizes the relationship between Olga and

UbitTS.

The Olga program was employed for the validation

exercise because accurate well data was available and the

sequencing of changes was known. The data and sequencing

were thus entered as a single time series into Olga. Again, the

results of this analysis will be detailed in a subsequent paper.

UbitTS was used to illustrate well behavior for each design

parameter. Olga was used only for the analysis of downhole

injection port restriction or sizing.

Design Criteria for Unconditional Pressure Stability

Unconditional pressure stability exists if operator intervention

is not required to achieve and maintain steady state

bottomhole pressure. An example UBD well employing CC

injection of gas has been assumed for the design and

operational analysis to reduce well slugging. Table 1 describes

the details of this example well.

Essentially, for a given well, there are very few parameters

that can be controlled to achieve stability; gas and liquid

injection rates, density and viscosity of injected fluid, and

back pressure (choke pressure). Stability has to be achieved,

within the context of these controllable parameters. In what

follows, the impact of controlling these parameters and the

subsequent response of the well is described.

Gas to Liquid Ratio in the Primary Annulus. Regardless of

the injection method used during underbalanced drilling,

whenever the gas to liquid ratio (GLR) is too low, well

slugging will most likely result. At constat gas injection rate,

if liquid injection rate or reservoir fluid production reduces,

the tendency for the well to slug is reduced. Equally, if the

gas injection rate or reservoir gas influx rate increase, the

tendency for slug flow, is decreased.

Establishing and maintaining the ideal GLR in the wellbore

is the fundamental requirement to minimize slugging

tendency. The lower boundary for the liquid rate down the

drill pipe is dictated primarily by the minimum annular liquid

velocity required for adequate hole cleaning. The upper

boundary is generally dictated by either the positive

displacement motors maximum volumetric throughput or the

risk of becoming overbalanced. Other secondary factors that

may impact liquid injection rates are:

IADC/SPE 81631

Amount of reservoir influx assisting annular liquid

velocity.

Desired pressure drawdown on the formation.

Pump limitations (generally when mist pumps are

used).

Lubrication of the bit.

The gas injection rate is the single most important factor

with regard to maintaining bottomhole pressure stability and is

primarily dictated by the volume required to achieve an

underbalanced state. A secondary consideration is the impact

on liquid velocity required to clean the hole. A low GLR is

often the primary culprit when stability issues arise with CC

injection. This is quite different from two-phase drill pipe

injection, where the lower limit at which stable two-phase

flow results, is often guided by the onset of friction

domination. Therefore, optimum multi-phase flow in the

wellbore depends on the highest GLR that can be achieved,

within equipment (motors, MWD) and operating parameter

(pressure, velocity) constraints. The first step in designing the

optimum underbalanced injection parameters is to conduct

steady state modeling to determine an operating envelope of

injection rates, bound by the UBD parameters. The transient

effects within this operating envelope may then be evaluated

and potentially further restrict the envelope by setting a lower

boundary for the GLR.

Referring to the example well, steady state modeling

predicts that an operating window of 700 to 900 lpm of liquid

and 20 to 35 m3/min of gas, satisfies all underbalanced drilling

and equipment constraints. Membrane nitrogen, which is

commonly used in UBD, is assumed for the example well

design, and thus the upper boundary of gas injection is

constrained by the capability and availability of a single

membrane nitrogen package. This assumption results in

further complicating the well design since providing an

infinite gas source simplifies the mitigation of well slugging

by increasing the gas rate.

Increasinge the GLR, besides simply adding more gas,

may also be achieved by dynamically manipulating the fluid

pump rate. If pressure trends are monitored closely, the pump

rate may be reduced at a point when the pressure trending

represents a sinusoidal loading situation. In other words,

when the pressure profile displays a sequence of peaks and

troughs, the mud pump rate may be decreased, thus increasing

the GLR. However, this technique has proven to be inefficient

to reduce well slugging as timing is critical when to increase

the pump rate again. Waiting too long may result in hole

cleaning problems or allow the well to unload completely.

Not waiting long enough will simply allow the ongoing

transient situation to continue or even become worse. In either

case an entirely new transient situation is introduced.

Understanding Critical Gas Injection Rate. As discussed

earlier, steady state modeling results in a range of fluid

injection rates. It is then necessary to evaluate the minimum

gas injection rate required to reach steady state and determine

whether this rate resides in the determined operating envelope.

Figure 2 illustrates the concept of critical gas injection rate by

calculating the required gas injection rate to simply balance

IADC/SPE 81631

large accumulator, as a fluid slug is moving up the wellbore.

The key assumptions in the calculations, are as follows:

The injection point is at a depth of 890 m (40

inclination).

The fluid below the injection point is all dead oil

(GOR = 0).

Frictional effects are considered negligible.

The well is assumed to be void of fluids above the

injection point.

The injection pressure and bottomhole pressure are

the same and constant.

Deviation from these assumptions may drastically alter the

calculation especially with the onset of high frictional pressure

losses (associated with high viscosity and fluid pump rates).

The calculation, although very simplistic in nature,

illustrates a very important point. Assuming the injection

ports are at 40 degrees and 890 m, 39 m3/min of injected gas is

required to just balance the slug rise rate and corresponding

pressure increase. Less than this critical injection rate will

result in a zero gas injection rate during the slug rise period.

The critical learning here is the accumulation effect of the

CC annulus. The critical rate must be pumped to just balance

the increase in pressure at the injection ports. Essentially,

most of the gas is being compressed in the CC annulus and

very little volume is available to assist lift in the primary

annulus. Therefore, a rate greater than the critical rate, must

be pumped to ensure sufficient gas volume, and thus lift, at all

times.

The calculation underlines the importance of gas injection

rate, CC annulus volume, depth of injection ports, inclination

of injection ports and fluid pump rate. Recall the steady state

determined gas injection rates of 20 to 35 m3/min. The critical

gas injection rate calculated in Figure 2 (39 m3/min) is outside

of the determined operating envelope. However, this critical

rate determination may in fact be considered a worst case

scenario, because frictional effects will not be negligible,

especially with high viscosity fluid and high pump rates. In

addition, the equivalent circulating density (ECD) will likely

be lower than that of single phase oil (due to GOR), resulting

in a lower pressure rise rate than calculated. Both of these

assumptions yield a higher critical gas injection rate than

likely required and thus a risk of over specified equipment. It

is thus recommended that a transient simulator be used to

more accurately determine the critical gas injection rate, for

unconditional pressure stability, and thus effectively specify

required equipment.

Determination of Critical Gas Injection Rate. In order for

the pressure to be stable, without operator intervention

(unconditional pressure stability), it is necessary to design for

the ideal gas to liquid ratio in the wellbore. As illustrated in

Figure 2, a critical gas injection rate is required to just balance

the slug rise rate. However, due to some key assumptions

made in the calculation, the critical gas injection rate

calculated may not be accurate. A transient flow model is then

required to determine the effective critical gas injection rate

for stability. As mentioned above, the calculation illustrates a

worst case scenario and thus one would assume a lower

Of course the model takes frictional effects, fluid properties

(viscosity), GOR of produced fluids, into account, and does

not assume an evacuated wellbore with only N2 leaving the

well at start-up.

For the example well, recall the steady state modeling

operational window was determined to be between a liquid

pump rate of 700 to 900 lpm of oil and 20 to 35 m3/min of gas.

As discussed, it is ideal if the required gas injection rate

resides within this range, which will eliminate the need for

operator intervention, but critical gas injection rate analysis is

required to determine if this is the case. The following

discussion details the results of the modeling, assuming a

constant 900 lpm oil injection (5 cP viscosity), while varying

the gas rate.

Pre-Critical Gas Injection Rate (20 m3/min). As observed

in Figure 3, well slugging is inevitable at 20 m3/min gas

injection and will continue infinitely, without operator

intervention. The Pressure Response Curve shows that the CC

annulus is cyclically charging, as indicated by the variations

in pressure between 4000-8000 kPa. It is also interesting to

observe from the Gas Injection at Ports Response Curve that

there is a period without flow from the injection ports. This

occurs when the pressure inside the primary annulus is

increasing faster than the CC annulus pressure, i.e. the

accumulator effect. At a pre-critical gas injection rate, the gas

compression rate in the CC annulus (accumulator), is unable to

overcome the pressure rise rate in the primary annulus due to

the hydrostatic pressure increase. As a result, it is not until the

pressure increase ceases (fluid to surface), that gas exits the

injection ports and the charged accumulator unloads the well,

as observed by the high gas volume exiting the injection ports.

The CC annulus is then quickly de-pressurized and the entire

process repeats itself as follows:

1. The fluid rises past the injection ports,

2. The gas injection to the wellbore ceases until fluid

reaches the surface

3. Hydrostatic pressure rise stops

4. Gas pressure builds in the CC annulus

5. Gas enters and subsequently evacuates the wellbore.

This process may be further verified by the period of zero

gas injection lasting about 15 minutes. As shown in Figure 2

the slug rise rate is 48 m/min (vertical), the depth of the

injection ports is 890 m, resulting in a time to surface for the

fluid of 18 minutes, corresponding very well to the zero gas

injection period observed in Figure 3.

Critical Gas Injection Rate (25 m3/min). As determined

above, 20 m3/min is less than the critical gas injection rate,

defined as the gas rate required to just balance the slug rise

rate. Further modeling was performed to determine the critical

rate to create a continuous positive volume gas lift in the

primary annulus. Figure 4, shows the improved pressure

stability achieved by pumping the critical gas injection rate.

The amplitude of the pressure oscillations (peaks and troughs),

indicate both the pressure rise due to slug movement, and the

pressure decline due to gas unloading the slug. This confirms

that sufficient gas is being injected to balance the hydrostatic

pressure rise in the wellbore experienced at the injection ports,

enabling gas to enter the wellbore and contribute to lifting the

fluid. However, the volume of gas available is insufficient to

continue infinitely, however the peak pressure will be less than

that for the pre-critical gas injection rate (20 m3/min) due to

the lowered ECD above the ports. This is noted by the peak

pressure at 5500 kPa compared to the peak pressure of the precritical case of 8000 kPa, which is equivalent to the

hydrostatic pressure of a full column of fluid.

To achieve stable flow, it is therefore necessary to increase

the gas injection rate beyond the critical gas rate so that

sufficient lift gas is available to achieve a GLR that is high

enough to discontinue the gradual well loading.

Post Critical Gas Injection Rate (30 m3/min). It may be

observed in Figure 5 that the pressure profiles are flattening

out over several cycles of disturbance. However, even after 2

hours the well is not completely stable. This may not be

considered a practical situation due to the lengthy stabilization

time. Although the above rate may be used in a combination

of dynamic choking of the well (discussed later), to minimize

the stabilization period, it is good practice to design the

injection parameters so that operational intervention is not

required for adequate stabilization time.

Ideal Gas Injection Rate (35 m3/min). Figure 6 shows the

required gas injection rate for a liquid pump rate of 900 lpm of

oil. With this rate the well becomes stable in a single

oscillation, a 45 minute stabilization period. This is far more

practical than the previous rate. If these parameters are used,

the well will reach stabilized flow conditions without the need

for operator intervention, unconditional pressure stability.

However, given the above situation, if reservoir influx

occurs and the GLR reduces below the recommended ratio,

then a form of operator intervention, such as well choking,

may be required. This must achieve two things; first it must

reduce the amount of drawdown on the well and thus limit the

amount of influx, secondly it must minimize the pressure

stabilization period.

Concentric Casing Annular Volume.

Due to the

accumulation effect discussed earlier, the volume of the CC

annulus is directly proportional to well slugging tendency.

The greater the volume of the CC annulus, the greater will be

the probability of pressure stabilization problems. For this

reason parasite injection strings, which have a small hydraulic

volume, are less prone to well slugging than large volume CC

injection systems. In CC design, as the pressure rises, due to

positive change to the fluid column above the injection port,

the gas injection system compresses the gas in the CC annulus

to compensate for this increase. Therefore, reducing the

volume of the CC annulus will have a significant and

beneficial impact on the required gas injection rate. If the

accumulator can be made smaller slugging tendency will

reduce and the required gas injection rate may also be reduced.

For example, if the casing design used a 9 5/8 x 7 5/8

combination casing and tie back string, the reduced CC

volume would have a positive impact on reducing the slugging

tendency. On a practical note, flush OD connections would be

required to fit within the 9 5/8 casing and this approach

would most likely only be applicable to a long term project

where the well design could be optimized for underbalanced

drilling. This option may be the most effective way to reduce

well slugging tendency. Further analysis will be required to

IADC/SPE 81631

annulus will not lead to reduced annular velocity and poor

hole cleaning.

Figure 7 illustrates the impact of reducing the CC volume

by utilizing a 7 5/8 casing (opposed to 7) string with flush

joint connections. The key assumptions in the simulation are

that the well is slugging with a constant wellhead pressure

(500 kPa separator pressure) and the injection rates are 900

lpm of fluid and 28 m3/min of gas.

As demonstrated in Figure 7, the reduced CC annulus

volume has a direct and dramatic effect on well slugging

tendency. The reduced annular (accumulator) volume, results

in BHCP stability in less than one hour, compared with 7

casing in which stability is never obtained.

As discussed previously, pressure stability is not an issue if

the gas injection rate is sufficiently high. The cost benefit of

decreasing the CC annular volume should be compared to the

cost of additional equipment required to achieve the adequate

gas injection rate.

Flow Restriction for Annular Injection. A method to reduce

potential for well slugging that has been effectively adopted in

other UBD operations is to create a downhole choke between

the CC annulus and the primary annulus. This geometry

produces a variable pressure drop across the injection port and

reduces the maximum rate of gas discharge into the well

during the unload period or during pressure oscillations. The

effectiveness of this solution of course depends on the size and

configuration of the restriction. For instance, in the case of

critical sonic velocity, the gas expansion through the

restriction is at the maximum and thus the injected volume is

also at the maximum. Additional gas injection into the CC

annulus at this point would not be possible. As a result the

maximum gas volume required must be accurately defined to

determine the optimum port size.

Achieving the desired restriction, by sizing the total flow

area (TFA) of the injection ports, is not a simple matter. It is

complicated by the impact of backflow of fluid and

subsequent jetting of fluid through the ports. Solids plugging

and wear will also potentially complicate the calculation.

Some, but not all, of the above may be circumvented by the

use of non-return valves, or screens to cover the ports.

The Olga simulator was used to determine the ideal

restriction and the size of the ports to achieve the ideal

pressure drop at steady state flow. This was accomplished

within Olga by inserting a variable choke valve at the injection

point to represent the restriction. The objective of this

analysis was to evaluate the effect of the restriction when

injecting gas at a higher pressure drop, thereby dampening the

transient behavior of the system. For the example case, the

separator pressure was set to be 1000 kPa and the injection

rates assumed were 900 lpm liquid down the drillstring and 28

m3/min gas down the CC annulus. The calculation results

from Olga, for the minimum restriction required before the

well becomes stable at these rates, is presented in Figure 8.

Modeling the port size showed the desired result as the

restriction (choke size) was decreased gradually until pressure

stabilization was realized. Surprisingly, no impact was

noticed until the total flow area (TFA) was 1% of the crosssectional-area of the CC annulus or 0.57 in2 (equivalent to a

IADC/SPE 81631

restriction has an insignificant effect on injection pressure. In

fact, even with this small restriction, only a 50 kPa pressure

drop across the ports results, once steady state flow occurs.

Operational considerations due to back flow into the CC

annulus, such as plugging and fluid jetting, may make it

impractical to implement a port restriction as a standalone

solution. However, combining this reduced flow area with a

check valve would reduce backflow through the port and help

avoid solids plugging.

In conclusion it can be stated that unless a non-return valve

is employed, it is not feasible to depend on port sizing alone to

minimize well slugging tendency.

The Influence of Density. In general the lower the density of

both injection and produced fluids the lower will be the

tendency for slugging. Of course the density of the produced

fluid may not be influenced, however the volume produced

can be, by maintaining an optimum drawdown. The density of

the injection fluid can be designed to be as low as feasible

(hole cleaning critical) and this will generally have a positive

impact on the slugging tendency.

It has been observed operationally that high GOR reservoir

fluids reduce slugging tendency while low GOR produced

fluids increase the slugging tendency due to the the reduced

ECD.

Inclination at Injection Ports. Little design alternatives are

generally available for well inclination at the injection ports.

The primary design point relative to inclination of the ports is

the depth of the liner top which permits underbalanced

pressures to be obtainable. Therefore the inclination of the

ports may be considered the least significant design alternative

for CC injection.

Operational Considerations for Reducing Well Slugging

Rigorously implementing the established design criteria and

verifying the real time results, with both static and dynamic

flow models, will provide the best opportunity to create

optimum UBD conditions throughout the drilling phase.

However, unexpected reservoir conditions or equipment

performance below expectation, may result in unwanted well

slugging. This section discusses operational options to reduce

well slugging if, despite design objectives, slugging still

occurs. The impact of key sensitivity parameters; separator set

point pressure, fluid viscosity and fluid injection rate, on

pressure stability are analyzed using UbitTS to predict the

transient well responses.

Separator Set Point Pressure Process Control. During

operations it has been observed that setting the separator

pressure and maintaining a fully opened choke had a negative

effect on pressure stability. In one occurance it was

impossible to achieve well stability during a 24 hour period,

regardless of the adjustments made in injection rates. This

attempt to stabilize the well included operator intervention to

maintain constant wellhead pressure, by holding constant

pressure in the separator. The separator control system

effectively maintained constant pressure by bleeding off gas

volume as required, to keep the pressure constant. After

apparent that maintaining constant wellhead pressure is not a

form of stability control. The intention here is to explain why

this approach will not achieve pressure stability and to qualify

the findings theoretically with simulations.

Firstly, to think about the situation intuitively, there are

two accumulators in the system responding to pressure

fluctuations in the primary annulus. The first is the CC

annulus and the second is the separator itself. The process

control system of the separator, be it a manual or automated

process, acts in reverse to the desired response to stabilize

bottomhole pressure. When the wellbore is unloading (high

flowrates from the well) the correct response is to increase

wellhead pressure and thus restrict the volume of gas

evacuating the wellbore. However, maintaining constant

separator pressure allows excessive amounts of gas to vent,

thereby increasing the discharge rate from the well.

Conversely, as the well subsequently loads with liquid, the

wellhead pressure should decrease to allow more gas

expansion and evacuation of fluid to balance the fluid being

added. As discussed previously, as the well is loading and

pressure is building opposite the downhole inlet ports, gas

does not enter the the primary wellbore. Gas merely

accumulates in the CC annulus matching the pressure rise due

to liquid loading. The separator control logic then closes the

back pressure valve to maintain pressure in the separator when

it is required to allow the pressure to drop and allow downhole

gas injection into the primary wellbore. In other words, to

obtain the desired well response the bottomhole circulating

pressure (BHCP) needs to be the set point and not the

wellhead pressure. Unfortunately it is not possible for both

the BHCP and wellhead pressure to be fixed. Recall the

simplified bottomhole pressure calculation:

PBHCP = PHYDROSTATIC + PFRICTION + PWELLHEAD

(1)

controlled, setting the separator pressure constant will allow

the BHCP to fluctuate, unless steady state flow is achieved

due to unconditional pressure stability (sufficient gas

injection). From the discussion above it becomes apparent

that unconditional pressure stability is not achieved and thus a

fixed wellhead pressure will not allow the well to stabilize.

The above discussion may be further verified by analyzing

the results from transient modeling. For the example well two

different set point pressures (500 and 1500 kPa) are shown as

a function of gas injection rate and viscosity of wellbore fluid

and are included as Table 2 and 3. Comparing Tables 2 and 3,

it may be noted that increasing the separator set point pressure

decreases the potential for pressure stability. Noticing the

1500 kPa set point pressure, only a high viscosity fluid (100 to

500 cP) will result in steady state flow, opposed to any

viscosity (for 35 m3/min gas injection rate), for the 500 kPa set

point case

In summary, stabilized flow and unconditional pressure

stability will not be achieved at a constant wellhead pressure

(separator pressure) unless the gas injection rate is greater than

the critical gas rate. The BHCP is the desired set point and

thus the wellhead pressure must be permitted to fluctuate.

discussed earlier, a gas injection rate less than that required to

eliminate operator intervention (35 m3/min in example case),

then surface choking may be required to stabilize the well. It

has already been postulated, that setting a constant wellhead

pressure will not result in a constant bottomhole pressure

being achieved. It has also been established that wellhead

pressure must be allowed to fluctuate to allow the bottomhole

pressure to stabilize.

Figure 9, illustrates the results of varying the choke

opening for an assumed 3 bore choke. The injection

parameters assumed are a drillstring injection rate of 900 lpm

of oil and CC injection rate of 28 m3/min of gas. Several fixed

choke settings were selected (10%, 30%, 50% and 100%

open) and kept constant for the duration of the simulation.

It is observed that the smaller the choke opening the more

rapid the BHCP stabilizes. Correspondingly, as expected, the

BHCP stabilized pressure is also higher with the smaller choke

opening. The response curves illustrated in Figure 9 illustrate

the reduction in pressure oscillations achieved by increasing

the choke pressure and thus decreasing the propensity for

rapid evacuation of the wellbore. It may be concluded that

choking the well does indeed reduce the stabilization time by

reducing gas evacuation. Fixing the choke opening allows the

wellhead pressure to respond to fluctuations in the flow rate

and thus the bottomhole pressure may stabilize. This is the

fundamental difference between setting the separator pressure

constant, which results in a constant wellhead pressure and

setting the choke opening, which results in fluctuating

wellhead pressure (until steady state is reached).

Therefore, as indicated in Figure 9, a 10% open 3 choke

is ideal for stabilized flow. It is also necessary to determine

beforehand that overbalanced pressures will not result from a

higher choke pressure. It is thus apparent that a transient

simulator may be further utilized to assist in effective choke

sizing.

Dynamic Choke Control. Dynamic choking of the well,

involves manipulating the choke pressure (wellhead pressure)

in attempt to dampen the pressure oscillations in the wellbore,

For instance, if the pressure trending, represents a harmonic

(sinusoidal load) behavior, the back pressure may be increased

at a point in the unloading cycle of the well to restrict gas

expansion and evacuation. The back pressure would therefore

be increased once the bottomhole pressure is at the maximum,

peak pressure and decreased once the pressure is at the

minimum, trough pressure. The ideal situation is that a

constant bottomhole pressure will eventually result and choke

manipulation may then be ceased.

Unfortunately, dynamic choking is extremely dependant

on the operators ability to predict the extent and behavior of

gas and liquid slugs in the well and to manipulate the choke

appropriately. The technique is something of a hit and miss

method and often takes lengthy periods of trial and error to

perfect. Since the engineer cannot design for, nor assume,

competence of the operator, it is not possible to rely on this

method to reduce and manage well slugging. Dynamic

choking should only be used as a last resort to reduce well

slugging. However, a situation may arise, such as higher than

expected fluid production, where dynamic choking is the only

IADC/SPE 81631

choke should always be manipulated as to maintain a constant

bottomhole pressure. If continuous real time bottomhole

pressure readings are available the choke opening should be

decreased with decreasing bottomhole pressure as gas is

rapidly expanding and evacuating the wellbore. Then as the

well begins to load and the bottomhole pressure begins to rise,

the choke opening should be increased to reduce surface

pressure and allow more gas to enter the wellbore and expand.

As discussed previously the ultimate theoretical situation is

to maintain a constant GLR BHCP at all times.

If continuous trending of bottomhole pressure is not

available (often the case) dynamic choke manipulation is

further complicated. However, if single phase fluid is being

pumped down the drill pipe (often the case with CC injection),

in theory, an approach similar to the drillers method of well

control could be employed using standpipe pressure as an

indication of bottomhole pressure. As compression of the drill

fluid may be considered negligible, the trending of the

standpipe pressure represents trending of the BHCP during

steady state. However, this practice is complicated by the

standpipe pressure reflecting the performance of the downhole

motor and in a situation where the motor becomes more

loaded or even stalls, the standpipe pressure will respond,

potentially resulting in incorrect adjustment of the choke and

the introduction of new transients. In addition, the response

delay from the choke to the standpipe is approximately one

second for each 300 meters the pressure wave must travel or

two seconds for each 300 meters of measured depth.

In summary, due to the operational complexity of dynamic

choke control, this method of reducing well slugging should

be avoided. It is recommended to set the choke opening

constant, higher than the separator set point, and await

pressure stability than it is to try and dynamically manipulate

the choke. If an automated process is in place to manipulate

the choke with BHCP fluctuations, dynamic choke control

may prove effective.

Viscosity Sensitivity. As noted in Table 1, the viscosity of

the injected and produced fluid, for the example well, are

drastically different. This being the case it may be necessary

during design and execution to understand the transient effects

that may occur once reservoir influx is realized. The viscosity

of fluid in the annulus has a direct impact on pressure stability.

During underbalanced drilling of the reservoir, influx from the

formation will combine with injected fluid and dictate the

viscosity of the return fluid, for the impact of return fluid

viscosity will increase (for the example well) as more of the

reservoir becomes exposed. Due to this fluctuating viscosity it

is necessary to determine the impact of viscosity on pressure

stability. Table 4 illustrates the results of this sensitivity due

to changing viscosity over several gas injection rates.

The important assumptions in the Table 4 are the constant

wellhead pressure of 500 kPa and constant liquid injection rate

of 900 lpm. As observed, higher viscosity actually reduces

well slugging. At 500 cP the well is stable regardless of the

gas injection rate. This is due to the viscosity of the fluid

creating a greater resistance to flow up the wellbore and thus

impares the ability of gas to evacuate the wellbore as rapidly

IADC/SPE 81631

observed when maintaining a constant choke opening.

Injection Set Point Control. Also evaluated was the ability

to use annular injection pressure as the objective variable in an

automated control function. This is based on the premise that

changes in annular injection pressure are an indication of

bottomhole pressure at the injection point. Likewise, changing

surface choke pressure has a direct effect on bottomhole

pressure, the pressure at the injection point and consequently

the amount of gas injected, which in turn influences the

hydrostatic pressure in the annulus. If the response control

(the choke), could detect and react to changes in the

observation variable (surface annular injection pressure), then

it is theortically feasible that an automated control loop could

be applied to stabilize pressure. From the simulations some

improvement in stability is noted however, it proved very

difficult to "tune the controller" to completely stabilize the

well. In other words, the transient rate of gas discharge at the

injection point was too rapid to control via surface pressure

response.

Theoretically, it may be possible to employ a pressure

controlled injection rate concept with a typical membrane

nitrogen system. Such systems have a set pressure that

corresponds to a certain injection volume. Therefore, if the

injection pressure dropped, the volume would increase in

attempt to regain the previous set point pressure. This is

limited by the maximum deliverability rating of the membrane

package selected.

However, when operating in

hydrostatically dominated flow regimes (typical for oil wells),

the system will lead itself to deliver the maximum rate, as this

would be the only stable control point because the injection

pressure tends to decrease with increasing gas rate. The result

of this would be that the system increases constantly until the

maximum rate is reached. It is thus apparent that this option

will not work unless the flow system is very near a steady state

situation anyway and thus would not be beneficial.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The following are key learnings determined from the work

detailed in this paper:

Steady state flow modeling is not a standalone solution to

design and implementation challenges for UBD projects,

especially in the case of concentric casing (CC) injection

methods where more opportunity exists for transient flow

behavior.

Steady state modeling determines flow regime, but will not

determine if well slugging will occur, since it does not

model effects such as concentric casing gas accumulation.

Once an operational envelope is determined from steady

state modeling, the transient effects within this envelope

(simulations) should be evaluated using a dynamic flow

model to determine the optimum parameters.

The most important design consideration for pressure

stability with concentric casing injection is the gas to liquid

ratio. If the gas injection rate is not high enough well

slugging will result.

The concentric casing acts as an accumulator. Gas is

compressed in the CC annulus as pressure increases at the

to the primary annulus once the pressure rise at the

injection ports stops.

Annular gas injection rates above critical should be chosen

to achieve pressure stabilization in an operationally

acceptable amount of time.

Volume of the concentric casing creates the accumulator

effect. The greater the CC annular volume the greater the

tendency for well slugging to occur. The CC volume

should be minimized in the design of the well. This may

be achieved by minimizing the depth of the injection port

to that required to satisfy underbalanced requirements or by

reducing the annular clearance between the concentric

casing and the previous casing (using larger OD tie back).

This will reduce the critical gas injection rate and thus

slugging tendency. The additional casing cost should be

evaluated against the cost of additional gas supply.

If a restriction at the flow ports is used, the slugging

tendency is reduced. Maintaining a positive pressure drop

across the injection ports minimizes the ability for the

accumulator to unload the wellbore. In addition, continual

positive flow will reduce plugging tendency at the ports.

The flow restriction has almost no effect on injection

pressure if only gas is injected.

Setting the separator pressure constant and maintaining a

fully opened choke will not stabilize a slugging well, it

may in fact make it worse. Maintaining constant wellhead

pressure will result in fluctuating bottomhole pressure,

unless greater than the critical gas injection rate (at the

wellhead pressure) is achieved.

If fully steady state conditions are not achieved, the choke

pressure must be maintained at a higher pressure than the

separator set point pressure (wellhead pressure permitted to

fluctuate) or well slugging may actually be induced.

If the pressure at the choke is higher than the separator set

point pressure, maintaining a constant choke opening

results in flow stabilization. The smaller the choke

opening the more rapid the stabilization period.

Dynamic choke control can be utilized to stabilize BHCP,

but this requires a high level of operator competence and

experience and time consuming, Trial and Error,

techniques are needed to effectively manipulate the choke.

Dynamic simulators can be used to prepare a pre

operations choking philosophy but this would be difficult

to employ in practice.

Unless an automated process loop is designed, dynamic

choke control is not recommended as the best operational

practice to reduce well slugging.

It is recommended to determine the ideal choke opening

(no overbalance) and not manipulate the choke.

Well slugging tendency is decreased with increasing

viscosity. High viscous flow up the wellbore produces

results similar to a constant open choke.

The ability for gas to evacuate the wellbore is reduced with

high viscosity. Therefore, as more viscous oil is produced

while drilling, well slugging tendency will be reduced.

It is recommended for the industry to evaluate automated

process control systems to automatically manipulate the

IADC/SPE 81631

pressures as the objective variables.

There was good correlation between the UbitTS/Olga

predictions and real well data for bottomhole pressure,

wellhead pressure and total return fluid predictions.

Well Depth

True Vertical Depth

Measured Depth

Max Inclination

Well Geometry

Production Casing

Tie Back String

Drill Pipe

Injection Port

True Vertical Depth

Measured Depth

Inclination

Injection Fluid

Injection Liquid

Viscosity

Nomenclature

UbitTS = Underbalanced Interactive Transient Training

Simulator

CC

= Concentric Casing

GLR

= Gas to Liquid Ratio

MWD = Measurement While Drilling

BHP

= Bottomhole Pressure

BHCP = Bottomhole Circulating Pressure

GOR = Gas/Oil Ratio

ECD

= Equivalent Circulating Density

TFA

= Total Flow Area

Acknowledgements

We wish to acknowledge Shell Global Implementation Team,

for permission to write this paper, Petroleum Development

Oman, Scandpower and Blade Energy Partners.

Ubitts vs Olga

Olga Interface

Olga Engine

Requires greater user

knowledge

Detailed analysis tools

Greater versatility

Greater flexibility in

component description

Sensitivity studies

3D Plots

Oil

5 cP

780 kg/m

Nitrogen

3

0 m /m

500 cP

930 kg/m

Density

SS Operating Window

Oil Injection Rates

20 to 35 m /min

and Transient Modeling

Example Calculation:

Oil Density = 840 kg/m3 (8.24 kPa/m)

Oil Injection Rate = 900 lpm (0.9 m3/min)

Depth of Injection Ports = 890 m

Inclination of Injection Ports = 40 degrees

161.72 88.92

= 0.0143m2

Cross Section Area of Primary Annulus = A1 = 4

1E6

215.92 177.82

* (890) = 10.485m3

Volume of CC Annulus = VCC = 4

1E6

m3

min = 62.94 m

Slug rise =

0.0143m2

min

m

m

= 48.2

TVD rise rate = cos(40) 62.94

min

min

ASSUMING only N2 is leaving the well then:

Pressure rise is = 48.2 m/min x 8.24 kPa/m = 397.168 kPa/min

ASSUMING a BHCP of 7000 kPa and the annular injection pressure of 7000 kPa:

0.9

= 689.825m3

(101.3kPa)(273.15 + 40C)

V2 =

Interactive Control

Visualization of dynamic

behavior

Interactive analysis of

impact of user control or

change in conditions

Procedures analysis

Training

Simulation of UBD

700 m

890 m

40

GOR

Viscosity

V2 =

Ubitts Interface

9 5/8"

7"

3 1/2"

Density

Injection Gas

Reservoir Fluid

References

1. P. J. Frink, P. V. Suryanarayana, P. R. Brand, J. E. Wooten,

Blade Energy Partners; J. O. Romma, Scandpower SA.,

Development and Use of an Underbalanced Transient Training

Simulator, IADC Underbalanced Operations Technology

Conference and Exhibition, Scotland, 27-28 November, 2001.

2. Underbalanced Advanced Well Design Manual, Blade Energy

Partners, Dallas Texas, 2001

3. Bendiksen, K. H., Malnes, D., Moe, R., and Nuland, S., The

Dynamic Two-Fluid Model OLGA: Theory and Application,

SPE Production Engineering, May 1992, pp. 171-180.

4. Straume, T., Nordsveen, M., and Bendiksen, K., Numerical

Simulation of Slugging in Pipelines, Proceedings of the ASME

International Symposium of Multiphase Flow in Wells and

Pipelines, Anaheim, Nov. 1992.

5. Zheng Gang Xu., Solutions to Slugging Problems Using

Multiphase Simulations, Presented at Multiphase Meeting

Conference, Aberdeen, March 12-13, 1997.

6. Olga 2000 User Documentation, Scandpower A/S. Norway,

2000.

890 m

1500 m

90

= 739.1m3

(101.3kPa)(273.15 + 40C)

m3

(739.1m3 689.83m3 )

= 0.099

kPa

500kPa

kPa

m3

m3

(critical rate)

0.099

= 39.3

kPa

min

min

IADC/SPE 81631

Annular Pressure Response Curve

Gas Injection at Ports - Response Curve

Well Response Curves

Annular Pressure Response Curve

Gas Injection at Ports - Response Curve

Well Response Curves

Annular Pressure Response Curve

Gas Injection at Ports - Response Curve

Well Response Curves

Annular Pressure Response Curve

Gas Injection at Ports - Response Curve

Well Response Curves

10

IADC/SPE 81631

Annular Pressure Response Curve

Gas Rate

(m3/min)

10

15

20

25

30

35

Annular Pressure Response Curve

1

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

10

100

Slugging

3200 to 8800 kPa

4000 s

Slugging

3200 to 8400 kPa

3000 s

Slugging

3200 to 8300 kPa

2500 s

Slugging

3200 to 8300 kPa

2000 s

Slugging

3300 to 8000 kPa

1800 s

Stable

4200 kPa

0s

Slugging

3500 to 8500 kPa

4000 s

Slugging

3500 to 8500 kPa

3000 s

Slugging

3500 to 8500 kPa

2500 s

Slugging

3600 to 8500 kPa

2100 s

Slugging

3800 to 6600 kPa

1800 s

Stable

4500 kPa

0s

Slugging

5000 to 9000 kPa

3500 s

Slugging

4900 to 9000 kPa

2800 s

Slugging

4800 to 9000 kPa

2400 s

Slugging

5500 to 6500 kPa

2000 s

Stable

5800 kPa

0s

Stable

5600 kPa

0s

500

Stable

11500 kPa

0s

Stable

11300 kPa

0s

Stable

11100 kPa

0s

Stable

11100 kPa

0s

Stable

10700 kPa

0s

Stable

10500 kPa

0s

Stability Various Gas Injection Rates and Fluid Viscosity

Gas Rate

(m3/min)

10

15

20

25

Volume Reduction 7 to 7 5/8 Casing

30

35

PRESSURE POS_ANN_INJ_OUTLET [kPa]

6000

0.02

Gas Rate

(m3/min)

m3/s

5000

kPa

Slugging

4700 to 9300 kPa

3500 s

Slugging

4500 to 9400 kPa

2800 s

Slugging

4300 to 9400 kPa

2300 s

Slugging

4200 to 9300 kPa

1900 s

Slugging

4200 to 9200 kPa

1700 s

Slugging

4200 to 9000 kPa

1500 s

Slugging

5200 to 9500 kPa

3500 s

Slugging

4900 to 9500 kPa

2700 s

Slugging

4800 to 9500 kPa

2200 s

Slugging

4700 to 9400 kPa

1800 s

Slugging

4700 to 9300 kPa

1700 s

Slugging

4700 to 9000 kPa

1500 s

Slugging

6700 to 10000 kPa

3000 s

Slugging

6300 to 10000 kPa

2500 s

Slugging

6000 to 10000 kPa

2200 s

Slugging

6000 to 9800 kPa

2000 s

Stable

7500 kPa

0s

Stable

7200 kPa

0s

500

Stable

12500 kPa

0s

Stable

12400 kPa

0s

Stable

12300 kPa

0s

Stable

12200 kPa

0s

Stable

12100 kPa

0s

Stable

12000 kPa

0s

0.015

10

0.01

15

4000

0.005

20

3500

3000

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

10

100

Stability Various Gas Injection Rates and Fluid Viscosity

5500

4500

25

0

0

0.5

1.5

2

Time [h]

2.5

3.5

Stabilization Pressure Drop and Injection Volume versus Time

30

35

1

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

Condition

BHP Fluctuation (UP)

Slug Frequency (UT)

10

100

Slugging

3200 to 8800 kPa

4000 s

Slugging

3200 to 8400 kPa

3000 s

Slugging

3200 to 8300 kPa

2500 s

Slugging

3200 to 8300 kPa

2000 s

Slugging

3300 to 8000 kPa

1800 s

Stable

4200 kPa

0s

Slugging

3500 to 8500 kPa

4000 s

Slugging

3500 to 8500 kPa

3000 s

Slugging

3500 to 8500 kPa

2500 s

Slugging

3600 to 8500 kPa

2100 s

Slugging

3800 to 6600 kPa

1800 s

Stable

4500 kPa

0s

Slugging

5000 to 9000 kPa

3500 s

Slugging

4900 to 9000 kPa

2800 s

Slugging

4800 to 9000 kPa

2400 s

Slugging

5500 to 6500 kPa

2000 s

Stable

5800 kPa

0s

Stable

5600 kPa

0s

500

Stable

11500 kPa

0s

Stable

11300 kPa

0s

Stable

11100 kPa

0s

Stable

11100 kPa

0s

Stable

10700 kPa

0s

Stable

10500 kPa

0s

WHP Various Gas Injection Rates and Viscosities

IADC/SPE 81631

Pressure Stability Simulated Well Response Curves

11

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