You are on page 1of 11

IADC/SPE 81631

Design and Operational Considerations to Maintain Underbalanced
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., 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.

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.
The primary purpose of this paper is to provide insight for
underbalanced drilling operations utilizing a concentric casing
injection method. Since pressure instability is inherently a

time dependant, or transient effect, steady state hydraulic flow
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 Shell’s 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.

Therefore. and thus the upper boundary of gas injection is constrained by the capability and availability of a single membrane nitrogen package. within the context of these “controllable” parameters. UBD Transient Simulator Both UbitTS and Olga were used in the pressure instability analysis. the tendency for slug flow. Olga requires that all inputs are entered into the program in batch mode. Understanding Critical Gas Injection Rate. Again. for a given well. thus increasing the GLR. A secondary consideration is the impact on liquid velocity required to clean the hole.2 UbitTS/Olga. is often guided by the onset of friction domination. there are very few parameters that can be controlled to achieve stability. It also allows visualization of dynamic well responses. Other secondary factors that may impact liquid injection rates are: IADC/SPE 81631 • • Required pump rate for MWD signal transmission. the tendency for the well to slug is reduced. on the other hand. Membrane nitrogen. besides simply adding more gas. As discussed earlier. Equally. Gas to Liquid Ratio in the Primary Annulus. the impact of controlling these parameters and the subsequent response of the well is described. Not waiting long enough will simply allow the ongoing transient situation to continue or even become worse. The first step in designing the optimum underbalanced injection parameters is to conduct steady state modeling to determine an operating envelope of injection rates. the results of this analysis will be detailed in a subsequent paper. • Desired pressure drawdown on the formation. However. In other words. well slugging will most likely result. whenever the gas to liquid ratio (GLR) is too low. 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. which is commonly used in UBD. The data and sequencing were thus entered as a single time series into Olga. within equipment (motors. steady state modeling predicts that an operating window of 700 to 900 lpm of liquid and 20 to 35 m3/min of gas. this technique has proven to be inefficient to reduce well slugging as timing is critical when to increase the pump rate again. At constat gas injection rate. The Olga program was employed for the validation exercise because accurate well data was available and the sequencing of changes was known. In either case an entirely new transient situation is introduced. and back pressure (choke pressure). Olga was used only for the analysis of downhole injection port restriction or sizing. the pump rate may be reduced at a point when the pressure trending represents a sinusoidal loading situation. optimum multi-phase flow in the wellbore depends on the highest GLR that can be achieved. Regardless of the injection method used during underbalanced drilling. This enables the user to analyze the impact of user controlled changes to well conditions before the actual changes take place. Establishing and maintaining the ideal GLR in the wellbore is the fundamental requirement to minimize slugging tendency. bound by the UBD parameters. satisfies all underbalanced drilling and equipment constraints. 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. If pressure trends are monitored closely. In what follows. velocity) constraints. The full Olga program. is not interactive. Stability has to be achieved. which is a mechanistic transient two-phase flow model originally created for analysis of complex transient pipeline flow problems. 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. This of course requires pre-knowledge of exactly what conditions will be changed and the duration of each change. Waiting too long may result in hole cleaning problems or allow the well to unload completely. gas and liquid injection rates. The upper boundary is generally dictated by either the positive displacement motor’s maximum volumetric throughput or the risk of becoming overbalanced. An example UBD well employing CC injection of gas has been assumed for the design and operational analysis to reduce well slugging. steady state modeling results in a range of fluid injection rates. • Pump limitations (generally when mist pumps are used). UbitTS was used to illustrate well behavior for each design parameter. when the pressure profile displays a sequence of peaks and troughs. Amount of reservoir influx assisting annular liquid velocity. Figure 2 illustrates the concept of critical gas injection rate by calculating the required gas injection rate to simply balance . Referring to the example well. Both applications use the Olga engine. such as injection rates and choke pressures amongst others. if liquid injection rate or reservoir fluid production reduces. This is quite different from two-phase drill pipe injection. is assumed for the example well design. the mud pump rate may be decreased. Table 1 describes the details of this example well. Increasinge the GLR. which allows interactive control of parameters. Essentially. density and viscosity of injected fluid. • Lubrication of the bit. Figure 1 summarizes the relationship between Olga and UbitTS. where the lower limit at which stable two-phase flow results. is decreased. may also be achieved by dynamically manipulating the fluid pump rate. MWD) and operating parameter (pressure. A low GLR is often the primary culprit when stability issues arise with CC injection. if the gas injection rate or reservoir gas influx rate increase. Design Criteria for Unconditional Pressure Stability Unconditional pressure stability exists if operator intervention is not required to achieve and maintain steady state bottomhole pressure. UbitTS is a UBD interface to the full Olga Simulator. 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. 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.

As mentioned above. The key assumptions in the calculations. inclination of injection ports and fluid pump rate. as a fluid slug is moving up the wellbore. it is not until the pressure increase ceases (fluid to surface). Therefore. Critical Gas Injection Rate (25 m3/min). it is necessary to design for the ideal gas to liquid ratio in the wellbore. Gas enters and subsequently evacuates the wellbore. are as follows: • The injection point is at a depth of 890 m (40º inclination). The critical gas injection rate calculated in Figure 2 (39 m3/min) is outside of the determined operating envelope. the depth of the injection ports is 890 m. is unable to overcome the pressure rise rate in the primary annulus due to the hydrostatic pressure increase. GOR of produced fluids. • The fluid below the injection point is all dead oil (GOR = 0). Of course the model takes frictional effects. The gas injection to the wellbore ceases until fluid reaches the surface 3. as indicated by the variations in pressure between 4000-8000 kPa. In order for the pressure to be stable. As a result. The calculation underlines the importance of gas injection rate. at all times. resulting in a time to surface for the fluid of 18 ½ minutes. depth of injection ports. Recall the steady state determined gas injection rates of 20 to 35 m3/min. which is in effect a large accumulator. 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. The critical rate must be pumped to just balance the increase in pressure at the injection ports. because frictional effects will not be negligible. corresponding very well to the zero gas injection period observed in Figure 3. resulting in a lower pressure rise rate than calculated. and does not assume an evacuated wellbore with only N2 leaving the well at start-up. and the pressure decline due to gas unloading the slug. The amplitude of the pressure oscillations (peaks and troughs). The Pressure Response Curve shows that the CC annulus is “cyclically charging”. At a pre-critical gas injection rate. CC annulus volume. Gas pressure builds in the CC annulus 5. As determined above. illustrates a very important point.e. the calculation illustrates a worst case scenario and thus one would assume a lower 3 critical gas injection rate calculated with the transient model. assuming a constant 900 lpm oil injection (5 cP viscosity). As discussed. without operator intervention. The fluid rises past the injection ports. A transient flow model is then required to determine the effective critical gas injection rate for stability. this critical rate determination may in fact be considered a worst case scenario. However. Hydrostatic pressure rise stops 4.IADC/SPE 81631 the compression of gas in the CC annulus. The following discussion details the results of the modeling. This occurs when the pressure inside the primary annulus is increasing faster than the CC annulus pressure. However. As illustrated in Figure 2. • The injection pressure and bottomhole pressure are the same and constant. As observed in Figure 3. that gas exits the injection ports and the charged accumulator unloads the well. 39 m3/min of injected gas is required to just balance the slug rise rate and corresponding pressure increase. it is ideal if the required gas injection rate resides within this range. the volume of gas available is insufficient to . a critical gas injection rate is required to just balance the slug rise rate. As shown in Figure 2 the slug rise rate is 48 m/min (vertical). 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. shows the improved pressure stability achieved by pumping the critical gas injection rate. which will eliminate the need for operator intervention. i. especially with high viscosity fluid and high pump rates. 2. Less than this critical injection rate will result in a zero gas injection rate during the slug rise period. into account. and thus lift. and thus effectively specify required equipment. The critical learning here is the “accumulation effect” of the CC annulus. In addition. well slugging is inevitable at 20 m3/min gas injection and will continue infinitely. This confirms that sufficient gas is being injected to balance the hydrostatic pressure rise in the wellbore experienced at the injection ports. 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. The CC annulus is then quickly de-pressurized and the entire process repeats itself as follows: 1. 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 accumulator effect. as observed by the high gas volume exiting the injection ports. the critical gas injection rate calculated may not be accurate. Determination of Critical Gas Injection Rate. although very simplistic in nature. due to some key assumptions made in the calculation. It is thus recommended that a transient simulator be used to more accurately determine the critical gas injection rate. Pre-Critical Gas Injection Rate (20 m3/min). a rate greater than the critical rate. must be pumped to ensure sufficient gas volume. Both of these assumptions yield a higher critical gas injection rate than likely required and thus a risk of over specified equipment. Assuming the injection ports are at 40 degrees and 890 m. fluid properties (viscosity). while varying the gas rate. Figure 4. defined as the gas rate required to just balance the slug rise rate. but critical gas injection rate analysis is required to determine if this is the case. for unconditional pressure stability. enabling gas to enter the wellbore and contribute to lifting the fluid. The calculation. 20 m3/min is less than the critical gas injection rate. For the example well. the gas compression rate in the CC annulus (accumulator). indicate both the pressure rise due to slug movement. However. without operator intervention (unconditional pressure stability). • The well is assumed to be void of fluids above the injection point. Further modeling was performed to determine the critical rate to create a continuous positive volume gas lift in the primary annulus. the equivalent circulating density (ECD) will likely be lower than that of single phase oil (due to GOR). • Frictional effects are considered negligible. This process may be further verified by the period of zero gas injection lasting about 15 minutes.

no impact was noticed until the total flow area (TFA) was 1% of the crosssectional-area of the CC annulus or 0. This is far more practical than the previous rate. This is noted by the peak pressure at 5500 kPa compared to the peak pressure of the precritical case of 8000 kPa. unconditional pressure stability. due to positive change to the fluid column above the injection port. if reservoir influx occurs and the GLR reduces below the recommended ratio. Figure 6 shows the required gas injection rate for a liquid pump rate of 900 lpm of oil. results in BHCP stability in less than one hour. The calculation results from Olga. secondly it must minimize the pressure stabilization period. if the casing design used a 9 5/8” x 7 5/8” combination casing and tie back string. To achieve stable flow. is not a simple matter. the greater will be the probability of pressure stabilization problems. such as well choking. It is complicated by the impact of backflow of fluid and subsequent jetting of fluid through the ports. as the pressure rises. If the ‘accumulator” can be made smaller slugging tendency will reduce and the required gas injection rate may also be reduced. If these parameters are used. Although the above rate may be used in a combination of dynamic choking of the well (discussed later). which is equivalent to the hydrostatic pressure of a full column of fluid. The objective of this analysis was to evaluate the effect of the restriction when injecting gas at a higher pressure drop. Due to the “accumulation effect” discussed earlier. As a result the maximum gas volume required must be accurately defined to determine the optimum port size. Some. is presented in Figure 8. Concentric Casing Annular Volume. reducing the volume of the CC annulus will have a significant and beneficial impact on the required gas injection rate. As demonstrated in Figure 7. thereby dampening the transient behavior of the system. pressure stability is not an issue if the gas injection rate is sufficiently high. This option may be the most effective way to reduce well slugging tendency. Post Critical Gas Injection Rate (30 m3/min). for the minimum restriction required before the well becomes stable at these rates. compared with 7” casing in which stability is never obtained. For instance. This must achieve two things. even after 2 hours the well is not completely stable. but not all. the reduced CC volume would have a positive impact on reducing the slugging tendency. 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. For example. It may be observed in Figure 5 that the pressure profiles are flattening out over several cycles of disturbance. Ideal Gas Injection Rate (35 m3/min). However. 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. 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. 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. it is good practice to design the injection parameters so that operational intervention is not required for adequate stabilization time. first it must reduce the amount of drawdown on the well and thus limit the amount of influx. The greater the volume of the CC annulus. Additional gas injection into the CC annulus at this point would not be possible. In CC design. 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. the reduced CC annulus volume has a direct and dramatic effect on well slugging tendency. 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. Solids plugging and wear will also potentially complicate the calculation. Flow Restriction for Annular Injection. in the case of critical sonic velocity. to minimize the stabilization period. 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. The effectiveness of this solution of course depends on the size and configuration of the restriction. given the above situation. With this rate the well becomes stable in a single oscillation. Modeling the port size showed the desired result as the restriction (choke size) was decreased gradually until pressure stabilization was realized. This may not be considered a practical situation due to the lengthy stabilization time. Further analysis will be required to IADC/SPE 81631 ensure that the increased clearance in the primary wellbore annulus will not lead to reduced annular velocity and poor hole cleaning. of the above may be circumvented by the use of non-return valves. 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. Surprisingly.57 in2 (equivalent to a . The reduced annular (accumulator) volume. The sequence of peaks and troughs will continue infinitely. by sizing the total flow area (TFA) of the injection ports. or screens to cover the ports. then a form of operator intervention. For the example case. 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. For this reason parasite injection strings. Achieving the desired restriction. Therefore. the gas injection system compresses the gas in the CC annulus to compensate for this increase. This was accomplished within Olga by inserting a variable choke valve at the injection point to represent the restriction. the volume of the CC annulus is directly proportional to well slugging tendency. On a practical note. are less prone to well slugging than large volume CC injection systems. 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. a 45 minute stabilization period.4 create stabilized flow. which have a small hydraulic volume. As discussed previously. may be required. However. the gas expansion through the restriction is at the maximum and thus the injected volume is also at the maximum. the well will reach stabilized flow conditions without the need for operator intervention.

even with this small restriction. 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. Operational Considerations for Reducing Well Slugging Rigorously implementing the established design criteria and verifying the “real time” results. may result in unwanted well slugging. by maintaining an optimum drawdown. to think about the situation intuitively. only a high viscosity fluid (100 to 500 cP) will result in steady state flow. with both static and dynamic flow models. Unfortunately it is not possible for both the BHCP and wellhead pressure to be fixed. Therefore the inclination of the ports may be considered the least significant design alternative for CC injection. In other words. slugging still occurs. on pressure stability are analyzed using UbitTS to predict the transient well responses. 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. After 5 analyzing the operational well behavior described. 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 conclusion it can be stated that unless a non-return valve is employed. Little design alternatives are generally available for well inclination at the injection ports. In one occurance it was impossible to achieve well stability during a 24 hour period. As discussed previously. despite design objectives. thereby increasing the discharge rate from the well. only a 50 kPa pressure drop across the ports results. combining this reduced flow area with a check valve would reduce backflow through the port and help avoid solids plugging. In fact. However. Of course the density of the produced fluid may not be influenced. once steady state flow occurs. However. The BHCP is the desired set point and thus the wellhead pressure must be permitted to fluctuate. there are two accumulators in the system responding to pressure fluctuations in the primary annulus. In general the lower the density of both injection and produced fluids the lower will be the tendency for slugging. the wellhead pressure should decrease to allow more gas expansion and evacuation of fluid to balance the fluid being added. unexpected reservoir conditions or equipment performance below expectation. Separator Set Point Pressure – Process Control. as the well is loading and pressure is building opposite the downhole inlet ports.IADC/SPE 81631 diameter of 0. The intention here is to explain why this approach will not achieve pressure stability and to qualify the findings theoretically with simulations. Gas merely accumulates in the CC annulus matching the pressure rise due to liquid loading. 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. it is not feasible to depend on port sizing alone to minimize well slugging tendency. acts in reverse to the desired response to stabilize bottomhole pressure. The process control system of the separator. This section discusses operational options to reduce well slugging if. opposed to any viscosity (for 35 m3/min gas injection rate). regardless of the adjustments made in injection rates. as the well subsequently loads with liquid. 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. 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. however the volume produced can be. separator set point pressure. The primary design point relative to inclination of the ports is the depth of the liner top which permits underbalanced pressures to be obtainable. . Firstly. It is interesting to note that this restriction has an insignificant effect on injection pressure. maintaining constant separator pressure allows excessive amounts of gas to vent. will provide the best opportunity to create optimum UBD conditions throughout the drilling phase. The separator control system effectively maintained constant pressure by bleeding off gas volume as required. However. such as plugging and fluid jetting. be it a manual or automated process. This attempt to stabilize the well included operator intervention to maintain constant wellhead pressure. to keep the pressure constant. may make it impractical to implement a port restriction as a standalone solution. Inclination at Injection Ports.85 in). The first is the CC annulus and the second is the separator itself. Noticing the 1500 kPa set point pressure. The impact of key sensitivity parameters. Operational considerations due to back flow into the CC annulus. for the 500 kPa set point case In summary. gas does not enter the the primary wellbore. 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. it became apparent that maintaining constant wellhead pressure is not a form of stability control. fluid viscosity and fluid injection rate. Comparing Tables 2 and 3. Conversely. it may be noted that increasing the separator set point pressure decreases the potential for pressure stability. unless steady state flow is achieved due to unconditional pressure stability (sufficient gas injection). to obtain the desired well response the bottomhole circulating pressure (BHCP) needs to be the set point and not the wellhead pressure. Recall the simplified bottomhole pressure calculation: PBHCP = PHYDROSTATIC + PFRICTION + PWELLHEAD (1) Since the hydrostatic and frictional losses cannot be controlled. 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. The Influence of Density. by holding constant pressure in the separator. The above discussion may be further verified by analyzing the results from transient modeling. setting the separator pressure constant will allow the BHCP to fluctuate.

a gas injection rate less than that required to eliminate operator intervention (35 m3/min in example case). If this is the case the choke should always be manipulated as to maintain a constant bottomhole pressure. The technique is something of a “hit and miss” method and often takes lengthy periods of “trial and error” to perfect. It may be concluded that choking the well does indeed reduce the stabilization time by reducing gas evacuation. As discussed previously the ultimate “theoretical” situation is to maintain a constant GLR BHCP at all times. As noted in Table 1. 50% and 100% open) and kept constant for the duration of the simulation. However. 30%. a situation may arise. 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. nor assume. competence of the operator. dynamic choke control may prove effective. In summary. potentially resulting in incorrect adjustment of the choke and the introduction of new transients. However. For instance. Table 4 illustrates the results of this sensitivity due to changing viscosity over several gas injection rates. peak pressure and decreased once the pressure is at the minimum. the standpipe pressure will respond. 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. Since the engineer cannot design for. Dynamic choking should only be used as a last resort to reduce well slugging. higher than the separator set point. It is recommended to set the choke opening constant. 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. It has also been established that wellhead pressure must be allowed to fluctuate to allow the bottomhole pressure to stabilize. the trending of the standpipe pressure represents trending of the BHCP during steady state. as discussed earlier. trough pressure. The back pressure would therefore be increased once the bottomhole pressure is at the maximum. However. 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 . due to the operational complexity of dynamic choke control. the BHCP stabilized pressure is also higher with the smaller choke opening. 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. The injection parameters assumed are a drillstring injection rate of 900 lpm of oil and CC injection rate of 28 m3/min of gas. which results in fluctuating wellhead pressure (until steady state is reached). Several fixed choke settings were selected (10%. the viscosity of the injected and produced fluid. involves manipulating the choke pressure (wellhead pressure) in attempt to dampen the pressure oscillations in the wellbore. In addition. Dynamic choking of the well. which results in a constant wellhead pressure and setting the choke opening. are drastically different. for the example well. such as higher than expected fluid production. Unfortunately. It has already been postulated. The ideal situation is that a constant bottomhole pressure will eventually result and choke manipulation may then be ceased. Fixing the choke opening allows the wellhead pressure to respond to fluctuations in the flow rate and thus the bottomhole pressure may stabilize. The important assumptions in the Table 4 are the constant wellhead pressure of 500 kPa and constant liquid injection rate of 900 lpm. the back pressure may be increased at a point in the unloading cycle of the well to restrict gas expansion and evacuation. the choke opening should be increased to reduce surface pressure and allow more gas to enter the wellbore and expand. dynamic choking is extremely dependant on the operator’s ability to predict the extent and behavior of gas and liquid slugs in the well and to manipulate the choke appropriately. as expected. It is thus apparent that a transient simulator may be further utilized to assist in effective choke sizing. an approach similar to the driller’s method of well control could be employed using standpipe pressure as an indication of bottomhole pressure. where dynamic choking is the only IADC/SPE 81631 option available to reduce well slugging. if single phase fluid is being pumped down the drill pipe (often the case with CC injection). If an automated process is in place to manipulate the choke with BHCP fluctuations. influx from the formation will combine with injected fluid and dictate the viscosity of the return fluid. Then as the well begins to load and the bottomhole pressure begins to rise. This is the fundamental difference between setting the separator pressure constant. and await pressure stability than it is to try and dynamically manipulate the choke. Therefore. represents a harmonic (sinusoidal load) behavior.6 Choke Pressure Sensitivity – Process Control. During underbalanced drilling of the reservoir. if the pressure trending. Figure 9. 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. It is also necessary to determine beforehand that overbalanced pressures will not result from a higher choke pressure. higher viscosity actually reduces well slugging. it is not possible to rely on this method to reduce and manage well slugging. then surface choking may be required to stabilize the well. this method of reducing well slugging should be avoided. 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. If continuous trending of bottomhole pressure is not available (often the case) dynamic choke manipulation is further complicated. Correspondingly. As observed. Dynamic Choke Control. As compression of the drill fluid may be considered negligible. that setting a constant wellhead pressure will not result in a constant bottomhole pressure being achieved. a 10% open 3½” choke is ideal for stabilized flow. It is observed that the smaller the choke opening the more rapid the BHCP stabilizes. Viscosity Sensitivity. in theory. If. The viscosity of fluid in the annulus has a direct impact on pressure stability. as indicated in Figure 9. illustrates the results of varying the choke opening for an assumed 3½” bore choke.

The flow restriction has almost no effect on injection pressure if only gas is injected. Also evaluated was the ability to use annular injection pressure as the objective variable in an automated control function. Gas is compressed in the CC annulus as pressure increases at the • • • • • • • • • • • • • • injection ports. then it is theortically feasible that an automated control loop could be applied to stabilize pressure. dynamic choke control is not recommended as the best operational practice to reduce well slugging. If the response control (the choke). maintaining a constant choke opening results in flow stabilization. From the simulations some improvement in stability is noted however. but this requires a high level of operator competence and experience and time consuming. the pressure at the injection point and consequently the amount of gas injected. could detect and react to changes in the observation variable (surface annular injection pressure). as this would be the only stable control point because the injection pressure tends to decrease with increasing gas rate. it may be possible to employ a pressure controlled injection rate concept with a typical membrane nitrogen system. 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. It is recommended for the industry to evaluate automated process control systems to automatically manipulate the . If a restriction at the flow ports is used. Maintaining constant wellhead pressure will result in fluctuating bottomhole pressure. changing surface choke pressure has a direct effect on bottomhole pressure. the slugging tendency is reduced. if the injection pressure dropped. “Trial and Error”. The smaller the choke opening the more rapid the stabilization period. • Once an operational envelope is determined from steady state modeling. 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). In other words. Injection Set Point Control. However. The compressed gas volume is discharged to the primary annulus once the pressure rise at the injection ports stops. especially in the case of concentric casing (CC) injection methods where more opportunity exists for transient flow behavior. The result of this would be that the system increases constantly until the maximum rate is reached. Theoretically. If the gas injection rate is not high enough well slugging will result. If the pressure at the choke is higher than the separator set point pressure. • The most important design consideration for pressure stability with concentric casing injection is the gas to liquid ratio. it proved very difficult to "tune the controller" to completely stabilize the well. • The concentric casing acts as an accumulator. If fully steady state conditions are not achieved. This is based on the premise that changes in annular injection pressure are an indication of bottomhole pressure at the injection point. Dynamic simulators can be used to prepare a pre operations choking philosophy but this would be difficult to employ in practice. it may in fact make it worse. the transient effects within this envelope (simulations) should be evaluated using a dynamic flow model to determine the optimum parameters. The additional casing cost should be evaluated against the cost of additional gas supply. since it does not model effects such as concentric casing gas accumulation. This response is similar to that observed when maintaining a constant choke opening. Therefore. This will reduce the critical gas injection rate and thus slugging tendency. Therefore. well slugging tendency will be reduced. High viscous flow up the wellbore produces results similar to a constant open choke. as more viscous oil is produced while drilling. continual positive flow will reduce plugging tendency at the ports. Well slugging tendency is decreased with increasing viscosity. Such systems have a set pressure that corresponds to a certain injection volume. Annular gas injection rates above critical should be chosen to achieve pressure stabilization in an operationally acceptable amount of time. 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. It is recommended to determine the ideal choke opening (no overbalance) and not manipulate the choke. Maintaining a positive pressure drop across the injection ports minimizes the ability for the accumulator to unload the wellbore. 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. Unless an automated process loop is designed. Volume of the concentric casing creates the “accumulator effect”. when operating in hydrostatically dominated flow regimes (typical for oil wells). unless greater than the critical gas injection rate (at the wellhead pressure) is achieved. The CC volume should be minimized in the design of the well. 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. Dynamic choke control can be utilized to stabilize BHCP. • Steady state modeling determines flow regime. The ability for gas to evacuate the wellbore is reduced with high viscosity. Setting the separator pressure constant and maintaining a fully opened choke will not stabilize a slugging well.IADC/SPE 81631 7 as with a low viscosity fluid. the transient rate of gas discharge at the injection point was too rapid to control via surface pressure response. the system will lead itself to deliver the maximum rate. Likewise. but will not determine if well slugging will occur. The greater the CC annular volume the greater the tendency for well slugging to occur. which in turn influences the hydrostatic pressure in the annulus. techniques are needed to effectively manipulate the choke. In addition.

83m3 ) = 0. Proceedings of the ASME International Symposium of Multiphase Flow in Wells and Pipelines. Scandpower A/S.24 kPa/m = 397. “Numerical Simulation of Slugging in Pipelines”. Aberdeen. “The Dynamic Two-Fluid Model OLGA: Theory and Application”. Olga 2000 User Documentation. P. O. 2. H.15 + 25C) = 739. 1992.099 kPa 500kPa N2 rate required for pressure rise = 397. Malnes. Norway. S.9 (7000kPa)(10. Blade Energy Partners. V. Brand. P.15 + 40C) Volume required for pressure increase = m3 (739.15 + 25C) = 689. J. Nordsveen. “Development and Use of an Underbalanced Transient Training Simulator”.94 m Slug rise = 0.72 − 88. May 1992. R. SPE Production Engineering. IADC Underbalanced Operations Technology Conference and Exhibition. Scotland. Wooten.485m3 )(273. P.485m3 )(273.92 = 0. M. 2001 3. Blade Energy Partners.0143m2 Cross Section Area of Primary Annulus = A1 = 4 1E6 Π 215. • There was good correlation between the UbitTS/Olga predictions and real well data for bottomhole pressure. wellhead or injection pressures as the objective variables. K.92 −177. and Bendiksen. E.. Dallas Texas. Romma. wellhead pressure and total return fluid predictions. Presented at Multiphase Meeting Conference. Scandpower and Blade Energy Partners.. 1997.0143m2 min m m = 48.2 TVD rise rate = cos(40) ×62. D. Underbalanced Advanced Well Design Manual. J.8 IADC/SPE 81631 choke by utilizing the bottomhole.. 6. 2000. 171-180.24 kPa/m) Oil Injection Rate = 900 lpm (0..2 m/min x 8. Nov. Suryanarayana. R. Straume.. Bendiksen..82 * (890) = 10.94 min min ASSUMING only N2 is leaving the well then: Pressure rise is = 48.1m3 (101. T.3kPa)(273. Scandpower SA.. and Nuland.168 kPa/min ASSUMING a BHCP of 7000 kPa and the annular injection pressure of 7000 kPa: 0. Petroleum Development Oman.17 kPa m3 m3 (critical rate) × 0. J. “Solutions to Slugging Problems Using Multiphase Simulations”.15 + 40C) For 500 kPa pressure increase: 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 40º GOR Viscosity V2 = Ubitts Interface 9 5/8" 7" 3 1/2" Density Injection Gas Reservoir Fluid References 1. Zheng Gang Xu. Ubitts vs Olga Olga Interface Olga Engine • Non-interactive batchmode analysis • Requires greater user knowledge • Detailed analysis tools • Greater versatility • Greater flexibility in component description • Sensitivity studies • 3D Plots Figure 1: Relationship Between Olga and UbitTS Oil 5 cP 780 kg/m Nitrogen 3 3 3 0 m /m 500 cP 930 kg/m 3 Density SS Operating Window Oil Injection Rates 700 to 900 lpm Gas Injection Rates 20 to 35 m /min 3 Table 1: Example Well Data Used For Design and Transient Modeling Example Calculation: Oil Density = 840 kg/m3 (8. 4. K.485m3 Volume of CC Annulus = VCC = 4 1E6 ( ( ) ) m3 min = 62.. for permission to write this paper.3kPa)(273..1m3 − 689. pp. 27-28 November. 2001.099 = 39. 5. Anaheim. 890 m 1500 m 90º (7500kPa)(10.9 m3/min) Depth of Injection Ports = 890 m Inclination of Injection Ports = 40 degrees Π 161. CC Injection Example Well Data 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. Frink. Moe.3 kPa min min Figure 2: Example Calculation for Critical Gas Injection Rate .825m3 (101. March 12-13.

Annular Pressure Response Curve Ideal Gas Injection Rate. Gas Injection at Ports .Response Curve 3 Figure 4: Critical Gas Injection Rate (25 m /min) Well Response Curves Post Critical Gas Injection Rate. Gas Injection at Ports . Annular Pressure Response Curve Critical Gas Injection Rate. Gas Injection at Ports .IADC/SPE 81631 9 Pre-Critical Gas Injection Rate.Response Curve 3 Figure 5: Post-Critical Gas Injection Rate (30 m /min) Well Response Curves Ideal Gas Injection Rate. Annular Pressure Response Curve Pre-Critical Gas Injection Rate. Gas Injection at Ports .Response Curve 3 Figure 3: Pre-Critical Gas Injection Rate (20 m /min) Well Response Curves Critical Gas Injection Rate. Annular Pressure Response Curve Post Critical Gas Injection Rate.Response Curve 3 Figure 6: Ideal Gas Injection Rate (35 m /min) Well Response Curves .

5 4 UnderBalanced SEQUENCE v iscosity 5 cp ANNULUS CHOKE - Figure 8: Minimum Port Restriction for Well 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) Viscosity (cP) of Injected Fluid 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 Table 4: Impact of Viscosity on Pressure stability at 500 kPa WHP – Various Gas Injection Rates and Viscosities T .015 10 0.01 15 4000 0.10 IADC/SPE 81631 7” Casing – 500 kPa Wellhead Pressure Annular Pressure Response Curve Separator Pressure Set Point at 500 kPa Gas Rate (m3/min) 10 15 20 25 30 35 7 5/8” Casing – 500 kPa Wellhead Pressure 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) Viscosity (cP) of Injected Fluid 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 Table 2: Impact of Separator Set Point at 500 kPa on Pressure Stability – Various Gas Injection Rates and Fluid Viscosity Separator Pressure Set Point at 1500 kPa Gas Rate (m3/min) 10 15 20 25 Figure 7: Impact of Concentric Casing Annular Volume Reduction – 7” to 7 5/8” Casing 30 Flow stabilisation by annular flow injection choking 35 PRESSURE POS_ANN_INJ_INLET [kPa] PRESSURE POS_ANN_INJ_OUTLET [kPa] 6000 GAS VOLUME FLOW POS_ANN_INJ_OUTLET [m3/s] 0.Varied Gas Rates .5 1 1.5 2 Time [h] 2.005 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) Viscosity (cP) of Injected Fluid 10 100 Table 3: Impact of Separator Set Point at 1000 kPa on Pressure Stability – Various Gas Injection Rates and Fluid Viscosity 5500 4500 1 25 0 0 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 Viscosity Sensitivity .WHP = 500 kPa 0.5 3 3.

Time to Stability ~ 1½ Hrs Choke 10% Open. Time to Stability ~ 2 Hrs Choke 30% Open. Time to Stability ~ 1 Hr Figure 9: Impact of Constant Choke Opening on Pressure Stability – Simulated Well Response Curves 11 . Time to Stability ~ 3 Hrs Choke 50% Open.IADC/SPE 81631 Choke 100% Open.