You are on page 1of 8

IADC/SPE 81632

Underbalanced Horizontal Drilling Yields Significant Productivity Gains
in the Hugoton Field
Tijuana Devaul, BP America Production Company / Alejandro Coy, Weatherford International
Copyright 2003, IADC/SPE Underbalanced Technology Conference and Exhibition
This paper was prepared for presentation at the IADC/SPE Underbalanced Technology
Conference and Exhibition held in Houston, Texas, U.S.A., 25–26 March 2003.
This paper was selected for presentation by an IADC/SPE Program Committee following
review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the
paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the International Association of Drilling
Contractors or the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the
author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the IADC,
SPE, their officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of
this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the International Association
of Drilling Contractors or the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not
be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom
the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836
U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

The Hugoton Field located in the Texas Panhandle is one of
the largest gas producing fields in the lower 48 states. Up
until now, these shallow reserves have been exploited by
drilling either vertical wells with air or long reach horizontal
wells with conventional overbalanced techniques. Due to the
low formation pressures, in the range of 600 psi, depletion is a
major issue and wells drilled in conventional overbalance have
not exhibited a consistent productivity trend. These low
pressures have also resulted in severe lost circulation problems
during drilling with resultant formation damage and
productivity deterioration. An additional challenge has been
the close proximity of water to the productive formation,
which effectively eliminates the use of fracturing as a
stimulation option.
Previously, wells were drilled vertically using underbalanced
techniques (UB) but the limited kh that resulted had little
positive effect on productivity. Nevertheless, the operator
decided to drill three horizontal wells using UB, as a case
study to make a definitive evaluation of its effectiveness in the
Hugoton Field. All three wells were successfully completed
and achieved a significant increase in production when
compared to offset wells drilled conventionally. The results
achieved were of added significance considering the low cost
environment in which the wells were drilled, where use of
conventional techniques typically resulted in marginal
In this paper the authors will detail the well design and the UB
model considerations, which took into account the geological,
reservoir depletion and water proximity challenges. They will
present a detailed evaluation of the incremental production
rates of the order 300 – 400% that were achieved when

compared to offset wells drilled and completed
conventionally. They will conclude that the use of HorizontalUB techniques in the Hugoton Field is indeed a highly viable
means of achieving significant production improvement and
may well provide a powerful tool for the continued
exploitation and prolonged economic life of the field.
The Hugoton field that extends from Kansas to Texas is a very
mature field that has been in production since the early 1900’s.
Its reserves have mostly been recovered by drilling wells using
conventional drilling fluids. Most of the area now exhibits
high depletion associated with the increase in water levels in
the reservoir, making conventional drilling more challenging.
The risk of encountering lost circulation zones has increased
as drilling has continued. Reserves have diminished making
the economics of the planned wells more stringent and as a
result the associated well costs are rigorously scrutinized to
meet or pass required economic standards. The addition of one
or two extra days between spud and rig release, due to curing
losses in shallow depth wells, may increase well cost by 20%
to 30%, which is significant with the tight economic margins.
BP and Weatherford developed a program to drill three wells
in the Courson Ranch area to determine the technical and
economical feasibility of applying underbalance-horizontal
technology in the Brown Dolomite formation. If successful,
this would improve the reservoir performance and extend its
life while maintaining economic objectives
Reservoir Description
The Courson Ranch is located in the Northwestern portion of
Roberts County, Texas as shown in figure 1 and the reservoir
portion of the lease encompasses some 15 square miles. The
reservoir is a Wolfcampian Platform Dolostone informally
called the Brown Dolomite, which is approximately 250 feet
thick with a net reservoir thickness of only 20 feet. The trap is
mainly structural, with a stratigraphic pinch-out to the north,
the overlying anhydrite forming the seal. The current flowing
and static formation conditions were determined from one of
the existing producing wells to evaluate the efficiency of using
the Underbalance Horizontal drilling techniques. Flowing
gradients and pressure build up data was obtained using slick
line conveyed electronic pressure gauges. The data was

2 SG Previous Wells Overview Many wells were drilled initially for deeper horizons and a significant number of these wells experienced losses to the Brown Dolomite formation in the order of hundreds of barrels of water based mud. Wells were drilled to the top of the reservoir in 7-7/8 ” hole size.. loaded with LCM to prevent losses. including the increase of pulling abilities to cover for any unscheduled events such as stuck pipe. Water based drilling fluids. Due to water proximity concerns.e. After a failed attempt to drill the wells using CT techniques. After running simulations of torque and drag. Reservoir simulations using the “Single Well Seamless Simulator SWSS 2000” determined that the optimal lateral . they were completed using 2-7/8 ” tubing. This session was designed to discuss the horizontal underbalance-drilling program and reemphasize the importance of BP’s HS&E policies during critical operations. thus reducing the potential deliverability. Production results were relatively consistent but still low. ability to transmit WOB. the formation could not be fracture stimulated. but while drilling the lateral. • Vertical Overbalance. UBD Planning Strategy The Courson Ranch area was selected to perform the initial three well trial because of the higher potential for success that drilling underbalance in this area presented. several hundred barrels of fluid were lost. During the planning process. the rig would then move off location and the formation stimulated with water fracs. higher torque capability. The use of 3-½” drill pipe presented several advantages. It was important to drill the lateral section in the top 10 feet of the pay in order to stay away from the water contact. were used to drill into the Dolomite and then 5-½” casing was run. Wellbore Design Planning of grass roots well allowed the flexibility to design the most appropriate hole size likely to increase the chances of successfully drilling the lateral underbalanced section. cotton seeds hulls and cedar fiber in the order of 16 ppb). a TRUE training (Training to Reduce Unscheduled Events) was conducted with rig crews and personnel of all other company’s involved in the project. The main reasons were the relatively high reservoir pressure regimes encountered in the Brown Dolomite formation and the experience gained from the extensive drilling of underbalance vertical wells in the area. After log evaluation. Once the design was finalized.2 IADC/SPE 81632 modeled assuming a homogenous reservoir and log/log and semi-log analysis were used to interpret the data. all of the initial HAZIDS sessions and peer review information was taken into consideration. the next step was to select a rig that met BP’s Standards and well objectives.43 md Porosity: 13 % Equivalent Density @ 3447 TVD BRT: 3. The wells were completed initially with slotted liners but later on were completed “bare foot”. A multidisciplinary team was established with representatives from the BP Resource team. Regular meetings were also held with the field supervisory personnel to address operational and Health.500 ft with 8-5/8” casing and then 7-7/8 ” hole to 5600 ft with 4-½” casing being set. based on RSA (Rock Strength Analysis) and the fact that historic operational analysis indicated that the formation was competent enough to remain open over time. A similar wellbore design was used. the decision was made to try underbalance horizontal drilling techniques using a conventional rotary drilling rig. hydraulics and considering operational issues. This group met on a weekly basis to discuss. Safety & Environmental issues. BP drilling (Houston and field based personnel) and Weatherford UBD. The results were mixed. The wells were drilled with a similar design. Two wells that were completed in the Brown Dolomite formation were drilled vertically with conventional water base mud and high concentrations of LCM (i. This helped to identify and deal with potential obstacles that may have jeopardized the success of the UBD-Horizontal project. lower frictional losses. 12-¼” hole to ~1. all of which would contribute to longer lateral reach if it was deemed necessary. Prior to moving to location. Gauge depth: 3447 ft Test interval: 3472 ft to 3504 ft Formation: Brown Dolomite SIHBP: 701 Psi FBHP: 309 Psi Gas Rate: 144 Mcfd BHT: 88 F deg k: 0. 200300 feet of pay were drilled underbalanced with airmisted fluid. causing concern that the projects were at risk of being unable to meet the economic requirements. define and follow up on the progress of the drilling program so as to assure that deadlines were met. • Horizontal Overbalance.91 ppg – 0. one did not produce at all and the other proved to be uneconomical. etc. so the program was discontinued. it was determined that drilling a 6” hole in the pay zone would allow the use of 3-½” drill pipe rather than the 2-7/8” tubing required to drill in a smaller hole size. Some other areas of the Hugoton field have been drilled with the Brown Dolomite as a target using the following designs: • Vertical underbalance. Cement slurries were sometimes nitrified to improve the success of cement jobs. with 5-½” casing set in the top of the pay and then the lateral drilled overbalance in 4-¾” hole.

to achieve the hydraulics required to properly clean hole and to provide the motor with the appropriate conditions to operate efficiently. was in common use in the area and despite being time consuming and operationally more complicated. No signs of excessive drag during trips were observed and the hole was properly cleaned. exceeded the operating ranges of all available tools. trips out of the hole were made flaring gas to the waste pit until surface pressure vs. Wet connect was time consuming while drilling the first well. The well was then kicked off with an 8-½” bit to a point five feet above the pay at 78 deg at 3. economic option as the project progressed and crews worked together to minimize connection times. see Figure 4. was selected for its ability to transmit despite the two-phase environment. Jar and 6 joints of HWDP Two Phase Flow Model During planning operations. The choice of these fluids (water and air) was made due to the fact that conventional mud rheologies are not required for hole cleaning in a 2-phase circulation system as a turbulent system is inherently created. down-hole motor operating range and other relevant information. directional plan.200 feet. The option of Air vs. albeit old technology. which reduced costs and showed results similar to other frac techniques. The first Courson Ranch well was drilled to 836 ft in 12-¼” surface hole and 9-5/8” casing was run. bottom hole pressure. Shale sections above the pay required casing to be set to prevent exposing them to underbalance conditions. This also took into account the need to achieve the hydraulics and drilling parameters in which the down hole motor would best operate given the casing program. low temperature and low cost environment. low rheology liquids that are compatible with the reservoir could be used for this specific application. 8-½” pilot hole was then drilled vertically to 3682 ft and the well was then logged to get more geological control over the top of the pay. Figure 2 and Figure 3 describe Rock Strength Analysis and lithology respectively. The uncertainty of electromagnetic MWD performance in the area and the presence of Anhydrite made this an option to be evaluated for the near future but not for the three well trial. Therefore. it was determined that conventional MWD could not be used since the fraction volume of air required to meet target bottom hole circulation pressures. expected production rates. 2 flex drill collars.771 TVD. Fluid Selection Based on previous experience in other areas of the Brown Dolomite. This would allow for any adjustments that would need to be made to the directional program. The subsequent wells were planned with no pilot hole in order to improve performance and reduce costs.IADC/SPE 81632 length for these horizontal wells would be about 1. It proved to be an effective. All this evidence indicated that water was the preferred liquid phase of the drilling fluid. to balance the needs of a low bottom-hole pressure and effective hole cleaning.905 ft MD/ 3.2 stage slick motor. Float sub. Due to the wells being at shallow depths and the low pressure. 6 joints of 3-½” HWDP. The areas where wells were vertically drilled with air were later fracture stimulated with waterfracs. Underbalance was achieved and wells were drilled flaring straight to the blooie line and waste pit. The corrosion inhibitors were selected to provide superior protection in a fluid stream with high concentrations of oxygen. but as time passed it was reduced to 15 minutes per connection on the third well. string weight dictated that water be pumped to balance pressures and allow the safe retrieval of the rest of the drill string. lessons were learned from both the directional and underbalanced side as the field and office personnel became more familiar with these types of operation.589. 4-¾” Wet Connect. An open-hole inflatable packer was then run above the targeted pay zone to support the kick off cement plug that otherwise may have been lost in the hole due to the low formation pressure. 17 joints of 3-½” HWDP. a length which should achieve the production rates needed for economic success. Mule Shoe. Based on this discussion and hydraulic modeling results. Results are shown in Figure 5.774 ft MD/ 3. 3 Survey With drill pipe injection and after modeling the two-phase hydraulics. The BHA used consisted of a 6” bit. Flow model simulation calculations were performed to achieve the targeted draw down of 100 psi. There were no signs of hole drag or poor hole cleaning on any of the Courson Ranch UB horizontal wells. TFA 0. taking an average of 30 minutes per connection. Nitrogen was discussed and analyzed during the HAZIDS sessions. Wellbore stability was a concern on top of the Brown Dolomite. 7” casing was then run and the lateral portion of the well drilled UB in 6” hole size to 4. and so it was planned to land a 7” intermediate casing string on top of the pay zone.489 ft TVD at 90 deg. it was decided that an aerated fluid would not compromise safety and would provide an efficient system for hole cleaning and bottom hole pressure management. Once wells reached TD. Wire line wet connect. a feasibility study was prepared by Weatherford’s UBS engineering department to simulate the best combination of injection rates to maintain target BHCP. 75 joints of 3-½” drill pipe. it was clear that water-based fluids were compatible with the formation. This improvement can be seen in Figure 6 that . it was decided to drill with aerated water mixed with small volumes of foamer to assist with hole cleaning. 4-¾” 7:8 2. Operational Issues This being the first group of wells drilled horizontally underbalanced in the field.

3. due to water vicinity.5 compared to vertical wells with initial rates of ~ 400 Mcfd. 2. for the wells drilled after this initial trial the rig was changed. Figure 5. was conducted in the safest and most efficient manner possible. Two-phase flow model simulation. Field Location. The placement of underbalance drilled horizontal wells proved to be an effective way to increase productivity in reservoirs where. addressing solids control equipment. Courson Ranch CT Drilling Program. Special thanks are also due to Ken Juran and Chris Morton for their input and to our management for their support for this project. fracture stimulation is not an option. Weatherford. These changes positively impacted the performance in this section. although new for rig crews. Courson Ranch. hyperbolically declining at ~45%. Figure 8. • Horizontal Underbalance wells have shown initial production rates 3 times greater than those of vertical wells. The first group of horizontal underbalanced wells drilled in this area has exhibited the expected average rate of 1200 Mcfd (see Figure 8). September 2002. References 1. Weatherford. the well was ready for production. Days to TD for UB horizontal section.4 IADC/SPE 81632 shows days from spud to TD and Figure 7 showing the time to drill the lateral underbalance section. • Horizontal Underbalanced wells have 7 additional years of well life (45% incremental) compared to vertical wells. Conclusions • • Underbalance-Horizontal drilling in the area has improved the economics of wells drilled in a low-cost environment and. . benefits include extended well life and increase ultimate recovery.5 BCF additional reserves (70% incremental) when compared to vertical wells. n=0. • Horizontal Underbalanced wells capture approximately 0. Figure 2. because of this. Figure 6. 2002. This reduced the completion costs associated with kicking wells off and the time from spud to first sales. exponentially declining at 18%. Additional. Days from spud to TD. has created additional business opportunities in more areas of the field. Average production results. General well schematic. “Feasibility Study Courson Ranch”. The wells were a success not only from the production and operation point of view but also from HS&E aspects. • Once the wells reached TD and the drill string was pulled out of the hole. • Perhaps the most important topic to highlight is that this operation. • Drilling Underbalance successfully prevented the loss of several hundred barrels of drilling fluids into the reservoir. (April 2002) Orbis Engineering Limited. Figure 7. The lack of proper solids control equipment on the rig directly affected ROP on the build section. End of Well Reports. The project was completed accident free and with no harm done to the environment. Figure 4. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank BP America Production Company and Weatherford International for permission to publish thispaper. List of Illustrations Figure 1. Lithology. resulting in the reduction and even the elimination of formation damage. Figure 3. Rock Strength Analysis. Production Results Typical UB-horizontal wells have exhibited initial rates of about 1200 Mcfd.

Lithology Figure 2. Field Location Figure 3.IADC/SPE 81632 5 Figure 1. RSA (Hycalog TM) .

33 inch lbs/ft Con OD 7 inch ID 6. General Well Schematic 3.5 inch ID 2.234 ft Open Hole 4.764 inch OD 3.663 ft TVD: MD: 3. 4/5.5 inch ID 2.5 stages 100 gpm < Flow < 250 gpm < Equi Flow < 1. 2.571 ft 870 ft 2.6 IADC/SPE 81632 Production Casing Size: WT: 7 23 inch lbs/ft Drill Pipe Size: WT: 3 1/2 inch 13.430 ft 3.009 ft 3 1/2 25.0625 inch Motor: 4 3/4".3 lbs/ft NC40(FH) Con Heavy Weight Drill Pipe MD: Size: WT: 2.879 ft 300 gpm 330 gpm 105 ft BHA Size OD: Build Rate: 12 o /100ft ID: TVD: MD: Figure 4.75 inch Size: 6 1/8 inch .433 ft 5.366 inch OD 3.

Motor Flow Rate 70gpm Water 400 600 700 800 900 1000 N2 Injection rate (cfm) Figure 5. Days from Spud To TD Courson Ranch B 3-71 Courson Ranch B 14-72 Well Name . Two Phase Simulations Total days from Spud to TD 25 20 1126 ft 15 Days 942 ft 1515 ft 10 5 0 Courson Ranch B 13-73 Figure 6.IADC/SPE 81632 7 BHCP vs Nitrogen Injection Rate BP America. Courson Ranch Roberts. Liquid Velocity BHCP (psi) 650 110gpm Water 600 80gpm Water 550 90gpm Water 500 Min. Motor Flow Rate 450 Max. Texas 750 Reservoir Pressure 700 psi 700 100gpm Water Min.

Days to TD Underbalance Section Courson Ranch 2002 Horizontal Drilling Program Horizontal Vs.Years 18 20 22 24 Vertical Well .000 1.Mscfd 10.000 100 10 0 2 4 6 8 Horizontal Well Figure 8. Production Results 10 12 14 16 Time . Vertical Well Performance Rate .8 IADC/SPE 81632 Days to TD Underbalance section 4 1126 ft Days 3 942 ft 1515 ft 2 Well Name 1 0 Courson Ranch B 13-73 Courson Ranch B 3-71 Courson Ranch B 14-72 Figure 7.