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IADC/SPE 81642

A New Downhole Tool for ECD Reduction
P. A. Bern, SPE, BP Exploration; Dave Hosie, SPE, Weatherford; R.K. Bansal, SPE, Weatherford; Donald Stewart,
Rotech Eng.; Bradley Lee, SPE, Weatherford
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.

Wellbore pressure management is a critical part of normal
drilling practices, where static and dynamic fluid pressures are
used to contain formation pressures and to assure wellbore
stability. Excessive fluid pressure while circulating can create
problems including reduced operating margins between
fracture and pore pressures and, in the extreme, lost
To address these problems, an Equivalent
Circulation Density (ECD) Reduction Tool (RT) has been
The ECD RT is designed to counter the frictional pressure
effects that exist while circulating. The tool is expected to
have a broad range of drilling applications including the
narrow pore/fracture pressure margin deepwater environment,
wellbores prone to instability, pressure depleted reservoirs
and extended reach wells.
The tool has the potential to:
• Improve wellbore stability.
• Extend hole intervals and reduce casing requirements.
• Improve rate of penetration (ROP).
• Reduce lost circulation.
• Reduce differential sticking.
• Improve hole cleaning in extended-reach drilling
(ERD) wells through the use of higher flow rates.
This paper describes a new downhole tool for ECD
reduction, which is run as an integral part of the drill string. A
prototype tool has been built, to operate inside 10-3/4" to 133/8" casing strings, which has undergone testing in a flow loop
and in two experimental wells. The design features of this
prototype and the test results obtained so far are discussed in
this paper.

This paper describes the development of a novel system for
reducing the Equivalent Circulating Density (ECD) of drilling
mud. The need for reducing ECD has become more apparent
as the industry is faced with increasingly difficult drilling
The initial focus in developing technologies for ECD
reduction has been directed towards applications in deepwater,
where the issue is to overcome the significant hydrostatic
pressure in the riser when it is full of weighted mud1. However
the concept affords potential benefits in a wide range of
drilling applications.
The work reported in this study covers the design and
testing of a prototype ECD RT that can have application to
many drilling conditions, both onshore and offshore.
Benefits of ECD Reduction
As the industry has strived to recover hydrocarbons in
increasingly challenging areas, it has become apparent that
one of the major challenges is to maintain downhole pressures
within the narrow window between pore pressure and fracture
gradient. In practice, the window may become even narrower
if the minimum required downhole pressure is governed by
wellbore stability issues, rather than just pore pressure2. Since
the size of this operating window dictates the maximum ECD
that the well can tolerate, there is clearly a need for reducing
the magnitude of ECD.
ECD is governed by the hydrostatic head of the mud
column and the frictional pressure loss in the annulus and
therefore it is influenced by many factors. Conventional well
designs often exploit the controlling parameters to minimize
ECD. Such optimization methods include:
• reducing frictional losses through the use of low fluid
• use of casing strings with wider annular clearances.
• application of expandable tubulars to preserve hole
• use of drilling liners rather than full casing strings.
• controlled penetration rates to avoid overloading the
annulus with cuttings.
In addition, there are more radical methods that can be
employed to reduce downhole pressures and hence ECD.

This last test was necessary to ascertain that the ECD RT would not hinder directional drilling when located in the drill string. Wear on internal components and the performance of the .6. the ECD RT could permit the use of a heavier drilling fluid to improve wellbore stability without increasing the risk of fracturing the formation or causing mud loss. part axial and part centrifugal. If the ECD RT can be made available on a routine basis in a low cost and portable format. At the top is a turbine motor. Unlike subsea pumps that are used in dualgradient drilling. to study cuttings transport with fluid through the pump and to study surge and swab effects during tripping. both onshore and offshore. which draws pressure energy from circulating fluid and converts it into mechanical power. if the ECD is allowed to be too high. A grinding mechanism. This could lead to several problems such as formation fracturing. Too much underbalanced pressure downhole tends to cause the well to collapse when making connection3. located just below the pump. In extended reach drilling. Of course the tool works only when the drilling fluid is a liquid and not a gas or gasified liquid. No fluid leakage from the drill string to the annulus throughout the length of the tool. On the other hand. Successful application of the ECD RT could afford many benefits including extending the capability of currently available technologies such as ultra extended-reach drilling. as well as applying ECD reduction as a performance enhancement method for underbalanced drilling of depleted reservoirs. Wireline retrieval of the flow diverter was also tested in the horizontal well. Actual pressure boost in the annulus is a function of circulation rate. which have to be pre-installed on the well site. the range of potential applications becomes numerous. helps break larger cuttings into smaller particles to avoid plugging. In the middle is a multistage mixed flow pump.200” (208mm). referred to as riserless drilling. As is evident from the above. Tests have shown that 5/16" (8mm) and smaller cuttings will pass smoothly through the pump. The main objectives of the flow loop tests were to determine the performance envelope of the ECD RT for a range of operating conditions. The turbine is matched to the pump duty. Prototype Testing A prototype ECD reduction tool was tested in a flow loop and in two experimental wells. which is driven by the turbine motor and pumps return fluid in the annulus. No need for a full trip to add or service the tool since it is designed to be located in the vertical section of the well. Benefits in penetration rate have also been realized by appropriate application of underbalanced drilling.6 bar) pressure boost in the annulus at a flow rate of 550gpm (2. which is automatically activated at high-pressure differentials in a well control situation. Includes two packer-type seals to seal the pump body inside the casing and ensure that all returning fluid passes through the pump. A novel sealing mechanism is employed to seal between the drill string and the annulus at very high speeds and pressures. The lower section consists of bearings and seals. However. so no gearbox is required. A reduced fluid flow rate gives correspondingly lower pressure boost. the ECD RT has several features intended to make it affordable and usable in both offshore and land-based drilling operations. It is a much less expensive choice when compared to dual-gradient drilling systems in deep-water applications and it can be put into use with minimal disruption of conventional drilling and telemetry techniques. this is especially true in ERD wells in depleted reservoirs4.2 The industry has pioneered underbalanced drilling as a successful method of exploiting both low pressure and depleted reservoirs. drilling of depleted reservoirs quite often requires maintenance of downhole pressure within a narrow range between wellbore collapse pressure and pore pressure. Mechanical strength comparable to that of new 5”19.7. However such systems always require considerable capital expenditure and are best suited to large developments where the cost of installation can be offset against a large number of wells. tools for other casing sizes will be developed in 2003. particularly in the Gulf of Mexico deepwater plays. The more technically innovative methods that require pumping systems located on the seabed are beginning to show promise8. This seal has a back-up emergency seal. IADC/SPE 81642 Basic features of the ECD RT are: • • • • • • • • • Up to 450psi (30. The objective of this development work is to design an ECD reduction tool that is portable and can be applied to a wide range of well types. Functional Specification The ECD RT consists of three sections. Motor outside diameter 6-3/4" (172mm) and pump outside diameter 8. Systems that reduce ECD by either substituting the mud hydrostatic for sea water or using pumping methods to overcome hydrostatic are now being developed by the industry5. lost circulation and differential sticking of drill pipe.080liter/min). Provides wireline accessibility below the tool after retrieving a flow diverter located in the turbine. It is intended to be a low cost alternative to dual mud gradient systems for deepwater drilling. it is a portable device that can be added to the drill string when needed simply by making a short trip. the well could be underbalanced when making connection and overbalanced when drilling. The objectives of the tests in the experimental wells were to reconfirm some of the results obtained in the flow loop and to test the compatibility of the ECD RT with mud pulse telemetry used in MWD tools.5 lb/ft S-135 drill pipe. has enjoyed a great deal of success. one vertical and one horizontal. The method used in floating drilling where mud is returned to the sea bed. Capable of handling drill cuttings carried by the fluid. Suitable for running in 10-3/4” through 13-3/8” casings.

24" balls and larger balls were progressively added into the flow stream. Two triplex pumps were used in tandem to obtain a maximum flow rate of 550gpm into the turbine.31" (8mm). 0. Pressure loss (psi) seals was studied several times during the course of the above tests.24" (6mm). The quantity of plastic balls in the flow stream was approximately 1% by volume and this fluid was circulated through the pump for 45 minutes. The tests began with 0. 3/8” and ½” diameters. 3 0 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 Flow rate (gpm) Fig./ft casing. In each case. In the vertical well. After passing through the turbine. 1 Pressure boost obtained from the pump at different circulation rates of water. in terms of pressure boost obtained from the pump at different flow rates. the ECD RT achieved a pressure boost of 300psi. • There was virtually no pressure boost at a flow rate below 200gpm. The fluid flow rate was increased steadily up to 275gpm and fluid pressures were measured at both the inlet and the outlet of the pump. The pressure drop across the turbine was measured with memory gages placed in the drill string above and below the ECD RT. 2 Fluid pressure loss in the turbine and percentage recovery in the pump. the flow loop was slightly modified so that the fluid passing through the pump was different from the fluid driving the turbine.99 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 Flow rate (gpm) Fig. 1. were conducted in a 13-3/8” 72 lb. the maximum flow rate achieved in this test. • The pressure boost was a quadratic function of fluid circulation rate. In order to measure the pressure boost in the annulus. • At 530gpm.0015x2 . Pressure boost results for water obtained in the vertical well and in the flow loop were almost identical. pressure transducers were installed in the casing collars at 588ft and 460ft and hardwired to a data logger at the rig floor. Tests in a vertical well with TVD of 1019ft. The ECD RT operated in the 128ft vertical space between these two transducers. The time taken to trip one stand was also calculated from the number of data points recorded at the known data sampling rate. A choke was located downstream of the ECD pump to create a backpressure that allowed measurement of the pressure boost generated.5” hole at a ROP of 150 ft/h. Pressure loss in the turbine (psi) Pressure recovered in the pump (%) 25 1600 20 1200 15 800 10 400 5 0 Pressure recovered (%) For testing cuttings transport through the pump. the functioning of the MWD system was first proven without the ECD RT in the drill string and then the test was run after adding it to the drill string. This was equivalent to the 1ft3/min cuttings load that would be experienced when drilling an 8. which means that the pump performed better when the actual circulation rate approached the design circulation rate. Tests with heavier fluids were not complete and so the full potential of the ECD RT has not yet been determined. Three conclusions can be drawn from Fig.03 R2 = 0. while it was not turning. The overall functionality of the ECD RT was tested by drilling the cement concrete column using a downhole motor and a 12" tri-cone bit. which was better than expected. y = 0. The fluid circulation rate during the tests was varied from 175 to 550gpm (660 to 2080 liter/min). The pump was dismantled after running this test to check if there were any points where plugging could occur. The effectiveness of the grinding mechanism on larger balls was also checked in this process.IADC/SPE 81642 The surge pressure to be expected during the drill string trip was measured in the flow loop by pumping water through the ECD RT pump from the lower end. allowing real-time measurement of fluid pressure in the annulus below and above the tool. which is indicative of a lower limit for functioning of the ECD RT. Pressure boost (psi) A flow loop was specially designed for testing the prototype ECD RT. Mud pulse telemetry tests of the prototype ECD RT were done in the horizontal well for both negative and positive pulse mud signals. Fluid passing through the pump carried plastic balls of 0. the pressure boost obtained at 550gpm flow rate was 312psi. This test was repeated after reversing the flow direction to measure swab pressure./ft casing string with the two lower most joints packed with cement concrete containing about 10% ¼-inch gravel. the main unit being a test chamber made from a 9-5/8” 47 lb. Surge and swab pressures were also studied in the vertical well.218x + 6. the same fluid exhausted into the test chamber and entered the ECD pump. . Pressure transducers were located at the inlet of the turbine and at the inlet and outlet of the pump.0. Results Figure 1 shows the performance of the ECD RT in the flow loop with water. The time taken to trip one stand in or out and the corresponding fluid pressure recorded in the annulus below the ECD RT provided data for surge and swab pressures.

none of the internal components were found to have damage. In extended-reach drilling wells. Drilling of cement concrete proceeded smoothly for about 45 minutes. two or three flat surfaces on them. the system efficiency was very low. maximum ROP was limited to 17ft/hr because of insufficient weight on the bit (WOB). 0 1 51 101 151 201 251 301 351 401 451 501 -20 -40 50 -60 -80 45 60s. With a heavier weight drilling fluid the pressure boost will be higher. y = 0. yet they were generally in very good shape. however. All returns flowed through the ECD RT pump without plugging the system.79 Surge pressure (psi) 80 60 Results from the surge and swab tests in the vertical well (Fig. The efficiency of the ECD RT was very low when the flow rate was less than 300gpm. tests with water-based drilling mud are incomplete at this point. . 250 300 A column of cement concrete containing 10% of ¼” gravel was drilled using a 12" tri-cone drill bit.5mm) balls were found damaged by the crusher. mainly in the inlet area of the crusher. respectively. but it improved to 1822% at higher flow rates. At a flow rate of 530gpm. 3 Preliminary results from surge tests. Psi The efficiency of the ECD RT in terms of the pressure recovered in the pump as a percentage of the pressure lost in the turbine is shown in Fig. On stripping the ECD RT pump. Drilling of the cement concrete in the vertical well was done using 10-ppg mud having a plastic viscosity and yield point of 18 cP and 17 lbf/100ft2. Results for pressure boost in the annulus from tests with water in the flow loop and in a vertical well were almost identical. which indicated that the crusher was working effectively and so it can be concluded that typical drill cuttings are unlikely to cause plugging. Some of the 3/8” (9. sizes up to 0. perhaps caused by the wide variation in cross sectional area to flow inside the pump. at low flow rates.31" (8mm) and smaller balls passed smoothly through the ECD RT. some balls had splits and some had one. Tests of the prototype ECD RT are not complete at the time of writing this paper. 4) show that time taken to run one stand had varied from 40 to 90seconds. 4 Surge and swab pressure at different trip speeds in the vertical well. The ECD RT gave an average pressure boost of 312psi in the annulus when running with water at a flow rate of 550gpm. A total of eight 3/8” balls had lodged in three of the five stators. Time to trip in one 90 20 Surge or Swab.1 R2 = 0. Summary and Conclusions High ECD is a significant problem in deep water drilling causing formation damage and mud loss. 40 20 0 0 50 100 150 200 Flow rate (gpm) Fig. coming out as coarse sand. 2. the plastic balls went through the pump many times during the 45 minutes test. which exceeded the design criterion. Results show that the maximum surge was 42psi and maximum swab was 65psi. 3.243x . Time to trip out one Data Points at 5 Second Intervals Fig. Small fragments were also found in the pump. but stabilized between 18 and 22 per cent after reaching 300gpm flow rate. the pressure loss in the turbine was 1365psi whereas the pressure boost from the pump was 300psi a system efficiency of about 22%. but results from additional tests will be made available in the near future. The ECD RT has the potential to alleviate these problems in both situations. There was a considerable spread of data points on both sides of the regression curve. 60 50 40 40 40 90s. high frictional loss increases ECD forcing the use of lighter drilling fluids that can compromise wellbore stability.13. Because of the closed loop configuration. Most of the ½” balls were found near the inlet of the crusher suggesting that the ½” balls probably did not go through the pump. The fluid displacement rate during tripping was in the range of 55 to 110 ft3/min. Fig. However. Pressure loss in the turbine increased with increasing flow rate in a quadratic manner similar to the pressure boost from the pump.4 IADC/SPE 81642 The cuttings transport test done in the flow loop with plastic balls indicated no problems. 3 shows that. Cuttings transport tests with plastic balls in a flow loop showed that 0. with equivalent trip speed varying between 60 and 120 ft/min. Results from the surge pressure tests in the flow loop are summarized in Fig. Return fluid loaded with cuttings passed smoothly through the ECD pump.31" (8mm) diameter passed smoothly through the pump. however the ROP in the test was only 17ft/hr due to insufficient weight on the bit.

: Feasibility study of a dual mud system for deepwater drilling operations. 5. The ECD RT was tested in a horizontal well for compatibility with mud pulse telemetry typically used in MWD tools. Acknowledgements The authors wish to acknowledge the support and encouragement of their respective companies. World Oil (October 2000). SPE Paper 71359 (2001). et al. J. Witt. which was in line with design specifications. Lopes.L.R. They also wish to thank the teams of skilled design technicians and manufacturers and the dedication of all the people involved in the laboratory/field testing. .E. Smith. Retrieving a flow diverter located in the turbine motor using a wireline was not a problem. et al. Bratton. K. with corresponding fluid displacement in the range 55 – 110 ft3/minute. World Oil (September 2002).A. M. 8. SPE Paper 19941 (1990). 3. Tests were conducted for both positive and negative pulse signals and in both cases the signal passed through the ECD RT without any attenuation. OTC 84654 (1996). 7. SPE Paper 67742 (2001). the trip speed of a stand varied from 60 to 120 ft/minute. and Bourgoyne. 6. Boyun Guo: Balance between formation damage and wellbore damage: what is the controlling factor in UBD operations? SPE Paper 73735 (2002). et al. 5 References 1.IADC/SPE 81642 During the surge and swab pressure studies carried out in the vertical well. et al.: How to diagnose drilling induced fractures in wells drilled with oil-based muds with real-time resistivity and pressure measurements. The pull required to shear a set of two pins in the flow diverter was 1650lbs.R. M.: Wellbore stability analysis: A review of current methods of analysis and their field application.: New mud supply process saves time and expense in riserless deepwater drilling.: Subsea Mudlift Drilling: Design and Implementation of a Dual mud Gradient Drilling System. and Addis.C. Eggemeyer. 4. A T. The maximum surge was found to be 42psi and the maximum swab 65psi. E&P (March 2002).: Dual-gradient drilling nearly ready for field test. Johnson. D.: Drilling technique gets its feet wet. 2.B. T. M.A. McLean. C.