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IADC/SPE 81645

Little Known Lubrication Method: Great Tool for UB Work
Gary W. Nance, Randy Smith Training Solutions
Copyright 2003, IADC/SPE Underbalanced Technology Conference and Exhibition
This paper was prepared for presentation at the IADC/SPE Underbalanced Technology
Conference and Exhibition held in Houston, Texas, U.S.A., 25–26 March 2003.
This paper was selected for presentation by an IADC/SPE Program Committee following
review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the
paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the International Association of Drilling
Contractors or the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the
author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the IADC,
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this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the International Association
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purpose but a simple and little known procedure (“pressure”
method) should be used in many instances. Either method has
application and limitations but the pressure method is the only
accurate technique for wells experiencing downhole fluid

Drillpipe Pressure
Trip Tank
Casing Pressure

Underbalanced drilling is defined as drilling with the hydrostatic pressure of the fluid intentionally less than that of the
formation pore pressure. The IADC classifies UBD wells
according to the drilling fluid used to achieve underbalanced

Gas at Surface

IADC UBD Well Classification by Fluid Design


Gas Drilling – using only gas as the drilling
medium. No intentional fluid added.
Mist Drilling – drilling with liquid entrained in a
continuous gaseous phase. Typical, <2.5% liquid
Foam Drilling – drilling with a two phase fluid with
a continuous liquid phase generated from the
addition of liquid, surfactant, and gas. Typical foams
range from 55% to 97.5% gas.
Gasified Liquid Drilling – drilling with a gas
entrained in a liquid phase.
Liquid Drilling – drilling with a single liquid phase.

For well classifications 1-4, gas is used to reduce the
hydrostatic head of the fluid column to the desired value. Gas
accumulations due to separation from the 2-phase state can at
times accumulate at the surface of the well and may require
removal via a lubrication technique. The reason may be to kill
the well prior to tripping or, that the gas cannot be circulated
from the well in a conventional sense.
Lubricating Gas From the Surface of a Well
Gas accumulated beneath the BOPs can represent a potential
safety risk and may need to be “lubricated” from the well. The
“volume” method of lubrication is most often used for this

Hydrostatic of
Mud in Annulus

conditions common to many UB wells. Volume Injected Beginning of a lubrication cycle.T3 Vl. K = 0. Ideal Gas Law P1 × V1 = P2 × V2 (1) BHP3 = Hpm3 + Hpg3 + P3 P1 = k × V1 Where.V2. or wells experiencing loss of circulation. BHP increases by Hpm added + (P2 .V3.T1 Casing Pressure = P3 P2. and temperature of the gas at the beginning and end of a lubrication cycle. Hpm1 (Assuming the change in the hydrostatic of the gas is negligible). Hpm2 Hpm3 Assume: Since gas at surface and no large changes in pressure (per lubrication increment) that T1=T2=T3 and Z1=Z2=Z3. the volume measured via a trip tank. The volume method works best on wells with no fluid being lost downhole during the lubrication process. (Neglecting Temperature Changes) For induced kicks where the MW balances formation pressure (which is the case for most UB work) the initial casing pressure due to gas breaking out of the drilling mud is expressed by. After injecting a quantity of lube mud.2 IADC/SPE 81645 Volume Method The volume method of lubrication is a “pump-measure-waitcalculate-and bleed” process. BHP is equal Formation Pressure and (2) P3 = P1 . volume.P1)) BHP is equal Formation Pressure BHP1 = Hpm1 + Hpg1 + P1 BHP2 = Hpm2+ Hpg2 + P2 The Pressure Method A simplified mathematical description can be obtained by using the ideal gas law relating the pressure.V2) (3) Hydro Added = k × A .Hydro Added (V1 . the hydrostatic pressure equivalent of that volume of mud is calculated. End of cycle. The Typical Lubrication Cycle Casing Pressure = P1 Hpg1 Casing Pressure = P2 Hpg2 P1.T2 Hpg3 P3. Mud is pumped into the closedin annulus. time is allowed for the mud to “lubricate” through the gas.052 × MW A At the end of a lubrication cycle the relationship between P1 and P3 can be written in terms of the hydrostatic pressure of the mud injected for that cycle (after bleeding gas from the annulus).Z2.V1.Z1. Lubrication requires several cycles to remove gas from a well as an incremental volume is removed by each lubrication cycle. But should not be used on wells losing fluid to permeable reservoir zones. BHP3=BHP1. and after bleeding a quantity of “dry” gas. and the casing pressure bled down based on the hydrostatic of the mud added.Z3.

Although not a cure-all. The workovers were for large tubing diameter gas wells (7’’ tubing) that were being killed by bullheading seawater. Of course this will be the case for many. the procedure has been used successfully in several well control incidents and when it has applicability can be a great asset to your well control toolkit. wells requiring a gas lubrication technique. This can be offset by introducing a “safety margin” pressure into the first pressure cycle if desired. if not most. again large quantities of water was being consumed by the reservoir and the futility of the procedure became apparent. and P3. When attempting to lubricate the gas using the volume method. Hole angle is neglected here but when considered the result is the simple addition of the cosine of the hole inclination. and P3 relationship. and (3) results in a simple to use relationship of the pressures P1. This rarely requires consideration since even highly deviated wellbores start out vertical. (2).IADC/SPE 81645 LITTLE KNOWN LUBRICATION METHOD: GREAT TOOL FOR UB WORK Limitations and Considerations For the pressure method to work well its necessary that the hydrostatic pressure of the wellbore full of drilling fluid will kill (balance or overbalance) the pore pressure of any formation exposed. There is also a slight error due to neglecting the hydrostatic pressure of the gas as it is bled from the well. P2. Formation damage due to the large volumes of water required to push the gas back into the reservoir led to lubrication being considered as an alternate kill prior to the workover. P2. This frustration led to the idea of using the gas law to describe the process and the ultimate formulation of the P1. Casing Pressure = P1 P1 V1 Hpa Manipulating equations (1). Gas compressibility can complicate the accuracy of the procedure but gas compressibility curves are fairly flat for most lubrication applications. . P1 P2 P3 = P1 − Hydro Added V2 = V1 × k × (V1 − V2) A k P3 = P1 − P1 + × V2 A k P1 P3 = × × V1 A P2 k P1 A × × P1 P3 = × A P2 k P3 = P1 − P3 = P1 2 P2 3 Summary The Pressure Method of lubricating gas from a well was discovered somewhat by accident while assisting a client with planning a workover project.

The decision was made to lubricate the resulting N2 that accumulated in annular surface prior to tripping the pipe. 220 psi 320 psi 450 psi 620 psi 760 psi 670 psi P2 (Stabilized) Cycle 2 P1 30 bbls of 6. The correct casing pressure was calculated to be: P3 = (750)2 / 840 = 670 psi Cycle 1 Float failure caused plugged drillstring in N2/diesel injection UB drilling operation.Pressure Method of Lubrication Reservoir Pressure = 4900 psi Fluid Weight = 6.5 ppg (diesel) 4 IADC/SPE 81645 .047 bbl/ft 156 bbl of N2 Gas at Surface SICP = 750 psi Drillpipe Pressure = NA Reservoir TD = 15367 ft TVD / 16120 MD Trip Tank MW = 6. Example .5 ppg Annular Capacity = 0.5 ppg lube fluid was pumped into closed in well via kill line causing casing pressure to increase to 900 psi but then bled down and stabilized at 840 psi.680 psi 600 psi 590 psi 510 psi 430 psi 300 psi 200 psi 125 psi Cycle 3 Cycle 4 Cycle 5 Cycle 6 Cycle 7 Cycle 8 70 psi 125 psi 200 psi 300 psi 430 psi 510 psi 590 psi P3 Diesel was then circulated across top of annulus and BOPs opened with all gas bled off.