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SPE 143675

Optimization of Hole Cleaning and Cutting Removal in Vertical, Deviated and

Horizontal Wells
M. Mohammadsalehi, N. Malekzadeh, Iranian Central Oilfields Company (ICOFC)

Copyright 2011, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2022 September 2011.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of 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 SPE copyright.

As measured depths and displacements in horizontal and extended-reach (ERD) wells increase, good hole cleaning and
cuttings removal is essential to avoid associated problems with poor hole cleaning like pipe sticking, abnormal torque and
drag, drop in ROP and etc. So far, some methods and models have been developed that can assist in finding the minimum flow
rate required to efficient removal of the cuttings during drilling operation. One of them is Larsens model that predicts
minimum flow rate for cuttings removal from 55 to 90 degrees of inclination. Another model, Moores correlation, is used to
find the slip velocity of the cuttings in vertical wells (0 degree inclination). This paper presents a detailed combination of
Larsens model and Moores correlation to predict and calculate the minimum flow rate for cuttings removal for all range of
inclinations namely from 0 to 90. The resultant flow rate is compared with flow rate that maximizes the bit horsepower or bit
jet impact force (optimized flow rate). If the flow rate for cuttings removal is less than the optimized flow rate, the latter is
selected. But if the flow rate for cuttings removal is higher than the optimized flow rate, then drilling fluid rheological
properties should be changed until the optimized flow rate becomes higher than the flow rate for cuttings removal. This
procedure gurantees achievement both optimized drilling hydraulics and good hole cleaning. To illustrate the usability of this
approach whitin all inclination ranges, three points in vertical, deviated and horizontal parts of a horizontal well are chosen and
the optimization procedure performed and presented.
It has been recognized for many years that removal of the cuttings from the wellbore during drilling poses special problems.
Until the early 1980s vertical drilling operations outnumbered deviated and horizontal drilling operations. Thus most effort
was put into understanding the hole cleaning in vertical wells. Poor hole cleaning may result in lost circulation, hinder the
casing or liner running jobs, excessive overpull on trips, high rotary torque, excessive equivalent circulation density, formation
break down, slow ROP, excessive bit wearing and pipe sticking problems[1,5]. The major factors that influence cutting
transport are namely; drill pipe eccentricity, wellbore size and inclination, drilling fluid density, cuttings size, cuttings density,
drill pipe rotation, drilling rate, drilling fluid rheology and flow rate. Practical use of these parameters to control cuttings
transport is however very much depending on their controllability in the field. For example drill pipe eccentricity has a strong
influence on the cuttings transport. However it is very difficult to control and/or assess the degree of eccentricity during the
drilling operation. Figure 1 illustrates these factors in relation to their ease of control in the field.
Drilling fluid rheology and flow rate are the two main parameters which would influence cuttings transport strongly while
their control in the field is relatively easy [5]. Based on these facts several methods and models have been introduced that can
be used to find the minimum flow rate required to remove the cuttings from the well for a specific drilling condition and
drilling fluid rheological properties. Larsens model can be used to find the minimum flow rate for cuttings removal from 55 to
90 degrees of inclination [7]. Another one is Moores model that is used to find the slip velocity of cuttings in vertical wells
[2]. In this study a computer programming in MATLAB was developed that combines these two methods and predicts the
minimum flow rate for cuttings transport from 0 to 90 degrees of inclination. Another computer program was written that
calculates the optimum flow rate for different drilling fluid rheological properties using both hydraulic horsepower and jet
impact force criteria. Then these two programs are combined to find that rheological properties of the drilling fluid that gives
the optimized flow rate higher than the flow rate to remove the cuttings from a horizontal well called YS5, drilled in Yorte-ESha field inVaraminin Iran.

SPE 143675

Effect of Drilling fluid rheology and flow rate on hole cleaning

Those properties of drilling fluid that affect hole cleaning are mud weight and drilling fluid viscosity. The main functions of
mud density are to mechanically stabilize the wel1bore and prevent the intrusion of formation fluids into it. Increase in mud
density enhances cuttings suspension and therefore their transport; however, increase in mud density causes a decrease in rate
of penetration and therefore, higher drilling cost. Mud density is never increased for the propose of hole cleaning.
The effect of viscosity on hole cleaning can be characterized by the ratio YP/PV which is a characteristic shear rate for a
Bingham fluid. This ratio is the shear rate where the fluid viscosity is twice the PV. For shear rates greater than YP/PV the
fluid is more Newtonian and for shear rates less than YP/PV the fluid is strongly shears thinning. 90% of the shear thinning
has occurred when the shear rate is approximately 10 YP/PV. Thus for a particular system the YP/PV ratio may be used to
evaluate the fluids shear thinning characteristics. It is, however, impossible to use YP/PV to compare fluid properties of two
different fluid systems [2].
Generally, an increase in mud viscosity decreases hole cleaning in directional well drilling. In fact, clear water drilling is most
efficient in cleaning directional wells due to the low flow rate requirement to induce annular turbulent flow, which was shown
to be most effective in hole cleaning. The turbulence like motion makes the frictional pressure loss to increase, resulting in an
increased shear stress on the cuttings bed surface. This increased shear stress will finally assist in removing more cuttings.
Okrajni [5] observed that for turbulent flow, cuttings transport was unaffected by the mud properties at any angle. In laminar
flow, the cuttings concentration was slightly lower for higher YP/PV ratios for low angles. Okranji also found that laminar
flow was more beneficial for low anles of inclination (0-45 degrees), while turbulent flow was better for high angles (55-90
degrees). Iyoho noticed that low viscous muds in turbulent flow performed as well as high Viscosity muds in laminar flow for
vertical wellbores. For highly inclined annuli turbulent flow provided better cuttings transport. [6]
It has been observed that for all cases, the most effective drilling parameter on cuttings bed development is the flow rate, in
other words, the annular fluid velocity. Increase in the flow rate drastically prevents the bed development and improves the
cuttings carrying ability because with higher flow rates, higher shear stress is exerted onto the cuttings bed which prevents
cuttings bed formation. Especially when the flow is turbulent cuttings are carried more effectively and the bed development is
reduced significantly [7]. However, an upper limit of the flow rate is dictated by:
1. Rig hydraulic power availability
2. Permissible equivalent circulating density (ECD)
3. Susceptibility of the open hole section to hydraulic erosion.
As the flow rate of the drilling fluid increases, the accumulation of cuttings on the lower side of the well decreases until the
flow rate reaches a specific value when no particle settles down and no accumulation occurs. Most of models for predicting
this minimum flow rate for cuttings removal, work with critical transport velocity which is defined as the minimum fluid
velocity needed to maintain a continuous upward movement of cuttings. When the total volumetric flow rate does not generate
the fluid velocities required for transport of the cuttings, the cuttings will start to accumulate at the bottom of the pipe and
create a stationary cuttings bed. The equilibrium bed height is reached when the velocities generated above the cutting bed,
in the area open to flow, become sufficient to transport the cuttings downstream not allowing further cuttings accumulation.
When the volumetric flow rate is increased, there is a point at which the cuttings bed breaks into a slowly moving cuttings bed.
Dispersed cuttings transport will occur when the total volumetric flow rates are high enough to distribute all the solid particles
into the liquid phase. The distribution of the solids in the liquid phase is shown schematically in figure 2.

Combination of Larsens Model and Moores correlation

One of the methods for estimating slip velocity and minimum velocity required for cuttings transport in deviated and
horizontal wells was introduced by T.I. Larsen, A.A. Pilehvari and J.J. Azar (SPE-25872). This paper was discussing a
minimum rate (Vmin) for system with the inclination between 55 90 according to laboratory experiment and empirical
correlation. They showed that this minimum velocity is the summation of slip velocity and cuttings velocity which is the rate
of cuttings generation by the bit and depends on the rate of penetration, drillpipe outer diameter and hole diameter, which can
be expressed as:

Vm in =Vcut +Vslip
In which cuttings velocity expressed by


SPE 143675

Vcut =

36 1 pipe
D hole


0.64 +



And slip velocity can be expressed as


V slip = 0.00516 a + 3.006,


Vslip = 0.002554 (a 53) + 3.82,

a < 53cp


a > 53cp


These two equations for slip velocity were correlated for mud density, angle of inclination, and cuttings average size.
Mud density correlation factor is

C mwt = 1 0.0333( m 8.7)

m > 8.7


Cmwt = 1

m < 8.7


Angle of inclination correlation factor is

C ang = 0.0342 ang 0.000233 ang


And cuttings average size correction factor is expressed as

Csize = 1.04D50 cut + 1.286


Therefore slip velocity is given by


Vslip = V slip .(Cang )(Csize )(C mwt )


Moores correlation is used to find the slip velocity of the cuttings in vertical wells.

v s l = 1 .8 9

ds s f


For finding Vmin for vertical wells (0 degree of inclination) Vslip is calculated by using Moores correlation and it is
supposed that Vcut can be calculated by using equation (2). Now an example is given to see how these two methods are
combined and used to predict and calculate the Vmin from 0 to 90 degrees of inclination. The data used in this example is
presented in table 1. The result is plotted in figure 3. As it can be seen figure 3 contains two more points which are not in the
range of 55 to 90 degrees of inclination. One for 30 and the other one for 40 degrees of inclination. The data for these two
points are obtained form Larsens data which has been used to drive the equations for calculation of Vmin for cuttings
transport [6]. In Larsens data, Vmin for 65 divided by Vmin for 30 of inclination was 0.76 and Vmin for 65 divide by
Vmin for 40 was 0.8. In the same way it was supposed that in figure 3, Vmin for 30 is 0.76 of Vmin for 65. And Vmin for
40 is 0.8 of Vmin for 65. In fact these two points are used to get a better and more accurate interpolation of the points in
figure 3. Without using these two points the change in Vmin for 0 to 55 will be linear which seems not to be accurate. The
ways to change Vmin is by changing mud rheological properties or by changing rate of penetration.
Another factor that can be modified and change to reduce Vmin required for hole cleaning is the rate of penetration (ROP).
The higher the rate of penetration the more cuttings generated by the bit, the higher Vmin and therefore flow rate is required to
transport the cuttings to the surface [3]. But reduction of this factor (ROP) is not desiered for drilling performance because it
directlu affects the whole project time length and increases the total cost of a single drilling operation.

SPE 143675

Flow rate optimization

In order to achive a good hole cleaning in YS6 well, which is located in Yort-e-Sha field in Varamin in Iran, Larsens model
and Moores correlation were combined to calculate the optimize hole cleaning parameters in the mentioned well.
To present the procedure and results, three points in well trajectory is chosen, first one in 300 meters TVD , located in vertical
part of well, the other one is in 690 meter TVD in deviated section and the last point in horizontal section, 990 meter TVD.
This will illustrate the usability of this approach in all ranges of inclinations.
1: Depth of 300m TVD (300m MD).
This point is located in vertical part of well (0 degree inclination), The following data set belongs to this point while drilling.
length=133 m
OD= 5 in.
ID= 4.276 in.
length = 166 m
OD = 8 in.
ID =3 in.
Drilling fluid density = 9.6 ppg
Hole size = 17.5 in.
Inclination = 0
ROP = 30 ft/hr
Maximum allowable surface pressure = 3000 psi
Cuttings density = 21.68 ppg
Average cuttings size = 0.175 in.
YP= 2*PV
The result of optimization is shown in figure 4. As the drilling fluid plastic viscosity (PV) and yield point (YP) increases, the
flow rate required for transporting the cuttings decreases. As a result, in the case of vertical wells or vertical portions of
deviated wells, to achive a good hole cleaning condition PV and YP of drilling mud should be increased. As it shown, for
values of PV less that 44 cp, the optimized flow rate is quite suitable for hole cleaning, but for PV greater than 44 cp, the
optimized flow rate is not sufficient for cutting removal thus higher values of flow rate should be selected.
2: Depth of 690m TVD (750m MD).
This point is located in deviated section of well (46 degree inclination)
length= 386 m
OD= 5 in.
ID= 4.276 in.
length= 200 m
OD= 5 in.
ID= 3in.
length = 164 m
OD = 8 in.
ID =3 in.
length = 420 m
ID = 13 3/8 in.
Drilling fluid density = 11 ppg
Hole size = 12.25 in.
Inclination = 46
ROP = 30 ft/hr.
Maximum allowable surface pressure = 3000 psi
Cuttings density = 21.68 ppg
Cuttings size = 0.175 in.
From the figure 5, it can be concluded that for the angle of inclination of 46 degree (within 35o to 65o), as drilling fluid plastic
viscosity and yield point increases, the flow rate required to achive good hole cleaning increases. The inclination range
between 35 to 65 has the most difficulty in transporting the cuttings. Because in this section gravity force causes settlement
of the cuttings, additionally, cuttings have a tendency to roll down to the bottom of the hole and rapidly accumulate. In order to
prevent this process to occure, more turbulent drilling fluid regime is desirable. This can be done either by increasing flow rate
or decreasing mud viscosity. As in figure 5, for the values of PV less than 9 cp, the optimized flow rate can be used, but for
values more than 9 cp, the flow rate should be higher to achive good hole cleaning. To select the higher flow rates (GPM), one
should carefully consider the pumping pressure and surface facility pressure rating aspects.
3: Depth of 990m TVD (1050m MD).
This point is located in horizontal section of well (90 degree inclination)
length= 586 m
OD= 5 in.
ID= 4.276 in.
length= 200 m
OD= 5 in.
ID= 3in.
Drillcollar :
length = 176 m
OD = 6 in.
ID =2.813 in.
Casing (9 5/8):
length = 727 m
Drilling fluid density = 12 ppg
Hole size = 12.25 in.
Inclination = 90
ROP = 20 ft/hr.
Maximum allowable surface pressure = 3000 psi
Cuttings density = 21.68 ppg
Cuttings size = 0.175 in.
YP = PV/2
As it can be seen in figure 6, in the horizontal section of the well reducing drilling fluid plastic viscosity and yield point
reduces the required flow rate for hole cleaning. In horizontal well it has been approved that the lower the yield point the better
the hole cleaning. So yield point of the drilling fluid is considered to be one third of its plastic viscosity. At the lower values of
YP, both of good hole cleaning and optimized drilling hydraulics can be achived.
The new method to find the minimum flow rate to achive good cuttings transport is can be used to find the minimum flow rate
for all range of inclination form 0 to 90. As the results show, behaviour of flow rate selection varies by well inclination.
Within the range of 0 to 55 degrees of inclination, as the rheological properties of drilling mud goes higher the value for

SPE 143675

required flow rate decreases. Which means the major force acting on cutting settlements is gravity force and can be overcomed
by increase fluid carrying capacity. Within high inclination ntervals, because cuttings tend to settle on low side of well to make
a bed, lower rheological properties of drilling mud is more desirable and produce better hole cleaning effects. To adjust and
choose the best values for flow rate, bit horse power or impact force, surface and pumping limitations should be considered as
Cang : Larsens correction factor for hole inclination.
Cd : Correction factor for bit nozzle velocity.
Cmwt : Larsens correction factor for mud weight.
Csize : Larsens correction factor for average cuttings size.
MD : Measured depth, ft.
n : Power law flow behavior index, dimensionless.
PV : plastic viscosity, cp.
q : Flow rate, gpm.
ROP : Rate of penetration, ft/hr.
TVD : True vertical depth, ft.
Vcut : Cuttings velocity, ft/s.
Vmin : Minimum velocity for cuttings transport, ft/s.
Vs : Cuttings volume, ft3.
Vsl : Cuttings slip velocity, ft/s.
Vslip : Cuttings slip velocity, ft/s.
V : Mean velocity, ft/s.
V a : Annulus mean velocity, ft/s.
Vslip : Mean slip velocity, ft/s.
W : Cuttings weight, lbf.
YP : Yield point, lbf/100ft2.
: Well inclination, degree.
: Viscosity, cp.
a : Apparent viscosity, cp.
: Drilling fluid density, ppg.
f : Drilling fluid density, ppg.
m : Mud density, ppg.
s : Cuttings density, ppg.
y : Yield point, lbf/100ft2.

1: A. Saasenl, Den noske stats oljeselskap a.s. (Statod) Hole Cleaning During Deviated Drilling - The Effects of Pump Rate
and Rheology SPE 50582, 1998.
2: A.T. Bourgoyne, et al.; Applied Drilling Engineering SPE Textbook Series. Vol. 3, Richardson, Texas (1986) chapter 4.
3: Azar, J.J and Sanchez, R.A Mud Cuttings Transport Study in Directional Well drilling. SPE paper 39020, 1997. 4
4: Patrick Kenny and Egd Sunde. Staloil A/S. and Terry Hernphill. Baroid Drilling Fluids Hole Cleaning Modelling: Whats
n Got To Do With It? SPE 35099, 1998.
5: Rishi B. Adari, SPE, Stefan Miska, SPE. and Ergun Kuru, SPE, University of Tulsa, Peter Bern, SPE, BP-Amoco, and Arild
Saasen, SPE, Statoil. Selecting Drilling Fluid Properties and Flow Rates For Effective Hole Cleaning in HighA ngle and
Horizontal Wells SPE 63050, 2000.
6: Rudi Rubiandini R S., SPE -1172519, Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia Equation for Estimating Mud Minimum
Rate for Cuttings Transport in an Inclined-Until Horizontal Well SPE/IADC 57541,1999.
7: T. I. Larsen, SPE. Unocal Cap. A.A. Pilehvari SPE. Texas A&M U. and J.J. Azar, SPE. U. of Tulsa Development of a New
Cuttings-Transport Model for High-Angle Wellbores Including Horizontal Wells SPE 25872, 1997.

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Table 1: Requiered data for extrapolation of Vmin

Mud weight



Yield Point


Plastic Viscosity





Hole Diameter


Drillpipe Diameter


Cuttings Density



Cuttings Size



Rate of Penetration



Figure 1: Controllibility of drilling parameters in field

Figure 2: Dispersed distribution of cuttings in the liquid phase

SPE 143675

Figure 3: extrapolation of Vmin from 0 to 55

Figure 4: Optimum flow rate and the flow rate for hole cleaning for the depth of 300m TVD.

SPE 143675

Figure 5: Optimum flow rate and the flow rate for hole cleaning for the depth of 690m TVD.

Figure 6: Optimum flow rate and the flow rate for hole cleaning for the depth of 900m TVD.