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lADC/SPE 39328

of Petroleum


Innovative Rotary Closed Loop System Engineering Concept Proven by

Extensive Field Application
in the Adriatic Sea
. .
Franco Donati, AGIP S.p.A.; Joachim Oppelt,* Baker Hughes INTEQ GmbH; Alessandro
S. P.A.; and Detlef Ragnitz, Baker Hughes INTEQ GmbH

Trampini, AGIP

*IADC Members

1998, lADC/SPE

Drilling Conference

This pa~r was prepared for presentation

Dallaa, Texas M
March 1998.

at the 1968 lAMiSPE

specifications or requirements.
Drilllng Conference

held in

Regarding the time and budget constraints, the need to

optimize economics under ongoing competition and cost
pressure requires that todays wells be drilled in considerably
less time than previous wells. With respect to the technical
requirements a growing number of wells need to be drilled
with complex trajectories. For example, a relatively
sophisticated well path can avoid drilling additional wells or
even eliminate the need for a new platform in the offshore
area. Complex and extended reach wells also can help
minimize environmental impacts.

This pawr waa aelaoted for presentation

by an lA~iSPE
review of information containti
In an abstract submitted by the author(a). &ntents
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paper, as presentd,
have not hen
by the International
of Drilfin9
or the Society of Petroleum Engineem and are subject to correction by the
author(s). The material, as preaentd,
does not nWsaarilY
feffect anY Wsitfon of the IAN or
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publication review by Editorial Committaea of the IADO and SPE. Electronic reprtiuction,
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The Rotary Closed Loop Drilling System (RCLS) was
developed as a joint venture project between a major oil
company and a leading service company. A long term research
and development program within the service company was
supported by the Italian oil company over the past five years.
The resulting drilling system is capable of steering a wellpath
while the drill string continues to rotate, so penetration rates
are not sacrificed while slide drilling, as is necessary when
using conventional steerable technology. Furthermore, this
unique system has several integral downhole sensors, enabling
two-way communication between the downhole system and
surface, while also providing FEMWD data. In addition,
several automated drilling finctions enable the system to steer
independently. During this operation, surface personnel are
able to intervene at any time through direct control using a
downlink signal. This paper will provide a detailed insight into
the projects engineering strategy during the development. The
paper also presents a review of the first year of field
application, mainly in the Adriatic Sea offshore Italy, which
concluded the prototype period. The philosophy of the pilot
field application program is briefly described and an overview
is given of the ongoing engineering efforts, as well as the
considerable fiture development potential.

Current steerable motor systems have been providing stateof-the-art technology for directional drilling applications
during the last decade. Only recently have individuals in the
industry recognized certain limitations of this technology in
chilling extended reach and complex well profiles. Within the
framework of a research program between a major Italian oil
company and an oilfield service company with leading
directional drilling competence, the vision of a steering-whilerotating directional drilling system with certain automated
control fi.mctionswas turned into a rapid development process.
This technologys high potential demand led to tie decision
to pursue this project in a highly-accelerated way. The time
between initiating the RCLS program and running the first
successful field operation in a test well was no more than 18
months. This rapid approach required that development
continue while prototype tools underwent field testing.
Therefore, the prototype testing period was organized into two
separate application sequences. The first stage, in early 1996,
used a special test well to verify the basic concept and identifi
major items for improvement. After this hurdle was cleared,
the remainder of the year was used to run the prototype tools in
commercial wells. This was done exclusively in Italy, and most
of the wells were located offshore in the Adriatic Sea.

Todays drilling environment is characterized by the triple
constraints concept. This means that any drilling program
needs to be executed on time, within budget, and according to

The goal of this phase of the evaluation was to immediately

improve the system after each run using the findings from the
actual application. In some cases, changes were implemented



automatically control tie wellpath independently of the drilling

process. A basic RCLS without depth tracing will follow the
wellpath programmed at surface and must be pulled to make
any wellpath corrections. To allow for higher influence from
surface a communication from surface to downhole--the so
called downlink--is required. The AutoTrak RCLS acts on a
flow rate variation process at surface where the binary code
embedded in high and low flowrates is decoded by the
downhole tool. For basic steering, the steering direction and
the build up rate (the magnitude of the steering force) will be
transmitted downhole. As a further step, sections of the
wellpath can be transmitted from surface.

at the well site on stand-by tools while other systems were

operating downhole. Engineering efforts were maintained at a
very high level so the project team could react quickly and
effectively to any problems.
Rotary Closed Loop System (RCLS)

Even on conventional wells the benefits of a tool capable

of steering while rotating are immense, and in some cases
wells with challenging profiles may only be possible with a
rotary steerable system.
Sliding rates of penetration are generally 50% less than
those achieved during rotary drilling, so a rotary steering
system can deliver substantially higher overall ROP than
steerable systems that slide during course corrections. By
eliminating the necessity to steer by orienting and sliding, drag
on the drillstring can be significantly reduced. This allows a
constant application of WOB, reduces axial shock and
vibration, and improves drilling dynamics.

Fiwre 2 shows these two main features of an RCLS

implemented into a independently operating tool which also
includes directional and formation evaluation capabilities, The
steering action is formed by three-point geometry in which the
bit, steerable blades on the nonrotating sleeve and top
stabilizer define the path drilled by the assembly. The build up
rate is defined by the eccentricity of the expandable blades and
is directly proportional to the magnitude of the steering force.
Following the nonrotating sleeve with integrated near bit
inclination measurement, a sub houses a turbine-driven
alternator with oil pump and a mud pulse valve for positive
mud pulse telemetry from downhole to surface. The oil pump
generates the oil pressure necessary to generate the steering
force, The oil hydraulics with hydraulic valve and electrical
pressure control are located in the nonrotating sleeve.

Studies have shown that drillstring rotation helps keep

cuttings suspended, positively affecting hole cleaning and
minimizing drillpipe-to-borehole fiction. This results in fewer
wiper trips and circulating operations, fewer stuck pipe
incidents, fewer washout conditions and a lower, more
constant ECD.
In conventional directional drilling, bit selection is often
dictated by the need to slide, resulting in a choice of a less
aggressive PDC bit, reducing ROP, or in the worst case, a
roller cone bit, increasing the number of bit trips required.

Above the top stabilizer a Multiple Propagation Resistivity

(MPR) sub takes formation Resistivity and Gamma Ray
measurements. Furthermore, the tool has an integrated
directional sensor positioned 10 m above the bit and a
vibration module transmitting the drill string vibration data for
optimization of the drilling process uphole. The tool takes a
survey only upon pumps off and transmits the measured data as
soon as circulation is resumed.

A steering while rotating tool has two main features:


A steering unit that can control the wellpath during

drill string rotation.

The ability to change the wellpath by either following

a wellpath programmed at surface on an internal
downhole closed loop or by following the wellpath as
directed by surface-to-downhole commands (in the
surface-to-downhole closed loop),




The development of a automated drilling system was

started at Baker Hughes INTEQ in 1985. In the early 90s the
vertical drilling system -- the first tool able to steer along a
preprogrammed wellpath -- was extensively used at the
Continental Deep Drilling (KTB) Project of the Federal
Republic of Germany. The tool controlled the wellpath on a
vertical line. Because the system controlled the well within
tight vertical tolerances, the KTB project could reach a target
depth of 9000 m TVD in highly crystalline rock. In 1993,
AGIP S.p,A. in Milan, Italy and Baker Hughes INTEQ in
Houston, Texas, initiated a joint development project. The
primary goal of the project was the development of a high
temperature (up to 200C) tool with the ability to steer in ultra
deep horizontal wells. Soon after the program began, it became
clear that the development of an RCLS would be beneficial to

Based on these two features, a steering while rotating tool

is referred to as a Rotary Closed Loop System [RCLS].
The Baker Hughes INTEQ AutoTrak RCLS includes the
steering unit with a rotationally uncoupled, nonrotating sleeve
with integrated expandable blades. The expandable blades
apply a steering force on the formation to force the bit in the
desired direction. As shown in Figure 1, each steering blade is
activated independently. This results in a force vector, adjusted
to high side in direction as well as in magnitude.
The second main feature of a RCLS is the ability to






A three stage development strategy was set. The stages

Intensive lab testing of components, especially the oil
hydraulic system in the nonrotating


Evaluating the complete system in a test well to

identify the systems steering capabilities and the
reliability of its components downhole





5/8 casing was set down to a TMD of 992 at an inclination of

20.3 and an azimuth ot79.2. The AutoTrak RCLS was
planned to drill a target section to a TMD of 1,201 m, then
build and turn to 46.7 inclination at 88.43 azimuth at 1567
TMD. This inclination had to be held at the same azimuth and
inclination down to a TMD of 2,920 m. FiWre 3 shows the
plan with two targets and the course drilled by the AutoTrak
RCLS and tie following standard steerable tool.

achieving this drilling capability.



Two RCLS assemblies drilled an 859m section building

inclination horn 20 to 48 with an average ROP of 35 rn/hr.
AutoTraks ability to correct the trajecto~ in real time kept the
well within a maximum deviation of 5 m from the planned
wellpath, However, both tools failed due to a plugged mud
pulse valve. In both cases the pulser was blocked by a rubber
stabilizer from the tool. Afier the failures, the well was &llled
using conventional systems with great difficulty in maintaining
the planned wellpath.

A series of field tests in commercial wells to verifi

RCLS reliability and durability in oiltield applications
and to improve the process while drilling.

During the fust development stage, the concept of the tool

was designed. In lab tests, the principle operation of the oil
hydraulic system with variable oil pressure regulation and the
turbine driven oil pump were proven. Intensive work was
focused on a rough design of a mud oil sealing system, as the
bearing set of the nonrotating sleeve works on oil lubricated

During the fwst commercial field test, the AutoTrak RCLS

proved its ability to maintain a planned wellpath, Needed
improvements were identified on the decodability of the
downlink communication by the downhole tool. Prior to the
next field test the filter algorithm for detection of the preamble
was modified for improved decodability downhole. The mud
oil sealing system was still operating after being pulled out of
tie hole. However, the seals showed wear so that a longer
operating time could not be assured. The sealing system was
redesigned to account for the observed wear pattern.

After favorable results were achieved during laboratory

testing in Germany and Italy, an extensive field test program
for the RCLS technology was initiated. Field testing was
initially carried out at a drilling test facility in Montrose,
Scotland. Early testing focused on the newly designed steering
unit and surface-to-downhole communications to confirm the
laboratory tests. Results of these initial tests indicated that the
tool could control the direction of the wellpath, and desired
build rate capabilities could be achieved. The ability to control
steering downhole via the downlink was confirmed. Given a
desired directional objective from the surface, the tool was
able to change its course and accomplish the new objective.

Field Test at Clothilde 1

Clothilde 1 is an AGIP well in the Adriatic Sea offshore

Italy. Fi&re 4 shows the planned wellpath for Clothilde 1 Dir.
The 12 W section was drilled to a depth of 612 m and 9 5/8
casing was set. The last survey was at survey depth 596 m with
23.2 inclination at 319 azimuth. TVD was 589.01 m, 38.7 m
north and -36.06 m east.

Furthermore, critical parts of the tool were identified and

the direction for firther development work was determined.
The mud oil sealing system was identified as the most critical
part. During the field test phase in commercial wells, several
improvement steps were achieved (especially on this

The well plan called for the 8 W section to continue with a

straight build section down to a measured depth of 931 m,
followed by a straight tangent section with 50.95 inclination.
The target was located in the tangent section at TVD 1,256 m,
553 m north and -506 m east.

Field Testing in the Adriatic Sea

The complete 8 W section was drilled by one AutoTrak

RCLS. Over 1,230 m were drilled within 25 hours, building
inclination from 25 to 50 with a build rate of 3.5/30 m
followed by a 900 m hold section of 50 inclination as
programmed. The final average ROP of 47 m/hr demonstrated
the tool had good steering capability while achieving high

Afier conclusion of the Montrose drilling test, a series of

field tests in the Adriatic sea with AGIP S.p.A. was scheduled.
The major goals of the field test were to prove the systems
durability in the field and achieve constant improvement of a
prototype tool, resulting in a commercial product.
Field Test at Regina 2 Dir A

Improvements based on the experience gained at Regina 2

led to a higher decodability of the downlinks with80% of all

Regina 2 was a well in the Adriatic Seal offshore Italy. 9




downlinks being recognized and decoded by the downhole

tool. The redesigned sealing system showed proper function
with no significant seal wear.
Once again, the field test showed the toolss capability of
the tool to keep the well on a planned path, but maintained it
only within a maximum deviation of 13 m from plan. Project
engineers determined that a major improvement in accuracy
could be achieved by a change in the downhole control
algorithm. Especially in a section with constant inclination, the
previous hold mode did not adequately maintain the well along
the planned path. A correction using programmed steering
values for direction and magnitude led the tool back to the
planned course but also created a relatively sharp turn,
resulting in a tortuous wellpath. Unfortunately, the needed
modifications were not ready for field testing at the next
commercial field test on the Antonella 11 well.
Antonella Field Tests
The field test performed with the AutoTrak in the 8 X
phase of AGIP Antonella field (located in the Adriatic Sea
offshore) was one of the most significant, due to the depth of
the wells (TVD 4,200 m), and the severe operational
conditions, including:

ROP of 28 m/hr with peak values up to 130 m/hr. At a depth of

3,735 m, the measured inclination of the tool started to drop
0.7/30 m. Several attempts were made to bring the tool back
to the planned wellpath. As a tool failure was suspected, the
tool was POOH at a TMD of 3,881 m. During disassembly a
plugged oil filter in the oil hydraulic system was identified as
the cause of the failure.
A second tool was RIH programmed to build and return to
the planned wellpath. The tool built inclination as expected
and was corrected for azimuth via downlink to return to the
path. Aiming for the target at 4,188 m TMD, the tool failed to
decode any downlink. Finally, the tool had to be pulled as it
could not be reprogrammed from surface.
In two runs, 962 m were Willed in41.7 hours. During these
nms steering capability of the tool was tested with regards to
correcting the inclination at the start of a section with a
preprogrammed hold command that contains a target
inclination and to avoid and correct walk tendencies with the
steer command. With the downlink structure change already
identified at Clothilde, the downhole decoding software was
changed for improved decodability. This new downlink
software was tested at the Antonella 12 well.

High torque with consequent problems of motor

stalling and with high difficulties in correcting the
direction using the conventional steerable system
Risk of differential sticking due to the crossing of
depleted zones.

Antonella 11

On the Antonella 11 well, project engineers intended to

drill a straight section with 34.0 inclination from 3,247 m to
TD at 5.058 m while maintaining a direction of 241.5. The
inclination of the existing borehole had to be corrected by
dropping from 35,9, The well plan is shown in Fiwre 5.
The AutoTrak RCLS was programmed to hold an
inclination of 34.9 with no walk. The top of the shoe
equipment was found at 3,211 m. Float collar, cement and shoe
were drilled with reduced flow to avoid creating a side force
on the bit. Afier passing the rat hole and placing the RCLS
stabilizer in new hole, the well was drilled with 150 rpm,
1,900 I/rein and 4-7 t WOB. The tool started immediately to
drop as expected since the inclination of the last survey was
35.9. On the first complete stand, the tool produced a DLS of
1.67/30 m and afterwards kept an inclination of 34.2, slightly
turning to the left with a walk rate of 0.3 to 0.6/30 m. This
unintended turn was considered acceptable since it decreased
the existing east/west deviation from the planned wellpath. At
a depth of 3,482 m to 3,881 m, the well was drilled with 8 t
WOB, 150 rpm and 1,900 l/rein, This produced an average



The tangent section of Antonella 12 is shown in Fimre 6.

Drilling the 8 % section from 3,337 m to TD at 4,247 m was
planned to test the tools reliability and especially the
effectiveness of the upgraded downlink.
The 12 % section was finished above and to the right of
the planned wellpath. The last survey at 3,300 m gave an
inclination of 8.3 and a direction of 84.8. To intersect the
target at 4,158m MD, it was necessary to keep an inclination of
8.4 and perform a slight turn to the left.
The RCLS was .RIH progra~ed
to Pulse Rate 3x,
Build Force O kN and Hold 8.8, 0 kN. An inclination
offset of 0.4 was used because typically in wells with low
inclination a difference of that magnitude between near bit
inclination and survey inclination had been observed. The
forces were set to O kN to avoid creating a side force at the
bit that might affect programmed inclination.
The top of the shoe equipment was found at 3,278 m. Afier
drilling the cement and shoe and once clear of the 12 W rat
hole, the well was drilled with 1,900 l/rein, 5 t WOB and 140
rpm. Two downlinks Build Force 6 kN and Walk Force -1
kN were sent to hold and induce Iefi hand walk. When it
became evident at 3,443 m that the BHI matched the survey,
the programmed inclination was reduced via downlink to 8.2.
The rest of the hole section was &llled by maintaining this
inclination and build force and using low walk forces to









correct walk tendencies.

clearly evident.

TD was reached at a TMD of 4,274 m and the RCLS was

POOH without tool failure.

Furthermore, through the extensive prototype experience,

confidence in the validity of the system was built quite rapidly.
Therefore, the decision to launch a pilot series with a larger
number of tools could be made at an early point in time. Pilot
series tools would be developed based on the assumption, that
changes to the prototype series would be made only in terms of
improving the reliability. No major additional tictionality
would be incorporated at this time.

Antonella 12 proved the new downlink structure to be very

efficient in hhting the target. It was possible to correct the
deviation of the wellpath with ease by using the hold mode
with a transmitted inclination and variation of the walk force.
The target at 4,158 TMD was intersected 0.28 m from the
center. The newly implemented downlink pulse length
variation enabled the operator to overcome the problems seen
at Antonella 11. In both the Antonella 11 dir and Antonella 12
dir wells, the RCLS needed to correct the trajecto~
(inclination and azimuth) to hit the targets. The difficulties
encountered during the previous wells in correcting the
trajectory with conventional steerable systems were overcome
by using the AutoTrak system.

The currently ongoing pilot series application period is

accompanied by engineering work to allow running the tool
with formation evaluation sensors in addition to gamma ray
and resistivity, Another goal is to design and manufacture a
system for the 12 lAhole size.
We thank the management of AGIP and Baker Hughes INTEQ
for permission to publish the paper. Special thanks to the rig
persomel and AGIP operations representatives of the Ravenna
district for providing the field testing opportunities. Numerous
individuals in INTEQs Drilling & Evaluation Technology
Center and AGIPs Drilling Research (RIAP) made the success
of the Rotary Closed Loop System possible.

In a total of three runs in the Antonella field, the AutoTrak

RCLS drilled 1,887 m in 121,5 hours with an average ROP of
15.5 m/hr. This compares favorably with the conventional
steerable motor system which drilled as a total 546 m in 83.6
hours with an ROP average of 6.5 *,
the turbine assembly
which drilled 1196 m in 114 hours with an ROP average of
15.5 m/br; and the stiff BHA which drilled 3,744 m in 303.5
hours with an ROP average of 12.3 ti.
In the Antonella 10 dir and 10 dir A wells, trajectory
correction required three runs each, with different conventional
BHA. In Antonella 11 dir, the trips to pull the AutoTrak
assembly were not due to trajectory changes but to tool failure.
In fact, the ability of the AutoTrak system to correct the
trajectory based on downlinks communicated by negative mud
pulsing avoided tripping operations and resulted in significant
savings of rig-time on the Antonella 12 dir. Table 1 is a
summary of all BHA used on offset wells at Antonella. As also
seen in Fi~ure 7. the AutoTrak system drilled faster than
standard BHA in all cases,
The Rotary Closed Loop Drilling System was developed
according to a demanding project plan designed to deliver a
commercial tool quickly, but without sacrificing any fictional
requirements. Field testing the prototype tools on a condensed
schedule was an important step in the process. The basic
concept of the AutoTrak RCLS was initially verified in a
special test well, with all the tools capabilities fictional at
that time, Afterwards, and more importantly, the system was
run on an extensive basis in a real world environment through
the cooperation of a major oil company. Shortcomings were
identified on the spot and corrected as soon as possible, often
at the well site, During this evaluation phase, the technical and
economic advantages of AutoTrak RCLS technology became





Regina 2 Dir

Basic Tool
flOX Sub






I Puleer Sub

Rotating Sleeve WI Steering Rlbe

Drive Sub I Bit

Application of Bit Side Force

High St&

High Sl&

Blt Side Force


81t Dtive Shari





















12 DIR

I -.




Fiwre 7



Steerable BHA

ROP ,,8 Ill mlkn,


Rotaty BHA



81/2 PHASE


llDir A
llDir A













Table 1